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2023 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #5

Posted on 4 February 2023 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news and opinion articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, Jan 29, 2023  thru Sat, Feb 4, 2023.

Story of the Week

Social change more important than physical tipping points

1.5-degree Goal not plausible

 Global Tipping Points

Photo: CLICCS / Universität Hamburg

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is currently not plausible, as is shown in a new, central study released by Universität Hamburg’s Cluster of Excellence “Climate, Climatic Change, and Society” (CLICCS). Climate policy, protests, and the Ukraine crisis: the participating researchers systematically assessed to what extent social changes are already underway – while also analyzing certain physical processes frequently discussed as tipping points. Their conclusion: social change is essential to meeting the temperature goals set in Paris. But what has been achieved to date is insufficient. Accordingly, climate adaptation will also have to be approached from a new angle.

The interdisciplinary team of researchers addressed ten important drivers of social change: “Actually, when it comes to climate protection, some things have now been set in motion. But if you look at the development of social processes in detail, keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees still isn’t plausible,” says CLICCS Speaker Prof. Anita Engels. According to the Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook, especially consumption patterns and corporate responses are slowing urgently needed climate protection measures. Other key factors like UN climate policy, legislation, climate protests and divestment from the fossil fuels are supporting efforts to meet the climate goals. As the analysis shows, however, this positive dynamic alone won’t suffice to stay within the 1.5-degree limit. “The deep decarbonization required is simply progressing too slowly,” says Engels.

In addition, the team assesses certain physical processes that are frequently discussed as tipping points: the loss of the Arctic sea ice and melting ice sheets are serious developments – as are regional climate changes. But they will have very little influence on the global temperature until 2050. In this regard, a thawing permafrost, weakened Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), and the loss of the Amazon Forest are more important factors – albeit only moderately. “The Fact is: these feared tipping points could drastically change the conditions for life on Earth – but they’re largely irrelevant for reaching the Paris Agreement temperature goals,” explains CLICCS Co-Speaker Prof. Jochem Marotzke from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.

The study also covers COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine: economic reconstruction programs have reinforced dependence on fossil fuels, which means the necessary changes are now less plausible than previously assumed. In contrast, whether efforts to safeguard Europe’s power supply and the international community’s attempts to become independent of Russian gas will undermine or accelerate the phasing out of fossil fuels in the long run remains unclear.

Importance of human agency, new approach to adaptation

The Outlook is currently the only assessment that interlinks social sciences and natural sciences analysis in an integrated study to assess the plausibility of certain climate futures. More than 60 experts have contributed. According to the study, the best hope for shaping a positive climate future lies in the ability of society to make fundamental changes (“human agency”). In addition, the Outlook reveals a range of conditions for doing so, for instance that transnational initiatives and non-government actors continue to support climate protection, and that protests keep up the pressure on politicians.

“The question of what is not just theoretically possible, but also plausible, that is, can realistically be expected, offers us new points of departure,” says Anita Engels. “If we fail to meet the climate goals, adapting to the impacts will become all the more important.” In this regard, the Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook introduces a new tool for testing the long-term effects of various measures. They need to do more than provide support once the crisis strikes: “In order to be equipped for a warmer world, we have to anticipate changes, get the affected parties on board, and take advantage of local knowledge. Instead of just reacting, we need to begin an active transformation here and now.”

Anita Engels; Jochem Marotzke; Eduardo Gonçalves Gresse; Andrés López-Rivera; Anna Pagnone; Jan Wilkens (eds.) (2023): Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook 2023. The plausibility of a 1.5°C limit to global warming – Social drivers and physical processes; Cluster of Excellence Climate, Climatic Change, and Society (CLICCS). Hamburg, Germany; DOI: 10.25592/uhhfdm.11230

Click here to access the entire article as originally posted on the University of Hamburg's website.

Social change more important than physical tipping points by Ute Kreis, Press Release, University of Hamburg, Feb 2, 2023

Also see: War, politics, business make 1.5 C target far-fetched — experts by Chelsea Harvey, Climate Wire/E &E News, Feb 2, 2023

Links posted on Facebook

Sun, Jan 29, 2023

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Comments 1 to 22:

  1. 1.5-degree Goal not plausible
    Social change more important than physical tipping points

    On the new climate change, my wife says I "sound like a broken record" on a failed paradigm, but I won't give it up. Saving one-time life forms on earth will require humanity to get serious and change the dominant social, political, and economic paradigm. I think that Stephen Gardner's A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change explains the origins of the crisis, and it starts at home.

    Parts per million atmospheric greenhouse gases continue to rise, and technological remedies have the headlines.

    IMHO, ignoring the systemic growth ideology's deception, denial, and delay only perpetuates the earth's global warming. Now, baby boomers step aside as each generation must. I'm watching a clear, intentional handoff of the same ideology and rising GHGs to following generations, as they, in turn, will hand off GHGs to those following them.

    It starts at home.

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  2. @ EddieEvans #1:

    God willing, I will become an octogenarian in July of this year, I am still carrying a baton and will continue to do so until the Grim Reaper pries it from my hand. I have six grandkids — all under the age of fifteen. I do what I do for them. 

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  3. I share Eddie and John's persistent desire to increase awareness and improve understanding of the socioeconomic-political changes required to limit harm done and develop a better future for humanity.

    Limiting the harm of climate change impacts is only part, but a significant part, of the required effort to achieve the development of sustainable improvements.

    Less climate change impact makes it easier to achieve, and improve on, the Sustainable Development Goals. That highlights the important point that needs to be repeatedly made: Any overshoot of 1.5 C level of impacts needs to be reversed by unprofitable technological actions that rapidly undo the CO2 overshoot. And those unprofitable harmless actions need to be started Now and be paid for by all of the wealthiest humans today (they can figure out how to distribute the penalty among themselves).

    Getting that repair of harm done is understandably even harder to achieve than 'limiting the magnitude of harm done'. But that does not mean it is pointless to try to get more people to care to learn about the changes, especially the systemic ones, required to limit harm done and develop sustainable improvements for humanity.

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  4. The following conclusion is missing an important point.

    “In order to be equipped for a warmer world, we have to anticipate changes, get the affected parties on board, and take advantage of local knowledge. Instead of just reacting, we need to begin an active transformation here and now.”

    Adaptations will only be 'reasonably sustainable' if there is confidence that any impact overshoot of 1.5 C will still be significantly less than 2.0 C and will be rapidly drawn back down below 1.5 C.

    Without reasonable certainty about the magnitude of the peak climate impact level it will be very hard to develop 'required adaptations' that will be sustainable, especially if the peak impact level will exceed 2.0 C.

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  5. The  article by Ute Kreis is very vague and wordy to me, and  appears to be saying that we can't keep warming under 1.5 degrees because we are going too slow with mitigation due to social factors we can't change (?). If that's correct,  why couldn't they just say so? Whether they are right is another issue. I like to always be a little bit positive and think there's at least a  possibility we could speed up, but the psychological, political, social and financial road blocks in the way are indeed huge.

    Thanks John Hartz for your many good articles and views over the years. My criticism isn't directed at you.

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  6. @ nigelj #5:

    I suspect we are reading an English translation of what was originally written in German by Ute Kreis. Perhaps Baerbel Winkler can chime in? 

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  7. nigelj (and others interested in better understanding the report that is discussed in the Story of the Week),

    I recommend reading the Report. It is in English. And what I have read so far has not been difficult to read. Mind you it is a report on a topic I am passionate about. It is about promoting the need for climate action (mitigation and adaptation) to be done in ways that help achieve the SDGs (some climate actions are actually detrimental to achieving the SGDs).

    The link to the Report is at the end of the article. If you are not interested in reading the full report (164 pages) you can still get a good understanding by reading the Key Findings, Introduction, 'Boxes', and the opening parts of each section. There may also be bits that catch your attention if you skim the rest of the report.

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  8. "But that does not mean it is pointless to try to get more people to care to learn about the changes, especially the systemic ones, required to limit the harm done and develop sustainable improvements for humanity."

     Corruption will be the drag on needed changes beneficial to current and following generations. I see execution as the price of getting caught cheating the State, not the ruling elites. At least not where the two depart in sharing power.

    We're dealing with anti-science by powerful people and corporations. That's the first part. The second part becomes insidious and more powerful by magnitudes, by stealth. We know about politicians and lobbyists, corporate deception and denial, and revolving doors. More than any other form of corruption, though, I see intergenerational corruption as the most damaging to life on earth. 

    "Presumably, some social, political, and economic elites will try to capture the framing of climate policy in various fora at the expense of the less well-funded and well-connected. Similarly, we might see fairly overt intergenerational corruption: the twisting of climate policy to fit the perceived interests of the current generation at the expense of the future."

    Gardiner, Stephen M.. A Perfect Moral Storm (Environmental Ethics and Science Policy Series) (p. 305). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

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  9. EddieEvans @8,

    The link to the finds of the term "Corruption" in A Perfect Moral Storm is informative. But I would recommend that people should read the full book (I read it years ago). The main concern is "Moral Corruption". And that type of corruption occurs because of the temptation to focus on 'personal positives (benefits)' and evade learning about harm done (the negatives). That moral corruption is easier to tempt people into when the 'personal benefits are perceived to be significant (due to promotion of the positives)' and the harm done happens to people who have little ability to 'get back at the people harming them' (note that moral corruption is even easier to develop when the harm is done to non-human life).

    Indeed inter-generational harm done to other humans, and the related moral corruption, will be the hardest 'harm done to humans' to limit. But the 'physically remote' harm done to current day Others by morally corrupted regional populations and their leadership is also a very hard thing to limit the harm of. And, of course, when evidence of harm done is involved, the moral corruption of 'doubting that the harm is real or is a serious concern' can be very popular via 'simplistically questioning the science (especially when paired with promotion of the positives of the harmful beliefs and actions)' in an attempt to delay people learning about the the harm being done.

    You may be interested in reviewing the comments I have posted earlier on SkS regarding Stephen Gardiner's book. Search SkS comments for 'Gardiner'.

    The first comment I made on SkS regarding Gardiner was in April 2019, "Comment 7 on the SkS OP Protecting oil companies instead of the climate-vulnerable is elitist" . That comment also points to an enlightening, and still very relevant, 2012 SkS posting by Andy Skuce. And the comment string includes my early attempts to present the key points made by Gardiner.

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  10. EddieEvans,

    I think the simplest way to express the fundamental problem is the popularity of the belief in the 'Glory of Freedom of everyone to believe and do whatever they please/desire'.

    Transitioning to a society governed/limited by the pursuit of learning to be less harmful and more helpful to Others is the 'eternal' challenge. And it is a very challenging challenge.

    There is likely no lasting future for humanity on this amazing planet if that socioeconomic-political transition is not successfully achieved globally, the sooner the better.

    The Report "Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook 2023. The plausibility of a 1.5°C limit to global warming – Social drivers and physical processes; Cluster of Excellence Climate, Climatic Change, and Society (CLICCS)." is a helpful presentation of understanding focused on the need for 'systemic transition' to limit harm done.

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  11. One Planet Only Forever

    Wow! Great comment and I'm glad that I brought it up. On Amazon's page, a couple of reviews stand out; it would be helpful if your comments were shared there. I'll attach them to my blog for kicks. We must remind people that humanity generally carries intergenerational liabilities, deadly liabilities to life, and now intergenerational.

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  12. Well, I'm new here and I don't understand many of the "arguments" made by "some" of the contributors. There has never been a time in history when the wealthy have ever "rescued" the "proletariat". At the same time, an attack on the weathy (check: Marxist, especially Soviet or 20th Century Chinese history) didn't benefit the "poor". So it seems to me that any effort to escape the conditions leading to an uninhabitable planet might need to be made through mutual suffering, everyone will have to take their lumps.

    Some suggestions: ground all airplanes, set a date for outlawing the use of private fossil fuel vehicles, eliminate industrial animal agriculture, place a moratorium on the manufacture of cement, and diminish all forms of international trade that require any form of physical transport.

    That will cause all to suffer according to their own particular level of discomfort. The burden will be borne by everyone according to the "lifeboat principle" which burdens, yet saves everyone "on board".

    If I understand the science correctly, cutting emissions along with its collateral injury to the environment, the above actions are enough to reverse climate change, not just mitigate/adapt to it. We could then expect the ice to return, the Amazon and other jungles to reforest, the oceans' pH to rise, many extinctions to slow down, and the human population explosion to shift into reverse. Localism will be the central operating principle of this effort, as it was before the age of Mercantilism (cir 1,500) and the advent of Capitalism (1776). The historical evidence shows that humanity entered this quandary at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution which is why, I suspect, we now label this the "Anthropogenic"?

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  13. slumgullionridge @12... Paragraph1: Robespierre would like a word with you.

    Remaining aragraphs: No one is suggesting ending use of FF use before alternatives are in place. Hence the oft-used term "transition" from FF use.

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  14. Rob Honeycutt @13 ...I should report that perhaps no one else on this site, save self, are suggesting a Draconian solution, but serious conversations are taking place across the globe around this topic. Jared Diamond and others have pointed out that civilizations have collapsed for not doing what they clearly knew needed doing to avoid catastrophe. Dithering is a human weakness well understood by the wise, but the wise are seldom in charge. Transitioning would be nice, it's "scientific", but is usually met by the resistance of the masses, who winch at the idea that something other than their Lord God will save them. Then, of course, there are always the Lordless whose motives rely on global conquest, who can't be bothered with climate mitigation when such a prize as the entire planet looms in their vision.

    Already, the global ice is disappearing. That tipping point has been crossed. Transitioning will not remediate this loss because transitioning has already failed. We can't get back the species loss or speed up the AMOC, undo the acidification of the oceans which have already wiped out significant volumes of primary production, etc. So we need Draconian rather than Transitioning solutions in order to get out of trouble. Maybe someone can think up a few that are less Robespierre than mine.

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  15. "So we need Draconian rather than Transitioning solutions in order to get out of trouble. Maybe someone can think up a few less Robespierre than mine."

    I was there quite a while ago, long before I finally focused on the fossil fuel industry's deception, and then "took a deep dive" into climate and science. I reached draconian language on ecology as a critical science when answering the question, "Does biodiversity matter." Malthus may have been wrong about his philosophy in general, but he got the "geometrical growth right," as Darwin would see growth as a key to the struggle for life. I know that we typically use "exponential growth" these days. I see humanity making a big thud rather than smoothly sliding into a deranged future.

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  16. Sorry, but even "ground all airplanes, set a date for outlawing the use of private fossil fuel vehicles, eliminate industrial animal agriculture, place a moratorium on the manufacture of cement, and diminish all forms of international trade that require any form of physical transport."

    The rich and powerful will continue to march on paving over earth until they too bottom out. I'm watching CO2 ppm climb and people are arguing over bedroom ethics.

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  17. Eddie and Slum... Are you both aware that the 2°C limit is at least partially predicated on the fact that was how warm the Eemian interglacial got? There are reasonable assumptions that under 2°C the climate system would not set off feedbacks that send us toward far higher temps. There are also reasonable assumptions that the actions that are taking place can put us on a path to keep the earth at or below 2°C.

    The challenge before us (humanity) is truly massive. Yelling that the ship isn't turning fast enough doesn't change its direction. Real energy solutions do. Positive support for those solutions does. Barring the use of private jets does vitually nothing. Putting a price on carbon so that flying in those jets comes in line with the damages they impose, along with all other FF uses, does. 

    The technical solutions for successfully transitioning off of FF's are already here. They're continually being improved upon. Spreading rhetoric that the game is already lost is doing the bidding of the FF's industry, because when people believe all is lost they give up trying. And that's exactly what the FF's industry wants.

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  18. Everyone wanting to better understand the required ‘transition’ should read the Report that is discussed in the Story of the Week. That would help develop the awareness and understanding of the required transition to most effectively limit harm done and develop sustainable improvements.

    A key point is that ‘Social Transition (socioeconomic-political systemic change)’ is required. Technological transition without that systemic change is likely to be the most harmful pathway (the BAU case). ‘Climate problem solutions’ developed by the BAU socioeconomic-political system would be harmful in many ways. The harmfulness of the technological transition can be severe if the focus is on the perceived climate change harm done by energy use. Other harmful impacts of energy use could be ignored or excused.

    Reduced energy consumption, limited to ‘necessary consumption’, with a transition to less harmful energy systems, all harms considered (not just climate impacts), is the least harmful ‘solution pathway’. What has developed is significant ‘unnecessary energy use’. And a lot of harm reduction, not just climate impact harm, can be done almost immediately, and could have happened 30 years ago, without technological improvements. That significant, but essential, ‘social transition’ is required to limit the harm done to the future generations.

    The ‘resistance to reduced consumption and responsibly learning to be less harmful’ by many wealthier people, and people who aspire to be like them, through the past 30 years has created the current situation. The situation is now more harmful than it needed to be. Indeed, because the current situation is more harmful, the ‘responsible transition to limit the overshoot of 1.5 C impacts and bring impacts back below 1.5 C’ could involve changes that some current day people would see as ‘draconian reductions of their developed perceptions of success and limits on their opportunity for future perceptions of benefit’ (for some people, any external limitation of their freedom to believe and do as they please is Draconian).

    A related point is that the harm of 1.0 C of warming is significantly unacceptable. Arguing that 2.0 C warming will not produce significant risk of unstoppable feedback is an example of the problem of ‘promoting the positives to the detriment of consideration of the negatives’. It needs to be understood that an overshoot of the 1.5 C target is a serious problem that requires rapid correction to limit the harm done. It can be argued that future generations will make the required correction. But that argument is a harmful misleading systemic BAU ‘kicking the can down the road’ cycle-of-harm argument. It is understandably important to break the systemic cycle of ‘excusing harm done because of the opportunity for benefiting from being more harmful’.

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  19. People who prefer a more 'story-like' presentation may like the following more than the analytical detail presented in "Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook 2023. The plausibility of a 1.5°C limit to global warming – Social drivers and physical processes; Cluster of Excellence Climate, Climatic Change, and Society (CLICCS).":

    NPR Book Review: Greta Thunberg's 'The Climate Book' urges world to keep climate justice out front

    Keeping Climate Justice out front will increase the chances that Climate Actions taken are due to the required 'Social Transitions' referred to in the "Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook 2023...". Without the social transition and related climate justice any actions taken are unlikely to be sustainble improvements of the future of humanity regardless of how positively the perceived positives of the actions are promoted.

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  20. EddieEvans,

    Thanks for the words of encouragement in your comment @11.

    I plan to continue to be 'anonymous' on the internet. As an anonymous participant I have no copyright on the thoughts I share. I am still learning from others and I am happy to have others adopt aspects of what I share as part of their learning.

    I agree with your current understanding that significant social change is required to limit the harm done by misleading pursuers of personal benefit. Without that social change harm will continue to be done by pursuers of status and personal benefit. A 'technological transition' that appears to address the climate change problem could end up being like putting new wall-paper on the walls of a dwelling that is continuing to rot, be burned-out and be pest-infested, but the walls will look nicer - for a little while.

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  21. The Hamburg Outlook seems to agree with us, and the drive for technological fixes to humanity's stupidity will not stop what's in the pipeline. These seven social drivers remain stuck in ignorance, superstition, and greed.

    "Seven social drivers from the Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook 2023 - -

    The recent Hamburg outlook sounds grim enough for my take on the prospects for future generations. I just don't see a wake-up call any time soon. 

    climate-related regulation
    climate protests and social movements
    climate litigation
    fossil-fuel divestment
    knowledge production
    Corporate responses and consumption patterns continue to undermine the pathways to decarbonization. media remains ambivalent insofar as its dynamics. are volatile, both supporting and undermining decarbonization."

    I'll read the full pdf over the weekend. I think I need the reality check.

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  22. The Hamburg Report  - - It's in a social change pipeline, and it's not pretty.

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