Even if the U.S. Does Not Pull Out of Paris Agreement, Worst Climate Change Scenario Still Ahead

With the right steps in reductions we can keep warming at a tolerable level for 200 years; if not, future societies will be irredeemably condemned, says Dr. Pablo Canziani

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KIM BROWN, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore.

The World Meteorological Organization said on Monday at the climate change summit in Marrakech, Morocco that 2016 will be the warmest since record keeping began in the late 19th century with the average temperatures over 2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than in preindustrial times. In fact, 16 of the 17 hottest years ever recorded ever have been in this century. Now a growing number of scientists is saying it is too late to meet the stated goal of the Paris Agreement to keep global temperatures from rising an additional 2 degrees in the future. But with the pending Trump administration threatening to pull out of the Paris Agreement, can we expect even more extreme weather and climate disasters? Data from the UN refugee agency said over 19 million people were displaced by either water, climate, and hazards such as earthquakes in 2015 more than twice as many for conflict and violence. Those displaced that is.

But with us to discuss this is Dr. Pablo Canziani. He is a senior scientist at the Argentine National Research Council. He’s also professor at the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional. He’s one of the authors of the report titled The Truth About Climate Change. Dr. Canziani, thank you so much for being here.

DR. PABLO CANZIANI: Thank you for calling me.

BROWN: So what is our current trajectory in terms of global temperature rise and is it possible to estimate what it might be if the US, the world’s second biggest largest greenhouse gas emitters after China, pulls out of the Paris Agreement? Where are we headed here doctor?

CANZIANI: Well now even without the US quitting the agreement we’re heading towards the worst impossible scenario. The emissions reduction agreed to in Paris as a compromise not as a full-blown engagement as would have been for example, Montreal Protocol tells us that we are heading to a 3-degree Celsius increase in the next 30-50 years if we don’t do anything. So, the pull out or the potential pullout by the new administration in the US is one of the greatest threats to all of the world right now, to everybody.

BROWN: So, what exactly does it mean to have a 2-3 degree temperature rise by the year 20-50 which as you just said was what your report concluded. What does the earth and human life look like at those temperatures?

CANZIANI: Well you have a number of events some of which are already taking place. The decrease in the ice in the Arctic, which is noticeable this year. You’re getting more severe weather occurring around the globe. You have areas say within Argentina, Chile, Australia, the US. You have more frequent and severe storms and heatwaves in Europe, the US, Asia, that are just beginning. Imagine if that with a 1 degrees warming that we’ve already gone through. Imagine 2 more degrees warming then in the next 30-50 years what would happen? It’s not linear. It’s going to increase much more.

So, you’re talking about lack of water, lack of food for human population, you’re talking about lots of [inaud.] human activities. You’re talking about the breakup of whole countries. You’re talking about war. So there are many, many things that you have to do to prevent this happening. We’re on the wrong path and denying something that is certain by the scientific community worldwide is just putting, trying to hide the sun with your hand.

BROWN: Dr. Canziani, at what temperature level does the earth become uninhabitable for humans?

CANZIANI: [inaud.] I mean we’ve been through ISIS and we have been through the war periods. I think what would probably happen is that you’re going to have in first place, mass extinction of animal and plant species which we’re dependent on. We’re probably going to have a crash of the human population. But I’m pretty certain humanity will not disappear at this stage.

However, the risks of what may happen as I said even war and the Pentagon has been thinking about that for a number of years already is a major issue. I think I wouldn’t dare say that it’s even a prolife issue in the sense that we have to care about the whole of human life and the whole of life on the world not just human life. So, we’re life dependent in the sense that we depend on food for nature. Even if we work on genetically modified plants and agriculture. That’s still dependent on nature. It’s still dependent on climate. Many of [inaud.] sources around the globe, people have different diets, are nature based and [inaud.] are dependent on that. And the whole life cycle is nature dependent. So, if we damage nature we’re going to risk everything, even our culture.

BROWN: So doctor, let’s suppose that the US does pull out of the Paris Agreement and in four years the next American president wants back in, now could that damage from America’s not participating during the 4 years of the Trump administration, at least presumably the first and maybe only term of the Trump administration from 2016-2020 would read rejoining the Paris Agreement in 2020 undo the damage that had already been done in America’s absence from the agreement?

CANZIANI: Actually it will be more costly for the US society because you will have to take major cuts in the US emissions in a shorter span of time. That means that the costs rise considerably. I think the other thing that we have to take into account is that right now we’re in the middle of technological revolution. We are in the middle of an environmental revolution and hence a social revolution. Trying to postpone decisions is the worst kind of deal for everybody. If we look at the history of humanity, of the industrial revolution and of various revolutions that have taken since the 28th century, we realize that the role of government is to prevent and protect society of changes by taking care of the changes not by denying them, in the sense that it is certain that we will lose jobs because of climate change and the physiological changes.

But it’s also very certain that the new technologies and the new activities that will be required due to these changes will create many more jobs than those being lost. So we can change thing from a lose-lose into a win-win situation if we have administrations not just in the US but around the globe which take care of planning for the future of discussing the society with scientists for the best options. Everything I’m not sure how the US would pull out is that there are many regulations now for example in the European community that force all imports from countries that will not respect the protocols in the sense that they are cutting down on the trials for emissions for example, of goods from countries that will not produce according to new criteria of emission reductions. So, it won’t be that easy for leaders to pull out anyway.

BROWN: Can global warming even be reversed?

CANZIANI: No. Global warming we’re seeing now is actually in delay of about 20-30 years and the response for the atmosphere with respect to the emissions. Later it will go on for approximately 200-300 years as far as warming goes. As far as ice melting goes in glaciers and the arctic and Antarctica, the inertia of the system can stay over for about 1000 years even if we stop the warming at a level that it will be [inaud.].

So the reductions we make now to reduce emissions will keep the level of current warming at a tolerable level for the next 200 years if we take the right steps. If not, future societies are condemned irremediably because of our actions.

BROWN: Okay. World greenhouse gas emissions stayed flat for the third year in a row, doctor, in 2016. Thanks to falls in China. Decreases of those types of greenhouse gases in China. This is the third consecutive year with negligible change and it’s down from 3% growth rates in the 2000s. So, give us an idea of why are we seeing this continued rise in global temperatures if the emissions are flatlining? It’s kind of what you just said, that these gases stay in the atmosphere for so long that they continue to warm even if they’re not being added to. Is that accurate?

CANZIANI: Yes, you have to think when you stop a car or when you try to stop a car, it takes a distance to slow it down and make it stop. The same thing happens with the atmosphere. What we are emitting now will have an impact within the next 20-30 years.

So we’re now undergoing the effect of the emissions say back in 2000, 1990, 1980. We’re undergoing consequences of that. So, we have to imagine that we’re in a car at full speed running going towards a brick wall and we have to take measures on the break that will prevent us from running into that brick wall due to the inertia of the car. So the atmosphere is the same thing. We have to figure whatever we do, it will take time, just as it took time of the stratosphere to react to the reduction in emissions of the [inaud.] substances.

BROWN: Doctor finally, for people out there that are still convinced that global warming is part of a natural cycle of warming, that the cooling of the planet is probably inevitable as we have had over the course of earth’s history, periods as you said of ice age and of warmer periods, how do we know with certainty that this warming that we’re seeing right now since the industrial age is in fact man-made?

CANZIANI: First thing, we have 30 good models that can simulate what would happen to climate if there were no enhanced greenhouse gas emissions. We can also run the model through with the observed greenhouse gas emissions so far. What we see is clearly that rather than the warming that we have right now, we should have stable temperatures or a mild cooling. We’re at the end of a warm period and going towards a new ice age if we think about the duration of the cycles between the warm and the cold cycles of the earth’s climate over the last million years. So, in a sense, not only are we not having a mild cooling this year, we are having a strong warming which furthermore is extremely fast and that’s a clear signature of a human induced process.

BROWN: Wow this is extremely sober information. Not exactly stunning because scientists like yourself have been saying this for quite some time but it still doesn’t take the bite out of how dire this information is. We’ve been speaking with Dr. Pablo Canziani. He is a senior scientist at the Argentine National Research Council. He’s also professor at the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional. He’s been speaking to us today from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He’s also one of the authors of the report titled The Truth About Climate Change.

Dr. Canziani thank you so much for speaking with us.

CANZIANI: Thank you to you for having me. [inaud.] and help people understand what’s going on.

BROWN: Absolutely and thank you for watching the Real News Network.

End

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