It took me little effort to come up with ten important climate-disruption related facts that most people do not understand. Is this a good top ten list? Did I miss any?
The criteria for the list are:
- the public does not seem to know or even suspect the fact
- pretty much all climate professionals in the main hump agree to it
- it constitute a deficit preventing a sensible consensus policy from emerging
That is, this is a list of facts and consensus opinions relevant to public and poorly perceived by then, that constitute deficits that a competent press would be working to remedy.
1) Carbon is forever. The climate system does not care very much about how fast we emit, but only what total amount we emit. Whether it happens over one century or three matters little. Consequently, if there is some level of alteration we do not wish to exceed over all time, the total amount of carbon we can emit over all time is limited.
2) The next ice age has already been cancelled. The effects of our current generation, the preceding one, and the next few, will persist over millennia.
3) Bugs, weeds, jellyfish, rats. Rapid climate changes mean that the remnant ecosystems will constitute communities of species that are maladapted. Networks of coevolved behavior will disintegrate if climate changes too rapidly. Whole biological communities decline under rapid climate change. Other stresses and habitat fragmentation already are causing
stresses decline. Edge species, weeds and vermin, coarsely adaptive things which basically things humans don’t like because they compete with us, will proliferate at the expense of highly specialized and extraordinary species and systems.
4) CO2 disrupts directly. Competitive advantages and disadvantages of various plant species change with CO2 concentration so many land-based ecosystems will be fundamentally altered even in the absence of climate change. These exacerbate the decline of nature.
5) Rapid increases of atmospheric CO2 poison the ocean. Only one known event in the history of vertebrate life has had CO2 rises even remotely comparable to the present one. Most aquatic species became extinct. The present CO2 pulse is probably more rapid and may become larger.
6) Some people become unpleasant and paranoid as they age. Some of these people are wealthy. Unscrupulous actors seeking to separate crabby and lonely old men from their money will, historically, say whatever is necessary. It is to their advantage to pose as charities.
In America we do see especially irresponsible, frankly political opinions coming from organizations that pose as educational, are largely supported by ultra-wealthy individuals, and have achieved dubious 501c3 tax status. Whether any of them has separating rich people from their money as a primary purpose and consider destroying the world as a merely inconsequential side effect is undetermined but worthy of investigation.
(OK, maybe that one fails to be consensus, but I had to say it.)
7) The CRU hacking revealed no incident in which data were hidden or wrongfully manipulated in any way that consequentially affects the balance of scientific information on climate change. Most of the events revealed were directly related to prior incidents that could easily be construed as harassment or defamation against the parties whose mail was stolen and published.
8) Many people believe nevertheless that systematic misrepresentation of science by the scientific community occurred. This belief has been diligently promoted by the network of 501c3s. Hopelessly unrealistic distortions and even outright lies are now widely believed or at least ascribed to in major political parties in the US and elsewhere. These distortions cast not merely doubt but hostility on climate scientists, who whatever else they may be are not an especially sinister lot.
9) Until the moment we get this problem under control and for a few decades to follow climate will get not just hotter but more peculiar and fraught with extraordinary events, some of them disruptive. Climate variation is largely driven by anomalous surface conditions in the oceans. Declining sea ice will constitute a major disruption of habitual surface forcing in at least some of the seasons, as will changes in distribution of surface heat in the ocean. “Normal” years, meaning years where every location has its ordinary preindustrial climate, are impossible. The departure from normal will continue to increase.
Typical preindustrial conditions may prevail at some places at some times, but they will be embedded in changed large-scale patterns. These changes will continue to increase until some decades after emissions are drastically reduced.
10) Uncertainty cuts both ways. I’ve said this enough times so go look it up. Uncertainty is not our friend, and doubly not the no-policy-advocate’s friend.
Paging Jerry Brown!