Reversing the damage we have done to the climate is like steering a huge tanker - it will take time before we see a response. Will we do enough in 2016 to begin to see the Earth ship turning?

Image of northwestern Africa showing the curvature of the Earth and its atmosphere. Credit NASA/JPL/UCSD/JSC

The land, water and atmosphere on the surface of the Earth that sustains us is very thin compared to the diameter of the Earth, yet large and complex enough that it takes time for changes to filter through to all parts of the system. As Dr. Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, said on The Big Picture in November 2015...

So, what that tells us is that we have already committed to a certain amount of additional and potentially dangerous changes in climate. We are going to need to adapt to those changes that are already locked in. There's a certain amount that's baked in, there's a certain amount of additional climate change that's baked in, that we are going to need to deal with, that we're going to need to find ways to adapt to the negative impacts of those climate changes that are already locked in. But we can still avoid the vast majority of climate change if we act now, the most dangerous and potentially irreversible changes in climate if we act now.

There are some tipping points which, if we pass them, will lead to irreversible climate change, and we will not know that we have passed them until too late. But at least in 2015 there were positive signs that many of us realise that we are speeding towards a waterfall, and have started to steer our earthship around.

The first of these was the COP21 climate agreement in Paris. It remains to be seen how much concrete action will result, but at least 187 countries submitted climate pledges, and they account for around 97 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cities, states, investors and corporations also joined in. Many people around the world are taking climate change seriously. Business is beginning to see the threat and opportunity in climate change. Some billion-dollar companies have begun to profit from sustainability. For the first time, climate change ranked as No. 1 on annual survey of global leaders by the World Economic Forum. China announced a cap and trade system, and it will suspend the approval of new mines starting in 2016.

The divestment from fossil fuels movement has grown to over 500 institutions involving over $3.4 trillion in assets.

Millennials want to transition to clean energy, which could put Paris climate goals within reach. A record $329bn was invested in renewable energy worldwide in 2015, with record amounts of new capacity, despite falling oil and gas prices.

Global CO2 emissions fell in 2015 (though that does not mean that they will continue to do so without more work).

President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL oil pipeline. TransCanada has sued for $15 Billion under NAFTA. It will be essential to block the new trade treaties, TPP and TIPP, if efforts to fight climate change are not to be blocked by big business using the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process.

As described in the video Restoration, we are learning how to work with nature, using biomimicry and to solve some of the problems that face us, and to undo some of the damage that we have done to the natural processes of the Earth which sustained us for millennia. As Leo DiCaprio said, "unlocking nature's secrets will help us solve the climate crisis. Working alongside nature will create a civilization that will be infinitely sustainable. The time has come to build this world now."

So, we need to keep our hand firmly on the tiller, and keep steering firmly until we are back in safe waters.

Comments

rs allen 2 years 23 weeks ago

Make.....less......people.

Instant-RunOff-... 2 years 24 weeks ago

Wind & solar are a pipe dream. The EROI the energy return on invested is too low to be feasible as a replacement for fossil fuels. That is a physical impossiblility as Big Oil knows very well. Which is why they promote wind & solar.

What you want on the grid is a constant baseload supply matched by a constant demand. Storage of energy peaks is far beyond economical and remains so. When Germany gets these peaks in solar and wind supply, the end result they are too short to spin down the big coal power plants so they continue wasting fuel and supply bottlenecks mean cheap, clean baseload nuclear and hydro must be dumped and/or most of the wind and solar must be exported at a huge loss, often Germany must pay her neighbours to accept the worthless electricity peak. And that is only possible when her neighbours don't also have lots of wind & solar which would also likely be peaking. In fact some of Germany's neighbours are putting disconnects on their grid connection to prevent Germany from dumping these unwanted electricity peaks on them.

Latest on German solar production for 2014 is 34,930 GWh of a total 576,238 Gwh total production, according to the IEA. So that comes out at 6.1% of total electricity production in 2014. And that has major caveats. The grid likes steady, reliable power sources not ones that only occur when the sun happens to be shining.

Germany only produced 6.1% of total electricity production by Solar in 2014. in 2013 Germany's electricity generation was 66% NG & Coal, mostly dirty lignite with some chopped down forests mixed in to greenwash the filthy coal, 15% Nuclear, 4.3% Hydro and a whopping 14% combined Geothermal, Solar, Wind, Tidal. i.e. They still produced more from their "long abandoned" Nuclear than their massively subsidized Solar & Wind.

And now Germany's Solar PV installation rate is now on a steep decline. 7.6 GW in 2012, 3.3 in 2013, 1.9 in 2014. So much for solar energy.

Germany, after 25 yrs of all out effort on wind & solar, has the 2nd highest emissions per kwh generated in Europe. 9X Nuclear France. 5X Nuclear Ontario. And they have the 2nd highest electricity prices in Europe. Double that of nuclear France. And now they are building giant dirt-burning Coal power plants by the dozens. Why aren't they building Wind & Solar instead?

Even little old Ontario achieved 62% nuclear with It's own indigenous CANDU PHWR natural uranium, nuclear. Whereas the biggest economy in the USA, high tech haven, California, after 30 yrs of all out effort on Solar has only achieved 3.5% & 4.4% with Wind of its electricity consumption. Some impressive that is.

But nobody ever says "What France has done is impressive" or "What Ontario has done is impressive".

The world has invested $1586B for 892 TWh of generation total wind & solar in 2014. That's an avg of 102 GW of energy in 2014. Or $1568B/102GW = $15.4 per watt of avg delivered electricity. They could have built easily 3-5X that much energy with Nuclear for the same price.

Except the nuclear lasts 60-100 yrs vs the solar & wind only 10-25 yrs. And the EROI for nuclear well above what is needed for civilization, unlike solar & wind. And Nuclear is 24/7 electricity unlike solar & wind. We need power whether it is sunny or cloudy, north or south, winter or summer, rain or snow or ice, volcanic eruptions, sand storms, tropical or temporate rainforest, Arctic, insect swarms or monsoons.

And Germany has to destroy historic towns in order to make way for their enormous lignite strip mines. Large sections of land raped by giant draglines. Makes Fukushima look like a bad rainy day.

Wind & Solar are really just bait-and-switch scams which are promoted by fossil fuel interests to greenwash their dirty energy and prevent a switch to the only energy source capable of replacing them, namely nuclear energy.

HOLLYBERKOWITZ's picture
HOLLYBERKOWITZ 2 years 24 weeks ago

Corporate America is leading the way to 100% Renewables because they understand that renewable energy means harvesting free, abundant, infinite, clean, nurturing supplies and qualities without the deadly costly risks of fossilized dinosaurs. So, real business leaders understand that harvesting free renewable energy will slash operating costs continuously enough to boost profits and other positive outcomes through the roof. Now our cash-driven GOP US Congress needs to follow the private sector to help the American family to harvest free energy also. Our human cash system counts thte most critcial flows for life and happiness the least....and the least critical stones and walls the most, the most deadly force the most.....so human cashflow floods of a dead energy industry crush life on earth. America and our world can not afford to crush life. The cash-driven 1% have families also...but are acting to crush and destroy their own families, their own children's futures, their own private future stupidly. We can change the course of history upward....so all hands on deck!

rs allen 2 years 24 weeks ago

Even if we turn the earth into a radio active waste land it'll change nothing.........nothing, until there are far fewer people than we already have. Forty years is when this planet will have 10 billion plus humans. All of them will need food, all of them will need water, all of them will want something more and more. The planet is dieing now under the wieght of 7 1/2 billion and we don't even have the means to keep what we have at present without immediate major overhauls in life styles, political systems and realignments of expectations just to maintain. Who thinks 10 billion is going to fair better when there's going to be a whole lot less of limited resources and the planet is even more degraded than it is today?

Face it, the cancer, otherwise known as the human species, is way over due for a die back. This cancer has finally or certainly well into the process of killing it's host.

Instant-RunOff-... 2 years 24 weeks ago

I don't know how we could possibly turn the Earth into a radioactive wasteland, maybe a global nuclear war caused by allowing totally corrupted politicians making decisions based on who stuffs the most $cash in their pockets rather than a rational & sensible policy that serves the 99% of Earth's population and the health of the world ecosystem.

There is no problem for the world carrying 10 - 20 billion at a high standard of living. UN projections are population leveling off at ~11 billion by 2100, worst case scenario is 25 billion. That is no real problem. Certainly it is impossible to sustain exponential population growth, and we should use diligent means to encourage family planning & zero population growth. The current environmental problems are directly caused by greed & corruption, has nothing whatsoever to do with technological issues.

The human species ain't a cancer, that is stupid talk. The problem is our entire political systems are totally corrupted so rational economic, environmental & energy policy is forbidden by vested interests. It is no accident that the top 62 plutocrats - the corruptors - have as much wealth as the bottom 50%. And in fact that is actually a gross underestimate of their wealth.

Resource limitations are not a major issue, easy to obtain the necessary resources. Mainly we need lots of clean energy, and there is no problem for nuclear power to supply that for the next billion years. You need to understand the basics of technology before you make wild, nonsensical statements about something you don't understand.

And ultimately all our resource needs can be obtained eco-friendly by space industrialization. A single Earth crossing asteroid can easily contain $trillions worth of valuable minerals that are not difficult to process and return to the Earth.

It is amazing how religious greenies - Malthusians - serve the interests of the super-rich parasites by blaming the Earth's problems on the 99%, instead of holding the criminal plutocrats to account for the direct effects of their unlimited greed. These greenie fanatics seem to relish in mass genocide of the 99% (funny how they are happy with the 1% being exempt) and yet you never see any of them volunteering to commit suicide to do their duty to "eliminate the human cancer".

Demo3rd's picture
Demo3rd 2 years 24 weeks ago

Lenin was successful was culling over 4 million people which provided much needed resources for the most deserving.

Kilosqrd's picture
Kilosqrd 2 years 25 weeks ago

Anyone (on the left) notice the price of a barrel of oil lately?

Instant-RunOff-... 2 years 24 weeks ago

And yet the USA still has to import half of its oil needs and shale oil production in the US is rapidly declining, unsustainable at these low prices. Actually some shale oil producers are having to pay refineries 50 cents per barrel to take their high sulphur oil that they don't even want. The end result of this madness is most western nations, including the USA, will be on their knees licking the boots of terrorist Arab Petro-states so they will provide us with oil. Brilliant energy policy. These corrupt politicians deserve long prison terms, traitors is what they are.

Achieving Energy Victory, by Robert Zubrin:

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/achieving-energy-victory

SueN's picture
SueN 2 years 25 weeks ago

It may be possible to construct a nuclear plant in 5 years, but that does not include the time for planning and licensing.

svein787's picture
svein787 2 years 25 weeks ago

SueN,

It WON'T happen because it CAN'T happen---as I argue here: https://www.academia.edu/19303496/The_End_is_Near

ACT I

Roland de Brabant's picture
Roland de Brabant 2 years 25 weeks ago

There is no reason for optimism; the extinction of humanity may already be assured. And that is if we stop burning hydrocarbons today. Since the burning of hydrocarbons is likely for at least the next twenty years, the extinction of humanity is certain. The Earth will recover just fine, just without the disease if humanity.

Roland

Instant-RunOff-... 2 years 25 weeks ago

We see the two extremes viewed here, extreme pessimism of Roland & telliottmbamsc malthusian end-of-the-world types and over-optimism of SueN. I take the middle path, it's not an extinction event - not even close. But it should be minimized through major effort - which is entirely feasible and economical technologically. It is strictly a case of political corruption preventing the main solutions to proceed.

The last ice age lasted for 100,000 yrs up to 12,000 yrs ago. Now that was an eco-disaster. Nothing humans have done or we likely will do remotely compares to that. Much of North America, Europe and large sections of Asia buried under two miles of ice. Those are the biggest continental land masses on the planet. A major disaster for life.

We humans have warmed the climate sufficiently to prevent further ice age disasters, but on the other extreme we don't want to precipitate runaway global warming either. Life on this Earth would handle that not so bad, and would recover from it, but it is still stupid and sensless destruction, which will severely impair the quality of life for billions of humans. The sole reason for that idiotic destruction is our politicians, our ENGO's like Greenpeace, our bureaucracies like the NRC and of course the MSM have been totally corrupted by big money Fossil Fuel & Banking interests.

So the disease is not humanity. the disease is our political systems that allow corrupt, elite parasites to buy our government & institutions. Put the blame where it rightfully belongs.

telliottmbamsc's picture
telliottmbamsc 2 years 25 weeks ago

even if we take dramatic action in the coming year to cut green house gase emissions, the consequences of those Green House Gases that we have emitted so far will continue to roll out with nothing short of geometric growth in its inertia. Anybody who tells you we can go about patching up the damage we have done to the environment might want to review the history of life on earth. The flora and fauna we are destroying literally took 100's of millions of years to come about, and that is only AFTER the foundations for life in the form of a conductive atmosphere and planetary hydrologic system took a few BILLIONS of years to set up. We are delivering our death blow to precisely those elements that take the longest to get right.

In reality, you can pose a bigger no-brainer than "I wonder if the world will start to reassert life in the coming year." The answer is one big collasal NO FRIGG'N WAY!

[there are people who think that after what we have already done, left to it's own devices the earth could never replicate the abundance we've experienced before our Sun turned into a red giant and obliterates the earth a couple billion years from now]

SueN's picture
SueN 2 years 25 weeks ago

While there's life there's hope, and the more we do to reverse the damage, the better it will be for us and the planet.

Instant-RunOff-... 2 years 25 weeks ago

A lot of information you posted there. But way, way optimistic. In reality the numbers do not justify ANY optimism. Easy for politicians to make GHG reduction promises for their successors to inact, sounds wonderful. For instance, like the Repugs will respect Obama's promises for them to reduce emissions. Really?

Just more disinformation created in big highly promoted forums made up for the gullible public & crony media. Whereas the real energy decisions are made behind closed doors by Banksters, Energy executives, Oil Exporting Plutocrats and bought-and-paid for Politician Lackeys.

It may be there is a little blip of supposed CO2 emissions reductions in 2015, most likely a statistical artifact or fluke. There is really no hint of a trend from rapidly increasing world CO2 emissions. And let us not forget methane emissions due to the rapidly expanding NG production, which are mostly either not reported in those way optimistic numbers or are severely under-reported.

Coal alone, we know China seriously under-reports Coal consumption.

Take a hard look at the Real World Data:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/index.html

See any sign of CO2 levels stabilizing? Not even close. Instead we are seeing a Record Growth rate of CO2 levels at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, a 3.2% increase in 2015:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/gr.html

And that doesn't include the more rapidly increasing methane emissions.

Real world projections of the growth in CO2 emissions:

https://edmhdotme.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/screen-shot-2015-03-05-at-...

Per capita emissions rising rapidly in most of the world:

https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.ra...

And population at least doubling before 2100, 83% of population in Developing Nations, all with rapid per capita emissions increases along with population growth.

Do we really expect poverty stricken citizens of the Third World will content themselves with living an extreme low-energy lifestyle? Ain't gonnna happen.

In fact the COP21, climate agreement has rightfully been called "Putting Lipstick on a Pig".

James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud':

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/james-hansen-climate-...

Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments, George Monbiot:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2015/dec/12/paris-c...

About all that happened in 2015 is there are increased efforts to replace older, inefficient Coal power plants with newer more efficient ones. Something Japan uses its "Climate Change budget" to finance. All that does is lock in high CO2 emissions for 30 yrs or more, even if at a lower rate than before. And the replacement of Coal with NG is very dubious, since usually increased Methane emissions are ignored or under-reported and large inefficiencies will be inevitable with a switch to LNG.

And they may claim the world economy grew in 2015, but that is just on paper - the paper economy grew, while the real economy didn't. The paper economy doesn't produce significant emissions, and only serves to increase the proportional wealth of the rich.

Blocking the Keystone pipeline, will increase emissions, not reduce them. Cheap oil will also facilitate increased emissions.

I got a big problem with statements like this:

"... Leo DiCaprio said, "unlocking nature's secrets will help us solve the climate crisis. Working alongside nature will create a civilization that will be infinitely sustainable. The time has come to build this world now."

Hyping pipe dreams is a guaranteed way to preserve the status quo. Big Carbon loves to fund and promote those who sell wild greenie fantasies, because they know very well that will ensure they will continue to dominate the energy marketplace.

DiCaprio, give me a break, we can't even stop fossil from buying almost every politician and his close relatives. The entire Republican candidate list is all entirely hostile to fossil fuel reductions. They also like scams & pipe dreams however. Like George Bush & Dick Cheney promoting the Hydrogen economy scam & pipe dream. And Corn Ethanol. And most politicians and Oil funded ENGO's, like Greenpeace, remain rabidly hostile to Nuclear Power, the only realistic replacement for fossil fuels.

If DiCaprio, really wanted to do something to save the enviroment he should promote Nuclear Power and take some of his huge wealth and try building an eco-paradise, populated with Real, Middle Class citizens, living in harmony with nature. Put his money where his mouth is. I'm all for those kind of experiments. Not like the phony environmentalist, Ted Turner, who buys big chunks of wilderness and kicks all people off the land, like that will create a viable, sustainable future world.

SueN's picture
SueN 2 years 25 weeks ago

Like Thom says, despair is not an option. And like I said, it may take a while for us to see any improvement.

China may well reduce emissions because of the terrible pollution it is experiencing, and because of reduced demand for its goods, even if not for COP21.

It is the dreamers who invent new ways to do things, bringing improvements to our lives.

Nuclear power plants take too long to build, and use a lot of fossil fuel in their early years. And we haven't solved the problem with nuclear waste - a terrible legacy for our descendants. It may be that better kinds of nuclear power come along, but not in time to solve our current crisis.

Instant-RunOff-... 2 years 24 weeks ago

NPP's outside of the totally corrupted Developed Nations have been and are being built in under 5 yrs, even without using modern assembly line production & factory construction methods that have yet to be applied to Nuclear tech. Only takes political will and volume. Both of which are seriously needed. Developing nations are where the bulk of emissions will come from.

Historically, nuclear build rates have far exceeded maximum solar & wind build rates, even though solar & wind both use maximized modern assembly line production, not done yet for nuclear. And solar & wind being severely geographically limited, have infeasibly low EROI, terrible intermittency issues and cannot be utilized without a mostly fossil economy. Nuclear doesn't need fossil.

Fastest national non-fossil build rates - 7 yr averages:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/24569797@N02/21929549598/

Fastest national non-fossil build rates - 4 yr averages:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/24569797@N02/23039657824/

That is before our criminally corrupt politicians were bought by Banksters & Fossil Barons in order to stifle their only serious competitor.

Nuclear waste is a trivial issue, it is only an issue because our corrupt politicians, media & ENGOs are paid to make it an issue. A coke can of hard, solid, dense, easily stored nuclear waste that is 98% natural uranium and replaces 69 tons of forever, toxic coal solid waste & 2000 tons of toxic gaseous waste. It is obvious which is the real waste issue. Amazing how people claim they care about global warming but the best solution & in fact only solution is poo-poooed because of some trivial volume of extremely valuable & totally recyclable nuclear waste.

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