By NOAA/NASA: Annual Report: 2016 was 3rd Successive Record-Warm Year

noaa-nasa-global-analysis-2016

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/noaa-nasa_global_analysis-2016.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/18/2016-hottest-year-ever-recorded-and-scientists-say-human-activity-to-blame

2016 was the hottest year on record, setting a new high for the third year in a row, with scientists firmly putting the blame on human activities that drive climate change.

Direct temperature measurements stretch back to 1880, but scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years.

Arctic ice melt is ‘already affecting weather patterns where you live right now’.

In 2016, global warming delivered scorching temperatures around the world. The resulting extreme weather means the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected, according to scientists.

The natural El Niño climate phenomenon, which helped ramp up temperatures to “shocking” levels in early 2016, has now waned, but carbon emissions were the major factor and will continue to drive rising heat.

Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said: “El Niño was a factor this year, but both 2015 and 2016 would have been records even without it.” He said about 90% of the warming signal in 2016 was due to rising greenhouse gas emissions. He expects 2017 to be another extremely hot year.

The new data shows the Earth has now risen about 1.1C above the levels seen before the industrial revolution, when large-scale fossil fuel burning began. This brings it perilously close to the 1.5C target included as an aim of the global climate agreement signed in Paris in December 2015.

Noaa also found Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest annual average extent on record and Antarctic sea ice to the second smallest extent on record. The warming in the Arctic in 2016 was “astounding”, Schmidt said.

How many more years of records before scientists break through their inherited denial and admit we are spinning out of control?

By Alex Smith: Radio Ecoshock interview with Ajit Varki

ajit-varki

I am a fan of Ajit Varki and his revolutionary theory that explains the singular emergence of a species with an extended theory of mind, the uniqueness of humans, as well as human optimism bias and denial of reality.

I consider Varki’s theory to be of similar importance to Darwin’s theory.

Radio Ecoshock is the best (and maybe only) weekly podcast that interviews experts on climate change and related issues. I suggested to the host, Alex Smith, that he interview Ajit Varki because I think it is important that we try to awaken our society from its deep state of denial on many important issues.

I am very pleased to report that Alex Smith interviewed Ajit Varki this week.

Congratulations and thanks to both Alex Smith and Ajit Varki for a fabulous interview that is even better than I had hoped for.

Alex Smith said to me:

“The man’s a genius. In addition to being one of America’s top medical researchers, he’s totally aware of the climate threat.”

As of this writing, I am the only amateur enthusiast of Varki’s theory on the planet that I am aware of. I’m hoping this interview might locate a few companions.

Here is the interview with Ajit Varki and an excellent essay by Alex Smith introducing it:

http://www.ecoshock.org/2017/01/climate-denial-is-human.html

Darwin vs. Varki

Darwin
– explains the creation of life by evolution
– redefines God from creator of life to creator of consciousness

Varki
– builds on Darwin’s theory to explain the singular emergence of an intelligent social species with an extended theory of mind
– explains the uniqueness of humans
– explains the success of humans
– explains human belief in life after death
– explains human optimism bias, and denial of overshoot and other unpleasant realities
– suggests similar or higher intelligence is rare and fleeting in the universe
– redefines God from creator of consciousness to genetic mutation

You know you are in trouble when…

Examples of denial are both profound and unacknowledged.

The short-term solution to our problems is the long-term cause of our problems: economic growth

The long-term solution to our problems is the short-term cause of our problems: reduced consumption

All political parties in all countries and almost all citizens, including the few citizens that understand our predicament, reject our best course of action: austerity

Most citizens have no idea how fortunate they are to be alive at this point in history: A Guide to Being Human in the 21st Century

The only problems society does not acknowledge, or discuss, or act on, are the only problems that matter: species extinction, limits to growth, debt, peak oil, overshoot, resource depletion, climate change, sea level rise, fisheries collapse & ocean acidification, nitrogen imbalance & tree decline 

There is evidence that feedback loops are taking over and causing some problems to go exponential: climate change, CO2 emissions, ice loss, sea level rise, debt

The previous year’s worst case predictions are tending to become this year’s most likely prediction: sea level rise

Actions that improve the long-term worsen the short-term: air pollution masks 0.5C of warming, austerity and debt reduction, renewable energy, population reduction 

The only possible permanent solution is rejected by the belief systems of 90+% of citizens: population reduction

The only possible permanent solution is too slow to avoid the worst problems: population reduction laws

Countries fortunate to have a low birth rate often cancel their good fortune with immigration: Canada

Citizens have wildly different beliefs about our predicament: there is no problem; there is a problem but it’s not caused by humans; I don’t want to think about it; technology will save us; it’s in the hands of God; I’ve already done enough; someone else needs to do something first; my actions won’t make a difference; someone else will consume whatever I give up; it’s too late to do anything

Despite wildly different beliefs about our predicament, there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on: I don’t want to change my behavior

The few people who understand the severity of our problems do not set good examples in their personal lives: leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists

The quality of our leaders is declining because those people with high intelligence, wisdom, and integrity do not want to be in charge of our predicament, and because citizens are feeling the impact of overshoot, do not understand what is going on, and are angry: Trump and Clinton

The leader of the free world denies science and issues daily, jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing tweets: Trump

The one world leader that did understand the problem and spoke out was rejected by the citizens and no longer speaks out: Jimmy Carter

We do not acknowledge that the world’s economic problems began with the peaking of a key non-renewable resource: conventional oil

Low energy prices have led citizens to believe we have a glut of fossil energy when in fact: all types of energy have peaked

Citizens believe the exact opposite of reality: technology creates wealth and energy rather than energy creates wealth and technology

Every country has similar economic problems and not one leader anywhere in the world connects the dots and publicly acknowledges the root cause, even after they leave office: energy extraction cost + debt

We do not discuss or act on economic history research that shows countries always get into serious trouble when they permit an important ratio to exceed a threshold we long passed: debt to GDP

Bankers, the creators of money, do not understand the one thing that creators of money should understand: thermodynamics of wealth

The professionals with the most influence on public policy use models that violate the most trusted laws of physics: economists

The scientific theory that explains the relationship between the economy, energy, and climate is ignored by everyone that should understand it: Tim Garrett

The people who deserve the most respect and admiration get the least: scientists

The people who deserve the least respect and admiration get the most: celebrities

All types of non-fossil energy do not provide a substitute for the only energy we can’t live without: diesel for trucks, trains, ships, tractors, and combines, and mining machines; plus natural gas for fertilizer

People who think the shale revolution will make America prosperous and energy independent ignore one thing: facts

Intelligent people who understand the climate change threat, like James Hansen and Bill Gates, and who want business as usual to continue, know that nuclear energy is the only option: peak uranium

If climate deniers continue to win elections and try to maintain the existing electric grid they’ll find that strategy may not work for long: peak coal

Citizens most vulnerable to a fragile global supply chain with only a few days of inventory experience the strongest illusion of abundance and security: inhabitants of rich cities

Most citizens are not even vaguely aware of the invention that enabled their existence and created about 50% of the nitrogen in their bodies: Haber-Bosch conversion of natural gas to fertilizer

Well meaning environmentalists demand that we stop subsidizing fossil energy companies without understanding the source of all that they cherish in modern civilization: fossil energy

Well meaning environmentalists demand that we stop subsidizing fossil energy companies without realizing that many fossil energy companies are going bankrupt: ExxonMobil

A solution frequently advocated makes things worse by accelerating growth and decreasing system resilience: efficiency

The best solution for removing CO2 from the atmosphere is being harmed by the same activity that creates CO2: planting more trees which are then injured or killed by ground level ozone

All climate science models that do not predict disaster now depend on an unproven technology that we probably can’t afford and other species definitely can’t afford: BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage)

We have not acted to prevent a predictable and very dangerous side effect of trying to maintain business-as-usual with low interest rates: increasing wealth gap

We still enjoy historically vast surplus wealth that could be deployed to improve our future lives but we are squandering it: military, airports, highways, new cars, high rises, etc.

Earth with its diverse complex life and a highly intelligent species is extraordinarily rare, precious, and worth fighting to protect, yet we dream of other barren homes: colonizing Mars

The tool that could be used to unite citizens in common purpose and useful action is instead being used to create tribes that reinforce preexisting beliefs: internet

Many people are hurting and lashing out in anger because they do not understand the cause of their pain: Brexit, Trump, Syria, Venezuela, etc.

The few sources of information that understand and communicate the truth are under threat: fake news

Few people study or heed the best predictor of the future: history

None of our schools teach skills useful and relevant to our future: growing food and other forms of lower complexity life skills

The thing that enabled the evolution of our high intelligence and its ability to understand and act on problems is the same thing that causes our problems and prevents us from acting on them: denial of reality

The theory that best explains our existence and our self-destructive behavior is ignored by everyone, including those people seeking to understand our problems: Varki and Brower’s denial of reality theory

Readers are encouraged to submit additions to the list.

By James Howard Kunstler: Forecast 2017: The Wheels Finally Come Off

Here is Kunstler’s year-end summary and predictions for 2017.

Kunstler does an amazing job of weaving many complex threads into an interesting, coherent, and (I believe) true story.

Long time students of overshoot won’t find any new ideas here but it’s an excellent refresher for experts, and a great place to start for newbies.

This year’s predictions are specific and very short-term so we won’t have long to wait to see if he’s right. If he is wrong, it will likely be in timing rather than outcomes.

Highly recommended.

http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/forecast-2017-wheels-finally-come-off/

“There is no other endeavor in which men and women of enormous intellectual power have shown total disregard for higher-order reasoning than monetary policy.” — David Collum

Climate Change Policies: 2 required + 1 optional

Most scientists consider 2 degrees of warming to be dangerous. Common sense says 1 degree is unsafe because the recent extreme weather and loss of Arctic ice and glaciers have been caused by 1 degree of actual warming.

A new paper in the journal of Science Advances says 7 degrees is likely this century because the climate becomes more sensitive to greenhouse gases as the temperature warms.

Independent newspaper overview.

Full paper.

Interview with the author.

To be clear on the implications, 7 degrees will kill your children.

Much time and effort has been wasted establishing climate change agreements that will not work because the relationship between wealth, consumption, and CO2 has not been acknowledged or addressed.

We have not to date met any of our (ineffective) commitments because we do not understand the nature of our predicament. We cannot reduce climate change with a different type of economic growth. We must stop growing and contract.

Assuming feedback loops have not already taken over (meaning there is nothing we can do to avoid runaway climate change), here are the only 2 policies that would positively impact climate change and every other overshoot threat we face:

1) Increase the interest rate until the economy begins to contract on a sustained basis. An economic crash may or may not be avoidable but we have no choice.

2) Establish a one child policy with a penalty tax of say 25% of total income for every extra child. No exceptions. Countries with cultures that value males more than females should provide a subsidy to families with a daughter to keep the male/female ratio at about 50/50.

Wise countries will implement one additional optional policy:

3) Tax excess wealth and use the funds to pay down public debt.

As the economy and population contracts there will be a natural tendency for the wealth gap to widen which usually leads to social unrest, despots, and war. Wise countries will anticipate this and implement policies to prevent the wealth gap from widening. Collected taxes should be used to pay down public debt because this will help to stabilize our debt backed currency as the economy shrinks.

These policies will cause pain but doing anything else (or nothing) will cause a lot more pain.

On Religion and Denial

Let’s pretend an alien came to earth to study the evolution and behavior of humans. What would it observe and conclude?

The alien observed that every human group, in every location of the planet, throughout all of human history, has had some form of religion. The alien logically concluded that religions must be associated with a reproductive fitness advantage.

The alien observed that the human species succeeds in large part due to social cooperation, and that religions serve to define, unite, govern, and entertain groups, and (especially in times of scarcity) define outside groups as enemies. The alien then understood that the reproductive fitness advantage of religions is to increase the probability of survival through enhanced social cooperation.

The alien observed that there are thousands of different religions, each with a unique story, and that each religion thinks it is the only (or most) true religion. The alien logically concluded that all religions are human created stories.

The alien then noticed something very odd.

The one and only thing common to the thousands of religions is that they each have some form of life after death story. Religions can and do tell every conceivable story, but religions do not need a life after death story to define, unite, govern, and entertain a group. It might be reasonable for a few random religions to include life after death in their stories, but it is not reasonable that every religion has a life after death story.

Unless, observed the wise alien, the need for a life after death story has an important genetic foundation.

The historical record suggests that religions with their life after death stories emerged at the same time that humans with enhanced intelligence and an extended theory of mind emerged. The alien concluded that the two must be linked. The alien reconfirmed this conclusion by observing that no other species has an extended theory mind, and no other species has a religion.

The alien was stumped to explain the link but knew that there were a few good human scientists so it went to the library and found a book on human evolution by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower. The alien learned that a mutation for an extended theory of mind, which enables an individual to understand the mind of another, would be advantageous to a social species, and would have enabled an individual through normal daily observations to understand her own mortality. All mammals have a useful inherited fear of injury and therefore mortality awareness would have caused the individual to become depressed and less likely to take the risks necessary for survival and reproduction. The mutation for an extended theory of mind would therefore not fix in the gene pool.

Varki went on to explain that if a mutation for an extended theory of mind occurred simultaneously with a mutation for denial of reality, then what was a reproductive fitness disadvantage would become a powerful fitness advantage, and the two mutations would fix in the gene pool.

The probably of two rare mutations occurring simultaneously is small and the alien now understood why other social species like dolphins, elephants, crows, and chimpanzees, which would also benefit from an extended theory of mind, had not evolved one.

The alien saw that inherited denial of mortality reality would have caused each human group to believe a life after death story, which over time through transmission errors, became a unique religion.

The alien observed that denial of mortality reality is a very strong inherited behavior. Groups frequently devote all of their surplus wealth to constructing structures to please and communicate with gods in the after life. Pyramids and cathedrals being two of many examples. The alien also observed that the behavior remains strong in modern times because new religions, like Scientology, continue to have life after death stories.

Varki went on to explain that the mechanism within the brain for denying reality would be relatively simple to create by mutating the fear suppression module used by mammals when they need to fight, but by necessity of how it works, is quite broad in scope. This means that humans not only deny their own mortality, but also tend to deny anything they find unpleasant which creates an optimism bias that is useful when not facing limits to growth, but harmful with limits to growth, and harmful with lifestyle choices like insufficient exercise and nicotine.

Ah, said the alien, now I understand why almost no humans acknowledge or discuss or act on their severe state of overshoot. And why climate scientists frequently fly long distances to conferences where they criticize fossil energy use, promote green growth, and never mention population reduction.

The alien was finally able to tie up the loose ends that had been troubling it.

The alien saw, on the one hand, an intelligent species capable of impressive intellectual feats such as visiting the moon, and on the other hand, a species in a severe state of overshoot dependent on rapidly depleting non-renewable resources that was destroying the habitat it needed for survival.

The alien had been perplexed at how such an intelligent species could be in such peril without acknowledging, discussing, or acting on its predicament.

The alien now understood and concluded its report with “Denial created humans, and denial will destroy humans.”

As it boarded its ship for home, the alien reflected on how lucky it was to have come from a planet where life had evolved without the need for death and therefore was able to evolve intelligence without denial.

The human brain, the God it believes in, and the overshoot it enabled and denies, all resulted from the same improbable genetic mutation that occurred about 100,000 years ago.