27 November 2019   Leave a comment

Researchers have published a comment in the science journal, Nature, on the cascading effects of climate change. We tends to think about global warming in terms of discrete issues such as sea ice loss or deforestation. The researchers point out that these issues are interrelated and that there is therefore a danger that the process of climate change could accelerate because of positive feedback loops among these “separate” issues. An analysis of the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which have been published every five years since 2001 all indicate that each report has underestimated the extent of climate change (See the chart below). The report identifies 9 “tipping points” that the world might have already crossed. The Guardian quotes one of the researchers:

“Prof Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter, the lead author of the article, said: ‘We might already have crossed the threshold for a cascade of interrelated tipping points. The simple version is the schoolkids [striking for climate action] are right: we are seeing potentially irreversible changes in the climate system under way, or very close.’

‘As a scientist, I just want to tell it how it is,’ he said. ‘It is not trying to be alarmist, but trying to treat the whole climate change problem as a risk management problem. It is what I consider the common sense way.’

Phil Williamson at the University of East Anglia, who did not contribute to the article, said: ‘The prognosis by Tim Lenton and colleagues is, unfortunately, fully plausible: that we might have already lost control of the Earth’s climate.’”

The idea that the world may have already passed the point of no return is sobering and depressing. But less so than the fact that many of the political leaders in the world today do not seem to care at all about the dangers of such a change.

The Nine Tipping Points

Much to my surprise, US President Trump has signed two bills that give support to the protesters in Hong Kong. CNBC describes the laws:

“The first bill would require the State Department to certify once a year that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous to retain its special U.S. trading consideration — a status that helps its economy. Under that designation, the city is not subject to the tariffs that have been levied on China. The bill also sets up the potential for sanctions on people responsible for human rights abuse in Hong Kong.

“The second measure would bar the sale of munitions such as tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong police.”

I admit that I was surprised because I had assumed that Mr. Trump would not want to jeopardize the trade talks that are going on between the US and China. Both bills were passed with almost unanimous support in the Congress (only one negative vote in the House and no negative votes in the Senate) and Mr. Trump may have wished to avoid an override vote in the Congress if he vetoed the bills). But it could also be the case that Mr. Trump may simply decide not to enforce the bills (they require the State Department to monitor human rights in Hong Kong and the State Department has often overlooked human rights abuses in states that are critical to US interests, such as Saudi Arabia). We will have to wait to see how China responds to the legislation.

Posted November 27, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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