Since the report last week of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change challenged the world to take immediate action if we are to have any hope of averting irretrievable consequences for the planet Earth, I have decided to make further warnings along these lines into what might virtually be called my own work.
The latest piece demanding attention comes from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists published on October 8, and warning that the IPCC report of last week, welcome though it is, has quite conceivably underestimated the threat caused by continued warming of the planet by man-made means.
His report published under the names of Mario Molina, Veerabhadran Ramanathon and Durwood J. Zaelke, three world-renowned scientists, points out that last week’s “report, dire as it is, misses a key point: Self-reinforcing feedbacks and tipping points—the wildcards of the climate system—could cause the climate to destabilize even further. The report also fails to discuss the five percent risk that even existing levels of climate pollution, if continued unchecked, could lead to runaway warming—the so-called ‘fat tail’ risk. These omissions may mislead world leaders into thinking they have more time to address the climate crisis, when in fact immediate actions are needed. To put it bluntly, there is a significant risk of self-reinforcing climate feedback loops pushing the planet into chaos beyond human control.”
Lower in their piece the authors say that even if 50 per cent warming is added to the present level of 1 per cent over pre-industrial levels, “this would risk setting up feedbacks that could fall like dangerous dominos, fundamentally destabilizing the planet.”
And then, in a note that should be of especial interest to Canada, and particularly to the Canadian government, which seems at the moment to be trapped into dangerous double-think, the authors add: “These cascading feedbacks include the loss of the Arctic’s sea ice, which could disappear entirely in summer in the next 15 years. The ice serves as a shield, reflecting heat back into the atmosphere, but is increasingly being melted into water that absorbs heat instead. Losing the ice would tremendously increase the Arctic’s warming, which is already at least twice the global average rate. This, in turn, would accelerate the collapse of permafrost, releasing its ancient stores of methane, a super climate pollutant 30 times more potent in causing warming than carbon dioxide.”
The article notes recent promising initiatives taken by Governor Jerry Brown of California, and President Macron of France, and names also President Xi of China and President Modi of India as others who might provide the intense motive force needed to move the world’s politicians into action.