The Risk of Extinction from Climate Change May Be Worse than the IPCC Predicted
November 5, 2018 Arctic News Blogspot
Commentary: According to the IPCC's latest report on global warming, things aren't looking good. But, instead of providing good advice, the IPCC bends over backward in efforts to maintain the oil-burning addiction. The Paris Agreement calls for all nations to keep the temperature rise below 1.5ºC. The IPCC should have honored this commitment. Instead, the IPCC report contrives to make it look as if temperatures are lower than they really are -- so polluters can be allowed to keep polluting.
IPCC Keeps Feeding the Addiction Arctic News Blogspot
(October 13, 2018) -- The IPCC just released its report Global Warming of 1.5ºC. Things aren't looking good and instead of providing good advice and guidance, the IPCC bends over backward in efforts to keep feeding the addiction.
The Paris Agreement constitutes a joint commitment by all nations of the world to keep the temperature rise below 1.5ºC. The IPCC should have honored this commitment by explaining that the situation is dire and by pointing at action to be taken to improve the situation.
Instead, the IPCC bends over backward to make it look as if temperatures were lower than they really are, in an effort to make it look as if there were carbon budgets to be divided, and polluters should be allowed to keep polluting until those budgets had run out. This is like saying that drug junkies who cause damage and are deeply in debt, should be handed over more OPM (other people's money -- in this case, the future of all people and other species).
In reality, there is no carbon budget to be divided, there is just a huge carbon debt to be repaid. The urgency and imperative to act is such that progress in one area cannot make up for delays elsewhere. The best policies should be implemented immediately and everywhere across the world.
Use of terms such as trade-offs, net-outcomes, off-sets, carbon budgets and negative emissions is misguided and highly misleading. Policies based on giving and trading in permits to pollute are less effective than local fee-bates, i.e. polices that impose fees on sales of polluting products and then use the revenues to support rebates on the better alternatives sold locally.
Scroll to the right to preview humanity's plight.
Here are twelve instances where the IPCC is misleading:
1. Changing the baseline set at the Paris Agreement
While the Paris Agreement is clear that pre-industrial is to be used as baseline, the IPCC has instead chosen to use 1850-1900, a period when the Industrial Revolution had long started. This compromises the entire Paris Agreement and thus the integrity of us all.
Temperatures may well have been 0.3ºC higher in 1900 than in 1750, as depicted in above image in the light blue block. Add up the warming elements and it may well be that people have caused more than 2ºC of warming already and that we're facing warming of more than 10ºC by 2026.
2. Misleading calculations and wording
The IPCC suggests that warming caused by people is 1.0°C (±0.2°C), likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052. To reach these numbers, the IPCC used misleading calculations in efforts to downplay how dangerous the situation is, as discussed further below.
As an example of misleading wording, the IPCC says it has high confidence that 1.5°C won't be reached until 2030 if warming continues to increase at the current rate of 0.2°C per decade. Sure, if warming was 1.0°C and if it was indeed warming at 0.2°C per decade and if that warming would continue at 0.2°C per decade, yes, then it would take 25 years for warming to reach 1.5°C.
But the reality is that warming is already far more than 1.0°C and that it is accelerating. That makes it misleading to associate high confidence with the suggestion that warming will not reach 1.5°C until 2030. The use of a straight line (linear trend) is misleading in the first place, since warming is accelerating. The use of a straight line is even more misleading when such a straight line is then used to make projections into the future and qualifications such as high confidence are added.
3. Ignoring the importance of peaks
Daily and monthly peaks are obviously higher than annual averages, and it's those high peaks that kill, making it disrespectful toward past and future victims of extreme weather events to average that away. NASA records show that, in February 2016, it was on average 1.67ºC warmer than in 1900 (i.e. a 30-year period centered around 1900), while the higher latitudes North had anomalies up to 10.8ºC.
On land, the average anomaly in February 2016 was 2.26ºC. And this is before adding 0.3ºC for the rise before 1900, and before further adjustments as discussed below. Conservatively, the magenta block at the top of above image shows a rise of 1.63ºC.
4. Cherry-picking the baseline period
For a baseline of a 30-year period around the year 1900, the temperature rise to 2016/2017 was 1.22ºC, NASA records show. When adding another 0.3ºC rise for the rise before 1900, warming was well above 1.5ºC in 2016/2017. However, the IPCC conveniently selects an 1850-1900 baseline, a period when it was relatively warm, i.e. warmer than in 1750 and warmer also than in 1900.
It was warmer from 1850 to 1900 due to increasing livestock numbers and forests clearing, while huge amounts of wood were burned, all contributing to large emissions of black carbon, brown carbon, methane, CO, etc., which caused additional warming during this period. So, this period was relatively warm. There was little impact yet of the sulfur aerosols that started coming with burning fossil fuel from 1900.
Choosing this baseline period enabled the IPCC to beef up the temperature for the baseline and then draw a linear trend from 1850-1900 that looks flatter.
5. Changing the data
The U.K. Meteorlogical Office's HadCRUT dataset goes back to 1850. The IPCC used this dataset, but actually changed the data, by averaging the data with datasets that showed a similar rise for the years after 1900, but that showed higher warming for 1880-1900. This enabled the IPCC to further beef up the average temperature for the period 1850- 1900 and then draw a linear trend from 1850-1900 that looks even flatter.
6. Cherry-picking the type of data
To further support its suggestions, the IPCC uses water surface data for ocean temperature, but uses air data for temperatures over land. When selecting datasets with more consistency and using air temperatures globally, the temperature rise is 0.1ºC higher.
7. Not using new techniques to estimate values for missing data
The IPCC chooses not to use new techniques to estimate temperatures where data are missing. Less data are available for the Arctic, and this is precisely where temperatures have risen much faster than in the rest of the world. When values for missing data are included, the temperature rise is another 0.1ºC higher.
8. Leaving out 2016
The IPCC suggests there was a temperature rise of 0.2ºC per decade in the years up to 2015, as if the high temperatures in 2016 didn't occur. The IPCC then uses that 0.2ºC rise to make projections into the future, conveniently skipping the high temperatures in 2016. Failure to properly address acceleration of future warming is further discussed in the point below.
9. Failure to properly address dangerous developments
The IPCC fails to point out that carbon dioxide reaches a maximum in warming the atmosphere some 10 years after emission, which means that the full wrath of global warming due to the very high emissions of carbon dioxide over the past decade is yet to come.
While temperatures could rise very rapidly over the coming decade, the IPCC keeps talking about carbon budgets, without properly addressing tipping points such as the decline of the snow and ice cover that will result in huge albedo losses, jet stream changes, more and more extreme weather events, and more. The IPCC fails to point out the danger of destabilization of sediments containing methane in the form of hydrates and free gas.
Furthermore, the IPCC fails to properly address the aerosol warming that will occur as sulfur emissions decrease and other aerosols increase such as black carbon, brown carbon, etc. The IPCC fails to mention the water vapor feedback, i.e. the increase of water vapor in the atmosphere that will occur as a result of these developments. Since water vapor itself is a potent greenhouse gas, this will speed up the temperature rise even further. These developments could lead to a potential global temperature rise (from 1750) of more than 10ºC by 2026, as illustrated in the image at the top.
10. There is no carbon budget left
Instead of pointing at the dangers, as it should have done, the IPCC makes it look as if there was a remaining carbon budget that should be divided among polluters, as if they should continue polluting the world. It should be obvious that there is no such budget. Instead, there's only a huge and very dangerous carbon debt.
There is no room for trade-offs or offsets, and terms such as negative emissions are also inappropriate. All efforts should be made to cut emissions, including ending current subsidies for fossil fuel and livestock, while at the same time great effort should be taken to remove carbon from the atmosphere and oceans. And even then, it's questionable whether any humans will be able to survive the coming decade, which will be critically dangerous for all species on Earth.
11. Suggesting polluting pathways
The pathways suggested by the IPCC keep fossil fuel in the picture for many years, while highlighting non-solutions such as BECCS. The IPCC makes it look as if coal-fired power plants could continue to operate, by burning more biomass and capturing carbon.
The IPCC makes it look as if transport could continue to use internal combustion engines, by burning more biofuel. Instead, clean and renewable energy has many benefits, including that it's more economic, so air-capture powered by such facilities would make more sense than BECCS. Furthermore, electric vehicles should be supported now, rather than in the year 2050.
It makes sense to stop fossil fuel subsidies, and to support better diets, to plant more vegetation and to support ways to add carbon and nutrients to soils and oceans, such as with biochar and ground rocks.
Many technologies have been proposed, e.g. refrigerators and freezers are now made that do not use gases for cooling. The IPCC should not have used pathways that are wrong in the first place. Instead, the IPCC should have pointed at the policies that can best facilitate the necessary transitions, because the scientific evidence is overwhelming and it's the right thing to do.
12. Not pointing at the best and much-needed policy tools
The IPCC report fails to point out that imposing fees on polluting products is the most effective policy instrument, the more so when the revenues are used to support rebates on better alternatives supplied locally.
Will Humans Be Extinct by 2026?
In the Arctic, vast amounts of carbon are stored in soils that are now still largely frozen. As temperatures continue to rise and soils thaw, much of this carbon will be converted by microbes into carbon dioxide or methane, adding further greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
In addition, vast amounts of methane are stored in sediments under the Arctic Ocean seafloor, in the form of methane hydrates and free gas. As temperatures rise, these sediments can get destabilized, resulting in eruptions of huge amounts of methane from the seafloor. Due to the abrupt character of such releases and the fact that many seas in the Arctic Ocean are shallow, much of the methane will then enter the atmosphere without getting broken down in the water.
What makes the situation so dangerous is that huge eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean can happen at any time. We can just count ourselves lucky that it hasn't happened as yet. As temperatures continue to rise, the risk that this will happen keeps growing.
This dangerous situation has developed because emissions by people have made the temperature of the water in the Arctic Ocean rise, and these waters keep warming much more rapidly than the rest of the world due to a number of feedbacks.
One such feedback is the retreat of the sea ice, which in turn makes the Arctic Ocean heat up even more, as much sunlight that was previously reflected back into space by the sea ice, instead gets absorbed by the water when the sea ice is gone.
Without sea ice, storms can also develop more easily. Storms can mix warm surface waters all the way down to the bottom of shallow seas, reaching cracks in sediments filled with ice. This ice has until now acted as a glue, holding the sediment together. As the ice melts, sediments can become destabilized by even small differences in temperature and pressure that can be triggered by earthquakes, undersea landslides or changes in ocean currents.
As a result, huge amounts of methane can erupt from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean and once this occurs, it will further raise temperatures, especially over the Arctic, thus acting as another self-reinforcing feedback loop that again makes the situation even worse in the Arctic, with higher temperatures causing even further methane releases, in a vicious cycle leading to runaway global warming.
Such a temperature rise in the Arctic will not stay within the borders of the Arctic. It will trigger huge firestorms in forests and peatlands in North America and Russia, adding further emissions including soot that can settle on mountains, speeding up the melting of glaciers and threatening to stop the flow of rivers that people depend on for their livelihood.
These developments can take place at such a speed that adaptation will be futile. More extreme weather events can hit the same area with a succession of droughts, cold snaps, floods, heat waves and wildfires that follow each other up rapidly. Within just one decade, the combined impact of extreme weather, falls in soil quality and air quality, habitat loss and shortages of food, water, shelter and just about all the basic things needed to sustain life can threaten most, if not all life on Earth with extinction.
How much have temperatures risen and how much additional warming could eventuate over the next decade? The image on the right shows a potential global temperature rise by 2026 from pre-industrial levels. This rise contains a number of elements, as discussed below from the top down.
The magenta element at the top reflects the temperature rise since 1900. In February 2016, it was 1.62°C warmer compared to the year 1900, so that's a rise that has already manifested itself.
Additional warming was caused by humans before 1900. Accordingly, the next (light blue) element from the top down uses 0.3°C warming to reflect anthropogenic warming from pre-industrial levels to the year 1900.
When also taking this warming into account, it was 1.92°C (3.46°F) warmer in February 2016 than in pre-industrial times, as is also illustrated on the image below.
Warming from the other elements (described below) comes on top of the warming that was already achieved in February 2016.
The purple element reflects warming due to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 2026. While the IEA reported that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions had not risen over the past few years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise, due to feedbacks that are kicking in, such as wildfires and reduced carbon sinks.
Furthermore, maximum warming occurs about one decade after a carbon dioxide emission, so the full warming wrath of the carbon dioxide emissions over the past ten years is still to come. In conclusion, an extra 0.5°C warming by 2026 seems possible as long as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and oceans remain high and as temperatures keep rising.
With dramatic cuts in emissions, there will also be a dramatic fall in aerosols that currently mask the full warming of greenhouse gases. From 1850 to 2010, anthropogenic aerosols brought about a decrease of ∼2.53 K, says a recent paper.
While, on the one hand, not all of the aerosols masking effect may be removed over the next few years, there now are a lot more aerosols than in 2010. A 2.5°C warming due to removal of part of the aerosols masking effect therefore seems well possible by the year 2026, especially when considering further aerosol impact such as caused by burning of biomass, as discussed in this post.
Warming due to Arctic snow and ice decline (i.e. of both sea ice and the snow and ice cover on land) may well exceed 2.6 W/m², calculated Professor Peter Wadhams in 2012. This could more than double the current net global warming caused by people since pre-industrial times.
Associated changes include the loss of the ice buffer (latent heat), greater heat transfer into the Arctic Ocean due to stronger winds (and the resulting freshwater lid on the North Atlantic) and more heat entering the atmosphere due to more open water in the Arctic Ocean. A 1.6°C warming due to albedo changes and associated changes seems possible over the next few years, as discussed in this post.
Dr. Natalia Shakhova et al. wrote in a paper presented at EGU General Assembly 2008 that: "we consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time." Authors calculated that such a release would cause 1.3°C warming by 2100.
This 1.3°C warming (by 2100) from an extra 50 Gt of methane seems conservative when considering that there now is only some 5 Gt of methane in the atmosphere, and over the next ten years this 5 Gt is already responsible for more warming than all the carbon dioxide emitted by people since the start of the industrial revolution.
Professor Peter Wadhams co-authored a study that calculated that methane release from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean could yield 0.6°C warming of the planet in 5 years (see video at earlier post).
In conclusion, as temperatures keep rising, a 1.1°C warming due to methane releases from clathrates at the seafloor of the world's oceans seems well possible over the next few years and even more warming seems possible beyond that, as also discussed in this post.
Rising temperatures will result in more water vapor in the atmosphere (7% more water vapor for every 1°C warming), further amplifying warming, since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas. Extra water vapor will result from warming due to the above-mentioned albedo changes in the Arctic and methane releases from the seafloor that could strike within years and could result in huge warming in addition to the warming that is already there now . . . .
The temperature rise due to extra water vapor works immediately, i.e. it goes hand in hand with rises due to other warming elements. Given a possible additional warming of 2.7°C due to just two elements, i.e. Arctic albedo changes and seafloor methane, an additional warming over the next few years of 2.1°C due to extra water vapor in the atmosphere therefore does seem well possible over the next few years.
Further feedbacks will result from interactions between the above elements.
Additional water vapor in the atmosphere and extra energy trapped in the atmosphere will result in more intense storms and precipitation, flooding and lightning. Flooding can cause rapid decomposition of vegetation, resulting in strong methane releases.
Furthermore, plumes above the anvils of severe storms can bring water vapor up into the stratosphere, contributing to the formation of cirrus clouds that trap a lot of heat that would otherwise be radiated away, from Earth into space. The number of lightning strikes can be expected to increase by about 12% for every 1°C of rise in global average air temperature.
At 3-8 miles height, during the summer months, lightning activity increases NOx by as much as 90% and ozone by more than 30%. The combination of higher temperatures and more lightning will also cause more wildfires, resulting in additional emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. Ozone acts as a direct greenhouse gas, while carbon monoxide can indirectly cause warming by extending the lifetime of methane.
Additional warming of the atmosphere can also result when sinks that are currently holding back warming, instead turn into sources. An increase in the uptake of carbon by vegetation until now was attributed in a recent study to higher CO₂ levels in the atmosphere. This land sink now appears to turn into a source of carbon emissions, due to deforestation and soil degradation For years, global warming was also thought to be held back by growth of sea ice around Antarctica and the greater albedo resulting from that.
Recently however, sea ice around Antarctica reached record low extent for the time of the year (late 2016). On November 23, 2016, Antarctic sea ice extent was 2.615 million km² smaller than it was on November 23, 2015.
To put this 2.615 million km² in perspective, the minimum Arctic sea ice in 2012 was 3.387 million km², 4.157 less than the minimum extent in 1980, as illustrated by the image on the right.
Ever warmer oceans and stronger winds that move sea ice away from Antarctica make the outlook for global sea ice grim. Furthermore, higher temperatures look set to cause more growth of algae and melting, resulting in further albedo decline. Higher temperatures on land will cause warmer water from rivers to enter the Arctic Ocean. Higher temperatures on land will also cause trigger more wildfires resulting in emissions such as of black carbon that can settle on the snow and ice cover in the Arctic.
A recently-published study warns that permafrost loss is likely to be 4 million km² (about 1.5 million mi²) for each 1°C (1.8°F) temperature rise. This is a self-reinforcing feedback loop, since the albedo loss will further speed up warming in the Arctic, which will also cause more emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.
Warmer water tends to form a layer at the surface that does not mix well with the water underneath, as discussed here. Stratification reduces the capability of oceans to take up heat from the atmosphere, thus speeding up warming of the atmosphere.
Until now, oceans have been taking up 93.4% of the extra heat caused by emissions by people. So, even a small decrease in the amount of heat that oceans take out of the atmosphere would result in a strong rise of global air temperatures.
Additionally, greater stratification of oceans results in less phytoplankton and thus less carbon dioxide that will be taken by oceans out of the atmosphere, so more carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means that less heat can leave Earth, as it gets trapped by the carbon dioxide, so this is another self-reinforcing feedback loop that further warms oceans, as described under feedback 29.
Furthermore, ocean stratification can cause oceans to take up less heat from the atmosphere, resulting in more heat staying in atmosphere, while lower oxygen levels at sea surface can also increase releases of nitrous oxide.
In conclusion, the joint impact from further feedbacks may well amount to an additional 0.3°C warming over the next few years, or much more than that over more years, cancelling out possible over-estimations in other elements.
In summary, adding up all the warming associated with the above elements results in a total potential global temperature rise (land and ocean) of more than 10°C or 18°F in a matter of years, by as early as 2021, assuming that no geoengineering will take place over the next few years . . . .
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.