by Andrew Glikson

As the emission of greenhouse gases continues, new fossil fuel projects are subsidized, global warming accelerates, bushfires and floods engulf the planet, climate science is ignored, climate change projections are kept away from the public eye, nations invest in killer submarines rather than water spraying aircraft and other fire-fighting equipment, politicians talk about clean coal, radioactive waters are spilled into the ocean, nuclear weapons are readied for a MAD scenario, the media reports sugar-coated semi or untruths, politicians routinely betray their original pledges and playboy billionaires fire rockets at space with plans to settle on Mars.

Inherent in the nature of insanity is the fact that those inflicted by it are unaware of their mental state, nor are crowds of people or for that matter political parties, and business elites, leading populations to catastrophe, from the scale of Jonestown all the way to Auschwitz and Berlin to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Which has now reached a planet-wide scale. According to NASA former chief climate scientist James Hansen, the global temperature in the current El Niño is exceeding the previous El-Niño (2015-16) temperature rise rate of 0.18°C per decade, reflecting the current increase of the Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI) and accelerated heating. The change is in part due to reductions of the cooling effect of human-emitted aerosols (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. Global temperature (relative to 1880-1920 mean for each month) during the El Niño origin year for the 1997-98, 2015-16 and 2023-24 El Niños. The impact of El Niño on global temperature usually peaks early in the year following the year when the El Niño originated. Hansen et al., 2023.

Despite consequent acidification of the oceans, atmospheric geoengineering using sulphur aerosols, reflecting solar radiation, is touted as a last defence from extreme temperature rise. To date, no effective method has been applied to a drawdown of greenhouse gases on a scale required to compensate for the emissions and rise in atmospheric CO₂ (Figure 2). 

Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions have started to grow again, following minor Covid lockdown-related reductions in 2020 (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions 2000-2022, adapted from EIA.
A rise to a mean global temperature to 3°C and 4°C this century is projected by the IPCC. Possibly even before such temperatures are reached, the flow of cold ice melt water from Greenland and Antarctica could lead to transient regional to global temperature reversals (Hansen et al., 1998; Bronselaer et al. 2018). These authors state: “Meltwater from the Antarctic Ice Sheet is projected to cause up to one metre of sea-level rise by 2100 under the highest greenhouse gas concentration trajectory (RCP8.5) considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, the effects of meltwater from the ice sheets and ice shelves of Antarctica are not included in the widely used CMIP5 climate models, which introduces bias into IPCC climate projections.” (Figure 4)
Figure 4. (a) Model surface air temperature (°C) change in 2055–2060 relative to 1880–1920 for modified
             forcings representint the rise of temperatures in the tropics and decline in subpolar latitudes.
           (b) Surface air temperature (°C) relative to 1880-1920 for several ice melt scenarios, representing stadial
        (cooling) episodes related to the effects of ice melt (Hansen et al., 2016) and associated changes.

According to Hansen et al. (2012) “Burning all fossil fuels would create a different planet than the one that humanity knows. The paleoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes”.

The habitability of Earth and the future of life are issues that are to a large extent avoided by the largely privately-owned corporate media and even by state media, occupied as they are by advertisements, sports contests, fashion parades, cooking shows and popular frenzies such as recently generated by the kissing of a football cup winner.

Is there a way out for humanity and much of nature?

If the multiple $trillions spent by Sapiens on the military and war were directed to environmental defence, including drawdown of atmospheric greenhouse gases, the possibility exists?

A/Prof. Andrew Y Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist

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