Sunday, May 17, 2009

Climate Chaos: Adaptation

The issue of what to do about Anthropogenically-forced Climate Change (ACC. a.k.a. Global Warming) is a big one. It's important to know from what perxpective to start. The following post was made to this thread on The Oil Drum: Europe.

Chris -

the focus on Adaption (to Climate Destabilization) appears to have been growing, both as a vested interests' propaganda tool (to distract effort from and diminish commitments to Mitigation), and also as the result of an honest lack of appreciation of the iterative threat we face.

The latter point seems worth addressing - since there are evident lacunae [gaps] in the discussion.

First, there is the issue that we can only adapt to peripheral changes - e.g. just a couple of metres of sea level rise will swamp the farmland of much of Bangladesh, leading to mega-famine &/or migration, but little if any Adaption.

Second, we can only adapt to changes that we know are coming - e.g. how many more years of intense prolongued summer rains must Britain face before we adapt by giving up growing crops that need the summer sun to ripen ? (Such as Spuds, Oats, Hay, Apples). Again, the outcome of the learning period would likely be mega-famine &/or migration.

Third, given our skill-poverty, food-reserve scarcity and bodily frailty, we can only adapt to changes at an endurable rate that then stop changing at some endurable level - e.g. the increasingly unstable climate we are now seeing reflects recorded GW 30 to 40 years ago; without rapid stringent constraint of further GHG emissions (i.e. massive global Mitigation) there would be little prospect of climate destabilization ceasing to intensify, let alone stabilize at an endurable level, so there would be no credible prospect of humanity successfully adapting to its impacts.

In view of the above, I hope we may agree that for policies of Adaption to be more of a help than an illusory distraction, they must be founded on the absolute priority of achieving rapid stringent global Mitigation ?

A further point that seems zombie-like in its undead status (despite repeated decapitations), is your focus on the excessive fossil reserve figures you remark above generating unreliable projections of pollution output and thus of consequent degrees of warming.

Perhaps it needs saying bluntly - we have pushed airborne GHG levels not only to the point of evident impact on planetary temperature and climate destabilization, but also well past the point of awakening potentially vast postive feedback loops, as well as of starting the accelerating decay of the natural marine carbon sinks.

You know the list of the major loops - albido, permafrost, wildfire, clathates, etc, but it may be worth metioning (again) the earliest such active loop, that was first observed in the early '60s (with CO2 at around 320ppmv) when elevated airborne CO2 caused particular microbes to boom in peat bogs causing the latter to decay on a 6% p.a. rising trend ever since. If this continues, then just this single, minor, loop will emit CO2 equal to our entire 2004 global output by about 2060.

So, to put an elm stake firmly through the heart of this "deficient reserves" fallacy, the actual fossil fuel reserves are now a far greater threat to climate via their impact on accelerating the feedback loops, than were the exaggerated old reserve numbers in their direct emissions potential.

Maybe it is time we of TOD start working on the necessary integrated diplomatic response to PO & CD, rather than leading with one or other ?



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