Tag: Climate Change

Climate Change

Carbon-neutrality by 2050

(Originally published on December 15, 2020. First major revision on June 13, 2022. This is the second major version.) A few years after carbon-neutrality became an official goal in the Paris Agreement of 2015, one after the other, governments started to announce that their countries would be carbon-neutral by 2050 or a little bit later. Richer countries generally opted for 2050, while China and India, for example, aimed for 2060 and 2070, respectively. The promise of carbon-neutrality by 2050 (or 2060, or 2070) is a cheap promise, however, as the target is so far in the future that it doesn’t...
Climate Change

Some Further Comments on Climate Sensitivity and Warming Estimates

While preparing an update of Carbon-Neutrality by 2050 (by far the most accessed page in this blog), I had another look at (equilibrium) climate sensitivity (ECS), a topic about which a wrote a few times before. ECS is the expected global temperature anomaly (i.e., the expected global average of warming) at twice the pre-industrial level of greenhouse gases (mainly CO₂) in the atmosphere (i.e., 560ppm, as “pre-industrial” is set at 280ppm). The currently most widely accepted estimate of ECS is that by Steve Sherwood and colleagues, who suggest average warming of 3.1°C (median; 66% uncertainty range: 2.6~3.9°C; 95%: 2.3~4.7°C). However,...
Climate ChangeEconomics

Rent, Profit, and Degrowth – A Postscript to “Capitalism and Climate Collapse”

In Capitalism and Climate Collapse, I argued that catastrophic climate collapse cannot be avoided under capitalism because capitalism requires economic growth, economic growth requires energy growth, energy growth requires extensive burning of fossil fuels, and extensive burning of fossil fuels causes catastrophic climate collapse. To avoid collapse, we need to shrink the economy – that is, degrowth – to a sustainable level with respect to energy requirements, and then switch to a steady state economy to stay at that level. What exactly that sustainable level is is debatable, but regardless of whether it’s closer to one third of current closer...
Climate ChangeEconomics

Capitalism and Climate Collapse

The claims that capitalism is the cause of climate change and that catastrophic climate collapse cannot be avoided under capitalism are as obvious to some people as they are nonsensical to others, but really they are neither. They are probably true, which implies that they are not nonsensical, but their (probable) truth is not obvious. They are not obvious, because these claims depend on four other claims that are themselves non-obvious: (1) capitalism requires economic growth; (2) economic growth requires energy growth; (3) energy growth requires extensive use of fossil fuels; and (4) extensive use of fossil fuels causes climate...
Climate ChangeSocial Issues

On Human Overpopulation

A recurring theme among a number of widely divergent political and environmental movements is that of human overpopulation. Often, the claim that there are too many humans has conspicuous racist overtones and is associated with ecofascism, but claims of overpopulation are also made by people with very different political ideas. Much of the popular overpopulation discourse appears to be quite ignorant about what “overpopulation” even means, however, and about what it might imply, so I thought it might be useful to write a few words about this. What even is “overpopulation”? “Overpopulation” is a relative term – it means that...
Climate Change

SotA-R-10: Combined Models 4 and 5 Suggest 62% Change of Exceeding 3°C of Average Global Warming

(This is part 9 of the “Stages of the Anthropocene, Revisited” Series (SotA-R).) The previous episode in this series explained a few problems of the last iteration of the model used to better understand feedbacks between climate change and socio-political and economic circumstances (i.e. “Model 4”). Additionally, in another recent post, I mentioned that the relation between atmospheric carbon and warming is probably better treated as linear, with time lag explaining the discrepancy between a linear equation and the current level of warming. Furthermore, that post also addressed the issue of tipping points (and other neglected feedbacks), leading to an...
Climate Change

The Probability of the End of Civilization in the 21st Century

Climate scientists have been calling recently for more research into warming scenarios of 3°C and above because such scenarios are dangerously neglected. According to mainstream models such levels of warming are by no means impossible or even unlikely, and would have catastrophic effects. Luke Kemp and ten colleagues write: Could anthropogenic climate change result in worldwide societal collapse or even eventual human extinction? At present, this is a dangerously underexplored topic. Yet there are ample reasons to suspect that climate change could result in a global catastrophe. The answer to the question in this quote is obviously “yes”, but that’s...
Climate Change

Tipping Points, Permafrost Thaw, and “Fast” Reduction

Last Thursday a new analysis of the main “tipping elements” in the Earth system was published in Science., The paper and its supplementary materials provide data on likely thresholds and effects of all the main tipping elements that have been discussed in the literature of the past two decades. Furthermore, the supplementary materials also discuss a number of other feedback effects that have been suggested as tipping elements before, but that turn out to be too gradual to be properly classified as such. These effects are at least as important, however, and tend not to be (fully) included in common...
Philosophy

Making Sense of “the Meaning of Life”

Most of this article was written in 2017. I never finished it, but rather abandoned the project halfway §12 for reasons explained below. Until the horizontal line separating old from new, the following is the unchanged text of the 2017 draft. §1. There is a common idea that philosophy is concerned with figuring out the meaning of life. Although there are exceptions, such as James Tartaglia, most academic philosophers will deny this. But when I ask my students during the first day of class of my “Introduction to Philosophy” course what philosophy is about, then “the meaning of life” is...
Climate Change

The New Denialism

The old denialism denied the reality of climate change. Funded by the fossil fuel industry it spouted disinformation and lies and fostered doubt. It changed climate change from an objectively observable fact into a political “opinion”. The old denialism is dead. Not even the fossil fuel industry denies climate change anymore. A new denialism has replaced it, however. The new denialism doesn’t deny climate change. In the contrary, it emphatically affirms it. The new denialism doesn’t deny that climate change is a serious problem either – it admits that too. What the new denialists deny is how big the crisis...
Climate Change

(Not) Too Late for What?

Some people seem to believe that it is too late to fight climate change. Others seem to believe that this kind of fatalism is as dangerous as climate change denialism (because both effectively advocate not doing anything). It’s hardly a secret that I’m rather pessimistic about climate change and its effects – just have a look at what I’ve written about the topic before – but that doesn’t mean that I think that it is “too late” to fight climate change. Rather, I think that the notion of it being “too late” (or not) in this context is nonsensical. The...
Climate ChangeSocial Issues

Lessons from the Ongoing Disaster (for the Next One)

Presumably, you are aware that we’re in the middle of a disaster. That’s unpleasant – to say the least – but it’s also quite instructive. There is much we can learn from the ongoing disaster and humanity’s responses to it. But whether we can use those lessons to avert the even bigger disaster looming on the horizon is questionable. Rather, it seems that the most important thing that we can learn from the corona crisis is that we as a species may very well be incapable of avoiding catastrophy. ignore and deny For months, the general attitude of most governments...