Selecting the climate we want

4 distinct and easily identified climate options for 2100

Ray-GriggQUATHIASKI COVE, BC, Jun 13, 2014/ Troy Media/ – Choices – a television universe of 500 channels, more kinds of toothpaste than can be imagined, an overwhelming variety of breakfast cereal – are one of the many benefits provided by our modern, affluent, consumer culture.

And now, thanks to the wonders of technology, we can even chose our climate.

Yes, just like adjusting a thermostat, turn to the desired temperature, wait patiently for the greenhouse gases to take effect, and that’s the climate we’ll get. Furthermore, the science is so accurate that it even offers a range. This is why the October 2013 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided choices between 0.3°C and 4.8°C by 2100. It all depends on what we want.

And now, in collaboration with the thoughtful people at NewScientist and the expertise of Dr. Richard Moss of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., we are provided with four distinct and easily identified climate options for 2100.

Option One – The Quick Response: A heavy investment in renewable energies and R&D, with some geo-engineering and considerable political resolve to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, has held atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at 400 ppm – they are now falling due to new sequestration technologies. Billions of trees have been planted, forests revived, meat consumption reduced, and the world’s population stabilized at nine billion. Arctic sea ice has stopped melting, Antarctica has stabilized and ocean acidification has slowed. Sea level rise has been limited to 0.26 – 0.55 metres. Temperature increases have been held to 0.3 – 1.7°C.

Option Two – A Slight Delay: A slow response in transitioning to renewable energies and implementing climate treaties are having measurable effects. Increasing efficiencies and the widespread use of natural gas, together with nuclear power and other green technologies, have stabilized carbon dioxide levels at 550 ppm. Less pastureland, more compact cities, better mass transit and a general endorsement of a low-carbon economy have slowed the rate of climate change. Sea level rise is between 0.32 – 0.63 metres. Global temperature rise is 1.1 – 2.6°C.

Option Three – Too Little, Too Late: Fossil fuel use continued unabated until late in the 21st century, then dropped to 75 per cent of energy consumption in the last few decades – not much less than the 82 per cent in 2011. Lifestyle changes were largely unaltered until extreme weather events prompted panicking governments to institute unambitious controls on inefficiencies, greenhouse gas emissions and even travel. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is at 650 ppm. The global population is 9.5 billion, oceans continue to acidify, sea level rise is 0.33 – 0.63 metres. The temperature increase is 1.4 – 3.1°C.

Option Four – Addicted to Carbon: Fossil fuels still energize a booming economy that is structurally similar to 2014. The global population of 12.5 billion is proud of its consumer and high-tech identity. With carbon dioxide levels at 950 ppm, human health is suffering, food production is faltering, water shortages are acute, and biodiversity crashes are threatening essential “ecosystem services”. Extreme droughts and floods are creating widespread political instability. Tropical diseases and pests have become common in northern latitudes. Ocean acidification is severe with primary marine ecologies in jeopardy. The Arctic has not had summer ice for decades. Melting has accelerated in glaciers, Greenland and Western Antarctica. Sea level rise of 0.45 – 0.82 metres is displacing cities, settlements and agriculture in coastal regions. Because the temperature increase of 2.6 – 4.8°C is registered as an average, some places have become too seasonally hot for human habitation.

These options for 2100 will be the consequences of our choices.

The choice of Canada’s federal government is to develop Alberta’s oil sand and make B.C.’s West Coast an export terminus for its bitumen. Several pipelines are being planned: the Northern Gateway from the oil sands to Kitimat; the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain from Calgary to Burnaby; David Black’s proposed refinery at Kitimat would require at least two more pipelines, one for dilbit and another for natural gas; and the proposed LNG plants for northern B.C. ports would require more gas pipelines. Meanwhile, the B.C. government continues to encourage the mining and export of provincial coal, while using its southern ports as conduits for the offshore shipment of American coal. Such choices will determine the future choices we have – or do not have.

Of the four options suggested, which one would you choose?

Ray Grigg is the author of seven internationally published books on Oriental philosophy, specifically Zen and Taoism.

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