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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Climate change: Driving straight into catastrophe

Air pollution in Beijing, China.
by Julio Godoy, desdemonadespair, January 24, 2011
PARIS (IPS) - Despite repeated warnings by environmental and climate experts that reduction of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is fundamental to forestalling global warming, disaster appears imminent. According to the latest statistics, unprecedented climate change has Earth hurtling down a path of catastrophic proportions.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the global consumption of primary energy in 2010 reached some 500 exajoules (EJ), a number just under the worst-case scenario formulated ten years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, published in 2000, calculated the worst-case scenario as 525 EJ consumed in one calendar year.
The IEA found that coal was one of the largest sources of energy consumed in 2010, comprising approximately 27 percent of the total energy consumption. Coal, one of the cheapest sources of energy, is considered the filthiest of all, as far as greenhouse gases emissions (GHGE) are concerned.
Correspondingly, the global GHGE, measured as equivalent to carbon dioxide, reached at least 32 billion tonnes last year, only one step below the most pessimistic scenario imagined by the IPCC in 2000: 33 billion tonnes of CO2.
The results for 2010 were conditioned by the present global economic crisis – meaning that under normal economic circumstances, the numbers would have been higher. In other words, total consumption of energy in 2010 would have been worse than the most pessimistic scenario the IPCC formulated ten years ago had the global economy been in better shape.
These findings have prompted leading environmental experts to warn that humankind is racing towards destruction.
"The year 2010 was the hottest ever measured since the beginning of the recordings, 130 years ago," Anders Levermann, professor of climate system dynamics at the Physics Institute of the Potsdam University told IPS. …
Levermann explained that, contrary to appearance, the arctic winter in Western Europe is just another negative consequence of climate change.
"Global warming is melting the ice in the Kara Sea, in the Arctic Ocean," he explained. "This leads to a high pressure area above Siberia, which drives extremely cold winds towards Europe."
Levermann pointed out that the extreme global weather conditions experienced in 2010 -- very cold weather in Western Europe during the winter, massive floods in Pakistan and Australia, extremely hot summers in Russia and Western Europe -- illustrate the limits of even the most expert climate predictions.
"The more greenhouse gases we emit, the more the global climate gets out of control," Levermann said. "But the weather extremes that we cannot predict, such as the floods in Pakistan and Australia and the fires in Russia, are the ones that set the limits to human life." …
Levermann compared the consequences of global warming to a wall hidden in fog. "We cannot see the wall, but it is there. And we are driving at the highest possible speed towards it."

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