Tuesday, April 13, 2021

2030 or Bust

(A note from Cannon: Still here! Yet still not here. In this household, we're dealing with illness and depression and other fun stuff. As we used to say in the '60s and '70s: Just thought I'd take some time off to get my head together, yknow, man? I've also been writing a book about, of all topics, Phantom Social Workers. In the meantime...)

2030 or Bust

Hi Everybody – D-Jay here. Before getting started, I’d like to take a moment to apologize for my long absence from the site. As can happen, urgent work got in the way – this time in the form of a large rush translation project needing to be done for one of my Japanese clients. More interestingly, this was followed by a request from the University of Tokyo’s newly established Center for Global Commons to write an opinion piece for the New York Times on their behalf regarding the Tokyo Forum 2020 Online, an important international conference on climate change and other critical items on the global agenda they hosted last December in collaboration with the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, a Korean academic promotion foundation. If all goes as planned, this article should appear sometime in late April or early May and I’ll be sure to post a link here for those who are interested.

In the meantime, however, I wanted to give Cannonfire readers a sneak peek at the main issue raised in the Forum.

It is VERY important.

2030 or Bust

By D-Jay

Climate change deniers are fond of saying that the people warning of its dangers are nothing but a bunch of alarmists. Among the real scientists in the field, however, a growing consensus is emerging that we might not be nearly alarmist enough.

According to a blockbuster presentation by Christiana Figueres at the Tokyo Forum 2020 Online (see above) if we humans don’t take really effective action to drastically reduce our carbon emissions by the end of 2030, it will be pretty much game over.

After that, anything we do is likely to be too little…too late.

In short, ten years might be all the time we have left to prevent a runaway climate catastrophe.

Ms. Figueres ought to know. Anything but a wild-eyed radical, from 2010 to 2016, she was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in which role she was one of the people most responsible for the successful conclusion of the historic Paris Agreement, 2015’s groundbreaking international treaty on climate change.

In a panel discussion with four other leading experts on climate change, Figueres said:

“It is over the next 10 years and only over the next 10 years from here to 2030 that we can influence what is going to happen. The scary thing is that after 2030 it basically doesn't really matter what humans do. We will be in danger of those tipping points having a domino effect on each other and we will lose total control.”  

Tipping points. 

If we can keep our planetary system on this side of them, the most apocalyptic effects of climate change might be averted. Once we’ve passed them, however, we’re over the cliff. Feedback loops beyond our control will kick in and however much we might want to try at that point, we won’t be able to stop them.

The most well-known of these potential calamity causers is probably the so-called “clathrate cannon” hypothesis. First put forward in 2010 by Russian specialists in the Artic climate, Igor Semiletov his colleague Natalia Shakhova in the journal Science, the theory is that at least 1,400 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon is trapped beneath the Artic ocean and Siberian permafrost in the form of methane clathrates (basically frozen methane). When temperatures remain safely below freezing, no problem. As the polar ice caps shrink and the permafrost melts, however, there is a risk that huge amounts of this methane could suddenly release into the atmosphere – possibly as much as 50 Gt in a single “burp,” which, according to Shakhova, could increase the atmospheric methane concentration up to twelvefold. 

Since the greenhouse gas effect of methane is at least 30 times that of CO2, this would not be good. And what’s worse, it could set off one of the unstoppable feedback loops Ms. Figueres warned us about. Reduced sea ice warms the water - which releases methane - which increases the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere - which warms the air - which reduces the sea ice – which… You get the idea.

And that’s not the only tipping point or feedback loop we need to worry about.

Far from it.

According to another excellent presentation at the Tokyo Forum by Johan Rockström, the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a Professor of Earth System Science at the University of Potsdam, there is a whole big set of them now poised to blow up in our faces.

They include destruction of the Amazon rainforest, die-offs of the coral reefs, a shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean circulation, fires and pests destroying the boreal forests of the world, collapse of the Antarctic ice sheets, disruption of monsoon rainfalls, desertification and more.  

According to Prof. Rockström, “these are all interconnected systems and they might start having strong cascading effects… The scale and speed in our hyper-connected world are such that we're getting close to hitting the ceiling of the earth system’s capacity to remain stable. Scientifically you can make the case for declaring a state of planetary emergency. We're at risk of undermining the stability of the entire earth system.”

Ms. Figueres, Prof. Rockström and other speakers at the Forum also stressed, however, that it is not too late for us to reverse course and save the planet. In fact, they pointed to a number of positive emerging trends, including:

·         Many large corporations are adopting more climate-friendly business models and are aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030 or sooner.

·         Korea and Japan have declared targets of carbon neutrality by 2050 and China by 2060.

·         Under President Biden, the U.S. is returning to a climate protection leadership role.

·         Citizen awareness of climate change realities is improving, due largely to the increasing severity of wildfires, floods, hurricanes, etc.

·         Many people and organizations are starting to recognize that the costs of climate inaction far outweigh the costs of effective action.

·         Our scientific understanding of climate change is developing rapidly and a broad scientific consensus is emerging that we need to move rapidly to an age of what Forum organizer Dr. Naoko Ishii, head of the new Center for Global Commons (CGC), and others are calling, “Global Commons Stewardship” – aka taking proper care of the planet in everything we do.

·         New green energy and other climate-friendly products and technologies are being developed and introduced at a fast pace.

·         New metrics for understanding our progress in the fight against climatic catastrophe are being developed. At the Forum, for example, the CGC introduced a new “Global Commons Stewardship Index,” a comprehensive method for quantifying countries’ and organizations’ environmental progress.

Not bad.

But, as I have noted in my article for the Times, not enough.

The scientists and academics are doing their part, but how about the rest of us? That is the life-or-death question for the planet.

And for humanity.

Since the Forum was an international scientific conference hosted by a foreign university, however, there is one issue I didn’t include in the Times article.

An issue upon which, if the scientists are right about a 2030 deadline, nothing less than the fate of most life on planet Earth – our own included – could rest.

Simply put, it is just this: will Bidenism survive and thrive, or will the U.S. elections in 2022 and 2024 see our government back into the hands of willful ignorance and obstructionism?

When it comes to climate change, if the United States is on the right course, we’ve got a chance. If the type of policies Biden has started to introduce can continue, success is possible. The tipping point we pass might be that of a critical mass of people throughout the world coming to their senses and reorganizing human society into something that can prosper within the limits imposed by Mother Earth – and the laws of physics.

If we slip back into Trumpism in two or four years, however - if the QAnon form of consciousness prevails - we are doomed.


2030 is too close.




The melting ice will release 28 new pathogens, as deadly as covid and for which we have no defenses. The insects are dying and so will our crops. Insects are down 75% in Germany. The biomass in Mexico (the residue of dead birds, butterflies, insects, lizards and other invertebrates) has dropped to 15% of what it was 40 years ago. The story is the same throughout South America. Temperatures are rising along with wildfires and floods.

The climate changes are unstoppable. Catherine Ingram spells it out. When the decline hits social mechanisms will break down. Police state methods and resource wars will follow. Technology will not save us. We lack the emotional capacity to handle what is staring us in the face: the destruction of the global ecosystem and the political chaos and death that will ensue. We are simply a species of children.

But the effort must be made.
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