Wade into the swamp of climate illusions with Australian author David Spratt. Then Aussie radio host Vivien Langford takes us to the courthouse. Kids and grannies blocked trains to the world’s largest coal port. Hear the living voice of activists – why they risk so much to save our climate.
OR GRAB EACH INTERVIEW SEPARATELY…
Any non-commercial radio program can play these interviews, free. Or pass the link on to friends, through social media or whatever. While Trump sucks up all the media, with a tiny mention of the IPCC report, our future is becoming hot, unpredictable, and violent. That is the huge story. Somehow millions and then billions of us need to see reality before it’s too late. These are alarming conversations and oddly comforting, to hear sanity is still out there, still slightly possible. Please pass these on.
DAVID SPRATT: WHAT LIES BENEATH…
What if we really have wrecked the planet, with massive casualties coming in the next generation. That would be inconvenient. But get ready for authority to soothe you again, about the real risk of extreme climate change. The awful facts and witnesses are all lined up by our next guest.
David Spratt is best known as the author of the book and blog “Climate Code Red“. He is with the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Australia. I spoke with David on Radio Ecoshock in 2014 and 2016. Since then he and co-author Ian Dunlop have updated their devastating critique of climate science called “What Lies Beneath: The inside story of political failure and scientific reticence on climate change’s existential risks.”
“Climate change is an existential risk to human civilization: that is, an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.”
– What Lies Beneath
The update to David and Ian’s report “What Lies Beneath” has a foreword by one of the God-like figures of science, Germany’s Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. He’s a founding director of the famous Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and former advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkl.
Hans Schellnhuber. Photo by Foto Hollin
“…climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.”
I think we are already at or past that critical decision point, and – it has been left too late. I ask David what he thinks.
We go through a few signs of major climate blindness listed in the “What Lies Beneath” report. For example, Dr. Schellnhuber starts with the “Probability Obsession”.
In this report, David and Ian explain why the “Probability Obsession” doesn’t work for climate change. Everyone likes to run models dozens or hundreds of times, to accept the mean average, the results most in agreement, as what will happen in reality. But, as Schellnhuber says, we cannot “redo the Industrial Revolution and the greenhouse-gas emissions it triggered a thousands times or so, always starting with the Earth system in it’s 1750 pre-industrial state.”
We’ve all seen this “probability” guessing in long-term prediction paths of hurricanes on TV. They show “Spaghetti” curves of many model runs, and the most probable path will be the one most agreed on. But the Hurricane may not take that common path. It may veer off to the outlying single projection, or even outside any of the projections. The real path of the Hurricane is the reality. When it comes to the impending climate shift, it is so important to stretch beyond the middle, and the consensus. There is a “fat tail” on most charts of events which, if they seem less likely, are not survivable by our civilization, and possibly not by humans at all.
“We must never forget that we are in a unique situation with no precise historic analogue.” says Schellnhuber.
The “What Lies Beneath” report talks about the “fat-tail” risks. It’s available free on David’s web site. You can read the report on screen, or download it as a .pdf here.
Michael Mann also write about Fat Tail risk here (“Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet” published by EcoWatch September 11, 2015).
It is fascinating that world governments, indeed all of us, are willing to take such huge risks. Consider how fragile the current economy is already, even before more big blows of climate disruption.
A lot of Canada is frozen. It’s like an ice-box full of old food. If that starts to thaw, there is going to be a stink, as gases like methane and carbon dioxide are released. Thankfully, David and Ian have a whole section in their “What Lies Below” report on Permafrost.
We recently had the French scientist Thomas Glasser on the show. He is the lead author of “Path-dependent reductions in CO2 emission budgets caused by permafrost carbon release” – just published in Nature Geoscience. Dr. Glasser says the great thaw of permafrost has already begun, and he can’t see any way it can be stopped. Read about Glasser’s Radio Ecoshock interview (and find links to listen to it) in my show blog here.
THE CREDIBILITY GAP OF THE LATEST IPCC REPORT
As many of you know, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released their report on the impacts of warming the world 1.5 degrees C (about 2.7 degrees F) over pre-industrial temperatures. The Panel acknowledges we have already warmed by about 1.1 degrees C – so there isn’t much room left.
David has a blog post titled “IPCC’s political fix on 1.5°C will undermine its credibility”. In our interview, he explains why. Or check out this article on consistent underestimating by the IPCC in Donald Brown’s blog called “Ethics and Climate”.
If you want to get steam coming out of my ears, start telling me about all the gigatons of carbon we can keep on burning in the coming decades, as a so-called “carbon-budget.” That “budget” is delusional.
David Spratt in his Climate Code Red blog on this says: “So for a 1.5°C goal, humans need to draw back down every ton of emissions from now on, and more. In other words, what goes up must come down.” But that’s unthinkable. Who can imagine a world where every bit of carbon going up is brought back down?
A CHAIN OF PLANNED IGNORANCE
Here is the way I see it (as a radio host specializing in climate). Start with the scientists, who depend on grants from governments and institutions who tend to be conservative. The results depend on climate models which do not include key factors. These are peer-reviewed to withstand the grave objections and doubts. Those papers are collected, and the IPPC seeks a middle ground, thus losing possible true results.
The IPCC reports have to be vetted by politicians, and in any case need to be accepted by oil-producing states like the United States and Saudi Arabia. That is communicated (if at all) via mainstream media owned by corporations depending on corporate advertising, including from fossil fuel dependent industries.
At the end, the public is dependent on fossil fuel and consumption, and has an inbred human tendency to hope for the best, and life for today. The chain of ignorance is complete, even as calamity obviously arrives.
COMING BACK DOWN FROM “OVERSHOOT”
The IPCC admits we won’t be able to stay at 1.5 degrees C warming. So they include in their “carbon budget” (and plans) an “overshoot” as high as 2 degrees. They they say we will somehow bring carbon levels back DOWN!
“The IPCC Summary for Policymakers Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C” specifically talks about developing options as the world warms more and faster than expected (by them):
“Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development, the report notes.”
Let get this straight. The official plan, agreed by over 190 governments, is to load up the atmosphere with enough carbon to blow up our climate, and then count on our kids to fix it. We don’t know how, but it’s up to them!
Plus, and there are not enough exclamation points for this, the latest report (SR15) magically increases our carbon budget !! Check this out:
“The newly published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on 1.5C (SR15) significantly expands the budget for a 66% chance of avoiding 1.5C to the equivalent of 10 years of current emissions. This compares to the IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5), which put it at around three years.”
That’s from a must-read analysis by Zeke Hausfather, October 8 2018 at carbonbrief.org. It sounds like this latest “policy” report from the IPCC is based on looking the other way, and agreeing on a workable delusion. Zak writes:
“Finally, the emission scenarios considered in the new SR15 also tend to emit far more than the budget would allow, but make up for it with the large-scale use of negative emissions in the future. The large carbon budget uncertainty and reliance on negative emissions – basically, sucking CO2 from the atmosphere and permanently storing it – suggest that the idea of a carbon budget may be of limited use for strict mitigation targets such as 1.5C.”
We know about tons of new science, critically important climate science, excluded by the IPCC. Hausfather tells us there is still “Disagreement about what “surface temperature” actually refers to” and arguments about “The definition of the “pre-industrial” period.”
You can tune into my discussion with David Spratt about the IPCC weakness, and the coming reality. I read through the “What Lies Beneath” report, and David Spratt’s latest blog, following on to his many links and references. About three quarters of the way through, I realized for the two hundredth time, how utterly doomed we are. I had to go outside and check on the sky, to make sure it was still there.
But David Spratt has not totally given up yet. He concludes his blog post with this:
“We know human society is capable of amazing acts, whether it is building the pyramids, wiping out diseases, or facing down big natural emergencies. We can succeed by transcending the political failure and bring the fossil-fuel era to a close. We can build an ethos of common purpose: an emergency, whole-of-society response which draws on our collective community power and skills. We can mobilize to create change at the speed we need to protect ourselves and future generations.”
MAGICAL THINKING AND CLIMATE CHANGE
“Policymakers, in their magical thinking, imagine a mitigation path of gradual change to be constructed over many decades in a growing, prosperous world.”
– from the Introduction to “What Lies Beneath”
The report adds:
“In ‘Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet’, economists Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman explore the implications of this fat-tail distribution for climate policy, and “why we face an existential threat in human-caused climate change”.
I interviewed Gernot Wagner in my Radio Ecoshock show for October 15, 2015.
Gernot Wagner says our economies are heading into a series of hits, something he calls “climate shock”. Gernot Wagner is lead senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund.
“What we do not know yet is whether the climate system can be safely ‘parked’ near 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as the Paris Agreement envisages. Or if it will, once pushed so far, slip down the slope towards a hothouse planet. Research must assess this risk as soon as possible.”
A QUICK INTRODUCTION TO THE “WHAT LIES BENEATH” REPORT…from the authors
Here is the official description of the “What Lies Beneath” report written by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop:
“What Lies Beneath: The inside story of political failure and scientific reticence on climate change’s existential risks
What Lies Beneath is the inside story of how climate policy-making has become embedded in a culture of failure and scientific reticence, whereas the need is to “think the unthinkable” if social breakdown and economic crisis are to be avoided. The report brings together the voices of some of the world’s leading scientists who have courageously expressed their concern at processes that tend toward scientific reticence and political understatement.
The foreword to the report has been written by Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the world’s most eminent and politically influential climate scientists. Schellnhuber calls What Lies Beneath a “critical overview by well-informed intellectuals who sit outside the climate-science community”, highlighting crucial insights which may lurk at the fringes of conventional policy analysis, but which have a new resonance when “the issue is the very survival of our civilisation, where conventional means of analysis may become useless”. He says that “climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences”.
Remember, you can read that 44 page report here free.
DAVID SPRATT’S PREVIOUS APPEARANCES ON RADIO ECOSHOCK
Australian author & activist David Spratt on dying Great Barrier Reef. Radio Ecoshock 160518 (Spratt interview by Vivien Langford from Beyond Zero on 3CR radio Melbourne)
PLANET CODE RED
Posted on June 11, 2014, by Radio Ecoshock (Spratt interview by Alex Smith)
COAL PROTESTS: AUSTRALIAN YOUTH LEAD THE WAY (with VIVIEN LANGFORD)
Australia is one of the world’s largest sources of coal. The black fossil fuel is heading to Asia (huge sales to India) – and then to the atmosphere, changing the climate and our planet.
A group of all ages blocked the dirty trains connecting mega-coal mines to the world’s biggest coal port. That is Newcastle Australia. Radio journalist Vivien Langford from Beyond Zero and 3CR Radio Melbourne takes us to the courthouse to find out why.
Vivien Langford, 3CR Radio Australia
Here is what Vivien wrote about this program:
“I was moved by these young and old people who stopped the coal trains recently in Newcastle. This 28 minute audio starts with a verse from David Rovics “What if you knew?” Then I interview a woman and her son. He was tried in the Children’s court and his penalty was to be mentored by some people from the Coal Industry about how to protest more appropriately! As you will hear he has well formed ideas and might give them something to chew on. At the end is another verse from Rovics “Shut them down” Best wishes Vivien”
We have to stop this fossil fuel madness somehow. At key times in history, protests fueled changes in society. Non-violent direct action is still a blessed thing, as it was for the Quakers. Vivien has found the passion passing through real people. Activists make us witness anti-future places and processes. They put into voice the voices inside us.
Thank you Vivien for this real radio journalism!
That’s it for Radio Ecoshock. Please join us again next week. I’m Alex Smith, saying thank you for listening, and for caring about our world.