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Red alert: Runaway climate change begins as glacier melt passes point of no return

This latest news immediately brings some questions to mind: Does this mean that we should stop working toward mitigating climate change? Should we stop worrying and enjoy mindlessly by indulging ourselves in senseless consumerism? I really don’t know. But what I definitely know is that the window of opportunity to act is closing really fast.

Mihir Mathur, Mihir’s Musings

I read this news article just now, titled World glacier melting passes point of no return: study, and this prompted me to write this post.

My mentor Sushil Bajpai had introduced me to this concept of climate tipping points by explaining the reinforcing processes present in the Earth’s climate system. (more could be found here) Back then (it was year 2009 I think) listening to this gave me a feeling of Apocalypse. Then I saw James Hansen’s paper and it seemed like there were some people who were highlighting the warning signs and the science behind the warning. You can learn more by going through books on this subject, for eg. Hansen’s own Storms of My Grandchildren, and Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas.

The news article I mentioned above suggests that even if humanity reduced emissions to keep the temperature rise to well below 2 C or 1.5 C, the glaciers would continue to melt over the coming century and beyond. It asserts that “Around 36 percent of the ice still stored in glaciers today would melt even without further emissions of greenhouse gases”.

Here are some questions that immediately come to mind: “Does this mean that we should stop working toward mitigating climate change?”, “Should we stop worrying and enjoy mindlessly by indulging ourselves in senseless consumerism?” I don’t know. Maybe, not yet. But what I definitely know is that the window of opportunity to act is closing really fast.

Incidentally, a district 100 kms away from Pune recorded 40 C on 23rd Feb 2018 (read article). This is not a common phenomena, but it could get more common as we head into a warm and uncertain future.

I think the question that I would like to ask myself and to everyone is “Are current mitigation efforts proving to be enough? Should we seriously consider adapting to climate change and begin the process of redesigning our cities, economies and lifestyles?”

The earlier we begin the farther we can sustain.


World glacier melting passes point of no return: study

Deccan Herald

The further melting of glaciers worldwide cannot be prevented in the current century – even if all the emissions are curtailed, a study has found.

However, due to the slow reaction of glaciers to climate change, human activity will have a massive impact beyond the 21st century, according to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In the long run, 500 metres by car with a mid-range vehicle will cost one kilogramme of glacier ice, researchers said.

In the Paris Agreement, 195 member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to limit the rise in global average temperature to significantly below two degrees Celsius.

Researchers at The University of Bremen in Germany and the University of Innsbruck in Austria calculated the effects of compliance with these climate goals on the progressive melting of glaciers.

“Melting glaciers have a huge influence on the development of sea level rise,” said Georg Kaser from the University of Innsbruck.

“In our calculations, we took into account all glaciers worldwide – without the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and peripheral glaciers – and modelled them in various climate scenarios,” said Kaser.

One kilogramme of CO2 emitted costs 15 kilogrammes of glacier ice, said, researchers.

Whether the average temperature rises by 2 or only 1.5 degrees Celsius makes no significant difference for the development of glacier mass loss over the next 100 years, they said.

“Around 36 percent of the ice still stored in glaciers today would melt even without further emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Ben Marzeion, also from the University of Innsbruck.

“That means more than a third of the glacier ice that still exists today in mountain glaciers can no longer be saved, even with the most ambitious measures,” said Marzeion.

However, looking beyond the current century, it does make a difference whether the 2 or 1.5 degrees Celsius goal is achieved, researchers said.


With climate change, winning slowly is the same as losing
Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone Magazine
“This may take a while, but we’re going to win.” This is true about most political fights, but not for climate change. If we don’t win very quickly on climate change, then we will never win. That’s the core truth. It’s what makes climate change different from every other problem our political systems have faced.

It’s time to declare war on climate change
Bill McKibben, New Republic
Unlike Adolph Hitler, the last force to pose a planetwide threat to civilization, our enemy today is neither sentient nor evil. But before the outbreak of World War II, the world’s leaders committed precisely the same mistake we are making today—they tried first to ignore their foe, and then to appease him.

The Year Climate Change Began to Spin Out of Control
Technology Review
For decades, scientists have warned that climate change would make extreme events like droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires more frequent, more devastating, or both. In 2017, we got an up-close look at the raw ferocity of such an altered world as high-category hurricanes battered the East and Gulf coasts, and wind-whipped fires scorched the West. We’re also seeing with greater clarity how these dangers are interlinked, building upon one another toward perilous climate tipping points. And yet for all the growing risks, and the decades we’ve had to confront them, we have yet to address the problem in a meaningful way

How India’s battle with climate change could determine the planet’s fate
The Guardian
Of all the most polluting nations –United States, China, Russia, Japan and the EU bloc– only India’s carbon emissions are rising: they rose almost 5% in 2016. India’s population and emissions are rising fast, and its ability to tackle poverty without massive fossil fuel use will decide the fate of the planet.

Viral essay: The Uninhabitable Earth
David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine
It is not often that an article about climate change becomes the most hotly debated item on the internet. But David Wallace-Wells’ lengthy essay published in New York Magazine did exactly that. The full text of the essay –admittedly a worst-case scenario- which has kicked up a firestorm of debate online, along with selected responses.


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