By Matt Owens July 15, 2013
Two good videos: each of presentations lasting about an hour.
The first one, with Blake Davis from the University of Illinois has a lengthy Q&A. Here are my thoughts on his presentation, as I communicated in a recent email:
Blake Davis was somewhat vague on the causality of a few issues [he does cover extensive material in just one hour]. But from what I could determine, he expects:
(1) increasing raw material scarcity and rising material costs to be so severe that it will prohibit wind power (and presumably solar too) from fully replacing fossil fuel electricity sources, at least in the next decade or two.
(2) And he also seems to expect these same factors to limit access to goods in general.
(3) He seems to expect a fairly sudden change, possibly within the next 10 years, where access to energy and goods will drop sharply and lead to rapid erosion of public confidence in established (and failing) institutions.
(4) And finally, he seems to be suggesting that climate change itself will seriously reduce food supply via per acre yield reductions. Although by my estimation, if the erosion of public confidence extends to the food-distributing institutions, that could further exacerbate the situation; as could rising energy costs (by making it more expensive to produce and transport food).
Interestingly, he also expects there to be surges of government funded energy-infrastructure building, but apparently not sufficient to overcome the deficit accrued from shortsighted planning.
I mostly agree with Davis' outlook. From my own analysis, it would take about 10 to 20 years to convert the global energy system to renewable, if a legitimate full-fledged global drive was made. Adding in dithering from various sources certainly slows progress down. And It doesn't seem like Davis is saying there won't actually be enough material to build the renewable energy infrastructure, just that the logistics within an entrenched and outdated framework will prohibit it from being built in a timely manner. So his estimate seems to be of a conversion taking longer than 10 to 20 years primarily because of political, social, and economic reasons which slow the potential logistical efficiency, and secondarily because of resource scarcity/expense.
Already, we are seeing signs of resource scarcity in the developed world. A few of his comments, like where he mentions a "monastery" type of establishment being maintained to keep certain key machines operating, is curious to me however, since it seems like a jump from general resource deprivation and institutional decay to the point where key machines are no longer being supported. I guess I should ask, is an x-ray machine "key," if the value of a human life falls sufficiently relative to the cost of health-care? Although, I do admit that the jump is conceivable. But, I think adaptation to resource scarcity is feasible - perhaps through the "community circle" model he covers, or through others. I definitely agree that without some form of successful (and likely radical by outward appearance) adaptation, individuals, communities, and even nations are likely to suffer.
In the video below, Richard Somerville, a climate scientists and distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California explains many of the most recent key developments in observed climate change and lays out the case for urgent action.
He also goes on to mention sea level rise, saying we don't know yet what the next IPCC report will say on the subject; but he adds, they are likely to raise their estimates. He's right that we don't know what they'll say exactly, but we do know what model data they'll be looking at: There was a recent paper in the Journal of Glaciology which gave a thorough review to the exact sea level rise models and their results for experiments identical to those being used for the upcoming IPCC report.
The paper is titled "Ice-sheet model sensitivities to environmental forcing and their use in projecting future sea level (the SeaRISE project)," and its lead author is Robert A. Bindschadler of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
I've been thinking of writing up an article on this paper. But one key issue has kept me from doing so: the sea level rise models haven't changed much since the last IPCC report. The paper however is quite a good review, and provides a lot of food for thought.
In a nutshell: of the mechanisms understood so far, bottom melting of Antarctica's ice shelves stands out as a beheamoth of potential sea level rise. The various models vary widely in a number of experimental tests of sensitivity, especially with more extreme warming from the ocean. Taking the average of this wide variation strikes me as a poor way to present the model output. If the full range of results is presented, it would however be necessary to accept that five meters (16.4 feet) or maybe even more of sea level rise is in fact possible by 2100.