It’s very bad, but curbing emissions will help
By Robert Hurst, Athena Global
The recent IPCC Report on global heating didn’t provide a great deal of new information for anyone who has been paying attention so far, but it hit the news with some confusion.
The report reiterates several familiar facts, that global heating is really happening, is unprecedented in the past several thousand years, and is caused by humans burning concentrated carbon. Humans have warmed the earth in the neighborhood of 1° Celsius over baseline already and it’s on its way higher. The report details 5 possible climate futures based on hypothetical emissions levels. “Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered,” the report states.
Most of the confusion surrounds the fact that, to some extent, even more global heating is “baked in” to our future no matter what, because of emissions we’ve already spewed. Helped along by some very doomy and simplistic headlines, many of the squawkers squawking on the internet have twisted this point into “there’s nothing we can do to change the situation, and it’s too late to make a real difference.” This is a fundamental misreading of the report, and also a convenient misreading for those who want to continue burning carbon without limits. The truth is that every bit of concentrated carbon that we can keep in the ground will make the situation better than it would be otherwise; and every bit we burn will make it worse.
The report actually has some good news in it. We still hold the future in our hands.
At Athena we are particularly concerned with the effect of climate change on less developed countries and low-income people in developed countries. Problems associated with global heating fall disproportionately on poor people, and will continue to. At the same time, the world’s affluent, relatively few in number, have emitted more pollutants per capita, by a huge margin. As emissions from China and India now grow by leaps and bounds, putting a lid on emissions in the developed world won’t be enough. We will need a global response, and likely a significant degree of US-China cooperation to avoid total disaster.
Unfortunately a century of out-of-control carbon-burning in the developed world, particularly in the United States, has left us without the moral standing to make any emissions-related demands of those living in emerging markets.