I attended the National Climate Emergency Summit 2020 at Melbourne Town Hall 14-15 February. ( #NCES2020 ) It is all about declaring a global climate emergency.
The summit was pre-sold out, and massively attended. All the main stage sessions were live streamed, so the total live audience, was much larger still. For later reference, I hope that recordings of the sessions will be soon be available online. The parallel break out sessions will be made available as podcasts. I felt thoroughly brain smashed by 2 days of intense watching and listening, despite having a long interest in these issues. It is only 2 days later of sleep recovery and processing that I feel able to start writing about it. There were many interesting themes and threads to follow.
The worth of the conference includes being able to see together so many people that have a common view our climate emergency and urgency. The people who still need to publicly recognise our dire global and national climate emergency were not at the conference. What a wasted opportunity, as they could all have learned so much, since Australia urgently needs to set about reorganising our energy, economic, social and governance systems. We need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over the next 10 years. Forget about our economy, as it will be stuffed if we don't do it.
Independent MP Zali Steggel has arranged to test our federal parliament weirdness enclosure with a proposed bill to put climate change back in a central place in government where it belongs. This is set to be debated by March 23rd, and a "Climate Act Web Site" is available to register support, and push electoral pressure by writing to your MP. It won't happen without massive public pressure. A link to this is placed at the top of ParraCAN's front page. Response to this bill should sort out which of our MPs are aligned to foreign fossil fuel interests, if you don't already know.
No doubt many Federal and State MPs are actively plotting their next fossil fool actions to resist notions of a climate emergency. News items have noted some groups of MPs attend regular and emergency coal summits in expensive restaurants, with their "Minerals Councils" lobbyists, who are also funded by Australian taxpayers. Both sides of politics produce climate policies that require regular amounts of wine - assisted brainwashing. Both sides of traditional politics have similar variations of mining policy that are set out by the "Minerals Councils". All support expansion of coal and gas mining for their wealth foreign corporate party donations, and key bribed careerist MPs expect excellent corporate retirement job packages afterwards. Both traditional parties oppose meaningful and effective forms of Federal ICAC.
No lavish catering was expected or available at the #NCES2020. Young volunteers wearing T-shirts had to make their own lunch and refreshment arrangements.
Failure of governance in Australia for the climate change crisis, is a hot issue, and so far only the leading local councils in Australia have shown how they are able to declare a climate emergency. Darabin council was the first in 2016. We had some presentations by these leaders. All of our governments need to consider decent climate emergency response models and plans for what they need to do in future.
A repeated idea was that "climate emergency" should be thought of in terms of being a mobilisation of defensive resources for rescue services, rather than as civil response of gearing up for offensive destruction during international war. Our National security is under attack now, and future ongoing climate change form escalating dire threats, and our systems adaptation ability has already been demonstrated to be poor. We cannot cope with with costs to nature and economics - of global heating amplified droughts, bushfires, floods and heat waves. We cannot afford the constant rebuilding and repair costs. Climate impacted parts of society are collapsing.
I am going to try and review some of the details of many presentations of the summit in later articles, and I hope to see recordings available online soon.
I am going to try to refer to "Systems Science" concepts, in later articles. Systems science is a broad way of organising our understanding, for many general applications. Nearly everything, is part of a system, or contains sub-systems. Our fossil fuel civilisation has become the major change actor in our global web of complex systems. Systems science understanding makes explicit how strong feedbacks must happen. Political ignorance, of the feedback relationships with our global systems makes our governments dangerous system hazards. Bad behaviour for our parts, implies bad models of systems are being used by us as principle actors, or that our governments and corporations are hiding some deliberately harmful goals and values.
The very best models of our global climate systems, and their earth systems interactions, are provided by climate scientists. Climate science tells us that we should have, to save ourselves, as a systems goal, everywhere, to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% over the next 10 years. This means in Australia as well. Paris climate coals of near zero emissions by 2050, cannot otherwise be achieved. Our most important goal is 2030, not 2050, because then politicians currently in power have to act now, and to act properly, they need to declare a climate emergency right now, instead of "kicking the can down the road again".
Exxon-Mobil decided upon our global heating path in the 1980's and then lied about it
Global heating as a consequence of fossil burning was predicted by Exxon-Mobil scientists. Their own internal documents have details and predictions of the CO2 Greenhouse Effect, based on up-to-date science, and were distributed internally.
Dr Michael Mann displayed a slide at the summit, showing that global climate CO2 and temperatures now achieved, were closely predicted in reports by Exxon Mobil scientists in 1982. Despite a wide band of assigned measurement uncertainty in timing, understanding of global climate systems was essentially complete by then. In particular Exxon Mobil had a clear conception of how they would increase extraction and burning of their energy products, and contribute to the predicted global CO2 impact, in their long range "energy outlook", to produce the predicted temperature outcomes.
From this document, 2 figures stand out.
There are big differences between a conventional thinking about "uncertainty" and the scientific qualification of uncertainty. The above graphs show, that climate change, as evolution of our climate systems, from greenhouse gas additions, was predicted as a sure thing. Perhaps the documented climate systems delay of around 20 years between added CO2 gases and start of noticeable temperature effects , was also an excuse for delay.
The Exxon-Mobil report says it is for Exxon-Mobil personnel only, and not to be distributed externally. Significant funds were disbursed by Exxon-Mobil for the external distribution of climate change denial disinformation. It is the latter sorts of "opinions" which are delivered to politicians by fossil-fuel lobbyists and industry-close advisors.
There is a suggestion from the 2nd figure taken from this old internal report, that after 2050, the rate of global heating somehow slows down. Maybe Exxon-Mobil imagined a downturn in fossil-fuel consumption, with resource-depletion, or economic collapse. Later climate science considerations point to a much darker sort of climate future. The models that Exxon Mobil used were but the simplest projections using the fewest system parameters that were easiest to calculate. Multitudes of studies done since, including studies derived from past earth systems climates. Many of these suggest their are existential risks for civilisation lurking ahead. There will be at least 3-5 deg C warming if no rapid mitigation, by the end of this century. There is evidence of several heating accelerators and system tipping points, that take earth systems into catastrophic warming, way past any capability for adaptation we may think we have.
When we look at our institutions, including the IPCC itself, there is evidence that our climate risk assessment systems are themselves faulty. Much of our complacency comes from our systems incorporating human bias, that avoid perceptions of risk. These failures of risk assessment are outlined in this online breakthrough report "What Lies Beneath". Hard copies were handed out for free at the summit.
Just to show how hard the emissions reduction task is, for the first 50% reduction in 10 years, a simple exponential reduction model is about 6.7% emissions reduction every year. A large initial planning and investment is required. The first half of emissions reduction is by far the easiest, as cab be done by existing renewable energy techonologies to replace and enhance stationary electricity and storage systems for both energy and transportation sectors. The Australian Capital Territory has been advantaged by moving to 100% renewable grid energy outright, and is progressing on the harder reductions. South Australia has a good head start over all the other Australian states.
As far as the Climate Act Now bill goes, the closest to Now is in fact the next 10 years, and targets after this are meaningless. Zero emissions by 2050 are not a target for politicians currently in power. Worse still, the CO2 already put into the sky and oceans has to be pulled back out of our earth systems, towards the safe climate target of 300 parts per million, to be compatible with the Holocene climate of our pre-industrial age. Zero emissions isn't enough any more, to go back to a safe climate.
If we don't stop our own cooking,
by fat climate tails we will fry.
Don't look ahead in our driving,
it feels much safer until we die,
By the time we know for sure,
hot certainty will be too late.
Denied our chances for a cure,
hot earth will sear our fate.
Consume and grow ever the fastest,
with fear of missing out the latest.
Whatever our systems of sciences said,
evolution of knowledge was poorly paid.
Rather than give up our ambition,
we prefer basic superstition.
Sacrifice our last generation,
on the altar of civilisation.