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A NEW STORY? October 8, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in CLIMATE CHANGE.

The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.”

Thomas Berry

That is the situation that humankind faces. We are confronted by catastrophic climate change. At first, as is happening, for the ecosystem, for other species, and then each of us.

Thomas Berry – as far as I know – does not say this- our stories are our systems. These systems, and our understanding of them, preordains our actions. Is the story may inadequate to meet the needs of our present situation. Can, and must, all human beings at this time share the same story?

The IPCC has recently presented the updated version of the scientific story. I detect a subtext of frustration of the disconnect in the story of what is, and what ought to be done. According to Thomas Berry this frustration results not because scientists are inarticulate – at least in relating to the popular mind – or that they must take into account uncertainties and partial understandings of a dynamic set of inter-relationships and interactions that apply in the throes of system change, or that they have to indirectly with the deviousness of public relations which subsumes public good to private interest with the creation of scapegoats, but which is a result of the way in which the story of science has culturally framed. The problem by this interpretation is that science is not a religion. It does not “bind back into the Cosmos” in way that would make sense of natural communities, human communities and human consciousness as integral to the story. The story in this sense is how and why you put the clock together, rather than how to take it apart. It is the creative process, not the destructive process. Thomas Berry speaks of “time determining process” in contrast to the dominant “spacial” consciousness.

It is not that I could be a reliable commentator on these matters, but rather to call into question my assumption that we should agree to start with the science. If we were to do that the Fifth Assessment Report of the Working Group One of the IPCC might be the place. It seems to have been extensive and thorough process. The following is highlighted in the summary:

    • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
    • Atmosphere:   Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850 (see Figure SPM.1). In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence).  (The last thirty years has become successively warmer[ reflected by recorded temperatures.})
    • Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010 (see Figure SPM.3), and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.
    • Cyrosphere:  Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence).
      • Sea Level:  The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19.
      •  Carbon Cycle and other Biochemical Processes:   The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification.
    • Drivers of Climate Change:   Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750.
    • Climate System Change:  Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.
    • Climate Models:  Climate models have improved since the AR4. Models reproduce observed continental-scale surface temperature patterns and trends over many decades, including the more rapid warming since the mid-20th century and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions (very high confidence).
    • Quantification of Climate System Responses:  Observational and model studies of temperature change, climate feedbacks and changes in the Earth’s energy budget together provide confidence in the magnitude of global warming in response to past and future forcing.
    • Detection and Attribution of Climate Change:   Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes (Figure SPM.6 and Table SPM.1). This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
    • Future Climate Change:  Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Atmosphere:  Temperature:Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 for all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. It is likely to exceed 2°C for RCP6.0 and RCP8.5, and more likely than not to exceed 2°C for RCP4.5. Warming will continue beyond 2100 under all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. Warming will continue to exhibit interannual-to-decadal
      variability and will not be regionally uniform.
    • Atmosphere:  Water:Changes in the global water cycle in response to the warming over the 21st century will not be uniform. The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase, although there may be regional exceptions.
    • Oceans: The global ocean will continue to warm during the 21st century. Heat will penetrate from the surface to the deep ocean and affect ocean circulation.
    • Cyrosphere: It is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease.
    • Sea Level:  Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century (see Figure SPM.9). Under all RCP scenarios the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971–2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets.
    • Carbon and other Biochemical Cycles: Climate change will affect carbon cycle processes in a way that will exacerbate the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (high confidence). Further uptake of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification.
    • The Runaway Train of Climate Change: Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond (see Figure SPM.10). Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.

The last heading is gratuitous, non -official editorial comment. There are many other summaries available.

Questions related to sensitivity,  broadly the heat radiated from the Earth’s surface and captured by greenhouse gases, including Carbon Dioxide is part of what is referred to as Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios (RCP scenarios as noted above). Skeptical Science has two related posts:  “The Economist Screws Up on the Draft IPCC Report and Climate Sensitivity” and “A Glimpse of Our Possible Future Climate: Best to Worst Case Scenarios”.

Something are purely scientific questions that ought to be settled, if on the basis of probabilities, by the research. For example it is suggested that major influences on the climate in descending order of significance are solar irradiation and effect on cloud formation , long term ocean cycles and climate sensitivity. If this order is changed the explanation for climate change is transformed.

Professor Jennifer Francis presentation suggests a system change analogy to a deck of cards and explains the role of  the Jet Stream on the extreme weather events in the Northern Hemisphere:

All of which, begs the question as to how human beings and the systems they live in got themselves into this pickle, assuming they are the agency responsible  for clearing land and releasing gases and particular matter into the atmosphere.

Maybe we  human beings have become crazy as to be lacking introspection. Theodore Roszak was more diplomatic:

I always considered that the Cosmos was indifferent to human vanity. Of course, the enemy is our story. Yet, it need not be so.



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