Hockey Stick

How will the future treat the year 2020? Here in the middle of it we see a wannabe dictator trying to usurp the world’s largest economy, we see hundreds of thousands dying from the novel coronavirus, and we see marginalized people shouting for reforms that actually mean something.

Big things. Things I am passionate about. But honestly, I think fifty years from now the human race will look back on 2020 as the hockey stick year. I knew this year was coming, but I hoped I would be old enough that I would not have to witness the aftermath. It seems I am not so lucky.

The Hockey Stick. It’s a reference to a graph of global temperature that gets gradually worse until a threshold is crossed and things get really bad really quickly. The graph looks like a hockey stick.

This is the year “Fire Tornado” was added to my vocabulary. Vast swaths of forest are being converted to atmospheric carbon dioxide, in a feedback loop of disastrous consequence. “But forest mismanagement…” you say. Fine. But the fucking tundra is on fire. Permafrost is melting, and Putin’s pipelines are rupturing.

The only way through this is with strong leadership and a full-on investment in adaptation. Our planet is heating up, there’s no getting around that now. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Important to note here, that Putin and Trump’s other “friends” make their money from oil. Apparently they don’t give a fuck about their children. Or your children. Or anyone under the age of 60. Because those rich bastards are woking really hard to live like kings now and screw the consequences. Apres moi, la deluge. In the case of Florida, it’s far more literal this time.

Here we are. Forests burning, hurricanes wailing, rivers flooding. Glaciers sliding into the sea faster than ever before. Not unpredicted. Our coastal cities will do what they can to suffer the sea level rise, but the storm surges will destroy them. I said, after Katerina, (quietly, to myself, or maybe in this blog), that we should not bother rebuilding that city. It is lost, like Miami, like much of Manhattan. Dead cities.

It is time to stop playing what-if games and understand that humanity is facing its most grave challenge ever. It is a challenge many human civilizations have failed before, but this time the peril is global. The planet we got comfy on is gone. It is time to suck up petty nonsense and accept that our only way out of this mess is forward.

2

Je suis encore avec l’accord

Francophiles, please pardon me if the machine didn’t translate the title idiomatically, but that’s about what I would have said back in the days I was more facile with French. So it represents me. And, I have to say, it reads really well.

I am still with the Paris Accord. I will reduce my carbon footprint 25%, and I will do it long before 2025.

When it comes to carbon (and other greenhouse gasses), almost every American is in the top 1%. Because I live in a temperate climate, my greenhouse gas production is low for an American, but that doesn’t exempt me from doing what I can — directly, measurably — to reduce the damage I do. Our government has abdicated its responsibility, but that doesn’t mean we can’t step up as individuals.

Fuck Washington.

If I want to reduce the harm I cause, I have to know: Where do I produce the most greenhouse gasses?

Gasoline, of course. That’s a big one. Beef, sadly, is another. Methane. I read today that Chicken is less greenhouse-gassy, as is fish. (As I type this I’m listening to the neighbor’s chickens.) Heating and Air Conditioning are a factor, even here. And then there’s just stuff. Buying things I don’t need packaged in materials that never die. Also, almost everything I use consumes electricity, and around here that mostly comes from natural gas.

It’s kind of too bad they couldn’t get nuclear right. We’ve traded the potential localized disaster of a nuke plant popping with the guaranteed global disaster of coal-generated power.

But mostly for me it’s food and transportation. And stuff. Which leads to my max-hippie-point morning:

I was delighted as I rode my bike to work today to see a farmer’s market setting up in a parking lot I ride through. An excuse to sleep an extra 30 minutes on Fridays, so it will be open when I pass through. How the veggies fare after a 15-mile ride home will have to be determined.

At the other extreme:

As soon as I get back from my 3000-mile road trip this summer, I’ll definitely cut back on the miles I drive. Definitely. Hey, I’ve got until 2025, right?

1

That Carbon Dioxide Tipping Point

I file this under politics because it is politics that is blinding us.

The oil industry* and their paid shills (known as deniers)** made a few waves recently when, in a carefully-worded survey of climate scientists, fewer than half were willing to single out carbon dioxide as the single greatest contributor to global warming.

“Half of all Scientists disagree with climate change!” was the nonsensical conclusion. A slightly-less-nonsensical conclusion was “Humans create carbon dioxide; if that’s not the primary driver of global warming, then warming is not because of humans.”

But let’s look at that for a moment. There’s another conclusion, and while it’s much more reasonable, it’s also much more scary: Carbon Dioxide isn’t the the primary driver of global warming any more. We’ve crossed a tipping point.

Meet Methane, and the point of no return.

While CO2 was the problem, there was something we could do about it: produce less CO2. Let the algae and the rain forests (whoops!) absorb the surplus back, and let our planet return to its previous equilibrium. We dithered, and denied, and the tundra began to thaw. Now the tundra is burping up enormous amounts of methane.

As a greenhouse gas, methane makes CO2 look like a punk kid with missing teeth.

So if many scientists don’t think Carbon Dioxide is the biggest contributor any more, that doesn’t mean they don’t believe the surface of our planet is getting hotter, it means that the game has changed. It means things have moved to a stage that we cannot reverse just by suddenly not being so selfish and short-sighted. It means there is nothing we can do to stop the change, and the sooner we turn our efforts to dealing with it, the less it will hurt.

But man, it’s gonna hurt.

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* shorthand for all carbon-based energy companies
** almost all the publicized climate-change deniers are on the energy company payrolls. I say “almost” only because there are probably a few who are just stupid.