ISIS Update: The World is Halfway to 2°C Warming
Bernie Sanders at the second Democratic debate. Because Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled this debate on a Saturday during the run-up to the college football playoffs, close to half of the previous Democratic debate audience missed this exchange.
by Gaius Publius
This is Bernie Sanders at the second Democratic debate:
CBS's John Dickerson, the event's moderator, asked Sanders if he still believes climate change represents the biggest outside threat to U.S. safety one day more than 120 people were killed in terrorist attacks on Paris that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has taken credit for.While right-wing pundits, many Democrats and some in the debate audience were surprised by this claim, it has been verified in many venues, including the pages of Time magazine. Sanders reiterated this position on "Face the Nation":
“Absolutely,” the Vermont senator responded. “Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism and if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world ... struggling over limited amounts of water and land to grow their crops and you’re going to see all kinds of conflict.”
Earlier at the debate, Sanders hit party front-runner Hillary Clinton for voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq, saying the war had led to the rise of ISIS.
“The reason is pretty obvious: If we are going to see an increase in drought and flood and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that peoples all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”Notice that Sanders' claim is that climate change is "directly related to" terrorism, not the "sole cause of" it. Even Politifact agrees (my emphasis): "We couldn’t find any evidence of a "direct" relationship between climate change and terrorism, though many reports have noted an indirect link," despite its bottom-line negative rating.
“If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow your crops, then you’re going to see migrants of people fighting over land that will sustain them, and that will lead to international conflict,” he added.
My piece on that is here — "ISIS, Climate Change & Mass Migration of Peoples" — and I'm not the only one making this case. There are peer-reviewed papers (pdf) making the same point. So let's move to the real news, a short peek at the future.
The World is Halfway to 2°C
I called this piece an "ISIS Update" for a reason. If you hated what happened in Paris — which also happened to people you've probably never seen a moment of silence for, the recently murdered, unmourned in the West, dead in Beirut — then you're not going to like this news. While we've been coddling the billionaires and politicians who control and enable the oil and gas industries, global warming has hit another milestone (my emphasis):
The World is Halfway to 2°CDon't be confused about what that means. Not only is the rate of increase in carbon emissions accelerating, but there's a hidden additional number, the amount of warming that's already "in the pipeline," inevitable, no matter what we do.
It’s all but certain that 2015 will end up as the hottest year on record. And in setting that mark, the world is on track to finish the year 1°C above pre-industrial levels, a dubious milestone.
That would make 2015 the first year to crack the halfway mark of 2°C warming, the benchmark that’s been targeted as “safe” climate change and what nations are working toward meeting ahead of climate talks in Paris in December. But Monday’s announcement by the U.K. Met Office hints at how difficult achieving that target will be.
Unlike carbon dioxide, which has risen steadily like a drumbeat every year since the Industrial Revolution due to human activities, the temperature is likely to fluctuate annually and could dip slightly in the coming years (though signs already point to 2016 being even hotter). But the 1°C of warming shows how humans are reshaping the climate in the here and now and not some distant future.
The Met Office maintains one of the four major global temperature records. It shows that through September, the planet is running 1.8°F (1.02°C) above normal. El Niño, the warming of waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, is a contributing factor. But it’s being layered on top of a long-term climate change signal, which has seen the world get hotter and hotter since record keeping began in the late 1800s.
Add the "In the Pipeline" Warming and We're Half a Degree Away
Halfway to 2°C warming is what we're experiencing at present. But if you touch a very hot stove, your hand continues to "cook" even after you remove it from the heat. There's damage "in the pipeline" even if you remove the cause, even if that hand goes into very cold water immediately.
The same with global warming. If we stopped all carbon emissions now, there's still warming "in the pipeline." According to climate scientist Michael Mann in an interview I did with him last year, even if we stopped this minute — zero carbon dioxide emissions from this second forward — the atmosphere would still heat to +1.5°C from pre-Industrial levels.
If you don't want to translate that warming to sea level rise four decades from now, translate that to stressed populations around the world now. Or as Sanders says, to people suffering from "an increase in drought and flood" and "not enough water ... not enough land to grow your crops" today. Translate it as a force multiplier to what we're seeing this minute, in every growing season, from California to Syria, as water becomes more and more scarce.
We can (falsely) blame only religion for the Middle East blowing up. We can burn through every dollar we can create in a massive military response. But every turn of the climate screw ratchets a pressure that just won't go away — until we stop placing men like Exxon's Rex Tillerson (below) in charge of whether he and his friends stay rich.
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, setting U.S. energy policy for as long as we let him.
Climate change causes global chaos in an increasingly aggressive spiral. That chaos takes many forms, from the mass migrations we're now seeing, to increasing drought, famine and disease — i.e., mass death — to an increasing fight for fewer and fewer resources by more and more desperate and angry people. None of this will be pretty. None will be simply explained. And none will be stoppable until stress factors, including climate-induced factors, are reduced and removed.
How soon is too soon to act against climate stress? Should we stop the deadly climate spiral now? Or should we maybe wait another decade? Your call.
(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you like, you can help him here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)