Monday, July 23, 2012

Math Is Hard

So let's look at the math of global warming together, shall we?

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.

Those three numbers?

1)  2° Celsius -- So far this century, climatologists have calculated that we've raised the global temperature 0.8° C. Think about that: this May it hit 109° F in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia...and rained! Another 1.2° is what the 2009 Copenhagen targets as the maximum temperature rise we'll aim for.

2) 565 gigatons -- This is the amount of carbon scientists estimate we can still put into our atmosphere before we exceed that first number, 2° C. We're less than half way to that target now, and even if we stopped all carbon emissions now, we'd probably hit 1.6° when all was said and done.

3) 2,975 gigatons -- This is the amount of carbon scientists estimate is still sequestered in all carbon-producing energy sources. In other words, this is the carbon humanity *plans* to burn. In other words, we will  burn five times what we think we can afford to and still have a livable planet.

So here's the other part of the math equation.

We're screwed. No snark. No redemption either. We can't ask all the oil and gas companies of the world to simply stop producing fossil fuels, and we can't ask coal companies to stop producing coal, and we can't move fast enough to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

We're done.