Talking about the unthinkable: we’re going to overshoot planetary boundaries. Discuss.

It’s time – to begin the conversation we’ve avoided; the discussion that sensible communicators condemn; to end the self-imposed censorship; that which cannot be said must be spoken; we will overshoot planetary boundaries; we have ushered  in a new geologic age.

De rerum natura;

We will overshoot the 2 degree limit.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown

Average temperatures may rise by 5c by century’s end.

No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood

We’re seeing a rapid escalation in extreme weather events.

I sat upon the shore; Fishing, with the arid plain behind me

Food and water security will be compromised.

The real world is outrunning our models

Sea level rise may increase by 2-3 feet by 2100.

Climate change is an engineering problem

More people will die over the coming century then should.

A problem from Hell

Our media report climate catastrophes as isolated incidents – a typhoon off the coast of China; a drought in the US; the Arctic’s death spiral.

– a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun

Note: why write this, and not a blog post or essay? Because I believe enough has been said by too many people, both well intentioned and by those wishing to deceive. Because we have talked ourselves into catastrophe. And now that we are here, it is time to discuss the geography of this brave new world. There needs to be a different conversation: the one about the world of 2 degrees+.  

Don’t fret readers, WtD will not turn into a platform for bad poetry – normal blogging services will resume. I could think of no other way to say: “Stop messaging, and start truth telling”.  


3 thoughts on “Talking about the unthinkable: we’re going to overshoot planetary boundaries. Discuss.

  1. john byatt says:

    What the fuck will it take Mike? When the lowest Arctic ice mass since civilization is reported on page six of our newspaper ( today ) in thirty words and the headline news is some chick entering a beauty contest I think we may be fighting a losing battle, but fight we will

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      John, I agree totally with your sentiments. Indeed, this is why a little more colourful language has slipped into my posts. But yes – fight we will.

      “News at 6, world ending tomorrow. But coming up, Lady Ga Ga’s new album”

  2. Sundance says:

    Change is coming. Based on several scientific studies using several proxies it is evident that the Arctic was ice free in summer often in the early and mid Holocene. Here’s one such study from the AGU.

    During the LIG it was even warmer and the Greenland Summit contained around 500 meters less ice than the Greenland Summit today. Sea level was roughly 80 feet higher than today.

    “Paleorecords indicate much warmer Arctic
    summers during the LIG. Storm beaches and
    ancient barrier islands with extralimitalmollusks
    of LIG age indicate that the open water north of
    Alaska wasmore extensive and lasted seasonally
    longer (7). Boreal forest communities expanded
    poleward by as much as 600 to 1000 km in
    Russia (8), reaching the coast everywhere
    except in Alaska (9) and central Canada. Total
    gas evidence from LIG ice in the Greenland Ice
    Core Project (GRIP) ice core indicates that the
    Summit region remained ice-covered, although
    possibly up to È500 m lower than the ice level
    at present, at some time in the LIG (10). In
    contrast, basal ice at Dye-3 (southern Greenland),
    in the Agassiz, Devon, and Meighen ice
    caps in the Canadian Arctic, and possibly in
    Camp Century (northwest Greenland), suggest
    that these drill sites were ice-free during the
    LIG (10, 11). The increased presence of vegetation
    over southern Greenland is reconstructed
    from plant macrofossils (12) and fern spores
    (13). Elsewhere; pollen, insects, marine plankton,
    and other proxies document the magnitude
    of LIG summer warmth across the Arctic (14).”

    I think we are already at the point where we are headed for a future similar to the LIG outlined above and it is unavoidable. The Chinese are nearing 30% of global CO2 emissions and adding 1.4Gt/yr. of CO2 based on EIA data and will represent 50% of the global emissions by 2020 based on current trend. A look at domestic and imported coal growth trends in China reveals that growth charts for both look like a hockey stick and solidifies China’s committment to coal as a major source of energy. I think that adaptation and/or geoengineering are the only options as there is no mechanism that allows for rapid CO2 reduction that I am aware of.

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