Roger This: All Aboard For The Paris Accord

Los Alamos Daily Post

The first week of the 21st meeting of the of the Conference of Parties (COP21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is drawing to a close in Paris.

During this time the Earth has theoretically warmed an additional .0008degreesFahrenheit. That calculation is according to my own back-of-the-envelope extrapolation of a very broad scientific consensus that we are approaching a warming rate of about .04 degrees F per decade.

The alarming problem about these miniscule estimates is that we are beginning to cross a red line toward a warming rate that has not been seen in a long time and getting worse. One current projection finds a rate that is expected to accelerate another.07 degrees F per decade by the end of this century.

These are numbers that mean different things to different people. I would refer those who are still not convinced about global warming to visit a website that lays out the fundamentals of what we know now on this subject and how we know it – at the NASA global climate change page.

We have all heard a heap of scary facts regarding global warming, to the point of numbness. The anecdotes come in bulk. Please add your own favorites. Here are a few of mine: Last year was the warmest year on record, and this year is shaping up to be even hotter. Oceans will rise. Low-lying islands will be submerged. Coastal ice is shrinking in the Arctic and the starting point of the Iditerod dogsled race had to be moved 225 miles north to find enough snow. Areas of the Persian Gulf may be uninhabitably hot a century from now. 

Certainly we have known for a long time that the villainous greenhouse gasses, mostly carbon from fossil fuels pouring into the atmosphere, are the primary culprits. There is an immense body of knowledge that has been sharpened and bolstered since the beginning of the 21st century to back up these claims. Now, in Paris, the negotiators have the monumental task of working out the ramifying details of a legally binding international agreement. Their primary job is to finalize a commitment dating back to COP3, the Kyoto meeting in 1997, to craft a plan that will stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [i.e., human-caused] interference with the Earth’s climate system.”

The magic number would reduce emissions enough to keep global temperatures from increasing another 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) – at a minimum. It’s a stretch already. Some want less, others more.

At the moment Paris has something of an identity crisis. Is it the battleground in the next world war or is it still the “City of Light.” Beset by cascading chain reactions and unanticipated tipping points, civilization is approaching a permanently destabilized condition. Meanwhile the climate crisis aggravates the symptoms and magnifies the difficulties.

A quotation by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard has become a multipurpose slogan for the human condition now, whether we are talking about climate, the environment, politics, education or cybernetics: “We begin in admiration and end by organizing our disappointment.”

Some who put their hopes in Kyoto in 1997, or Copenhagen in 2009 were disappointed and others were more determined than ever. An enormous effort has been made for the current meeting to get over the top. We should all wish the parties well, study what they do and learn from the results.

Who would have thought that the pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis would be one of the most radical exponents of global reform:

“The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges,” he wrote in his climate change encyclical, ‘Laudato Si.’ “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.”

We have the information. We are gaining the knowledge. It’s wisdom that we crave.


A simple representation of the global carbon cycle. Prepared by the Biological and Enviornmental Research Information System, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Courtesy/DOE

Citation(s): US DOE. Climate Placemat: Energy-Climate Nexus, US Department of Energy Office of Science. (p. 1) (website)

Surface Warming Effects: Four maps of the Northern Hemisphere demonstrate the trend of average surface temperature and sea ice over a 200-year period. In the center, the global average temperature, as a function of time, is shown. Prepared by the Biological and Environmental Research Information System, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Courtesy/DOE

Citation(s): US DOE. August 2010. Climate and Environmental Sciences Division: A Division of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research, US Department of Energy Office of Science. (p. 3)