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Speaking on climate change in the video above is Sir Robert Watson, retiring chief scientist at Britian’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. He is warning that governments cannot afford to do nothing about greenhouse gas emissions, irrespective of the current state of the economy. He says the hope of restricting the average global temperature rise to 2C is “out the window”.

If we continue the way we are, we’ve got a 50-50 shot of a 3 degree [Celcius] world – and I would not rule out a 5 degree [Celcius] world.   
~ Dr Bob Watson

Hell on Earth is coming to a reality near you:

Here’s the edition of the Royal Society journal that came out of the conference on 4 degrees C of warming. Read through it and see if you think “hell on earth” is an exaggeration. Desertification, water shortages, agricultural disruptions, rising sea levels, vanishing coral, tropical forest die-offs, mass species extinctions, oh my. Kevin Anderson, one of the lead scientists involved, was moved to say that “a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.” ~ Grist

A new article in the Journal “Nature” reports an ominous finding that far more carbon dioxide and methane are being released from parts of Arctic Siberia than previously thought.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that lack of sea ice could drive heat up to 900 miles further inland and cause the melting of permafrost. Most scientists agree that is a recipe for runaway global warming. From the findings of the NCAR/NSIDC Study:

The findings point to a link between rapid sea ice loss and enhanced rate of climate warming, which could penetrate as far as 900 miles inland. In areas where permafrost is already at risk, such as central Alaska, the study suggests that periods of abrupt sea ice loss can lead to rapid soil thaw.

Thawing permafrost may have a range of impacts, including buckled highways and destabilized houses, as well as changes to the delicate balance of life in the Arctic. In addition, scientists estimate that Arctic soils hold at least 30 percent of all the carbon stored in soils worldwide. While scientists are uncertain what will happen if this permafrost thaws, it has the potential to contribute substantial amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Arid regions will become much more dry, and wet regions will experience much more rain due to the warming planet, according to scientists:

paper in Science today finds rapidly changing ocean salinities as a result of a warming atmosphere have intensified the global water cycle (evaporation and precipitation) by an incredible 4 percent between 1950 and 2000. That’s twice the rate predicted by models.

These same models have long forecast that dry areas of Earth will become drier and wet areas wetter in a warming climate—an intensification of the water cycle driven mostly by the capacity of warmer air to hold and redistribute more moisture in the form of water vapor…

…But the rate of intensification of the global water cycle is happening far faster than imagined: at about 8 percent per degree Celsius of ocean warming since 1950.

At this rate, the authors calculate:

The global water cycle will intensify by a whopping 16 percent in a 2°C warmer world

The global water cycle will intensify by a frightening 24 percent in a 3°C warmer world

…The changes will not be uniform across the globe, but trend toward increased drying of arid areas and increased flooding of wet areas.

And the resulting changes in freshwater availability are likely to be far more destabilizing to human societies and ecosystems than warming alone.

“Changes to the global water cycle and the corresponding redistribution of rainfall will affect food availability, stability, access, and utilization,” says lead author Paul Durack at the University of Tasmania and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

When dealing with a crisis that threatens the very existence of the human species, a rational society would not put the issues of cost-effectiveness and inconveniences to the economy above all else as the deciding factors for taking action. But that is what we are doing, allowing the “ALMIGHTY MARKET” to decide our fate. As explained in another post, this deference to “THE MARKET” to solve such a seemingly abstract problem like climate change is essentially condemning our children to a horrible fate. Climate change is not going to respect or accommodate ‘THE MARKET’, our lifestyle, and mankind’s hubris; it will just wipe us right off the face of the Earth like the pesky and bothersome vermin we have become.

You only have to look at the following graph(click to enlarge) from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2012 to understand how much industrial civilization is locked in to fossil fuels. Do you see that thin dark orange line just below the grey band representing coal? Yeah, that’s renewables.

We are so overly dependent on the high energy density of fossil fuels that the system resists change, with those in charge of it even spending large sums of money to alter public perception on the pernicious effects of burning these CO2-emitting energy sources. The advantages of hydrocarbons, summarized by Tom Murphy, have lured us into drinking an addictive and poisonous elixir:

Fossil fuels are cheap and reliable and are their own storage and allow transportation by car, truck, ship, airplane, and fit seamlessly into our current infrastructure.

Reasons for why carbon emissions will continue their upward trend are described in this article:

Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink 

• About 80% of the power stations likely to be in use in 2020 are either already built or under construction, the IEA found. Most of these are fossil fuel power stations unlikely to be taken out of service early, so they will continue to pour out carbon – possibly into the mid-century. The emissions from these stations amount to about 11.2Gt, out of a total of 13.7Gt from the electricity sector. These “locked-in” emissions mean savings must be found elsewhere.

“It means the room for manoeuvre is shrinking,” warned Birol.

• Another factor that suggests emissions will continue their climb is the crisis in the nuclear power industry. Following the tsunami damage at Fukushima, Japan and Germany have called a halt to their reactor programmes, and other countries are reconsidering nuclear power.

“People may not like nuclear, but it is one of the major technologies for generating electricity without carbon dioxide,” said Birol. The gap left by scaling back the world’s nuclear ambitions is unlikely to be filled entirely by renewable energy, meaning an increased reliance on fossil fuels.

• Added to that, the United Nations-led negotiations on a new global treaty on climate change have stalled. “The significance of climate change in international policy debates is much less pronounced than it was a few years ago,” said Birol…

…Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said the global emissions figures showed that the link between rising GDP and rising emissions had not been broken. “The only people who will be surprised by this are people who have not been reading the situation properly,” he said.

Forthcoming research led by Sir David will show the west has only managed to reduce emissions by relying on imports from countries such as China.

Another telling message from the IEA’s estimates is the relatively small effect that the recession – the worst since the 1930s – had on emissions…

And what about that country that, to the shock of many, surpassed the U.S. in carbon emissions 3 years ago?:

In 2009 China consumed 96.9 quads. In 2012 their total is estimated to reach 110.7. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 4.54%. That’s twice as fast as the DOE has predicted going forward.

I’ll remind readers that my estimate for energy consumption in 2035 for China is 247 quads–more than twice what the DOE estimates. Recent growth supports my higher estimates.

Even if China succeeds in building the 150 nuclear plants they aspire to over the next 50 years, they will still be burning more coal in 2035 than the entire world burns now.

The Chinese economy, as I predicted, will start to struggle and even sputter at times between now and then. But if the history of other developing countries is any example, that won’t affect energy consumption nearly as much as one might think. In the United States, that Great Depression? Didn’t affect our energy consumption curve. – link

Lastly, how are we doing on transitioning away from our greenhouse gas emitting, industrial agriculture model of food production? As Stuart Staniford conjectured in his essay ‘Fallacy of Reversibility‘, industrial agriculture has become even more dominant in the age of peak oil, but with adverse effects to the environment:

Harvesting a Climate Disaster – The New York Times

…The farm bill is not only the centerpiece of United States food and agriculture policy, it is also a de facto climate bill. And in this respect, both the Senate and House versions of the legislation are a disaster waiting to happen…

…The proposed farm bill — Senate- or House-style, take your pick — would make American agriculture’s climate problem worse, in two ways. Not only would the bill accelerate global warming by encouraging more greenhouse gas emissions, it would make the nation’s farms more vulnerable to the impacts of those emissions…

…Except in a technical aside, neither the bill passed by the Senate or by the House Committee on Agriculture even mentions climate change.

Coal and cars are blamed, but agriculture is also a major contributor to global warming: by some estimates, it accounts for roughly a third of emissions globally. The industrialized, meat-heavy food system of the United States takes a heavy toll on the atmosphere; it takes an enormous amount of fossil fuel to run farm equipment and harvest the mountains of corn that fatten livestock. And most fertilizers contain nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 298 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century.

Both of the farm bill proposals would maintain agriculture’s large climate footprint, mainly by continuing to skew subsidies toward a mere handful of commodity crops. The “big five” — wheat, rice, soybeans, cotton and above all corn — have received 84 percent of subsidies since 2004, according to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group critical of the practice. Subsidies increase with output, encouraging farmers to run highly mechanized operations that plant “fence row to fence row” and apply oceans of fertilizer and pesticide, all of which boost emissions.

But industrial agriculture’s ability to produce gargantuan amounts of food also makes it exceptionally susceptible to climate change. Relying on vast monocultures — the miles and miles of cornfields one passes when driving in Iowa — captures economies of scale. But that lack of diversity invites trouble. A monoculture’s uniformity means that if temperatures spike or a new pest arrives, the damage is likely to spread throughout the entire planted area. By contrast, the diversified landscapes of organic agriculture — corn planted between, say, other vegetables and chicken pens — tend to limit damage.

Farmers can best boost resilience to climate change, scientists say, by improving their soil’s fertility and capacity to retain moisture. That means cutting back on chemical fertilizers, which kill many of the microorganisms that ventilate soil, and shifting to compost and manure fertilizers and crop rotations.

Instead, leading lobbyists for agribusiness want to retain the current production system but shift the mounting climate risks to the taxpayer. Both versions of the farm bill would expand the $11 billion crop insurance program, a move championed by the National Corn Growers Association. The Senate bill, for instance, would authorize $3.8 billion a year for additional insurance.

But neither version would require farmers to take other measures to reduce their climate vulnerability, like investing in healthier soil. In fact, the draft bills would actually make it harder for farmers to do that because the expanded crop insurance would be paid for by cutting the Conservation Stewardship Program, which helps farmers improve their land’s ecological health…

So it looks like we are going balls out in our race toward oblivion. A technologically advanced civilization, once known for sending spacecrafts to distant planets, looks to be headed toward a bleak existence of huddling in subterranean caves and scavenging for insects to eat.