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Earth Science

IEA Warns of Irreversible Climate Change In 5 Years 1105

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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  • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @01:55AM (#38009100)

    For example, in the linked article [].

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:02AM (#38009138) Journal

    Tell you what - take a tour of what used to be the USSR some time... the vast majority of the ecological damage there [] (esp. what used to be the Aral Sea) was done by a decidedly non-capitalistic government, hell-bent on a 'glorious revolutionary future'.

    Or, you can drop the sophomoric and faux-intelligent 'OAMG teh capitalizm is teh nexus of 3vilz!' act.

  • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:13AM (#38009198)
    Actually, as their own standard of living has risen, their own birth rate has fallen in proportion. If the current rate of change is maintained, third world countries will not have high birth rates for much longer.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:38AM (#38009350)
    Good Lord, look at that graph. In the past I would say something like, "China's per capita emissions are still 1/4 of ours, even though we exported all our heavy industry there." But look at that graph! Scientists are saying we need to immediately make major reductions, and instead the curve is headed almost straight up. We are so screwed.
  • by grimJester ( 890090 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:39AM (#38009354)

    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.

    No one is saying that. The "Irreversible Climate Change" in the article means the 2C warming considered unsafe will be unavoidable.

    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.

    Yes, the warming is proportional to the exponential of CO2, so every doubling of C02 will give roughly the same amount of warming. This is well known.

  • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

    by ustolemyname ( 1301665 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:46AM (#38009400)
    Most tariffs (tax on imports) have been very effective. Another example would be road tolls.

    Actually, if your goal is to reduce consumption, it would be difficult to find a tax that is ineffective.
  • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shompol ( 1690084 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:46AM (#38009408)
    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. I don't remember the book name, but here's a world map I found: []
  • Re:So (Score:4, Informative)

    by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @02:51AM (#38009446)

    Sure. And the simple and well-tested way of getting lower birthrates, is by upping living-standard.

    Europe as a whole is already basically reproducing at replacement-levels, USA is a little above, but much of that is due to first-generation immigrants outbreeding the average, and due to an overabundance of teenage pregnancies. (something that's fixable by reducing shame and increasing knowledge about contraception)

  • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

    by teg ( 97890 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:04AM (#38009522) Homepage

    Actually, a carbon tax might work, if it applies to imported goods as well. Of course, China would scream bloody murder.

    When has a tax ever done anything? Name one!

    Apart from funding well working societies and policies[1]: Taxes affect people's behaviour by affecting demand via price. Here in Norway, it has had a large effect on alcohol and tobacco consumption - and when car taxes changed to be partially based on CO2 emissions a couple of years ago, it had a large effect on mix of cars sold: More diesel, less gasoline, smaller and more modern engines.

    [1]: Sure, one can discuss some policies and the exact tax level but the main conclusion is that society is a lot better off with infrastructure, general education, police, health care etc.

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

    by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) * on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:05AM (#38009534)

    I am waiting for even one of their predictions to come true. For example: ocean level has actually decreased over the last couple of years.

    Over the last couple of years? Do a Google image search on "ocean levels graph" and you can see numerous versions of graphs that show the ocean levels going up and down for individual years, but the average over time keeps increasing. To choose a "couple of years" to prove that the predictions are wrong is simple cherry picking data to give a false impression of what is happening.

    It isn't far removed from saying that it is cooling because yesterday was warmer than today. People do the same trick to discredit climate change by saying that over the last few years it has been getting cooler, but when you look at the temperature on a decade by decade basis, it just keeps getting hotter.

    The other side of the argument falls into the same trap. You cannot point to the temperature of a single year and say that it is proof of climate change. People did that back in 1998 to make predictions of disaster, and they were wrong because it was El Nino that caused the sudden spike in that year. Similarly, anyone who uses 1998 since then to "prove" that the Earth is actually cooling is making the exact same mistake. To eliminate the spikes in a single year or group of years, you have to look at the longer term average. I am afraid that this is yet to show that the warming trends have reversed, nor have the sea levels have stopped rising.

  • Re:So (Score:4, Informative)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:09AM (#38009546)
    Lemmings manage to exceed carrying capacity locally with ease. That's why their population fluctuates so wildly, leading to the myth about mass-suicides. They rapidly breed to above carrying, then the population collapses, repeat.
  • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @03:51AM (#38009758)

    That's not what they say in the article, and not what they mean by the phrase 'point of no return'.

    The generally accepted 'safe' minimum rise from pre-industrial levels is 2 degC, which we'll reach with 450ppm atmospheric CO2. We know how many Gigatons of CO2 we're pumping into the air every year. Every new fossil power plant we build increases those emissions, and will do so for several decades. The forcing effect of the CO2 they emit lasts for several more decades.

    A rise close to 2 degC is already inevitable due to the amount of CO2 we've already dumped, and are dumping in the air. If we keep building at even close to our current rate, it will be impossible for us NOT to put enough CO2 in the air to cause a rise higher than 2 degC. The longer we wait, the more we build, the higher the final temperature will be that we won't be able to bring down again without some fantastical pie-in-the-sky geo-engineering project.

    Going above a 2 degC rise increases the risk that we will trigger an equilibrium change; by for example, causing enough permafrost to melt that mass methane clathrate stores release their methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas - we're already seeing a big increase in methane emissions - up to 100x in places - in the siberian arctic. The higher the rise, the bigger the risk. We don't know precisely how much bigger, because we have one shot and only one experimental model. And we're living on it.

    Even assuming that that doesn't happen, the predictable effects of a 2 degC rise are bad enough with loss of arable land, alterations to fresh water routes - and quantity, increase in storm violence and damage, worse flooding of coastal regions etc. The higher we go, the worse they get.

    If the IEA, a really conservative body when it comes to predictions, is saying we're going to hit 2 degC whether we like it or not if we don't radically change course in the next couple of years, frankly it's probably already to late to avoid a 2 degC rise.

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

    by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @04:00AM (#38009802)

    Actually, most scientists agree it's much warmer now than during the MWP.

    Here are the modern temperature reconstructions for the last 1000 years. []

    If you have solid evidence that the WMP was globally warmer than today, I'd love to see it.

  • by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @04:37AM (#38009992)

    The increase in CO2 is not natural, and it's not by definition irreversible.

    Warning that we're about to go over the 450 ppm level isn't over hyped doomsday rhetoric. It's just simple extrapolation of current trend.

    We can still argue whether 450 ppm is the correct upper limit, and scientific discussion is still ongoing. The question is: while the discussion is still going on, should we go ahead and exceed the 450 ppm level, knowing that we don't really have a way to extract the CO2 from the atmosphere if we're wrong.

  • Re:In other words (Score:4, Informative)

    by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @04:46AM (#38010032)

    There are plenty of temperature reconstructions based on different kinds of proxies. Every colored line in the graph I posted is based on such a proxy.

    Unfortunately, those proxies are all we have, but they are in general agreement that the MWP was cooler than today.

    In order to show MWP was warmer, you'd have to find a suitable proxy, with small enough error bars. Preferably you'd show a combination of different ones, all in agreement.

    In any case, absent any further evidence, claiming that the MWP was warmer than today is silly.

  • by fremsley471 ( 792813 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @05:19AM (#38010204)

    This is the kind of stuff I oppose when I say I'm a skeptic about global warming.

    You oppose a scientific report [an interesting word to choose], calling it propaganda. Why? Tautologically, your answer is

    I want people to be scientific, that's all I'm asking.

    You also call troll to posters who point out the strong dichotomy in your belief system; that you want a scientific view, but not a science that actually works as science. Instead, you'd prefer one that finds things that you oppose to be incorrect.

    I have no problem being green

    I withdraw my accusations of your profligacy with resources, your perceived selfishness, and I apologise. I now think you do not understand the scientific arguments surrounding climate change and should withdraw from further commentary.

  • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

    by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @05:40AM (#38010296)

    Bingo. Studies all over the world show that a woman's level of education is negatively correlated to the number of children she has. Women with high levels of education have options and opportunity costs to raising children that don't exist for someone with low levels of education.

    The problem is that people like GPLHOST-Thomas have a devout religious belief that people MUST procreate as much as possible, thus any attempt to persuade people to have fewer children is equivalent to murder in their eyes.

  • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

    by thelamecamel ( 561865 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @06:14AM (#38010450)

    The details of the plan are that it's an emissions trading scheme, initially with a fixed price per tonne of CO2 emitted. Only heavy-emitting companies have to pay it - I can't remember what the threshold is, but it affects roughly 500 companies. Of course those companies will pass much of the costs onto consumers, however they will also put effort into reducing their carbon emissions to gain financial advantage. Petrol/gas is specifically exempt from the trading scheme for individuals.

    The modelling of increased cost of living, which takes into account increased grocery prices, electricity prices, etc, comes out at $10 per week for the average household. The government is spending part of the money raised in the form of tax cuts and pension increases, compensating low income earners a bit more than $10 per week. If those low income earners then reduce their carbon footprints (get rid of the second fridge, buy the now-cheaper goods with a lower carbon footprint), then they come out ahead. Those earning over $80K can afford the $10 per week.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @07:59AM (#38010860) Journal
    Australia's emission may be insignificant now but Australia is 14th (out of 200) in the total accumulated emissions [] since the start of the industrial revolution.
  • Re:old news (Score:4, Informative)

    by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @10:08AM (#38011768)

    That's not the point of no return.

    Hey I can use a car analogy!

    You are in a car speeding towards a cliff, there are three impotant points.

    1. The point at which even if you apply the brake you will still go over the edge.
    2. The edge.
    3. The ground below.

    That methane release would be the edge.

    The resulting climate changes the ground below.

    The point of no return though is the last possible braking point - since even though you aren't off the cliff yet there is now nothing you can do to stop it happening.

  • Re:So (Score:2, Informative)

    by xenobyte ( 446878 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @10:25AM (#38011928)

    Behavioral taxes won't work. They just drive inflation up. A few people might change (mostly due to other reasons) but most will simply adjust budgets to accept the increased cost.

    Now to TFA... This is yet another scare tactic in order to make people join the cult (of Global Warming). If people only used their heads...

    It is a fact that this planet has seen much more extreme temperature variations that what's on the table here. Extreme cold during the ice ages and 'nuclear winters' from major impacts and volcanic activity. The interglacial periods had global average temperatures almost 20 degress Celcius higher than today and the temperature always returned to something more 'normal' after the extremes. We're talking about minuscule increases today compared to these historical extremes, and thus it's way overkill to put "irreversible" on the table as much greater extremes has repeatedly been reversed completely without assistance from humans.

  • Re:So (Score:4, Informative)

    by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Thursday November 10, 2011 @12:52PM (#38013652) Homepage

    By irreversible they mean that we will hit the point where we cannot prevent a 2 degree Celsius average global temperature increase. If we hit 2 degrees then enough bad things happen that widespread human suffering will be unavoidable.

    We will be able to fix things up if we spend a hundred times than it would cost to prevent it in the first place, but the damage would already be done.

  • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday November 10, 2011 @04:38PM (#38016198)
    He means per capita. So China's high population would dilute the tax per person.

    Unfortunately for OP, the US is not the highest emitter by that metric []. Australia, Canada, and a host of other small oil-producing countries equal or exceed it. Furthermore, if you divide by average household income (ability to pay a tax per capita), the U.S. drops even further down the list.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.