The Philosophy of Global Warming

If you are interested in the relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth, individual and collective human purpose, evolution, cosmology, the nature of reality, astrology, spirituality, and how all of this relates to global warming & the environmental crisis of modernity, then I am sure that you will like my new book 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'. In the post below I have provided the book description, the list of contents and the first two sections of the book. You can find out how to get hold of the book by clicking on this link:

The Philosophy of Global Warming

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Emissions Cuts: The Gap between Ambition & Reality

In the last few posts I have been considering greenhouse gas emissions. I have cited journal and newspaper articles which reveal a growing realisation that greenhouse gas emissions are at a level which makes it very likely that there is going to be an extremely dangerous increase in the temperature of the planetary atmosphere later this century.

Despite the increasingly widespread realisation that this is so, there is still optimism that this extremely dangerous scenario can be averted if governments get together and agree to significantly reduce their emissions. One is tempted to believe that many people are blinkered into thinking that the only solution is to significantly reduce emissions. So, whilst the reality is that this isn't going to happen, people still want to believe that it can happen. People are, in the main, optimistic; so, if there is only one solution to a problem, then it is natural to keep on hoping that this solution can be attained, whatever the reality of the situation. There is clearly a gap between ambition and reality. Indeed, in the recently published Emissions Gap Report 2012, Achm Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, states that the report:

 "provides a sobering assessment of the gulf between ambition and reality"

The gulf between the reality of emissions being way too high to prevent dangerous warming is accepted; this reality is completely out of kilter with the ambition to have massively lower emissions. Yet, the report still tries to be optimistic in its conclusions, stating that it is "technically possible" that emissions can be slashed and that dangerous warming can be averted.

What does it mean to be "technically possible"? This way of looking at the situation seems to simply be a case of misplaced optimism and it could be extremely dangerous; it just seems to mean not theoretically impossible (which is, of course, true). It is also "technically possible" that I could win the National Lottery Jackpot every week for a year. However, when one gets serious, one needs to leave these theoretical "technical possibilities" aside, and return to reality! The reality is that 'the force to environmental destruction' (see Is the Human Species Special?: Why human-induced global warming could be in the interests of life ) will continue to dominate; greenhouse gas emissions will not be slashed in the time-frame that is required.

Another report has just been released by the World Bank:

According to this report:

"the world is on track to a “4°C world” marked by extreme heat-waves and life-threatening sea level rise"

and that:

"As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.

The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen."

In this report there is clearly an admirable ambition to avoid the extreme danger that we face from a massive increase in temperatures triggered by an above 2°C rise (due to the associated nonlinear tipping points which are likely to result in a runaway warming effect). Yet this ambition is again out of kilter with reality. This is because there is a misplaced belief that the desired outcome can be achieved through emissions cuts.

The sooner that reality is fully accepted the better it will be. When one realises that one's proposed solution to a problem is completely out of kilter with reality, then it is usually best to seek another solution. This isn't a bad thing, a sign of failure. In this case, the realisation will simply cause one to shift one's energy and focus to a real solution to the problem; a solution which is in accordance with reality. Of course, you know what this solution is: the geoengineering of the temperature of the atmosphere.

As a final note, many people still seem to believe that if emissions were 'magically' slashed from tomorrow, that everything would be fine. However, this seems to be another case of the widespread human need to be optimistic; there are good reasons to believe that in reality even this would not make any difference; the 'damage' has already been done due to past actions whose time-lag biogeochemical perturbation effects have yet to be manifested in increasing atmospheric temperatures. For more on this see: An Evolutionary Perspective on the Relationship between Humans and their Surroundings: Geoengineering, the purpose of life & the nature of the universe .

So, the World Bank report is right that "only early, cooperative, international actions" can avoid a 4°C rise. The real question which needs to be addressed is what these actions are. When reality is accepted then the ambition to avoid such a rise can be met with a solution that can work (geoengineering), rather than with the current obsession with the completely ineffectual alternative (attempting to slash emissions). So, if reality can be widely accepted then there is still reason to be optimistic; one just needs to place one's optimism in the right solution.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Prepare for Extreme Global Warming

If you have been following my blog posts, or been reading my books, then you will be aware that there are 3 key aspects to my view of the place of humans in the cosmos:

1)  Humans will (well, already have, but this was 'inevitable' from the moment life first arose on the Earth) 'inevitably' set in motion the forces which will potentially cause very severe global warming.

2)  This is not a bad thing. This is because it is a side-effect of the planet giving birth to the technological protection which benefits life on Earth. Technological protection takes many forms, but the most important one is the ability of life to technologically regulate the temperature of the atmosphere. Without this ability the planet will inevitably fall back to a state of lifelessness. So, 1) above, and in particular, concerns about 1), will lead to the human species regulating the temperature of the atmosphere and will thereby significantly bolster the chance that life will continue to exist in this region of the cosmos in the future.

3)  The popular view which states that "life has existed for millions for years without humans, and that humans are the destroyers of life, and that life would survive on the planet into the distant future if humans were to go extinct" is wrong. Simplistic and plain wrong.

Of course, there are those who disagree with everything I have just said. In recent posts my focus has been on convincing you of the truth of 1). I will provide a little more support for the truth of 1) here. A recent study has concluded that most predictions of the amount of global warming that we can expect on the planet by the end of the century are way too low. The authors claim that we should expect what are currently "the most extreme predictions" (the most massive amount of warming) to prevail. This implies to me that new predictions will soon be needed which are even more extreme, than the present most extreme ones!

John Fasullo of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, summarises the report:

“Warming is likely to be on the high side of the projections”

The current extreme projections are a "devastating" increase of eight degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. According to the Washington Post:

"Such an increase would substantially overshoot what the world’s leaders have identified as the threshold for triggering catastrophic consequences. In 2009, heads of state agreed to try to limit warming to 3.6 degrees, and many countries want a tighter limit."

It is surely only a matter of time before everyone - environmentalists, climate scientists, politicians, everyone on the planet - comes to realise the truth of 1), and comes to realise that the active control of the temperature of the atmosphere is the only feasible solution. The sooner this day of realisation arrives the better it will be for all of the life-forms which currently inhabit the Earth (the better it will be for 'life on Earth').