Trump’s Promise to be America’s Most Dangerous, Divisive President

Today, both President Obama and President-Elect Trump have urged America to keep calm and united. But despite these overtures, many Americans are experiencing a sensation akin to shock following one of the nastiest, most vitriolic elections in American history. One in which Trump repeatedly scape-goated women and minorities in a bald attempt to pander to some of the most harmful social undercurrents existing in our country.

Given the ugly tone of Trump’s campaign and his loss in the popular vote by 200,000 and growing despite apparent wins in the electoral college, Americans and people abroad alike now feel a very valid sense of deep concern for the future of a fractured Nation and an increasingly threatened world. For what Trump has pledged and promised to do during his Presidential campaign represents a very real risk of severe political, climatalogical, physical, and economic harm for this country, her people, and to the people and living creatures of this world.

(Berkley students chant ‘not my President!’ in protest walk out on November 9th. Across America and the world, similar protests were underway. Michael Moore, meanwhile, was urging continuous acts of civil disobedience in opposition to Trump’s election. Currently, over 100,000 people are protesting in New York City alone.)

Disturbing Threats to Jail Political Opponents

Threatened with incarceration for presumed crimes no-one has convicted her of, Hillary Clinton must be among those feeling the shock. Trump threatened to jail her if he was elected President. And many of his followers took up the cry — posting ‘jail Hillary’ signs on the sides of roads or demanding unjust incarceration of a political opponent loudly on twitter.

Unfortunately, if Trump’s current diplomatic demeanor spoils, these election campaign threats could very easily turn real. Trump has the power to appoint a special prosecutor. The power to appoint an Attorney General who agrees with his views. The power to, in effect, ‘rig’ the judicial and prosecutorial system to favor his opinion that Hillary should be jailed.

Trump’s uttering of these words during the campaign has already been deeply damaging. Never before in modern memory has one U.S. Presidential opponent publicly threatened to jail another. But carrying out such an action would be as unprecedented as it would have a terribly chilling effect on U.S. democracy.

An Angry Finger on the Nuclear Button

As Clinton reflects on Trump’s threats to haul her off to trial, others around the world are looking fearfully back at the rage-filled rhetoric of a man who is soon to be equipped with the full might of America’s considerable arsenal. During the campaign, Trump claimed to ‘love war,’ asked, multiple times, during security briefings why the U.S. doesn’t use nuclear weapons, and pledged to ‘bomb the shit’ out of Isis and steal their oil. He’s expressed a desire to turn NATO into a protection racket meant to extort fees from allies. And he’s shown a disturbing affinity toward other aggressive leaders like Vladimir Putin.

If Trump’s belligerence and seeming lack of sense continues post-campaign, there’s a valid concern that he might order a nuclear strike with little in the way of provocation. The President does hold the nuclear codes. And though aides, advisers and a substantial military chain of command provide a buffer between a bad decision and disaster, the fact that a hot-headed Trump ignorant to the devastating consequences of the use of such weapons is the final say in the matter is a serious worry.

Killing Climate Treaties, Promoting Fossil Fuels

As nations around the world look to the U.S. with fear and concern, a number of climate bad actors stand to be empowered by a Trump Presidency. Trump has effectively pledged to cut all funding to climate science and renewable energy research and development. In one fell swoop, this action would remove NASA and NOAA’s ability to track climate change even as the main competitors to fossil fuels — wind, solar, and vehicle battery technology — are effectively stymied. It’s a 1-2 punch that would dramatically harm this nation’s already flagging resilience to a rapidly worsening global climate crisis.

Meanwhile, his board of energy advisers are hand-picked from these bad actor fossil fuel companies and include a long list of climate change deniers. Trump has pledged to bring back coal while heightening U.S. oil and gas production and consumption. He has also promised to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, de-fund the EPA, and back out of the Paris Climate Treaty.

earth-under-fire

(Trump, according to Joe Romm over at Climate Progress, appears likely to go down in history as the man who single-handedly pulled the plug on the potential for a livable climate. I agree with Joe’s lucid but stark assessment — without some kind of significant outside action, we are in a very tough spot now due to this set-back by Trump. We really have been given no rational cause to hope otherwise. Image source: Ring of Fire Network.)

Combined, these actions would have a devastating effect on the currently building but still not sufficient global response to climate change. Backsliding by the U.S. will likely also cost reduced commitments by such varied states as India and China even as other countries like the UK, Australia, and Canada are likely to take U.S. climate inaction as their own excuse to renege on past emissions reduction goals.

Overall, a Trump Presidency that follows through on its anti-stable-climate agenda could cost the world as much as 1-2 C in additional warming this Century (on top of what’s already locked in) by keeping the U.S. and other nations on a business as usual emissions path longer and essentially dismantling much of the progress that was achieved under the Obama Administration. To be very clear, current bad climate outcomes are occurring under just 1 C above 1880s level warming. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas reduction commitments under Paris are setting the world on a path to about 3 C warming by the end of this Century. Trump’s policies, when all is said and done, could easily push that to 4 C or more — which would be utterly devastating.

Prospects for escalating climate policies to achieve a less than 2 C warming this Century are now also pretty bleak as Trump rolls in. In my opinion, it would take a wholesale rebellion by energy investors through the necessary act of divestment in fossil fuel industries and reinvestment in renewables to achieve this goal — first by sapping the political power of the agencies that keep putting people like Trump into office and also by removing capital for current and future projects.

David Roberts over at Vox is rather less sanguine:

The truth is, hitting the 2-degree target (much less 1.5 degrees) was always a long shot. It would require all the world’s countries to effectively turn on a dime and send their emissions plunging at never-before-seen rates.

It was implausible, but at least there was a story to tell. That story began with strong US leadership, which brought China to the table, which in turn cleared the way for Paris. The election of Hillary Clinton would have signaled to the world a determination to meet or exceed the targets the US promised in Paris, along with four years of efforts to create bilateral or multilateral partnerships that pushed progress faster…

 That story is gone now. Dead. The US will not provide leadership — it will be an active, and very powerful, impediment. Under unified Republican leadership, progress on lowering emissions in the US will halt and reverse and US participation in international efforts to combat climate change will cease.

Deregulation + Trickle-Down Isolationism is Bad Economic Policy

Following the Great Recession, Obama and a number of effective economic leaders managed to save the world from complete financial disaster. Helpful polices by Obama and the democrats, including the maintenance of Wall Street oversight, now serve as a thin veil protecting the U.S. and the world from another financial collapse. However, Trump’s pledges to bring back pretty much all of the failed republican economic policies promoted by the Bush Administration that were so destructive while adding still more of his own trouble to the brew risks severe economic consequences.

Trump has pledged to deregulate Wall Street — enabling economic bad actors to have the same free reign that set up conditions for the financial crash back during 2008. He has threatened trade wars with China and other partners — a policy that would have a chilling impact on global markets. He and his republican allies have promoted policies that would hobble the Federal Reserve in ways that would deeply undermine the national economy. And he has promised to produce a massive tax cut for the wealthy while slashing supports for the faltering middle class and poor in this country — further worsening the systemic inequality that has already so deeply harmed and divided our nation.

Economist Paul Krugman is not optimistic — warning of a global recession arising from a Trump Presidency:

Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news. What makes it especially bad right now, however, is the fundamentally fragile state much of the world is still in, eight years after the great financial crisis… So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.

While the threat of a new global recession may not be immediately imminent, Trump’s overall economic stance doesn’t provide much in the way of benefit to anyone but the super-rich while adding to the risk that bad actor financial agencies will again crash the markets at some near or long term future date.

Building the Wall

Related to this likely damaging set of economic views is Trump’s continued pledge to deport millions of Hispanics while erecting a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Following through with the promise would turn the U.S. into a closed society for the first time in its history as a nation even as it risks the economic collapse of a country along our southern border. And just the expectation of fallout after Trump’s election today has already sent the Peso into free-fall.

Historically welcoming to immigrants, U.S. innovation and competitiveness has been driven by a constant influx of new people, new cultures, new ideas. Trump, like the rest of us, hails from immigrant roots. Following through with such a walling off of our neighbors and the creation of a ‘fortress America’ would steer away from a policy of openness to neighbors that has lasted for the better part of two Centuries. And while trade agreements with Mexico should certainly be managed to keep the needs of the American people (and not international corporations) firmly in mind, a wholesale shutting off of our relationship with that large and developing neighbor would ultimately be harmful to U.S. interests.

No Electoral Mandate

In the spirit of unity, I’ve done my best to strike a conciliatory tone. But this is difficult when there is so much at stake and when so many greedy corporate hands are now ready to manipulate majority republican congressmen, senators, and the President. To be very clear, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary. So this country didn’t elect Trump. As with Bush in 2000, the electoral college did the deed. This means that more people in this country wanted Hillary’s presidency and policies than those who wanted Trump’s agenda. As a result, Trump can claim no solid electoral mandate.

Overall, despite a pause in the hostilities coming from Trump, severe underlying policy dangers present themselves from a Trump Presidency. An enabling majority in Congress amplifies the risk that these dangerous policies will emerge and that an electorate that has been at least somewhat disenfranchised by Gerrymandering, voter suppression on the part of republicans, and overall intimidation and abuse, will continue to generate harmful and worsening fractures in American society. As with everything else, a worsening climate crisis further threatens to exacerbate these problems even as it generates serious issues all on its own. And the ushering in of yet one more climate change denier into office only serves to create more of a disconnect with public desires for renewable energy access and climate change related action.

Overall, this is a tragic day for America and the world. One with ever-more threatening clouds on the horizon.

Links:

Donald Trump Could Jail Hillary Clinton

Exxon Concedes it May Need to Declare Lower Value for Oil in the Ground

Economic Fallout From a Trump Presidency

Trump Lost the Popular Vote

Trump Already Having a Damaging Effect on Mexico

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Climate Hawk

(Note this is RS post #1000. One that will live in infamy.)

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“A Harbinger of the End of the Fossil Fuel Era” — Coal Production, Exports Plummet as Peabody Energy Declares Bankruptcy

“Peabody Energy’s steep decline toward bankruptcy is a harbinger of the end of the fossil fuel era … Peabody is crashing because the company was unwilling to change with the times, — they doubled down on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and investors backed their bet, as the world shifted toward renewable energy. They have consistently put profit over people, and now their profits have plummeted. Our world has no place for companies like Peabody.” — Jenny Marienau, U.S. Divestment Campaign Manager of the environmental group 350.org, in a recent statement.

****

Jenny Marienau of the climate disaster prevention group 350.org is certainly right about one thing. A healthy world. A world full of life and of prospects for all people, all living things. A world that avoids the worst impacts of a terrible climate disruption on the road to a hothouse mass extinction. In this, far more hopeful, world there is no place for companies like Peabody Energy. Companies whose profit-making and related accumulation of a corrupting political power and influence is entirely dependent on locking in an ever-worsening global crisis.

STRIP_MINING_ON_INDIAN_BURIAL_GROUNDS_BY_PEABODY_COAL_CO_-_NARA_-_544109

(Peabody became infamous for its destructive strip mining efforts that transformed beautiful and treasured lands into toxic, lifeless moonscapes. Here, a Peabody crane scoops coal out of the Nara strip mine which was also the location of a sacred Native American burial ground. Continued fossil fuel burning will ultimately have a similar beauty and life-denuding effect on the whole of the global environment. Image source: Commons.)

Coal’s Moral and Economic Bankruptcy

Today that company, representing the largest coal interest in the Western World, declared bankruptcy. An optimistic announcement that comes amidst a swift sea change and a precipitous contraction in the global coal industry. One that, if world-wide public, private, protest action, and individual efforts to reduce carbon emissions on the back of 200 nations reaching a landmark global climate agreement in Paris continue in force, may well be a beginning of an end to the fossil fuel energy era.

With each passing day, that start of an end becomes more and more visible in what appears to be an ongoing global coal industry collapse and retrenchment. In three of the world’s largest coal producing and consuming regions — India, China, and the US — production, imports and exports are down. In the US, coal production has fallen by more than 50 percent since 2008. Meanwhile US coal exports plummeted by 23 percent in 2015 alone. In China, coal consumption is reported to have dropped during both 2014 and 2015. This drop comes as this world’s largest current greenhouse gas emitter has announced an expanding array of bans on coal burning for its highest polluting power plants and a cessation of coal plant construction in 15 of its provinces. In India, one region that coal backers had looked to for expanding consumption, coal imports are also down.

The broadening contraction in coal has forced bankruptcies not just for Peabody, but for other major American coal players like Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources. A devastating wave for a climatologically destructive industry that appears less and less likely to survive in any form resembling its former might.

The Supertrend That’s Driving Coal’s Downfall — Mass Protest, Divestment, The Rise of Renewables, Policy Push to Prevent Climate Change, and The Switch To Gas

It’s all a part of an emerging supertrend that is being reinforced along many fronts. The first of which involves a broad global protest action against new coal plant construction and wider fossil fuel based energy itself. Led by key groups like 350.org, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club, these critical actions have targeted construction sites, pipelines, railways and mines. In addition, a comprehensive divestment campaign spear-headed by 350.org has targeted capital flows to the fossil fuel special interests. In this campaign, investing firms and institutions are faced with a call to moral action. A call to shift resources away from the fossil fuel-based companies that profit by locking in the ever-worsening impacts of climate change. In most cases, coal divestment is seen as the low-hanging fruit in these efforts. The coal companies produce the highest level of fossil fuel based carbon pollution per ton of fuel burned, are among the biggest threats to clean air and clean water, and are the most financially at risk entities among the fossil fuel based polluters.

Such campaigns against coal would be toothless without readily available alternative energy sources. And during recent years, clean substitutes for coal like solar and wind energy have become more and more accessible. Market prices for both resources have plummeted to the point where either can now compete directly with coal in most major markets. A fact that was brought into stark contrast this year when the cost of a newly constructed Indian solar power station fell below the cost of a newly constructed Indian coal plant fueled by imports. Solar energy in particular has been surging by leaps and bounds with India alone planning 100 gigawatts of new solar powered generation in just six years — a level of construction that will inevitably take a big bite out of what appears to be the last remaining major energy market where coal could potentially expand. In effect, what we are seeing is coal being crowded out by far more benevolent and increasingly competitive wind and solar based energy systems.

US Coal Production Eports Down

(US coal production has plummeted since 2008 in the face of rising renewables, increased use of gas, and falling overseas demand. Global trends seem to indicate that the US coal market is a microcosm of the larger shift in the international energy trade — one that has been driven by a broad-based effort to reduce carbon emissions and impacts related to a human-forced warming of the world. Image source: Clean Technica. Data source: US EIA.)

In many nations, drives to increase the rate of renewable energy adoption have been put at logger-heads with the special-interest funded bodies supporting polluting legacy fossil fuel generation. In the US, republicans have become infamous for their pro-coal, drill-baby, drill, anti-renewables, climate change denial political stance. But despite a well-funded effort by fossil fuel industry to lock in carbon pollution and climate disruption by stacking the political deck, policies aimed at confronting climate change have continued to advance. The Paris Climate Summit, though the object of much criticism, produced the strongest global climate treaty yet. And the broader effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has now been reinforced by a growing number of cities, states, and nations who now realize that continuing the current massive carbon emission is a hazard to their ongoing existence. Coastal cities and nations facing worsening sea level rise, states in expanding drought zones, regions stricken by water insecurity and increased crop damage, cities, states and nations dependent on healthy oceans for tourism and seafood, regions confronting waves of persons displaced from drought-stricken nations, and cities, states, and nations in the path of increasingly severe weather have all both quietly and loudly fought back — pushing the necessary cuts in hothouse gas emissions forward. These key stakeholders — who basically represent all of the rest of the non-fossil fuel interest world — are starting to realize that the carbon industry, though excessively influential, is not all-powerful. And they are starting to more effectively wield their own, far more just, influence in an attempt to reduce the climate harm that is now setting in.

Within the fossil fuel ranks there is also division. Even among the fossil fuel players there appears to be an acceptance that coal is on its way out. Messaging coming from the fossil fuel industry appears to have shifted to support of the still very harmful natural gas and for a new global fracking campaign. In essence, what we observe is that the oil and gas interests, including the new fracking interests, have basically maneuvered in a way that effectively throws coal under the climate change response bus. Coal is tougher to greenwash than natural gas and the spearhead campaign against coal as the worst of the worst among carbon polluters has proven undeflectable. This has been especially true in the UK where even conservatives are aiming to shut down coal plants (while continuing their harmful efforts in support of fracking and aimed at suppressing rates of renewable energy adoption).

Preventing Ever-Worsening Harm — Why The Fossil Fuel Era Must End as Soon as Possible

With today’s Peabody bankruptcy declaration, and in light of these observed trends, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the global energy game has changed and that the political and economic power of coal is fading. A positive shift to be certain. One that will help to reduce global carbon emissions. But we should remember that the current human greenhouse gas emission is now ten times faster than during the last hothouse mass extinction event 55 million years ago. And the only way to greatly reduce that terrible spewing of heat trapping gasses is to not only completely cut out the coal emission, but to also remove the major atmospheric carbon contributions coming from a massive burning of both oil and gas. To this point, we should work as hard as we can to help make Jenny’s prediction above a reality. For we desperately need the end of the fossil fuel era to happen soon.

Links:

A Harbinger of the End of the Fossil Fuel Era (Please Support 350.org)

The Western World’s Largest Coal Company Declares Bankruptcy

US Coal Production Continues Plunge

China Expands Coal Ban

Sans a Swift Switch to Renewables, Dangerous Climate Change May Be Imminent

COP 21

Greenpeace

The Sierra Club — Beyond Coal

350.org — Divestment

US Energy Information Administration

Peabody Strip Mining on Indian Burial Grounds

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

The Carbon Bubble is Bursting

I admit it. I felt sorry for those poor, duped oil, gas and coal company investors back during the early part of 2015. Many of these guys, fed a constant stream of bad information from the financial news sources, at the time were still enraptured by the notion that fossil fuel stocks were then cheap and that the situation was nothing more than some kind of golden buying opportunity.

Now, six months later, 41 US oil and gas companies have gone bankrupt, powerful major oil companies like Exxon and BP are in the range of 20-40 percent losses in stock price year-on-year, most gas companies have seen even more severe losses, and most coal companies have been reduced to junk stock status (see Arch Coal declares bankruptcy). TransCanada, the parent company of the canceled Keystone XL Pipeline, is challenging United States sovereignty with its 15 billion dollar lawsuit. But it’s questionable if the company will even exist long enough to see the results of its NAFTA-based legal challenge.

Arch Coal stock price

(Arch Coal, one of the largest coal companies in the US, filed for bankruptcy today. The company’s stock price has plunged from 300 dollars per share in 2011 to 58 cents per share today. A total loss to investors of 99.88 percent. The dirtiest burning fossil fuel — coal energy faces headwinds from increasing competition by renewable energy, stronger national policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions, as well as a strong push for fossil fuel divestment by environmentalists and those who have increasing concerns about the impact of human-forced climate change. Image source: CNN Money.)

It’s as if All of Fossil Fuels Were Solyndra

It’s like the curse of Solyndra has been revisited on the entire fossil fuel industry. But while the renewable energy industry is undergoing its biggest boom ever, the fossil fuel industry’s own bad investments, bad performance, bad decisions, and overall bad impacts on pretty much everything from the increasingly wrecked global climate, to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, to Oklahoma fracking earthquakes, to the debacle that is the Porter Ranch gas leak, are sinking it even faster than its carbon emissions are melting the Arctic sea ice.

Back during 2013 and 2014 we warned that continued investment in oil, gas and coal companies was a really bad idea — one that probably represented the worst malinvestment in the history of finance. A carbon bubble that was worse even than the bad real estate investments that led up to the financial collapse of 2008. Trillions-upon-trillions of dollars encouraged by more than 500 billion dollars worth of subsidy support globally from the world’s governments each year. And to what end? Producing fuels which, contrary to wind and solar, increase in price the more you use them even as they wreck the very natural wealth that is the basis for healthy economic systems the world over.

And now the markets are being driven to the brink by just such a terrible malinvestment. Now major fossil fuel supporters are crying crocodile tears to their friends in Congress — asking them to shore up these big, polluting, malinvesting fossil fuel special interests. In other other words — the fossil fuel industry has now gone panhandling to the US government for a bailout after a risky and speculative oil and gas production binge. The fruits of drill-baby-drill thinking resulting in both economic and environmental collapse.

The Cheap Energy Age and Saudi Arabia’s Use of the Cheap Oil Lever

How did this all happen? Well, much talk-talk has appropriately centered around the topic of Saudia Arabia. But, as with many issues covered in the news today, the current conversation over Saudi’s move to turn on the oil taps lacks the full and appropriate context. It’s probably true that Saudi Arabia opened up the spigots in an effort to tamp down competition from US fracking interests and from other high-price but high volume competitors overseas. An issue that short-sighted conservatives and Wall Street vs Main-Street blow-hards like Trump have used to drum up much misplaced rage.

BLOG-Trump-Probably-Hates-This-News-About-Wind-Energy-0722-2015

(Fossil fuel cheerleaders like Donald Trump seem both outraged and perplexed by the fall in fossil fuel fortunes even as wind, solar and electric vehicles make new gains. Image source: Donald Trump Probably Hates This Wind Energy News.)

But the story often not told is the one where wind energy, solar energy, and efficiencies have now become an increasingly competitive player in the energy sector. If one considers jobs growth alone, a single US renewable energy sector — solar — added 35,000 jobs during 2015 growing to more than 208,000. By comparison, the entire US oil and gas extraction industry composed just 199,000 jobs at the start of 2015 and by its end had contracted by 14,000 to 185,000. This point is worth reconsidering for a few moments — just one renewable energy industry now supports more US jobs than the entirety of all the oil and gas extraction interests combined.

What’s going on in the US is part of a growing global trend. In many regions now, wind and solar are competitive with natural gas and coal as well as with diesel electric generation. In total, more than 106 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity from wind and solar alone was likely installed globally over the course of 2015 (see wind capacity forecast here and solar capacity forecast here). Since over 3 million barrels of oil go to diesel electricity generation around the world, this new generation directly competes with that source. In addition, natural gas, which is fungible with oil in many markets, is also being increasingly crowded out by cheap renewables. With coal also under price pressure, the world was flooded with a glut — not only of oil, but of cheap energy sources of all kinds.

Perhaps even more of a threat to the fossil fuel industry was a growing shift within the auto industry toward renewable and high fuel efficiency vehicles. This shift was driven in large part by major countries and influential regions like the US, EU, and China providing ever-higher fuel efficiency standards for their vehicle fleets. The tip of the spear to this effort, of course, is in the growing expansion of electrical vehicle access. And despite ever-lower oil prices around the world, electric vehicle sales continue along at a rather substantial rate of growth — jumping from 320,000 total global EV sales during 2014 to 447,000 total EV sales during 2015. Marking the first time a major oil glut has not dramatically reduced the rate of electric vehicle sales growth.

In this global context of both fossil fuel glut and ramping renewable energy adoption, it was impossible for Saudi Arabia to defend the price of oil without losing much of its market share. And with so many new energy systems coming to the fore, it was all-too-likely that the kingdom would eventually see that market share whittled away entirely. Saudi’s only recourse to defend its markets was to open the pumps and flood the world with cheap crude. But as it did, the move shifted the burden of fossil fuel market erosion back to the highest price, and often dirtiest, producers. In other words — fracking, tar sands and the various marginal mines and fields around the world.

Deepwater Horizon

(Major disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Porter Ranch gas leak have aided in the fall of fossil fuel industry fortunes. But the pervasive and growing concern over human-forced climate change is likely to have an even broader impact. Image source: NOAA.)

So who’s really to blame? In all honesty, those currently seeking the bailout by Congress deserve at least as much of it as the Saudis. They were the ones who over-invested in oil, gas and coal and who failed to see a world in which even heavily subsidized fossil fuels couldn’t compete on the margins with emerging renewable energy and efficiencies. And they were the same fools who also denied climate change. A generation-spanning crisis that is now about to make the 2015 blow to the fossil fuel industry look like the proverbial tempest in a tea-pot.

COP 21’s Ongoing Influence

To this point, we should also be very clear that human-forced climate change is starting to have a serious impact on global policy-making. The storms, floods, droughts, sea level rise, glacial decline, ocean health decline, and mass displacements of human beings and wildlife related to climate change just keep getting worse and worse. So pressure on policy-makers from all corners for comprehensive actions to reduce the harm caused by human forced climate change is growing quite intense.

It is due to this increasingly urgent call to action that the recent stated COP 21 goals were the strongest yet coming from any climate conference. And though they are not yet enough to provide much hope for avoiding a very dangerous and deadly 2 C warming this Century, the goals, if applied, do shift the world solidly away from the ridiculously catastrophic business as usual fossil fuel burning path.

In total, the conference committed to a 40 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030. Further emissions reductions commitments continue on through 2050 at 75 percent. The conference also aimed to increase the renewable energy share of the global energy market to 32 percent by 2030 even as it aimed to reduce total energy consumption by 50 percent by 2050. Adding in even a mild carbon pricing or carbon tax regime and what this means is that the fossil fuel industry is looking at decades of recession and retraction. And since most scientists are now saying that COP21 isn’t enough, that more stringent policy measures will be needed to rapidly reduce carbon emissions, it appears that the harmful practice of burning fossil fuels is being set on a path toward ending this Century.

So once again, as we warned before — the carbon bubble is bursting. The end of the age of fossil fuels is at hand. Fossil fuel investor — beware.

Links:

Arch Coal Declares Bankruptcy

TransCanada Sues US For 15 Billion Dollars

Go Fossil Fuel Free

41 US Oil and Gas Companies Have Gone Bankrupt

CNN Money

The Oklahoma Fracking Earthquakes

The Porter Ranch Gas Leak

Bankrupt Fossil Fuel Industry Seeks Bailout From Congress

59 Gigawatts of New Wind Energy Capacity for 2015

57 Gigawatts of New Solar Energy Capacity for 2015

Electric Vehicles See Major Sales Growth Through 2015

NOAA

COP 21 Success or Failure?

National Solar Jobs Census

Bureau of Labor Statistics — Oil and Gas Extraction Jobs

Hat tip to Greg

Paris Climate Conference ‘At the Limits of Suicide,’ Commitments Nowhere Near Enough to Miss 2 C

We have a serious global problem. If we continue burning fossil fuels as we are, and if the fossil fuel industry continues to grow along its projected path, the world will see a catastrophic rate of warming between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius above 1880s values by the end of this Century. So much warming would likely mean a very bad end. A bad end for much of global civilization as we know it. A bad end for many of the innocent living creatures who inhabit our world. And a bad end for many of our children — those now being born today who will face the climate troubles we are locking in.

As the Pope succinctly noted in a recent statement seen here in Rueters:

“I am not sure, but I can say to you ‘now or never.’ Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.”

And suicide may seem a rather mild word compared to the reality we would face. So much warming would result in entire forests — tropical, temperate and Arctic lands — burned in great conflagrations, in the destruction of vast agricultural regions, in turning much of the world ocean into a great dead zone, in drowned cities, and in extreme weather related mass casualty events with the destructive ability to take down entire megalopolises. To call such warming simply catastrophic may well be a mild misnomer. Because the world on which we live — planet Earth — has never seen so much warming happen so rapidly. Not at any time. Not even during the great Permian Extinction event of 250 million years ago.

Whether we admit it or not, that’s what the world comes together to address at Paris’s COP 21 Climate Conference. We’re literally meeting to commit to saving the world or to ending it. And there is no sign, as yet, that we’re going to be doing anywhere near enough.

The Great Carbon Gap

The problem, as it stands, is a great failure to communicate the current severity of the global atmospheric heating crisis. Part of this failure involves an inability or unwillingness to translate current Earth System climate sensitivity findings into language relevant to present global policy and then report on it broadly. If global mainstream media were on the ball, they’d be reporting on the findings of UNEP’s annual Emissions Gap Report. They’d also be paying more attention to the recently related speeches and presentations by Dr. Kevin Anderson addressing this critical issue.

(Kevin Anderson’s excellent presentation showing why we’re not yet anywhere near up to the challenge of missing the dreaded 2 C warming mark before the end of this Century.)

If we, as a global community, were taking this matter seriously, we’d be pouring over this report, and taking in the very relevant related statements by Dr. Anderson.

We would also be taking a very serious look at climate sensitivity in the context of past global greenhouse gas concentrations and overall levels of warming. We’d be talking about it broadly and incessantly in the global media. And we’d be comparing our best understandings of past climate contexts with current model based climate sensitivity estimates for warming during the 21st Century (Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity or ECS).

If we did this, we would find that model ECS levels of warming estimated for this Century are about half the amount of warming that is locked in long term. And since the world has already warmed by about 1 C above 1880s levels — which puts us at halfway to hitting the UN’s 2 C level already — it appears that for purposes of considering warming beyond this Century, we’ve already emitted enough greenhouse gasses to easily break the 2 C limit (and possibly hit as high as 4 C) over the course of about 500 years.

Global greenhouse gasses are already in the range of 400 parts per million CO2 and 485 parts per million CO2e. These thresholds, if maintained, are enough (if our understanding of Pliocene climate is correct) to warm the world by 2-3 C long term in the case of CO2 alone and by 4 C, in the case of CO2e, over the same 500+ year period. If the slow feedbacks (rate of ice sheet response, carbon store response, ocean response etc) remain slow, then this level of greenhouse gasses translates to roughly 1.4 to 1.7 C warming this Century (Hansen climate sensitivity) if CO2 levels merely remain stable and about 2 C worth of warming this Century if all other atmospheric greenhouse gasses (methane, ozone, CFCs, nitrous oxides, etc) merely remain stable and do not continue to increase.

If this paleoclimate and ECS based hybrid context is correct, then commitments now need to be for a very rapid drop to zero and then net negative carbon emissions if we are to have any reasonable hope of missing the 2 C threshold this Century. We should also recognize that preventing a rise above the 2 C threshold long term is an even greater challenge.

UNEP provides a slightly more optimistic assessment of the situation. The authors of this report note that peaking global greenhouse gas emissions near current levels globally by 2020 and then reducing them to less than half of current levels through 2050 has about a 66 percent chance of limiting warming this Century to below 2 C (hitting around 1.8 C by 2100). But this assessment may be rather optimistic considering that we will still hit in the range of 450 ppm CO2 and 550 ppm CO2e by mid Century which would be enough, according to our understanding of paleoclimate sensitivities, to hit between 1.9 and 2.2 C from CO2 warming alone and between 2.5 and 3 C from the total warming effect of all CO2 equivalent gasses.

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(According to UNEP’s most recent Emission’s Gap report, the world is currently on track to warm by a catastrophic 3-7 degrees Celsius above 1880s levels through 2100. The most aggressive current policy commitments on the books, if implemented, would drop that warming to a still catastrophic range of 3-4 C this Century. Clearly, we need to be far more aggressive if we want to have any hope of avoiding 2 C warming this Century. Image source: UNEP — Emissions Gap.)

Unfortunately, regardless of which climate sensitivity estimation ends up being correct, current carbon emission reduction commitments by countries around the globe (called INDCs for Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) will almost certainly result in overall increasing rates of carbon burning through at least 2030. According to UNEP, even the present most aggressive carbon burning reduction commitments will increase global CO2e emissions from the present level of 52.7 billion tons per year to between 54 and 59 billion tons per year by 2030. Such an emissions rate would result in atmospheric CO2 levels at around 435 parts per million by 2030 and 530 parts per million CO2e by the same time. This would, in the paleoclimate based sensitivity context we use, lock in 1.8 to 2.1 C warming by the end of this Century under CO2 forced warming alone. The CO2e levels by 2030 imply warming this Century in the range of 2.25 C.

What we read from this is that the currently most aggressive INDCs will almost certainly lock in a catastrophic rate of 2 C warming by the end of this Century as early as 2030. Through 2100, the UN’s own report is not at all sanguine:

Full implementation of unconditional INDC results in emission level estimates in 2030 that are most consistent with scenarios that limit global average temperature increase to below 3.5 °C until 2100 with a greater than 66 per cent chance. INDC estimates do, however, come with uncertainty ranges. When taking this into account the 3.5 °C value could decrease to 3 °C or increase towards 4 °C for the low and high unconditional INDC estimates, respectively. When including the full implementation of conditional INDCs, the emissions level estimates become most consistent with long-term scenarios that limit global average temperature increase to 3-3.5 °C by the end of the century with a greater than 66 per cent chance.

In other words, according to UNEP, we’re on a path to hitting around 600 to 750 ppm CO2e by 2100 even under the most aggressive current policies and an extraordinarily catastrophic 6-7 C+ long term warming of the global climate.

A Base Refusal to Respond Rapidly Enough

Why are global commitments falling so far short of what needs to be done? It’s true that the challenge is extraordinary. But considering the amazing danger involved it is absolutely amoral to fail to respond.

From the policy standpoint it boils down to the fact that we are still institutionally committed to burning fossil fuels and to using those fuels as a mechanism to increase rates of economic growth. It’s a failed assumption based on the fact that at some point fossil fuel driven growth implodes the planetary life support and kinder, gentler climate systems upon which all economies essentially rely. But since this old way of growing economies has worked for centuries, and since that old growth regime has generated a number of extraordinarily wealthy and well entrenched power bases, many policy makers are unable to look beyond what amounts a vastly amoral growth paradigm based on carbon emissions.

Many nations, including the most developed nations of the world still plan to build new coal, gas and diesel electric power plants. Many nations still favor fossil fuel based vehicular transportation over the more easily electrified and converted to renewable mass transit. Many nations have lackadaisical policies when it comes to transforming vehicular transportation to electricity and other non fossil fuels. And many nations are politically paralyzed due to a portion of their leadership being controlled or strongly influenced by fossil fuel based corporate interests.

It’s a crisis of leadership and one that’s manifest in the weakness of COP 21’s carbon emission reduction commitments. For though COP 21 will likely see some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction policy measures ever put in place, as we have noted above, those policies will not be anywhere nearly aggressive enough to meet the global community’s stated goal of keeping warming under 2 degrees Celsius this Century.

As case in point to the essential disconnect, a comment submitted by dnem (a regular poster here) to the Diane Rehm show, which recently hosted Joe Romm of Climate Progress in a discussion focusing on the Paris Climate talks, raised this key question:

Call me cynical, but it appears that these talks have been ‘pre-engineered’ to achieve a very modest and in all likelihood inadequate accord. They will not collapse in failure like the previous meeting in Copenhagen, but they will not come close to achieving what needs to be done. As long as we remain addicted to economic growth as the world’s primary organizing principle, we will not be serious about addressing our essential problems.

According to dnem, Joe Romm’s response — “absolutely correct” — as well as the second sentence highlighted above fell to the cutting room floor before the show aired. However, the question of how we reconcile current understandings of economic growth with the absolute necessity of responding to climate change is an essential one. The question being, that we will need to all (especially the wealthiest among us) make sacrifices in order to reduce the impact of a disaster of global scale. One possibly never before seen on the face of the Earth. We may need to think, not in terms of wealth accumulation and traditional growth, but in terms of lives saved and quality of life preserved. And many of those among us who see the world through the context of only what goes up and down on the global stock markets appear to be amazingly ill-prepared to make this all-too-necessary cognitive leap.

The sacrifices, instead, are now not just being measured in dollars and cents, but in nations under threat of collapse, by an expanding number of people displaced or at risk of falling into poverty, in lives lost and species going extinct, in the future anguish and struggles of the still unborn and of those children now being born today. By those poor creatures who will be forced to attempt to survive in a world we’re in the process of ruining. And by those of us unfortunate enough to live beyond the next 1-2 decades and to start to see some of the worst effects of the horrific climate change we are now committing ourselves to.

Links:

UNEP — Emissions Gap

Pliocene Climate

Delivering on 2 C — Evolution or Revolution?

World Headed Toward Suicide Without Climate Agreement — Pope Francis

Climate Progress

Definition of INDC

Hat tip to dnem

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

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