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Earth Science

Upper Limit On Emissions Likely To Be Exceeded Within Decades 324

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-taco-bell-keeps-growing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A panel of expert climate scientists appointed by the United Nations has come to a consensus on an upper limit for greenhouse gases. The panel says we will blow past this limit in just a few decades if emissions continue at their current pace. 'To stand the best chance of keeping the planetary warming below an internationally agreed target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels and thus avoiding the most dangerous effects of climate change, the panel found, only about 1 trillion tons of carbon can be burned and the resulting gas spewed into the atmosphere. Just over half that amount has already been emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and at current rates of energy consumption, the trillionth ton will be released around 2040, according to calculations by Myles R. Allen, a scientist at the University of Oxford and one of the authors of the new report. More than 3 trillion tons of carbon are still left in the ground as fossil fuels.' You can read a summary of the report's findings online (PDF). It says plainly, 'It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming (PDF) since the mid-20th century.'"

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Upper Limit On Emissions Likely To Be Exceeded Within Decades

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  • Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 27, 2013 @08:41AM (#44970053)

    I will be dead by then. Good luck to the rest of you.

  • Um what TF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday September 27, 2013 @08:44AM (#44970083)

    only about 1 trillion tons of carbon can be burned and the resulting gas spewed into the atmosphere. Just over half that amount has already been emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and at current rates of energy consumption, the trillionth ton will be released around 2040

    Do they honestly believe there is some total quantity of emissions that can be tolerated? I mean as opposed to a rate of emissions - like annually. We know that the system recycles carbon taking it out of the atmosphere, and we know that the rate it's removed increases as the concentration increases. So if we assume there is a limit, it should be on the rate of carbon emissions and not the total emitted over time.

    These guys are looking dumber all the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 27, 2013 @08:46AM (#44970103)

    Go ahead scammers, fight to the bitter end. There are still enough rubes out there to grab a few more bucks from. Never give up! Never surrender!

  • High Certainty. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pino Grigio (2232472) on Friday September 27, 2013 @08:47AM (#44970117)
    Funny. The IPCC puts its certainty at 95%, which is somewhat confusing as it's unable to show any accounting for that figure. According to Professor Judith Curry [judithcurry.com], the figure is arrived at by getting a load of climate scientists into a room and asking them what their certainty is!

    What did my physics professor always say? If you don't know how accurate your measurement is, you haven't made a measurement.

    It gets worse. The discrepancy between models and actual reality continues to grow [climateaudit.org]. Surely this makes the science more uncertain, not less. Yet somehow the IPCC find themselves increasingly confident that they're right, even as everybody else becomes increasingly confident that the models they use are wrong. The whole thing is an absolute farce.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday September 27, 2013 @08:48AM (#44970127)
    Well that's ok then. A panel has decided on an arbitrary "upper limit", and of course the planet will obey the panel. At one point, when everything you do to stop global warming fails, you'll come to realize that perhaps there are forces far greater than man at work. Failure to recognize this is sheer arrogance.
  • by xtal (49134) on Friday September 27, 2013 @08:51AM (#44970159)

    Mass adoption of nuclear energy is the only option.

    The green crowd have fantasies of state taxation and control; the problem is enterprises see through this immediately and apply their financial resources to make sure it doesn't happen.

    Brass tacks; modern civilization and economic growth needs high quality energy sources and has an accelerating demand for energy. The only fuel that provides thermodynamic high-quality energy for base load that we have available is carbon and nuclear. The energy requirements of our society are epic. They will become more epic in the future!

    The green movement needs to realize that the driver for economic activity trumps everything. Period. The energy is required to sustain the society we live in. If there isn't a rapid move to nuclear, we are going to burn every drop of oil, every ton of coal, and every liter of natural gas. That's the path we're on now.

    I have hopes that we'll be able to fix the mess later - with technology being driven by clean energy sources. We need a push to get fusion reactors figured out. We know how fusion works; it powers those bombs everyone forgets don't exist. If people are so in arms about nuclear energy, why are they not freaking out about the pre-packaged critical nuclear reactions sitting on top of fueled missiles, only under control of a computer to avert disaster?

    The lack of understanding of thermodynamics and energy is really epic; people advocating for restricting co2 production just don't understand how much energy is required.

    Eventually the planet is going to suffer a catastrophe. A caldera volcano will explode; an asteroid will strike. The climate will change in a catastrophic means, just as it has done over and over again in the geologic record.

    The sooner we have unlimited amounts of clean energy on tap to fix things, the better. The answer is staring at us in the widespread adoption of nuclear energy.

    Until then.. go away, get off my lawn, and I'll continue to vote for people with energy polices grounded in reality.

  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:05AM (#44970319) Journal

    Fuck that,

    It was ready in the '80s when France did it.

    Why isn't it ready now?

  • Re:High Certainty. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xtal (49134) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:09AM (#44970375)

    This is something, but it isn't science.

    Science has data and experiments. There's data to demonstrate there may be changes occurring, but there's no model backed by experimental results to explain why that may be. The earth's climate system is very complex, and it may be impossible to model in any sort of long term fashion.

    The inability to model drives the risk. We don't know. The prudent thing is to reduce impact; sure. How do we best do that? More policy.

    It is reasonable to hypothesize that human activity is causing the changes. Based on those assumptions it may be even be reasonable to implement policy to mitigate risks.

    Don't front it as science, though. It's not.

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:10AM (#44970393) Journal

    Thorium lacks weapon applications. The emperor is not interested.

  • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StoneyMahoney (1488261) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:17AM (#44970469)

    "We'll be able to stop before the looming disaster actually happens, we're smart enough to see the key indicators and get out in time!"

    Where have I heard this before? It was quite recently from another bunch of people who really should have known better and led us off a cliff into disaster because they just couldn't stop...

    This isn't about science and hasn't been for a long time. It's about human nature. We don't like change, so when we've got an established way of doing things and no reason obvious enough in our daily lives to switch to a different way of doing things, we won't do it. In many cases, when we finally get it through our stupid thick heads that we need to change, it's far too late.

  • by VernonNemitz (581327) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:23AM (#44970545) Journal
    Overpopulation might lead to a Malthusian Catastrophe well before 2040. In the animal kingdom such an event ("MC") is usually associated with a 99% population drop. Among humans, mostly smarter than the average dumb animal (except when it comes to breeding, apparently), it might be different; the last known MC experienced by humans who used their resources up faster than they could be replaced, happened on Easter Island, and the before-and-after population figures are not well known. Estimates range the population drop from 80% to, yes, 99%. For us today, we are at or past "peak oil", which means we can't use more oil to make more synthetic fertilizer for a growing global population. Fresh water is becoming a problem, two, as many important aquifers continue to be drained faster than they get replenished. The writing is basically on the wall --we can't keep growing the global population, and we can't even sustain the current population for much longer. So, an MC seems more inevitable than not. After which the rate we burn carbon is going to go down a whole lot....
  • Re:High Certainty. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geek (5680) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:23AM (#44970547) Homepage

    Funny. The IPCC puts its certainty at 95%, which is somewhat confusing as it's unable to show any accounting for that figure. According to Professor Judith Curry [judithcurry.com], the figure is arrived at by getting a load of climate scientists into a room and asking them what their certainty is!

    What did my physics professor always say? If you don't know how accurate your measurement is, you haven't made a measurement.

    It gets worse. The discrepancy between models and actual reality continues to grow [climateaudit.org]. Surely this makes the science more uncertain, not less. Yet somehow the IPCC find themselves increasingly confident that they're right, even as everybody else becomes increasingly confident that the models they use are wrong. The whole thing is an absolute farce.

    I stopped reading or listening to the bastards years ago. It's a religion to people at this point. I've never seen a Christian or Muslim fundamentalist get as foaming at the mouth rabid as some of the climate fundamentalists do. It's shocking to see how the discussion as devolved into what it is now.

    I literally have friends that think the world is going to end within the next 5-10 years thanks to Al Gore and Prince Charles running around the world screaming that the sky is falling.

    Climate science right now is nothing more than the worlds newest fucking death cult. These fuckers are praying for the end of the world to happen to justify their "models" (or prophecies if you will). Makes me sick.

  • Re:High Certainty. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pino Grigio (2232472) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:26AM (#44970581)

    The prudent thing is to reduce impact

    I think the law of unintended consequences might trip you over there. For example, "we need energy security" became "we need ethanol" which became "we've reduced global grain supply by 5% and forced up food prices". What an absolutely terrible policy. The best thing for government to do is almost always absolutely nothing.

  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:27AM (#44970589)

    The panel only determined an upper limit for avoiding the worst of global warming... they never said anything about it being some kind of physical limit. How about a bad car analogy? If you're driving down the highway in an area with a lot of speed traps, 60mph might be the upper limit to avoiding speeding tickets. There's nothing preventing you from doing 80mph, but 60mph is roughly what you can expect to get away without any major consequences (IE: getting pulled over and ticketed). Now you can argue that we're more in control of a car than we are of global warming, but the truth is that we still have a fair bit of control over how much carbon is tossed into the atmosphere.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:33AM (#44970663)

    Yes, it's getting warmer. But there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that we are going to do anything about it through emissions limits.

    What we should do is to avoid interfering with rapid economic development because developed nations can actually easily deal with climate change and rising sea levels (just look at the Dutch, a large part of their country is below sea level).

    We should also stop subsidizing (implicitly and explicitly) fossil fuel extraction. Right now, many nations are adopting policies that, on the one hand use tax dollars to subsidize fossil fuels, then on the other hand use more tax dollars to support alternative energies; the entire scheme is a gigantic give-away to industry.

    In addition, we should give up our silly opposition to nuclear. The best way of reducing carbon emissions is to make it easy to deploy efficient, modern nuclear plants, the kind that actually burns almost all the fuel.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Friday September 27, 2013 @09:39AM (#44970725)

    Under no plausible scenario will greenhouse gas emissions cause humans to die out. At worst, rising temperatures will cause some short-term disruptions, migration, inconveniences, and costs.

    Long term, even a complete melting of all ice caps (which would take a couple of thousand years), and global warming of several degrees Celsius, would result in a climate that's significant'y different from ours but is still quite nice (if not arguably nicer) for humans and mammals.

  • Re:High Certainty. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bongo (13261) on Friday September 27, 2013 @10:03AM (#44970967)

    The point is, there is no calculation which spits out "95%".

    It is a made up statistic.

  • Re:Um what TF? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx[ ].ca ['.bc' in gap]> on Friday September 27, 2013 @10:16AM (#44971167) Journal

    How are you going to distribute that power? Remember that the further you are away from an energy source the more energy you'll lose in transmitting it.

    Solar energy looks very attractive to many people, I know... But the reality is that it can't hope to sustain the industrialized world based even on current energy demands, let alone the doubtless larger energy demands of the future.

    Nuclear is the only viable way.... Or something else which has not even been discovered yet.

  • by perp (114928) on Friday September 27, 2013 @10:27AM (#44971309)
    So if China was two countries, everything would be fine, since each country would only put out 2/3 of the C02 of the US, while maintaining their 1/3 output per capita. The way to solve climate change is obviously to divide up the big countries into smaller countries :)
  • by geogob (569250) on Friday September 27, 2013 @10:36AM (#44971439)

    Why don't we ever get articles like this one [bloomberg.com] on slashdot?

    Because it is solly based on a false premise.

    Global warming has slowed since 1998 even though humans spewing ever more greenhouse gases are almost certainly to blame for damaging the atmosphere.

    This statement is based on, they say a report summary...

    That’s according to a 36-page summary of a report from a United Nations panel released in Stockholm today concluding Earth’s temperature since 1998 has increased at less than half the pace of longer-term averages since 1951.

    ... which they cleverly never cite directly or link to. Here is the link...
    http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5-SPM_Approved27Sep2013.pdf [climatechange2013.org]

    The statement made by the article is never explicitely made in this report. On the contrary already on page 3, it is explained why a statement such as the one made in the article is, while true in a specific context, is missleading due to local variations in observed trends. If you look carfully at figure SPM-1 and the statement made on page SPM-3 (3), you will not only see that the author of the article missunderstood the statement made, but even inverted completly its interpretation and meaning.

    The report states that the trend evaluate between 1998 and 2012 is slower thant the rate evaluate between 1951 and 2012. This trend variation is fully explained by a local change in temperature variation due to a strong El Nino over the 1960-1990 period and has nothing to do with global warming.

    Ironically, the journalist missunderstood (deliberatly or not) the explanation why the use of local trend is missleading in understanding climate change and used the missleading trend stated as example of trend not to use to base is thesis on. I couldn't write "Wooooosh" loud enough.

    And we should see more such nicely writte article on /. Yeah, that would be awesome.

    Go read the report and learn something.

  • Re:High Certainty. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drjzzz (150299) on Friday September 27, 2013 @10:42AM (#44971515) Homepage Journal

    Ok, let's posit that very few of us are climate scientists or in positions to evaluate the raw data. We have to take things on faith to some extent. Should we believe (1) the vast majority of professional climate scientists who have accumulated terabytes of data and analyzed them with many sophisticated models that all lead to a similar conclusion, i.e., anthropogenic global climate change is dangerous, or (2) a few who disagree, with seemingly little factual basis, whose minority opinions are massively promoted by businesspeople with obvious financial interests in stopping or at least slowing the acceptance of the professional's conclusions and recommendations?

    Skepticism is healthy but group (1) seems unbiased, very reasonable and well supported by the data whereas group (2) is clearly biased, unsupported by facts, and unreasonable. From first principles, it seems reasonable that rapidly reversing the millennial-long carbon sequestration (producing oil and coal and gas) that changed the atmosphere from reducing to oxidizing *would* cause climate change and ocean changes.

  • Re:Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday September 27, 2013 @10:49AM (#44971607)
    Also, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We could spend billions preventing it, or we could spend trillions and trillions dealing with the effects.

    Unfortunately, those trillions would be future costs, and externalized largely to other people, so obviously we're going to do the latter.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday September 27, 2013 @10:57AM (#44971727)

    The warming is not up for debate

    The anthropogenic crowd keeps saying that. All science is up for debate all the time, you just need to present a better hypothesis. Saying "it's not up for debate" shows just how afraid you are of the weakness of your argument.

  • by Bartles (1198017) on Friday September 27, 2013 @11:21AM (#44972019)

    No. It is enabled by social progess.

    You have that backwards. Women's liberation was driven by washing machines, dishwashers, and store-bought food and clothing.

  • Re:Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday September 27, 2013 @11:24AM (#44972055)

    What is the potential downside to climate change? Death, misery, and destruction. If we stop doing the things that cause climate change, you'll get the same results.

    Bullshit. Stopping doing the things that cause climate change results in investment and innovation because you invent new things to do to accomplish the same goals without the harmful side-effects.

  • Re:Meh - Indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tbannist (230135) on Friday September 27, 2013 @11:40AM (#44972233)

    Hang the fact that it has been rising all long.

    Actually, it's been falling for almost 10,000 years.

    I take that as an admission that, "Let it change, but slowly enough that it does not bother me. My decedents can take care of themselves."

    Sometimes simpletons don't understand the difference between stopping a speeding car with the brakes and stopping a speeding car with a brick wall.

    In this case it isn't make it slow enough so that it doesn't bother me, it's make it slow enough so that natural systems aren't pushed into another mass extinction event, because that won't be good for any of us. At some place between 4 and 6 degrees above the baseline, most of the world is going to need new ecosystems. That replacement will be much easier on us, if nature has 1,000 years to adapt than if it has 30.

  • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Friday September 27, 2013 @11:40AM (#44972241)

    This isn't about science and hasn't been for a long time. It's about human nature. We don't like change, so when we've got an established way of doing things and no reason obvious enough in our daily lives to switch to a different way of doing things, we won't do it. In many cases, when we finally get it through our stupid thick heads that we need to change, it's far too late.

    What is clear is that changes are coming*. If we're not willing to change ourselves voluntarily then climate change and it's effects on the natural world will force change on us whether we want it or not. The choice is ours, proactively address the issue in a comprehensive fashion or let the natural changes drive us to address the effects piecemeal.

    *To be honest the changes have already started but so far the effects are relatively small.

  • Re:Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:54AM (#44978073)

    *To be honest the changes have already started but so far the effects are relatively small.

    Really though we have a problem of the boiling frog principle. We'll bitch and moan that next year is hotter, colder, wetter, dryer, and more gloomy than the last depending on which area you're in but for the most part we won't care. It's getting warmer, time to upgrade the AC unit. It's getting colder better invest in a heater. Personally with the amount of flooding we've had in our area I've changed my renovation plans and raised my house of the ground.

    We as a people will not react. I or you as a person will react, but we will react in a way that makes a measurable difference to your life. If you're uncomfortably hot you'll do something to cool you down and not go out and buy a Prius and sit around hoping some billion other people in the world make the same choice so that next year it'll be more comfortable.

    In short as a species we're doomed. As a side note our newly elected government is about to repeal the carbon tax. Way to go forward in a country with one of the worst emission per capita figures...

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