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Earth Science

IEA Warns of Irreversible Climate Change In 5 Years 1105

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
iONiUM writes "As a follow up to the previous slashdot story, there has been a new release by the International Energy Agency indicating that within 5 years we will have irreversible climate change. According to the IEA, 'There are few signs that the urgently needed change in direction in global energy trends is under way. Although the recovery in the world economy since 2009 has been uneven, and future economic prospects remain uncertain, global primary energy demand rebounded by a remarkable 5% in 2010, pushing CO2 emissions to a new high. Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400bn (£250.7bn).'"
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IEA Warns of Irreversible Climate Change In 5 Years

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  • So (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sithkhan (536425) <sithkhan@gmail.com> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:36AM (#38008976)
    As 60% of the energy usage is all the third-world countries, the answer is obvious.
  • Re:So (Score:5, Interesting)

    by syousef (465911) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:39AM (#38008996) Journal

    As 60% of the energy usage is all the third-world countries, the answer is obvious.

    I can guess what you're going to say, but no the answer is not obvious.

    Short of a major disaster (worldwide epidemic, nuclear war, asteroid strike), none of which would benefit the planet in the long run, I don't see how we're going to recover. Here in Australia they just passed a carbon tax - as if we can just tax the problem away.

  • by KiloByte (825081) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:41AM (#38009018)

    Due to massive reduction programs, most of the world keeps CO2 at most slightly increasing, and in some cases lowering. Except for China who's doubling their pollution every ten years.

  • It's human nature. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:43AM (#38009024)

    I don't expect changes to be made. Capitalistic culture has no thought of the future; people are selfish and will sacrifice their descendants to make things just a bit easier and more profitable to themselves.

    I'm kind of curious to see how the world will end up by the time I die.

  • In other words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by artor3 (1344997) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:51AM (#38009066)

    There will be irreversible climate change. The corporate powers that profit from the status quo have more than enough money to continue confusing the issue for centuries to come. Short of a major catastrophe (i.e. millions dead in first world countries), nothing will ever break through the wall of propaganda to awaken the masses.

    Cue deniers coming in to lie about how all the world's climatologists are in a conspiracy being funded by Big Solar or whatever.

  • what will happen: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:51AM (#38009070) Homepage Journal

    this will turn into a discussion assigning political blame, and nothing but a lot of hot air will be generated (pun intended)

    what should happen:

    blame should be set aside, and fixing the problem should be talked about. seed the ocean with iron to create phytoplankton blooms to suck out CO2 and sink to the ocean floor? it has flaws. so strategize some other ideas. yes, some will have anxiety about doing such major ecosystem altering activity when we aren't sure of every infinitesimal outcome... missing the whole goddamn point about what is already happening to the climate. penny wise, pound foolish. it's time for dramatic action, not hand wringing

    look: natural, manmade, whatever: obviously the climate is changing, only complete idiots still insist it isn't. so the most compelling, overarching argument is: we have a vested economic interest in keeping our environment the way we are used to it. so we can talk about a price point about what we are willing to invest to keep the thermostat where it should be. so find the price point and fit a plan of action. end of discussion

    we are homo sapiens: we don't evolve fur, we kill animals and wear their hides. we don't look for berries, we slash and burn and make the berries grow where we want them. and we don't get used to a hotter earth with more violent storms. we put our hands on the thermostat, and put the earth in the climate zone we like

    we are homo sapiens: we don't adapt to the environment, we adapt the environment to us. we aren't fatalistic spineless scatterbrains. this whole climate change topic is really just an engineering problem, with currently not enough engineers working on it, and too many talking heads and other assorted nitwits involved. roll up the sleeves and get to work

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:53AM (#38009090) Journal
    The Earth's Climate will enter stasis, and stop changing for the first time ever?
  • Re:So (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zrakoplovom (1938894) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:02AM (#38009134)

    > the fewer humans there are...

    You first...

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:06AM (#38009164) Journal
    This is the kind of stuff I oppose when I say I'm a skeptic about global warming. The article makes clear that this is a propaganda statement focused on the upcoming climate summit. I want science, not propaganda.

    Sure, I accept that CO2 affects the earth's temperature. I understand this equation [wikipedia.org], and know that it has been accepted science for a hundred years.

    But saying that there is a 'point of no return,' a point where massive feedbacks start making the planet vastly hotter than what CO2 could do on its own, where ocean currents stop flowing.......that stretches belief.

    The evidence for it is sparse. In fact, there is good evidence to believe the opposite: that each successive ton of CO2 causes a smaller and smaller effect on the earth's climate (see the above equation and consider its implications if you are in doubt). Thus going from 380ppm to 480ppm atmospheric CO2 will have a smaller effect than going from 280ppm to 380ppm.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:17AM (#38009220)

    The root problem is greed. I never said (nor do I believe) that any other type of economy is going to avert that; that's something humanity as a whole is going to have to overcome. It doesn't help that greediness is rewarded, much less punished.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:19AM (#38009236)

    Evil? Capitalism is nothing more than an amoral resource distribution algorithm.

  • by polar red (215081) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:21AM (#38009252)

    from the summary :

    Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400bn

    that dwarfs green subsidies.

  • by shellbeach (610559) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:21AM (#38009254)

    If you think China gives one rat's ass what the IEA thinks about 'climate change' you've got more lead and mercury in your brain than a resident of Shenzhen. The only way their CO2 output is going to stop growing is if we apply tariffs. We won't do that, because we like keeping the industry that makes our stuff faaar away from our precious selves.

    Funnily enough, China's actually doing a heap more stuff on reducing emissions than most countries, including starting trial emissions trading schemes next year. And their investment in renewable energies is extraordinary. Unfortunately, they're also the largest country in the world and they're industrialising their population at a crazy rate -- so whether they do enough remains to be seen.

    But they certainly care a lot more than one rat's ass, and more than a lot of developed countries also.

  • Re:what will happen: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:26AM (#38009280) Journal

    we have a vested economic interest in keeping our environment the way we are used to it.

    Really? I'd love to see the evidence. While obviously an ice age or an overly-hot overall climate would be catastrophic, unless we start seeing outright permanent flash-flooding of the coasts, or a rapid breakdown of overall society, your premise is just an assumption.

  • Re:In other words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by artor3 (1344997) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:30AM (#38009306)

    See, there you go. Confusing the issue.

    1) Do you have any actual numbers to back up the notion that solar energy is worse for the environment than current technologies (coal, mostly)?
    2) Even if you do, it's irrelevant, since my only point was the absurdity of thinking that "Big Solar" could somehow afford to buy off more scientists than the oil and coal industries.
    3) Chemicals required in manufacture are completely unrelated to climate change. We don't make a habit of dumping them into the environment the way we do with CO2.
    4) Climate has been hotter and colder. Yes, it was colder during the ice age, and hotter 4 billion years ago. Would you have liked to live in either of those time periods? The climate is changing. It is scientific fact that we have a hand in it. If it changes too much, many, many people will die. We should therefore attempt to prevent it from changing. This is really straightforward stuff.

  • Re:In other words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:34AM (#38009322)

    Ever been on an oil rig?

    The last thing you'd think is that this enormous, energy-wasting mechanical monstrosity could possibly a net producer of energy. But of course it is. Same with your solar panel factory, which (just like the oil rig) is fabulously energy-efficient -- over 100% efficient, in fact.

  • Re:old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:42AM (#38009378) Journal
    You got modded troll, but you made me curious, because I seemed to remember hearing these before, too. Doing a google search of "global warming irreversible YYYY" I came up with these:

    From 2009, Obama has 4 years to save the world [examiner.com]
    From 2009, global warming is now irreversible, study says [npr.org](also discussed on slashdot [slashdot.org])
    From 2006, The End of the World As We Know It; THE world has already passed the point of no return on global warming [smh.com.au].
    From 2005, past the point of no return [independent.co.uk].
    Also from 2005, Global warming irreversible [ummah.com].
    From 2004, Damage from warming becoming irreversible [commondreams.org].
    From 1989, We have a 10 year window to fix the problem [newsbank.com].

    What do you think of that?
  • by RStonR (2471390) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:11AM (#38009558)
    As a person who believes in "capitalistic" things like reason and science, I can only see how "global warming" is becoming a religion [in-other-news.com].

    Do you think that Obama is caring about what happens after the 2012 election? Does any politician except maybe Ron Paul? *Only* the capitalist part of our culture cares about the future because only the capitalist part can inherit it to their children. The socialist part (i.e. state) is taking up huge debts, causing huge ecological damage and in general does not really care much about anything beyound the next election. Why? Because why should a president solve a problem that will emerge when another president is in office? Nope.

    But don't worry, we will run out of oil anyway. Chances are, you are much more likely to freeze to death when the oil becomes too expensive for heating than anything about "climate change".

  • Re:So (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:30AM (#38009646)

    Nonsense. If 10% of Americans own 80% of the American wealth, that would mean that you could support 1.3 billion people at the average American lifestyle with no change in our income at all. That's just us. Of course, the extra 800 million people who suddenly have a basic education and shelter could then be more productive, raising the income substantially; combined with the wealth of other nations, getting the whole world to American levels of living is a logistical problem, not one of limited resources.

    What we don't have the resources to do is support the world at average American levels and then about 200,000 billionaires and 22 million millionaires, which would keep us around current USA levels. Maybe that's what you meant.

  • Re:So (Score:3, Interesting)

    by afabbro (33948) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:31AM (#38009660) Homepage

    A single nation, US of A releases 25% of world's greenhouse gases. "Third world" is not even in the picture here. US beats everyone even in emissions per dollar of economic activity.

    So you're saying 75% of the problem is the rest of the world...

    If you think the third world is not part of the problem, then you're just a half-educated college student pumping your fist in the air.

    You can twist stats however you want - "emissions per dollar of economic activity" is a nice one - but the reality is that the U.S. is not the sole cause of the problem.

    For example, turn off every power plant and factory that is not at U.S. emissions standards (China, etc.) and the whole climate change problem simply vanishes.

    Sorry for the reality check...you can now return to America-bashing and getting drunk in the dorm.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:37AM (#38009698)

    Just because communism is worse, doesn't make his comment about capitalism untrue.

  • Re:So (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @04:13AM (#38009870)

    And that's exactly the problem. The carbon tax by the governments own figures will stop the increase in carbon emissions in Australia. It is many other more sane incentives that will actually contribute to a decrease. So looking at the numbers:

    They expect to flatline emissions at current levels.
    They expected emissions to grow 2% per year to 2020.
    We contribute 1.32% of global emissions.
    The carbon tax essentially bones the economy on a grand scale, and is circular since they plan to offset the increase in costs by giving rebates to consumers.

    So essentially we just fucked the future of the country to reduce world carbon footprint by 0.0264% per year, which arguably won't make a difference, and is a drop in the water given the steady upwards trend of carbon emissions globally.

    Don't get me wrong I'm a big proponent of reducing pollution, but introducing a tax not only doesn't help where costs are simply passed on, but also screws the export economy of the country where costs can't be. It's a real shame.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @04:32AM (#38009974) Homepage

    Last time I checked China was building hydroelectric and nuclear power plants far faster than any other country.

    Most of the 'developed' countries seem to think that going back to coal is a good idea.

  • Take a long view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Thursday November 10, 2011 @04:47AM (#38010034) Journal

    Do you realize that it's possible for what you say to be true (and I agree with the general point) AND for it to also be true that humans are capable of altering the environment? Given that, it's also possible that the natural changes wouldn't be so bad, but the human caused changes might end up being very bad for us. So shouldn't we do something to stop the changes we can stop?

    The answer to your questions lies not in the direct answer, but the indirect one. To give the answer I have to give a little background.

    The Earth's climate has always been changing and it always will. The treehugger notion we could or should stop the climate from changing is great irony - because that would be a bigger imposition on the Earth's ecology than doing nothing. It would introduce a static climate never before seen on Earth - if it were possible - with inevitable and unforeseen consequences. But there are temperature zones the Earth appears not to like, and it transitions through them swiftly - and then stays on one side or another of this zone for a longer time. There are other zones that global average temperature can vary in for a considerable period of time - until it enters this unsavory zone and then rapidly crosses over it again. I'll leave the "why" of this to some philosopher or trained scientist, but it's a useful observed fact without understanding why.

    Giving the average global temperature of the 21st century as 0, we reached the peak of the current temperate zone about 5,000 years ago at a level called the Holocene Climatic Optimum at about +1C. This is about 4-8C below the maximum temperature for the last 450K years or so, and there appear to be feedback effects which prevent the temperature from going any higher than that maximum because it hasn't deviated from this pattern for 2.5 million years - longer than humans have been around. There is a climate danger zone at -0.6C and if we enter it the temperature drops quickly to a new range of -5 to -8C for a very long time. Glaciers march and scrape our cities into the sea, owning the land for a hundred thousand years.

    Unfortunately for our teeming billions, up until about 300 years ago the temperature had declined from the Holocene Optimum of +1C to -0.6C and was trending down. -0.6C appears to be the upper bound of one of those unsavory zones, and the next stop is -5C [wikimedia.org] which is quite a drastic change. We were on the cusp of transition into the ice, and in fact that period is called the "little ice age". Each time in the last half-million years the average temperature passed below -0.7C it skipped directly over the intervening temperatures and went directly to the lower level - resulting in the die-off of terrestrial animals including humans, glaciation, and other unpleasant effects. The duration of this cold period averages 100,000 years which is likely longer than we could bear it. If it had not been for the warming currently attributed by some to the burning of fossil fuels and its concomitant CO2 discharge, we would likely already be suffering the cold dipping to -5C or more.

    Perhaps 6 billion of us would be dead already, or never born - not from the cold, but from the inevitable famine and struggling for resources that it would bring. But that's not the end. 300 years from now there would be only a few million of our seven billions left, if the resulting wars didn't leave the planet uninhabitable entirely. Our entire industrial revolution, sciences and arts these last 200 years? Lost, perhaps forever.

    No matter what we do the Earth will not stay habitable to this many humans forever. In the last half-million years we've had only four such periods lasting an average 12,000 years or so. This warm period we now enjoy is not the Earth's normal temperature. And when it's over, it really and truly does appear to be over for a very long time. It will be cold sooner or later. For me and mine, I

  • by Arlet (29997) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @05:45AM (#38010318)

    they would drive most of the world into poverty and a brutish existence

    The same thing will happen if we just continue to burn fossil fuels. We can't keep producing them at current rate for much longer. The peak oil problem is likely more urgent than global warming, so an aggressive plan for transition would benefit us either way.

    we have no idea about what the real benefits/disadvantages we would experience from +450ppm.

    Sure, we have plenty of ideas.

    But I see your point. Short term benefits outweigh long term doubts. Since, long term, we're all dead anyway, I can't argue with that.

  • Re:So (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@gmailFREEBSD.com minus bsd> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @06:00AM (#38010390)

    There just aren't enough resources for everyone human on Earth to live like a Westerner.

    There may not be enough resources (questionable) for everyone to live like an _American_, but Americans are the most frivolously wasteful people in history.

    The resource usage of, say, the average Swiss or Dutch citizen is substantially lower, yet the living standard is not meaningfully worse (better by many measures).

    We have plenty of resources. The problem is one of distribution.

  • Re:So (Score:2, Interesting)

    by syousef (465911) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @06:14AM (#38010448) Journal

    For example, want to reduce CO2 from transport? Well you better man transport unaffordable to the masses. Little changes won't work.

    How about we make a far greener public transport system more affordable and practical?

    Yeah that would be much better than setting up a paper shuffling government bureaucracy to manage a new tax as is being done now. I'm starting to get very pessimistic about whether any of these measures are enough though. Really what we need to do is throw away the fossil fuels and find real alternatives RIGHT NOW. Too much money coming in from them. Too hard a hit to take - no one's going to accept things grinding to a halt.

  • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @06:38AM (#38010526)

    This is the kind of unscientific sensationalism we need to get away from.

    Ahh. You're one of those people that thinks all the climate change research done so far is bunkum, and we don't need to worry. We're already observing changes. Have you even read the IPCC reports? Actually, don't bother answering. Looking at your other postings in this thread alone, you're clearly entirely closed to the idea that there is a problem, or that it will get worse. The rest of this is for the benefit of people who are prepared to look at the actual evidence.

    For example - fresh water [www.ipcc.ch];

    Current vulnerabilities to climate are strongly correlated with climate variability, in particular precipitation variability. These vulnerabilities are largest in semi-arid and arid low-income countries, where precipitation and streamflow are concentrated over a few months, and where year-to-year variations are high (Lenton, 2004). In such regions a lack of deep groundwater wells or reservoirs (i.e., storage) leads to a high level of vulnerability to climate variability, and to the climate changes that are likely to further increase climate variability in future. In addition, river basins that are stressed due to non-climatic drivers are likely to be vulnerable to climate change. However, vulnerability to climate change exists everywhere, as water infrastructure (e.g., dikes and pipelines) has been designed for stationary climatic conditions, and water resources management has only just started to take into account the uncertainties related to climate change.

    Floods [www.ipcc.ch];

    A warmer climate, with its increased climate variability, will increase the risk of both floods and droughts (Wetherald and Manabe, 2002; Table SPM2 in IPCC, 2007).

    Food: [www.ipcc.ch]
    Water balance and weather extremes are key to many agricultural and forestry impacts. Decreases in precipitation are predicted by more than 90% of climate model simulations by the end of the 21st century for the northern and southern sub-tropics (IPCC, 2007a).

    There's plenty more of that sort of thing in the IPCC reports. But if you live in a wealthy country away from the seaboard and can afford the increases in prices for fresh water, food and military spending to keep the oil flowing from areas less lucky than you; then yes, the impact won't be so bad in your lifetime. Lucky you. Shame about the rest of the planet, and our descendants though.

  • Re:So (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Layzej (1976930) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @07:51AM (#38010830)
    British Columbia has had a revenue neutral carbon tax for a few years now. Their economy is still going strong, so I wouldn't panic. They too contribute very little to the global picture, but that can be said of 99% of the world. Ultimately China and the USA will need to step up.
  • by Arlet (29997) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @08:23AM (#38010998)

    Yet, everybody agrees that earth has been cooling down since around 2000.

    No, only a couple of crackpots agree on that. Here's a link of global temperature anomalies in tabular format:

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.txt [nasa.gov]

    Average for 2000-2009 was +0.52
    Average for 1990-1999 was +0.31
    Average for 1980-1989 was +0.18

    Doesn't look like it's getting colder, especially if you consider that every single year since 2000 has been warmer than the 1990-1999 average.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @08:32AM (#38011048)

    If we ended the Federal Breeding Subsidy in the U.S., we could reduce our carbon footprint as a species in very short order. Even better: $1k per child tax ($200 federal, $800 state). Would help pay for schools too.

    1) The USA's population growth rate is already negative when immigration is ignored. And I'm not talking about the children of first-generation immigrants, I'm talking the immigrants themselves.

    2) If you live under the delusion that having children lowers your cost of living, you're sadly mistaken. In spite of deductions for children, a family with kids has a lower standard of living than one without.

    3) The US population is such a small part of the world's population that if the US population were 100% removed today, the world population would be higher than today's in five years.

  • Re:So (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asc99c (938635) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @08:39AM (#38011096) Homepage

    You're assuming that in all cases there are no alternatives to using lots of energy, and that is completely invalid.

    Tying in the London congestion charge just gives a great example for a rebuttal. London does have a decent public transport system - the tube is the quickest way of getting around. Commuting journeys across London do not need to be made in a car. The congestion charge has been effective: people go to work on the tube, or a bike.

    A generic carbon tax will promote efficiency and lower consumption of carbon, but just increase costs.

  • Re:old news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tmosley (996283) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @09:26AM (#38011414)
    When you are talking about tipping points, the point of no return is incredibly obvious. You will see planes falling out of the sky, and ships sinking for no apparent reason as methane clathrates vaporize, disrupting the buoyancy of the water and air above them.

    All the more reason to start mining the sea bed--make sure that shit is released as CO2 rather than methane.

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