domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2020

The tragedy of conspiracy theorists and deniers

 Conspiracy theorists and deniers have probably existed since at least the very beginning of human’s presence in planet Earth. During the last decades we have co-existed with perhaps one of the most harmful generation of deniers, climate change deniers, which are in great part responsible for the lack of ineffective climate action that has brought us to the brink of climate breakdown. More recently, during the COVID pandemic, we are assisting to an extreme proliferation of conspiracy theories. Conspiranoics (conspiracy theorists) are all around us. You will probably find them even in your inner family and friends circles. If you have still not heard about the explanation of COVID PCR tests being done so close to the brain because they are a covered way to implant into the brain a microchip that will later be activated through 5G cellular towers, just give time to time and be ready to get surprised by who tells you about this.    

The denial and disregard of evidences, the refusal to undertake or even listen to any consistency check, and the strategy to bring the discussion in a difficult-to-contrast terrain (‘many medicine doctors support this point of view’), are common treats of conspiranoics.

In many cases, what moves conspiranoics is the deep believe that the rest of humanity (except them and those that profess their same creed) is being deeply manipulated by negative forces or interests (which depending on the specific conspiracy theory can have its origin in our dimension or in other dimensions of existence or even other planets).

But the tragedy of it all is that conspiranoics are being effectively manipulated by those establishment forces that are in the origin of the deepest real challenges our society faces: climate breakdown, ecosystem breakdown (and associated spread of  zoonotic pandemics), inequality in all its forms, lack of governance, extractivism from people and ecosystems … and in short a socio-economic-political setup serving the corporate profit-making goal instead of people’s needs. Conspiracy theories act as a smokescreen distracting individuals from the real bottom-line challenges. It is a primitive strategy that unfortunately still works within our societies: Those currently and historically benefiting from all the social wrongs and evils still deeply embedded into our societies manage to distract the attention from real problems so they can keep on benefiting from the many. And conspiranoics, unknowingly, act as their more loyal servers by supporting and spreading their distraction mechanisms, even coming to the point of idolatrize and blindly follow the mandates from the very responsible of the real bottom-line challenges. This sounds like the ultimate expression of manipulation applied upon those that claim the others are being manipulated.

But beyond the tragedy for conspiracy theorists themselves, this constitutes a huge handicap for society as a whole, demanding a society-wide effort (governance, trustable institutions, proper education, family, social circles…) to overcome such a state of social immaturity. 

martes, 17 de noviembre de 2020

2021 remaining carbon budgets

 And 2020 is almost gone by…, with the smoke of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath unable to completely shade the escalating impacts of climate change.

CO2 emissions in 2020 have been high. Despite an estimated 7% reduction of energy-related emissions  because of the pandemic, LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) emissions have likely maintained its increasing trend with forests around the world burning as a consequence of global warming, poor management and irresponsible extractive policies. If we assume last year’s trend in LULUCF emissions is maintained, global CO2 emissions in 2020 will be around 41 GtCO2/y, a barely 4% reduction from 2019.

Hence, the clock keeps ticking and the available carbon budget for any transition roadmap starting in 2021 will be reduced from the one that was available in 2020.

Figure-1 presents the 2021 carbon budget as function of global warming and the likelihood to limit global warming at these values. These carbon budgets have been derived from the IPCC 1.5SR  (which provides 2018 carbon budgets), updated with the 2018, 2019 and 2020 CO2 remissions (from the Global Carbon Project, except for 2020 emissions that have been estimated assuming a 7% reduction in energy-related emissions and a trending evolution of LULUCF emissions), including the conservative estimate for earth system feedbacks reported in the IPCC 1.5SR and the estimate of the impact from the 2019 updated UK’s Met Office sea surface temperature (SST) database (HadSST4). In order to estimate the impact from the SST database update, we used the transient climate response to cumulative carbon emissions (TRCE) for each likelihood derived from the IPCC SR1.5.

Figure-1: Remaining carbon budgets for 2021, as function of global warming for different likelihoods (33%, 50% and 67%)


As Figure-1 shows, the remaining carbon budget for keeping global warming below 1.5oC is quickly shrinking.

The 2021 carbon budget is the yardstick against which the cumulative emissions from any transition roadmap should be compared in order to check its climate consistency. As Figure-2 shows, this means that in order to have a 50% likelihood (the flip of a coin) to limit global warming to 1.5oC, cumulative emissions from 2021 to 2100 should be below 250 GtCO2. If the likelihood of success is increased to 67% (which should be a minimum policy goal in the face of the increased climate damages if warming goes beyond 1.5oC), cumulative emissions should be below 109 GtCO2

Figure-2: The carbon budget is the measuring stick to check the climate consistency of transition roadmaps. As of 2021, consistency with 1.5oC global warming requires limiting cumulative emissions to 250 GtCO2 if a 50% likelihood of success is the policy goal, but to 109 GtCO2 if likelihood of success is increased to 67%.

In 2021 we’ll just go beyond the red line where just one hand’s fingers suffice to count the remaining years at current emissions level to exhaust the 1.5oC carbon budget.