Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Kevin Anderson Hits the Target About Academics "Running Scared"

Kevin Anderson is to some global leaders and many academics what Tiresias was to King Oedipus in the Noble Prize Summit -- OUR PLANET, OUR FUTURE April 27 performed by Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Frankie Faison, David Strathairn, Corey Hawkins, and Nobel Prize-winning scientists, including Elizabeth Blackburn and Harold Varmus among others. In another performance of Sophocles' Greek tragedy, starring Michael Pennington & Claire Bloom, Tiresias says, "You compel me to speak. [ . . . . ] You are the man, the unclean thing [causing the plague . . . .]"  There are obvious differences in that Anderson, a previous Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, is a top climate scientist relying on best available data to warn about effects of a possible 4 C [above 1850 preindustrial baseline] Earth, while Tiresias uses intuition to warn about the continuing plague in Thebes until Oedipus accepts responsibility. The suffering is similar in that possibly 4 billion humans, or more, face early death in a 4 C world, that may, or may not, happen depending on action primarily among top CO2 emitting citizens of Earth, and historically top CO2 emitting nations of the U. S., China, India, Russia, and Japan. 

Anderson, in a May 13, 2021 interview by Dan Miller (posted May 23, 2021), makes several excellent points. When I watched his interview May 24, it had 84 views. Based on Anderson's integrity (he hasn't used an airplane since 2004), clarity, and honesty, it deserves 84 million views. For example, the interview notes he took an 11-day train trip to China, one way, instead of boarding a plane when he was required to attend a ceremony as Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. It reminded me of when my students said "We know you wrote books about climate change, but what else have you done?"

In the Anderson interview, starting at 11:07 on the timeline, he says about the Paris Climate Agreement, "So it then talks about the sort of levels of emissions that need to be achieved at certain times during the century, take 2030 and 2050, but in doing that it is sort of hiding the fact that it is relying on huge amounts of [ . . . ] negative emissions technologies, or carbon dioxide removal, actually some way that we can remove carbon dioxide. [ . . . ] When I say 'we,' [ . . . ] I mean our children and our children's children. So we're already passing that burden to another generation. Can remove huge quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the future, and that allows us to [ . .  ] paint a relatively politically palatable picture for the nearer term [ . . . . ] That part is highly misleading. [ . . . . ]  But actually, if you played out the temperature thresholds themselves, and [ . . . ] were not to rely rather on our children deploying these huge numbers of technologies in the future, then the political challenge is an order of magnitude different than what most people would interpret from the Paris Agreement."  

At 18:50 on the timeline, he continues, "There are no non-radical futures. The future is radically different to the present either because we make huge rapid shifts in reducing our emissions with profound shifts in our society or we hang on to the status quo for a few more years while we lock in huge impacts from climate change. [ . . . . ] The climate doesn't respond to targets. The climate only responds to less CO2 emissions, and other GHGs [Greenhouse gases]. [ . . . . ] If you assume there is an increased number of commitments after 2030, but not the dramatic levels that would be necessary, then I think it's fair to say that the [Paris Climate Agreement] NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions] are somewhere between 3 to 4 degrees centigrade of warming [above 1850 preindustrial baseline] so a different planet [ . . . . ] It's occurring so quickly [to a 4 C rise] that human systems, ecological systems, can not evolve that rapidly in any sort of stable form so [ . . . ] you could not adapt to that level of change and still hold a moderately organized civilized, if we are civilized, [society . . . ] You couldn't live in the sort of reasonable levels of security that we have today. [ . . . . ] And it also wouldn't be stable so you wouldn't be stopping at 4 degrees centigrade. [ . . . . ] I regularly say in talks that I would like to see significant funding of negative emissions technologies, and some of the other carbon dioxide removal techniques, and deployment of them if they meet strict stringent sustainability and equity criteria. But to rely on those, rather than actually reducing our emissions today, that is the moral hazard. [ . . . . ] It's the reliance on these [carbon capture] technologies being deployed at global scale. [ . . . . ] If you look at most of the scenarios that are informing governments on reducing emissions, and if you look at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group Three, [ . . . and] if you look at all the scenarios in the IPCC, virtually every single one of them, they're awash with some sort of way of removing huge quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the future at a scale that is not that dissimilar to the size of the current oil and gas industry. [ . . . .]" 

Two nights ago I watched Merchants of Doubt, one of Anderson's favorite films, which complements my note two posts below about evidence "fossil fuel companies have known this [climate distaster] would happen since 1959." While fossil fuel companies are primarily responsible, Anderson makes it clear some cowardly global leaders, and many cowardly academics are also to blame. Specifically, a June 16, 2020 press release about a paper led by Anderson in the journal Climate Policy noted he "draws a damning conclusion from the research: 'Academics have done an excellent job in understanding and communicating climate science, but the same cannot be said in relation to reducing emissions. Here we have collectively denied the necessary scale of mitigation, running scared of calling for fundamental changes to both our energy system and the lifestyles of high-energy users. Our paper brings this failure into sharp focus.'” Bull's-eye. 

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