Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The beginning of the end in the battle to save the planet

Donald Trump has just signed an executive order today, to undo Obama-era rules aimed at tackling global warming. With the US as the 2nd largest polluter in the world after China, this action means the 2 degree Celsius warming cap would likely to be breached, and would have direct negative impacts towards our planet.

2 degree Celsius rise is the benchmark set by the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009, and again in Paris Climate Change Conference on early December 2015, where the participating nations pledged to keep global warming (since the Industrial Age) under 2 degree Celsius, which already almost an impossible task to begin with.

Record breaking warming keep on occurring every month in the past 2 years, which includes the strongest El Niño in decades. According to the Met Office the record breaking El Niño confirmed that the world has already "reached the halfway point towards the arbitrary "threshold" of a 2 degree Celsius increase on pre-industrial levels judged to be potentially dangerous for climate change."

The Met Office then elaborate, "[while] scientists estimate that around 2900 gigatons (a gigaton is 1 billion metric ton) of CO2 can be emitted into the atmosphere before the 2 degree Celsius threshold is likely to be breached, industrialised nations have already about 2000 gigatons which means that the world has used about two thirds of its 2 degree Celsius "budget" of fossil fuels."

Furthermore, in 2011 a think tank in London called Carbon Tracker Initiative conducted a research which found that the oil, gas and coal reserves that are claimed by all fossil fuel companies represent 2,795 gigatons of carbon, which is 5 times the maximum size of carbon that can be burned between 2011 and 2049 (around 565 gigatons) in order for us to keep warming below 2 degree Celsius.

The problem is, those reserves represent roughly $27 trillion in value, more than 10 times the annual GDP of the United Kingdom, and to keep warming under 2 degree Celsius approximately 80% of that reserves should remain grounded and become useless assets in these fossil fuel companies' book, and there's no way that they will comply without a fight. The Obama-era rules were the attempt to curb the activities to extract fossil fuels, while the executive order signed by Trump, conversely, largely based on the quest for profit from these fossil fuels.

While we're entering the possibility of breaching the 2 degree cap, a report by the World Bank warns that as things stand, if we don't make any changes in the way the world operates (i.e. like the fossil fuel production), by the end of this century "we're on track [even] for a 4 degree Celsius warmer world marked by heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life threatening sea level rise." The report also cautioned that "there is also no certainty that [our] adaptation to a 4 degree Celsius [warming] world is possible."

As an illustration, while 2 degree Celsius warming could drown Pacific nations and the likes of Maldives, 4 degree Celsius warming would drown big cities like London and Dublin, cities that have huge river in the middle of it.

In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein pointed out that currently the temperature have specifically increased by 0.8 degree Celsius, but this is already enough to create several alarming impacts, I may add, such as the El Niño and melting ice in West Antarctica, which could raise seas by 3 metres and cause a $43 trillion calamity, as scientists predict most of the ice will be gone in 2050.

Meanwhile, even at the current levels climate change can throw 100 million people into poverty, and can wipe out 50 years of global health gains. Scientists also concluded that currently [in this 0.8 degree warming world] the earth has already exceeded 4 out of the 9 limits for hospitable life, with many species labelled "the walking dead", including the world's oceans that are facing the biggest coral die-off in history, and perhaps most importantly, humans.

Nevertheless, scientists have also found that there's indeed a direct link between the increase of CO2 level and the increase in thermal radiation heating earth's surface. Proofing that human activities really caused accelerated global warming, and thus we can also curb it. Hence the 2 degree Celsius pledge in the climate summit theoretically still possible to be obtained.

But as of today this optimism dies off in the hand of Donald Trump, without him fully understands what he has done. We can visibly see the destruction global warming have made so far with only 0.8 degree warming, and thanks to Trump the 2 degree cap would likely to be breached, taking us towards the doomsday scenario of a 4 degree warming described by the World Bank.

One day humanity might look back at this moment as the beginning of the end in our battle to save the planet. What a dangerous human being this powerful idiot is.

Note: the majority of the facts and arguments I presented here have been posted before in 100 things I learned and did in 2015 no 63-68.