Climate Change outlook update, June 2018

In the past few days, two different stories suggested that it’s worth posting a check-in on how doomed we are to disastrous climate change.

By way of some context, I have concluded for some time that the outlook is pretty bleak; I acknowledged a very limited possibility in the Paris Accord; then America got a president who withdrew from that and generally promotes policies about as climate-damaging as is possible while still having negligible real understanding of actual policy.

So, Thursday, Vox‘s David Roberts informed us that the cost of drawing carbon out of the air has fallen considerably in the past several years, to the point where “DAC starts to look viable.” (DAC is “direct air-capture,” i.e. sucking carbon out of the air.)

This comes with a lot of caveats, and the tl;dr conclusion is that DAC is not a “get-out-of-carbon-emissions-reductions free” card. (As can also be said for geoengineering.)

Meanwhile, the very next day, Mr. Roberts had this to report:

In 1998, coal represented 38 percent of global power generation. In 2017, it represented … 38 percent of global power generation.

In electricity, a sector that absorbs 40 percent of the world’s primary energy and produces more than a third of its emissions, the past 20 years have been running to stay still. No net decarbonization progress has been made.

So, basically, as of June 2018 I think the climate prognosis update is this:

First, there’s still an enormous amount to do and we keep fighting, simply because there actually is no “oops we missed our opportunity oh well” moment with climate change. Instead there are ongoing opportunities to avoid even worse misery than is already in store for us; we have missed many of these but they will continue until such time as humanity is genuinely doomed. I don’t think we’re quite there yet (although some people estimate that we are in fact close as in single-digit number of years close, fwiw).

Second: Ummmmm… well…HOPE: may not be warranted at this point

P.S. It’s a bit of a goofy project, but as long as you promise not to expect it will solve climate change… feel free to fund some more trees in Trump Forest, and start using Ecosia for online search.

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