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For any of you who may not have seen this article yet, this is the latest in the updates for the worse in climate change, as are becoming more common. It has sent a few ripples through the online community of commentators, and I expect it to generate more. Here's the article:

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Oct 9 (IPS) - The prospect of a four-degree Celsius rise in global average temperatures in 50 years is alarming - but not alarmist, climate scientists now believe.

Eighteen months ago, no one dared imagine humanity pushing the climate beyond an additional two degrees C of heating, but rising carbon emissions and inability to agree on cuts has meant science must now consider the previously unthinkable.

"Two degrees C is already gone as a target," said Chris West of the University of Oxford's UK Climate Impacts Programme.

"Four degrees C is definitely possible...This is the biggest challenge in our history," West told participants at the "4 Degrees and Beyond, International Climate Science Conference" at the University of Oxford last week.

A four-degree C overall increase means a world where temperatures will be two degrees warmer in some places, 12 degrees and more in others, making them uninhabitable.

It is a world with a one- to two-metre sea level rise by 2100, leaving hundreds of millions homeless. This will head to 12 metres in the coming centuries as the Greenland and Western Antarctic ice sheets melt, according to papers presented at the conference in Oxford.

Four degrees of warming would be hotter than any time in the last 30 million years, and it could happen as soon as 2060 to 2070.

"Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it's completely useless," John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the conference.

Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration, but he says they chided him that his findings were "not grounded in political reality" and that "the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this".

He had told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilising the climate around two degrees C.

China's emissions must peak by 2020 and then go to zero by 2035 based on the current science, he added.

"Policymakers who agreed to a two-degree C goal at the G20 summit easily fool themselves about what emission cuts are needed," Schellnhuber said.

Even with a two-degree rise, most of the world's coral reefs will be lost, large portions of the ocean will become dead zones, mountain glaciers will largely vanish and many other ecosystems will be at risk, Schellnhuber warned. And there is the risk of reaching a tipping point where the warming rapidly accelerates.

The planet has already warmed 0.74 C over the past century and the warming is now increasing at a rate of 0.16 C per decade, according the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 report.

With 2008 emissions at the very top end of the IPCC's worst case estimates, it is time to look at what that may mean for the planet, said Richard Betts of the Climate Impacts research team at the Met Office Hadley Centre in London.

Continuing on the current high emissions path means average global temperatures would increase by 4.0 to 5.6 degrees by 2090. Brazil, much of Canada, parts of the U.S., Siberia and Central Europe would be eight degrees warmer than in the past 50 years, computer models show. Rainfall in the north will increase but wet tropics will become 20 percent drier.

The models are based on human emissions alone, and do not include heat-amplifying feedbacks from melting ice or changes in carbon sinks. When those are factored in, it moves the timetable forward so that "reaching four degrees by 2060 is a plausible, worst-case scenario" with the median being 2070. By 2100, 5.5 degrees is possible, he said.

Few places would experience the global average temperature, Betts cautioned, noting that the computer models show the Arctic warming 15 degrees while many other regions of the world would experience 10 degrees of additional warming.

These scenarios do not include potential tipping points like the release of the 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon in northern permafrost or the melting of undersea methane hydrates.

What would the world look like when it is four degrees warmer? It will likely mean one to two billion people will not have access to adequate fresh water because of the major shift in rainfall patterns, said Nigel Arnell, director of the Walker Institute for Climate Systems Research at the University of Reading in Britain.

Up to 15 percent of existing or potential cropland - and 40 percent in Africa - will become too dry and too hot for food production. While there might be some gains in northern areas like Canada and Russia, generally the soils there are not suitable for crops, he said.

Flooding will affect at least 500 million people because sea levels will rise more than one metre by 2100. The somewhat contentious issue of future sea level rise has been resolved with a new computer model that almost perfectly matches the historical changes in sea level since 1880, reported oceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The new model projects sea level rise by 1.2 to 1.9 metres from 1990 levels by 2100, said Rahmstorf.

"We're expecting a really big sea level rise in the longer run," he said.

Even at two or three degrees of warming, sea level will inevitably rise many metres higher in the centuries to come. The main questions are how fast levels will increase, and whether vulnerable countries like Holland can build seawalls fast enough to keep up with the rising water levels and the extraordinary costs involved, he said.

In a four-degree warmer world, adaptation means "put your feet up and die" for many people in the world, Oxford's Chris West said bluntly. "In accepting the many alarming impacts, we see that it (a four-degree C increase) is not acceptable."

The climate negotiators heading to Copenhagen in December must accept the fact that the world's carbon emissions must eventually stop - and stop completely. There is no sustainable per capita carbon emission level because it is the total amount of carbon emitted that counts, explains Myles Allen of the Climate Dynamics group at University of Oxford's Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Department.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many centuries, which makes it the most important greenhouse gas to reduce and eliminate. The current focus on CO2 concentrations like 450 ppm or 350 ppm is the not the right approach since it is the total cumulative emissions that determine how warm the planet will get, Allen told the conference.

If climate negotiators only look at slowing rates of carbon emissions, then natural gas will be substituted for coal because it has half of the carbon - but the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere will continue to increase.

"We didn't save the ozone layer by rationing deodorants," said Allen.

The most scary thing is that the models didn't include feedback loops, etc. This is an extremely urgent call to action. I also think he makes a good point in saying that lessening emissions is not good enough, because they will still be adding up, although slower. We need to do whatever possible to completely stop emissions, and what emissions we cannot accomplish stopping, we will need to make up for in carbon sequestering. However, seeing how the thought process of business and politics works, I sadly will not be holding my breath for an agreement stating this for the world. I will, however, continue to give my all in doing my part and hope to help inspire greater change.

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"Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration, but he says they chided him that his findings were "not grounded in political reality" and that "the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this."

He had told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilising the climate around two degrees C."

To me, this is the scary part. Political leadership that refuses to acknowledge the science of global warming. Will the Senate "never agree to this," until we have all died of heat stroke or drowned? The level of re-education for our political leadership and society as a whole is possibly our most insurmountable obstacle.

If the goal to survive as a species is to reduce our per person carbon emissions from 20 tonnes per person to zero tonnes per person by 2020 (11 years from today), we are facing the biggest national crisis/project to ever engage the populace of the United States. Where is the "Marshall Plan" or "Manhattan Project" that will solve this problem? I follow the news, but see no indication that any nationwide mobilization to achieve this goal has even been discussed let alone initiated.

I feel we are living in Nero's Rome, as the strong smell of combustion fills our lungs and the faint melody of a poorly played violin floats above the flames...
Rob Olason said:
To me, this is the scary part. Political leadership that refuses to acknowledge the science of global warming.

It's the most scary part to me, too. We're basically being told that they aren't even thinking of trying to do much of anything about it. I can take what you said a step further, too, in saying that 'political reality' is a completely different reality from true reality. I've never liked politics, and this hardens my position. Our so called leaders are off in their own type of Wonderland continuing to talk about things such as revitalizing the economy and growth, while we the people who they are supposed to be serving are out here in the real world. Is it just me, or is it a complete oxymoron when Obama and others talk about the will to both combat climate change and restart economic growth?

My question now is, what can we as informed citizens do in the run up to the Copenhagen negotiations to make this information more widely known and perhaps more accepted by our leadership? How do we attempt to change political reality into reflecting more of what is real? Is it even possible? Likely not, but I would like to think that it is, and I would like to do my part in attempting to make it happen, but I need a place to begin.

And yes, diversity!
Walter Haugen said:
Diversity, diversity, diversity...

Yes. Transition work is about rebuilding community resilience, and resilience requires diversity.
As for Parade Magazine (in my Sunday Herald today), they say global warming is one of those things you should definitely NOT worry about...human ingenuity will fix it all up! God help us.
I just emailed this letter to the editor to the Bham Herald:

Herald on wrong side of events

It is with great disappointment that I read two recent articles in the Herald.

“’Peak Oil’ Talks Set in Denver” (10/12/09 Section A page 3) featured an AP Wire story about a conference sponsored by the Association For the Study of Peak Oil. The article stated the conference was attended by “Oil industry executives, financial analysts and peak oil theorists.”

However the tone of the article cast doubt on the legitimacy of the proceedings with the lead sentence: “Proponents of the "peak oil" theory are in Denver to discuss the impacts of what they say is the quickly fading supply of world's oil.” An equivalent sentence written 600 years ago would be something on the order of “Proponents of the “round Earth” theory are meeting in Rome to discuss the impacts of what they say is the shape of our planet.”

The article diminished the decades long research on our dwindling oil supply as being little more than baggage of the “Subscribers of the peak oil theory.”

Likewise in the October 18 “Parade” supplement, the article “What Should You Worry About” completely dismisses global warming on page 8, stating “even the most brilliant climate scientists are unable to predict…atmospheric changes.” Of course the article fails to substantiate this claim.

I would have believed both of these articles…in 1970.

But in 2009, the Herald owes it to its readership—and it’s own credibility—to dig harder on what will become the biggest story of this century.
The UK Government has launched a map to highlight the threat of 4C temperature rises. Hopefully this map helps people to realize that 4C is a frightening rise in average temperatures. Read the article and view the interactive map:

Nice letter! Has the Herald printed it yet? They tend to treat peak oil and climate change as "theories," and yet press releases from big oil companies are treated as front page headline worthy "news."

In 2006 they had a front page headline about the Jack2 discoveries in the Gulf, and I wrote a letter in response (they edited out my correction of the AP article which claimed the U.S. consumes 5.7 billion barrels of oil per year, instead of the correct number which is 7.5 bbpy).

In 2007 they had a front page article that "Gas Shortage Solution Likely Lies Abroad." My ensuing letter challenged the numbers from the EIA (Energy Information Agency) which projected a "need" for 93 million barrels of oil per day by 2010, and 118 mbpd by 2030. I asked at the time, "How in the world will we get to 93 mppd, let alone 118?"

The EIA and the IEA (international energy agency) both have been predicting future supply based on future demand for many years. More recently the IEA has been actually doing a field by field analysis of available supply, and starting to become a little more realistic in their reports. The EIA is now moving in the other direction as well, though a little more slowly than the IEA.

So far, my 2007 letter is proving my concerns to be legitimate. The EIA is projecting oil consumption for 2010 to be 85 mbpd, rather than 93. I couldn't quickly find their current estimate for 2030.
I haven't seen the letter printed in the paper, and I'm guessing I won't. The majority of letters that appeared since I submitted mine have been concerned with the hot topic of the day: the election. Today's (Saturday) letters were reduced to a single entry.

Presumably the Herald is reluctant to print anything criticizing the paper, and when they have a flood of letters, the critical ones sink to the bottom of the pile.

Since writing this letter, I have thought that a more positive approach might prove more fruitful. I have seen a local name attached to environmental stories. I'm thinking this person is the path to achieving a more enlightened understanding of the peak oil climate changing future.

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