This is grim


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If you’re planning to live another twenty years or so, then there’s a conversation that’s going on right now that you need to know about. Chances are you’ve never heard about this conversation. That’s particularly unfortunate, because it could prove to be the most important conversation in your life — and the life of the planet.

It’s all about a thing called Climate Sensitivity. Before you stop reading and jump to the next article, hear me out. This is new, and you really need to know about it. You need to know about it right now. Everybody does.

As you are probably already aware, 2023 was the hottest year on record for the planet. True, it happened during an El Niño phase, but even without such phasic irregularities, planetary average temperatures continue to increase. The question is, by how much will they increase and how fast?

Along comes the entity known as Climate Sensitivity. Climate Sensitivity is defined as the global temperature rise following a doubling of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere compared to pre-industrial levels. Pre-industrial CO2 was about 260 parts per million (ppm), so a doubling would be at roughly 520 ppm.

In other words, Climate Sensitivity is the model that describes how much average temperatures will go up on earth after a ppm doubling. Up until 2019 the CS was thought to be between 2.0 and 4.5 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, some climate models back then started predicting a CS of 5 degrees Celsius or more, which is much hotter than previously expected.

Because these hotter models didn’t agree with what climate scientists predicted, they looked for ways to explain them away. In other words, they automatically accepted results that agreed with their conclusions and were suspicious of the results that didn’t. That’s confirmation bias, a very UNscientific way of looking at things.

That was a big mistake, because if these new hot model numbers turn out to be representative of the true Climate Sensitivity, then we are in bigger trouble than the most pessimistic among us previously thought, and our approach to net zero carbon is dangerously optimistic. How bad can it get if the hot models are correct? Roughly twice as bad, and twice as fast.

But all this is five year old news. Why haven’t we heard about it before? Because climate scientists decided back then, rather arbitrarily I think, that the hot models predicting a higher CS are simply wrong.

But now there’s a new finding suggesting it isn’t wrong. Recently, a group from the UK Met Office noticed that the hot models with a CS of 5 degrees Celsius or more were better at accurately predicting local weather. That could suggest that the hot CS models are closer to the truth than the previous standard CS models. That’s a big problem. In other words, we could be in some seriously deep shit.

What can this mean to the immediate future of the planet if the hot CS models are correct? It could mean that even our most pessimistic climate change predictions were wrong. It could mean that some of the most densely populated regions of the earth — regions near the equator — could become uninhabitable in 20 years.

If that happens then people living in those regions aren’t just going to lay down and die. They’re going to fight for survival. Where will they go? North, because that is where the most landmass on earth is. And if Republicans think immigration and inflation is bad now, wait until a billion desperate people fleeing certain death come hammering on our door. It’s difficult to overstate how devastating this would be to life and our economy. Imagine inflation so bad that a cell phone costs $50,000, Wi-Fi costs $8,000 a month and a dozen eggs cost $1,500. Imagine a world reduced to commonplace savagery because there are ten chairs in a game of musical chairs played by billions.

Needless to say, civilization as we now understand it would cease to exist. Existence itself would become our principal daily concern. Roving gangs of morons — MAGA cultists of the future — in search of someone to blame would blame the immigrants and murder them, instead of placing the blame where it really belongs, squarely on the shoulders of themselves and their forebears.

Why isn’t this front page news? Probably for the same reason some Palmer readers stopped reading this article three or four paragraphs ago. Partly because climate change has become dry and routinely boring, and partly because these new results are not well understood.

For many people the topic of global warming exists (metaphorically speaking) in a galaxy far, far away. But if this hotter CS model is true, then it’s a problem that very quickly is going to be pretty much in everybody’s face. No one will be able to ignore it any longer.

If you’re paying attention then you probably noticed I haven’t yet mentioned what an unlivable equator would look like to weather systems in our own backyard. That’s the real question. Nobody really knows. But it will probably be worse than we can possibly imagine. We’ve never had an enormous band of unlivable planet before. It could yield weather systems so violent that the earth itself becomes unlivable. It will also provide breeding grounds for another deadly pandemic that could make Covid look like a Sunday picnic. That, at least, would solve our inflation and immigration problem.

I take no pleasure in telling you this, brothers and sisters. But it’s a real possibility that real scientists are aware of. No one seems to be listening. And that’s a problem too. Because if we wait for things to get bad enough that everyone sits up and takes notice, it will be far too late.

A paper published last year by climate scientist Jim Hansen says that Climate Sensitivity is as high as the hot model suggests. Who’s right and who’s wrong? I don’t know, and neither do you. But is it really worth taking a chance?

In any case, scientists all agree on one thing. Global warming is real and it’s with us today. Whether or not things get worse slowly or at an accelerated rate based on the CS hot model predictions, why aren’t we doing more? Why aren’t we demanding more be done? Why isn’t global climate change the most important conversation of all? For as long as I must continue to ask those questions, we will remain in grave danger — and our survival will remain in grave doubt. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay.

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