Covid-19 isn’t the only democide Trump has in store for us


Donald Trump is culpable in the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of Americans due to the evisceration of environmental protections. His deregulatory attack against the standards on mercury, soot and carbon dioxide alone will lead to 245,500 preventable deaths over a ten-year period—a calculation based on EPA staff estimates.
The Trump administration—not state governors, not Congress, and not past presidents—is directly responsible for these preventable deaths. These deaths are in addition to the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of other Americans due to Trump’s incompetent and disastrous  response to the COVID-19 pandemic

The Trump administration has initiated a broad offensive against regulatory protections. The Brookings Institute keeps an up-to-date compendium of Trump’s deregulatory efforts entitled “Tracking Deregulation in the Trump Era” including those involving the environment, COVID-19, labor, health, finance, housing, agriculture, education and more. The administration has initiated more than 230 deregulatory actions so far. The New York Times keeps another list focusing on environmental deregulation entitled “The Trump Administration Is Reversing One Hundred Environmental Rules.”

Looking at just four major attacks on environmental protections initiated by the Trump Administration. Three of the attacks have significantly weakened the standards for soot, mercury, and carbon dioxide. I chose these three because EPA staff has actually estimated the number of deaths that will occur due to the rollback of each of these protections. In addition, I will examine the administration’s unprecedented suspension of all environmental regulations/enforcement under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic. This suspension gives corporations control over major environmental decisions.
The administration’s deregulatory offensive reflects a value system that literally prioritizes corporate profits over American lives.

Here’s how Trump is going to do it:

Weakening Mercury & Air Toxics Standards: 110,000 Preventable Deaths over a Ten-Year Period

Mercury & Air Toxics Standards (MATS) save 11,000 lives a year

Corporate cronyism – EPA administrator is a former coal industry lobbyist. Devaluing lives, valuing profits.

Refusal to Strengthen Soot Standard: 121,500 Preventable Deaths over a Ten-Year Period

Replacement of Limits on CO2 Emissions: 14,000 Preventable Deaths Over a Ten-Year Period

Using the Pandemic as an Excuse for Wholesale Deregulation

unprecedented suspension of environmental monitory, testing, and penalties citing pandemic.

Key EPA staffing positions held by corporate officials, lobbyists, and lawyers.

Allowing corporations to dictate EPA policies.

 

from https://www.alternet.org/2020/05/trumps-gutting-of-environmental-rules-will-lead-to-hundreds-of-thousands-of-deaths/

US Climate denial could disrupt the entire economic system

American companies are ignoring the risks of climate change at their own peril, extreme weather caused by the climate crisis could result in a devastating economic recession.

Financial markets are failing to account for the risks that increasingly frequent and worsening floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events pose to the economy, according to an article published in the journal Nature Energy this week.”

If the market doesn’t do a better job of accounting for climate, we could have a recession—the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” said study author Paul Griffin, an accounting professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Griffin said in the article that his years of research concluded that “unpriced risk” was the “main cause” of the 2007-08 Great Recession and companies are once again failing to assess the damage extreme weather events can wreak on their business.

“Right now, energy companies shoulder much of that risk. The market needs to better assess risk, and factor a risk of extreme weather into securities prices,” he said. “Without better knowledge of this risk, the average energy investor can only hope that the next extreme event will not trigger a sudden correction to the market values of energy firms.”

Soaring temperatures, like those now seen annually in Europe and parts of the United States, aren’t just dangerous to human life, he argued. They also hurt the farming and agriculture industry all over the world and slow economic growth. They also sometimes cause massive power outages that affect a huge variety of industries, like when PG&E shut down energy delivery across much of California last year in an attempt to reduce fire risk. The company also filed for bankruptcy after it was blamed for causing the wildfires in 2018. Extreme weather also disrupts transportation and water delivery, hurting not just those industries but countless others that rely on workers being able to get to work and drink clean water.

“Despite these obvious risks, investors and asset managers have been conspicuously slow to connect physical climate risk to company market valuations,” Griffin wrote. “Loss of property is what grabs all the headlines, but how are businesses coping? Threats to businesses could disrupt the entire economic system.”

Griffin also warned that energy companies are particularly vulnerable in areas where their operations are threatened by rising sea levels. Oil refineries in California and the Gulf Coast are especially at risk of being inundated by severe floods, storms, and wildfires.

The insurance industry would also grow overwhelmed by the cost of claims from extreme weather events and may not cover such risks, the article said, not to mention “litigation, sanctions and even loss of business from the property destroyed.”

“Extreme heat events can create uncertain and longer duration power outages, threaten critical infrastructure, exacerbate energy supply and demand imbalances, and trigger significant legal liability for energy firms,” he wrote. “Despite these obvious risks, investors and asset managers have been conspicuously slow to connect physical climate risk from extreme weather events to company market valuations.”

“While proprietary climate risk models my help some firms and organizations better understand future conditions attributable to climate change, extreme weather risk is still highly problematic from a risk estimation standpoint,” he wrote. “This is because with climate change, the patterns of the past are no guide to the future, whether it be one year, five years or 20 years out. Investors may also normalize extreme weather impacts over time, discounting their future importance.”

Financial institutions are increasingly worried about this trend as well. A report issued by an organization of the world’s central banks earlier this year similarly warned that financial institutions lack the tools to deal with what could be a devastating economic challenge.

“Think the subprime crisis in 2008 was bad? Imagine a real estate crisis caused by rising sea levels and coastal flooding that renders thousands of square miles of land uninhabitable or useless for farming,” wrote The New York Times’ Jack Ewing in his summary of the report. “By some estimates, global gross domestic product could plunge by nearly a quarter by the end of the century because of the effects of climate change. Central banks have enough trouble dealing with mild recessions, and would not be powerful enough to combat an economic downturn of that scale.”

“In the worst-case scenario, central banks may have to intervene as climate rescuers of last resort or as some sort of collective insurer for climate damages,” the report warned.

An earlier study published in Science in 2017 attempted to quantify the economic impact posed by the effects of climate change. That study warned that the US economy may shrink by up to 3 percent, and certain regions may be hit even harder without significant intervention. Many regions could see gross domestic product (GDP) decline by more than 10 percent, and Florida’s worst-hit areas could see GDP losses up to 28 percent, according to the study.

That research relied on the United States meeting its goals in the 2015 Paris Agreement, but that seems unlikely now that Donald Trump withdrew from the pact and repeatedly gutted Obama-era policies intended to combat climate change.

“Is there climate change? Yeah. Will it go back like this, I mean will it change back? Probably,” Trump told Axios in 2018, despite extensive research from his own administration arguing that certainly will not be the case. The last decade was the hottest on record, according to NASA and NOAA, and it is only getting worse.

Trump said that his decision to pull out of the Paris Accord would improve the economy and vowed to negotiate a deal with terms that are “fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers,” though he has made no efforts to do so since.

Despite Trump’s claims, the country’s largest companies quickly sounded the alarm that the move would hurt, not help, the economy.

“By strengthening global action over time,” said a letter from leading US companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe, Morgan Stanley, Gap, Intel, and Hewlett Packard, “the agreement will reduce future climate impacts, including damage to business facilities and operations, declining agricultural productivity and water supplies, and disruption of global supply chains.”

 

from Salon

Catastrophe is “probable”, and extinction “is possible”.

On any day, between 10,000 and 30,000 bushfires burn around the planet.

Realms as diverse and distant as Siberia, Amazonia, Indonesia, Australia and California are aflame. The advent of “the age of fire” is the bleakest warning yet that humans have breached boundaries we were never meant to cross.

It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: that the world economy, civilization, and maybe our very survival as a species are on the line. And it is past time to act.

It isn’t just fires, It’s the incessant knell of unnatural (human-fed) disasters: droughts, floods, vanishing rivers, lakes and glaciers and the rise in billion-dollar weather impacts.

It is the spate of extinctions, the precipitous loss of sea fish, birds and corals, of forests, mammals, frogs, bees and other insects. It is the march of deserts and the waxing of dead zones in the oceans.

It is an avalanche of human chemical emissions poisoning our air, water, food, homes, cities, farms and unborn babies, slaying nine million a year.

It is the probability there will be no Arctic before the end of this century and rising seas expelling 300 million from their homes.

It is the ominous seepage of methane from the world’s oceans, tundra, swamps and fossil fuels, threatening runaway heating of 7 to 10 degrees or more.

It is the drift of billions of tons of soil from lands that feed us into the blind depths of the ocean, placing food security on a knife-edge as farming systems fail amid a turbulent climate and degraded landscapes.

It is the rising toll of noncommunicable diseases killing three people in every four.

It is the $1.8 trillion spent weaponizing nations for the true “war to end all wars”. Unchained by political malice or blunder, robot weapons of mass destruction commanded by artificial intelligence will choose who lives and who dies.

Yet a global citizen movement of scientists, youth, elders and women is demanding urgent action in the face of a growing risk of collapse. Its scientific warnings, Extinction Rebellion and the school strike for climate are flooding the streets of the world’s cities.

Pope Francis plans to add “ecological sin against the common home” to the Catholic catechism. The Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, warns of “abrupt financial collapse” due to climate change. In its annual assessment of catastrophic risks, the Global Economic Forum sees the mounting danger.

Prof Jem Bendell, of the University of Cumbria, UK, is among the voices warning that the collapse of civilization may have begun. Because we cannot easily predict its pace, trajectory or magnitude is no reason for inaction, he says. His paper, Deep Adaptation: a Map for Navigating our Climate Tragedy, predicts: “There will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of [citizens].” Catastrophe is “probable”, it added, and extinction “is possible”.

Yet so far only a handful of countries – France, Canada, Britain, Ireland and Argentina – have declared even a climate emergency. Most governments continue to move at a glacial pace and turn a blind eye to the nine other mega-threats threats menacing humanity. Why?

Because a worldwide counter-revolution is underway, intended to paralyze action on climate, environmental loss, extinction, toxic air water and food. It is financed by “dark money” from a terrified fossil fuels sector through shady institutions. It pours hundreds of millions of dollars into global propaganda to discredit climate and environmental science, seduce government and deceive the public.

More sinister still is the growing control of the fossil fuels lobby over governments and the world media – not only in floundering western democracies but also Russia, China, Brazil, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Now a new UN report says fossil corporates plan to ramp up carbon emissions 50% to 120% by 2030 beyond the limit for a safe human future (1.5C degrees). Despite the renewables boom, fossil infrastructure investment has rebounded in 2019 after three years of decline, the International Energy Agency says. On the face of it, the fossil lobby has turned the tide.

There are only three motives to so hazard civilization: greed, malice, and ignorance. Either the returns are so great that fossil executives are willing to cook their own grandchildren, or they are blind to the risks. Since these are technical people, the latter does not ring true: oil majors like Shell and ExxonMobil have revealed in court they understood exactly what they were doing to the planet for nearly 50 years. Ignoring it, they then sought to deceive humanity while ramping up carbon output.

The world is dividing into two opposing movements: the concerned “survivors” – the young, the old, the wise, the educated, the informed and the pragmatic – and the cynics backing the very global system that will precipitate collapse.

Some scientists’ estimates for how many lives collapse will cost range from 50%-90% of the human population. The number is not knowable because human behavior, like war, cannot be foretold. The process starts with famines and water crises, both already in evidence, leading to refugee tsunamis and multiplying conflicts.

As this truth sinks in, the part of humanity committed to survival is seeking legal redress. Columbia Law School documents more than 1,640 ongoing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies and/or governments. But the law is slow, and justice can be bought.

It is time to speak the unspeakable.

Without urgent action to terminate fossil fuel use, return the planet to a state of ecological health and address all 10 mega-threats in an integrated way, our worst fears will become our fate. Collapse becomes inexorable.

Doing nothing or too little sentences humanity to collapse – economic, societal, even existential. It is time to discuss this, openly, honestly, truthfully.

We have only one rational choice: to choose to survive.

This demands all necessary actions – although they spell the end of existing systems of energy, food, water, money, defense, transport and politics – and their replacement with new ones, universally dedicated to a viable, just and sustainable human and planetary future.

Julian Cribb The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/29/countries-from-siberia-to-australia-are-burning-the-age-of-fire-is-the-bleakest-warning-yet?

Join the real battle to reverse the climate disaster….that doesn’t kill birds

Locally, latecomers to the climate crisis battle are crying over the ill-conceived profit-making venture to put wind turbines on Bear River Ridge an important site to the Wiyot people and many kinds of wildlife. The real battle is being fought in court. If you want to take a stand against the climate disaster then boycott GM, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and the other automakers siding with Trump.

The State of California on Friday ramped up its efforts to block the Trump administration from taking away its authority to set greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.

California was joined by 22 other states, the District of Columbia and two cities in suing Trump’s compromised Environmental Protection Agency, building on a similar lawsuit it filed last September.

This legal action challenges the Trump EPA’s attempt to revoke part of a waiver granted California in 2013 permitting the state to impose its greenhouse gas and zero-emission vehicle standards. The action asks the court to rule that California’s rules are protected under the federal Clean Air Act.

The coming court battle will help mold a major aspect of the nation’s climate policy because 13 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s standards.

Federal law generally sets the rules for how much vehicles can pollute. But California has been allowed to impose tougher rules since the 1970s because it has the most cars and problems meeting air quality standards.

The EPA said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (Wife of Mitch McConnel)  said in September that the stricter rules were making vehicles more expensive and less safe because consumers had difficulty buying newer, safer vehicles.

“California’s Clean Car Standards are achievable. not only do they work, but many other states around the country have chosen to adopt them,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

The filing also asks the court to review NHTSA’s September decision.

Joining California in the lawsuit are attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; as well as the cities of Los Angeles and New York.

And now, in an escalation of the battle California announced it won’t buy cars from GM, Toyota, others opposing tough tailpipe standards this bold decision to buy only from carmakers that have agreed to follow its clean car rules may well cost GM’s Chevrolet tens of millions of dollars.

Starting immediately, California state agencies will no longer buy gas-powered sedans, officials said Friday. And starting in January, the state will stop purchasing vehicles from carmakers that haven’t agreed to follow California’s clean car rules.

The decision affects General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and multiple other automakers that sided with the Trump administration in the ongoing battle over tailpipe pollution rules. The policy will hit General Motors particularly hard; California spent more than $27 million on passenger vehicles from GM-owned Chevrolet in 2018.

It’s the latest volley in the fight over climate-changing pollution from cars and trucks. “It certainly sends a strong message to the automakers that have come out on the other side of California in this litigation,” said Julia Stein, supervising attorney at UCLA’s Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic. “It’s taking steps to encourage automakers to be on what it views as the right side of that dispute.”

Now California’s Department of General Services is crafting policy that will prohibit state purchases from carmakers that haven’t signed on to its clean car deal — and manufacturers could stand to lose millions in sales to the state. In addition to the $27 million in purchases from Chevrolet, the state also spent more than $11 million on Fiat Chrysler brands, and more than $3.6 million on Toyota. Toyota, well-known for its environmentally-friendly Prius, is also facing public backlash for its alliance with the Trump administration.

“In court, and in the marketplace, California is standing up to those who put short-term profits ahead of our health and our future.”

News sources Wall Street Journal, AP, and CalMatters

 

Time to confront Arcata’s evil neighbor Sun Valley Floral Farms

The man with the power to stop this – Sun Valley CEO and President Lane DeVries

Don’t be fooled by the expanse of pretty irises growing between Foster Avenue and Bay School Road in the Arcata Bottom.

Earlier this year, Sun Valley Floral Farms sprayed that field with the carcinogen glyphosate (aka Roundup) without adequately informing neighbors, the three nearby schools, or anyone in the densely populated Greenview/Windsong neighborhood of Arcata, all of which were downwind of the spraying.

In 2015 the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.” Later the state of California added glyphosate to its list of chemicals that cause cancer. Since then Monsanto and its parent company Bayer, which produces glyphosate, have suffered several high-profile court losses to victims of glyphosate who contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. By now managers of any company that uses glyphosate should well know that in doing so they risk giving workers and neighbors cancer. (A new study shows when combined with other risk factors Glyphosate dramatically increases the risk of breast cancer)*TE

The Arcata Bottom tract is new to Sun Valley’s floral production. It was formerly used to feed cattle, with no chemicals needed. Yet over summer Sun Valley was at it again, spraying the same field with yet another carcinogen: chlorothalonil.

In this case, I watched it happen. My presence was coincidental, as spraying occurred with no public notice. On the afternoon of July 30 a Sun Valley operator sprayed chlorothalonil onto the company’s new field. It was chilling to watch the day’s predictable northwest breeze wafting the chemical across Bay School Road right into neighbors’ homes and yards, and presumably into Arcata.

The next day a large troupe of agricultural workers tarried in this very field, presumably absorbing the toxic impacts of a long-lasting chemical like chlorothalonil. (I learned that the chemical was chlorothalonil by contacting the Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner’s office.)

The state and federal governments list chlorothalonil as a probable human carcinogen and reproductive toxin. Chlorothalonil can contaminate the air traveling beyond the field and has been found in residential neighborhoods in many areas where it is applied. It is a potential groundwater contaminant, is persistent in soils, and is acutely toxic to fish, crabs, and frogs.

In 2016 (the last year for which statistics are available) Sun Valley used 1,152 pounds of chlorothalonil in Humboldt County. Now that the company is cultivating a new field its use of chlorothalonil has undoubtedly risen.

Also in 2016, Sun Valley applied 1,621 pounds of captan—a mutagen and carcinogen that can cause respiratory damage and is highly toxic to fish—and 171 pounds of thiophanate-methyl. Thiophanate-methyl is a possible human carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor.

(The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences defines endocrine disruptors as “chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.”) Other dangerous and toxic chemicals used by Sun Valley include diuron (birth defects, groundwater contamination, destruction of aquatic invertebrates) and the infamous 2,4-D (developmental and reproductive toxin, a possible human carcinogen, potential groundwater contaminant).

It’s bad enough that Sun Valley uses these poisons for non-food crops that could easily be produced without them. It’s infuriating that the company would waltz onto a brand new field, formerly free of toxics, and blithely contaminate it as well. Sun Valley might blandly state that “we adhere and comply with state and federal laws” in applying the chemicals, but this may not even be true.

The company has no legal right to contaminate the waters and wildlife of California, which are owned by the people, and Sun Valley certainly has no legal right to poison its workers and its neighbors. Without extensive and expensive monitoring there is no way to adequately ascertain the extent of such contamination.

Companies like Sun Valley count on this difficult process, and deferent county and state officials, to protect their “right” to do whatever they want, no matter the human and environmental costs.

The County of Humboldt and the City of Arcata, and its residents, need to step up and object to Sun Valley’s contamination. There is no reason these irises cannot be grown organically, except that it might cost a penny or two more on the dollar.

So instead, Sun Valley management, including company CEO and President Lane DeVries, has opted to impose these costs onto the lives of workers, neighbors, and the environment.

Greg King Mad River Union Oct 2, 2019

Ignorance, arrogance, greed and entitlement….same ol’ same ol’

Hall Creek/ Glendale area of the Mad River

What’s up with our elected officials and appointed boards?
If it involves Cannabis Production it must be a great opportunity to cash in and we can tax the hell of it so let’s let them do whatever and use whatever polluted industrial site they want. Win-Win right? That seems to be the mentality of the regulators.
Then you have the greedy proponents who just want to get started printing money. We don’t care what was there before besides don’t you know who we are?
Actually, no we don’t, and it doesn’t matter. Pollution is pollution we don’t want it in our water whether it’s from Mercer Fraser or some hipster growers.

At the September 5 Planning Commission meeting, the County Planning Commission approved yet another permit for a development on the site of a former lumber mill without adequate soil sampling – this one is in Glendale, near Hall Creek and the Mad River – just upstream from the drinking water supply for 88,000 people. The Humboldt Bay Municipal Watershed joined Humboldt Baykeeper in calling for dioxin testing, but the majority of Commissioners waved those concerns away.

Daniel Mintz covered this for KMUD news listen here:  https://soundcloud.com/kmudnews/lack-of-dioxin-testing-at-mill-site-triggers-alarm

Climate Crisis, do we really have only 12 years to act?

What Does ’12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ (Now 11 Years) Really Mean?

It doesn’t mean the world can wait until 2030 to cut greenhouse gas emissions, or that chaos will erupt in 2030. Here’s what the science shows.

In some ways, the “12 years” narrative may set up a scenario that’s too lenient, because some key part of the climate system may already be at or past tipping points. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

We’ve been hearing variations of the phrase “the world only has 12 years to deal with climate change” a lot lately.

Sen. Bernie Sanders put a version of it front and center of his presidential campaign last week, saying we now have “less than 11 years left to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, if we are going to leave this planet healthy and habitable.”

But where does the idea of having 11 or 12 years come from, and what does it actually mean?

The number began drawing attention in 2018, when the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report describing what it would take to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the Paris climate agreement. The report explained that countries would have to cut their anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, such as from power plants and vehicles, to net zero by around 2050. To reach that goal, it said, CO2 emissions would have to start dropping “well before 2030” and be on a path to fall by about 45 percent by around 2030 (12 years away at that time).

Mid-century is actually the more significant target date in the report, but acting now is crucial to being able to meet that goal, said Duke University climate researcher Drew Shindell, a lead author on the mitigation chapter of the IPCC report.

“We need to get the world on a path to net zero CO2 emissions by mid-century,” Shindell said. “That’s a huge transformation, so that if we don’t make a good start on it during the 2020s, we won’t be able to get there at a reasonable cost.”

How Do Scientists Know?

Basics physics and climate science allow scientists to calculate how much CO2 it takes to raise the global temperature—and how much CO2 can still be emitted before global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F) compared to pre-industrial times.

Scientists worked backward from that basic knowledge to come up with timelines for what would have to happen to stay under 1.5°C warming, said Scott Denning, who studies the warming atmosphere at Colorado State University.

“They figured out how much extra heat we can stand. They calculated how much CO2 would produce that much heat, then how much total fuel would produce that much CO2. Then they considered ‘glide paths’ for getting emissions to zero before we burn too much carbon to avoid catastrophe,” he said.

“All this work gets summarized as ‘in order to avoid really bad outcomes, we have to be on a realistic glide path toward a carbon-free global economy by 2030.’ And that gets translated to something like ’emissions have to fall by half in a decade,’ and that gets oversimplified to ’12 years left.’

“There’s certainly a grain of truth in the phrase, but it’s so oversimplified that it leads to comically bad misconceptions about how to get there, conjuring up ridiculous cartoon imagery suggesting we just go on with life normally for the next 11 years and then the world ends,” Denning said.

That’s not what the IPCC writers envisioned, he said.

The science on the 2030 date is clear, said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. The controversy stems from people mischaracterizing the carbon reduction timeline as a threshold for climate disaster. He noted that people promoting climate science denial and delay have also latched on to the phrase “to intentionally try to caricature the concern about climate change.”

What Would Success Look Like?

It would be helpful if people looked at the 2030 target in terms of what success looks like rather than what failure means, Denning said.

“Solving the problem by 2030, 2040 or 2050 requires a new global energy infrastructure, which is arguably easier and less expensive than past infrastructure shifts like indoor plumbing, rural electrification, the automobile and paved roads, telecommunications, computers, mobile phones or the internet.

“All of these past changes cost tens of trillions of dollars, adjusted for inflation. All of them were hugely disruptive. All of them took a decade or more, completely changed the industrial and economic and social landscape, and created bursts of growth and productivity and jobs. And arguably, all of them made life better for huge numbers of people.”

This time, the shift is from heavy reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels to carbon-free energy sources, like wind power. And even with a speedy energy transition, the IPCC says keeping temperatures from warming more than 1.5°C will also likely require removing CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale.

Chart: Staying Within a 1.5°C Carbon Budget

Missing the target doesn’t imply the onset of cataclysmic climate change in 2030, Denning said.

“Things just keep getting worse and worse until we stop making them worse, and then they never get better,” he said. “But no matter what, the world has to move on from fossil fuels just as we moved on from tallow candles and outhouses and land lines.”

What Would Exceeding 1.5°C Warming Mean?

The IPCC report described how increasing greenhouse gas emissions will result in more dangerous and costly disruptions to global societies and ecosystems, including longer, hotter heat waves and more frequent crop-killing droughts.

Mountain glaciers will melt faster as the planet warms, creating new risks for settlements in the valleys below. The meltdown of polar ice sheets is also projected to accelerate, intensifying flooding and speeding up sea level rise to a rate that will be hard to adapt to. More Arctic permafrost will thaw, releasing more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Despite the rising risks, it’s important to understand that, “in the physical climate system, there are no scientists claiming that there is a magical threshold that we breach or don’t breach that determines whether we have a habitable climate system,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Center for Climate and Weather Extremes.

The 2030 target is useful because it shows how the “next decade is incredibly consequential for what we do.” Swain said. “But I think the emphasis that’s being placed on this specific 12-year window as a differentiator between existential crisis or not is problematic.

“First of all, it negates some of the risks that already exist and that will continue to build no matter what. And it also potentially suggests that anything short of complete victory in the next 12 years is pointless, which is exactly the opposite of the truth. At any point along the spectrum, more progress is always going to be better than less progress, less warming is always going to be better than more warming.”

Have We Passed Tipping Points Already?

In some ways, the “12 years” narrative may set up a deadline that’s too lenient, because some key part of the climate system may already be at or past tipping points, Swain said.

It creates the false illusion that there is some sort of guardrail moving forward, that if we just get in under the deadline we’ll be OK, he said. But “twelve years from now, it could be too late for some of these things, like the ice sheets.”

Research in the past few years reinforces the idea that some climate tipping points have already been breached. Studies show some parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet are unlikely to recover, and parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may also be at or very near a tipping point to rapid disintegration.

A study published in June suggested that the rate of permafrost thawing is progressing much faster than climate models projected. And scientists studying the link between global warming and European heat waves said those recent extremes are also outside the scope of what they expected at current levels of warming.

The world will still exist if we breach 1.5°C and 2°C, but “the climate impacts and risks will be higher and the temperature will be higher,” said Glen Peters, research director at the CICERO climate research center in Oslo. That all seems to be sinking in to public awareness, he said.

“But in terms of deadlines, we have already missed the deadline,” he said. “We should have started mitigating decades ago, then we would have the problem solved.”

By Bob Berwyn, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS