Antarctic Heat is just the Tip of the Iceberg: Thoughts on Climate Challenges and Bright Spots…
Another Month, another High Temperature Record Smashed
Not only was another dismal record set when the Antarctic hit nearly 70º but, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 145 years of record keeping, the month with the highest average temperature was January 2020. Additionally, the “departure”, in other words the amount that it was above the average, was the largest on record, excluding years where an “El Niño” was recorded as well.
Adding to the extreme nature of the record, and to illustrate the trend, it was also the 44th consecutive January that was above the 20th century average. The 10 warmest Januarys ever recorded were in this century, all since 2002. The four Januarys that were the warmest on record all occurred since 2016.
Across the globe record-warm temperatures were recorded in parts of Asia, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, Scandinavia, the central and western Pacific Ocean and Central and South America. There were zero land or ocean areas having record-cold January temperatures.
Starting in 2020 the theme is no longer Affirm or Deny but Rather Commit to Action or Impede and Obstruct
Last year we reported record high temperatures, massive floods, climate influenced wildfires and many more obvious indicators that the crisis is growing at an alarming pace. And, other than a US President who is clearly a shill for the Fossil Fuel Industry, there are very few in positions of power that would attempt to deny the danger and reality of the unfolding crisis.
At the same time, bright spots can already be seen in the rise of the EV and generally in sustainable energy development as a whole. Some regional and International governments have at least set goals for reductions in carbon emissions or an outright carbon neutral emission status, also known as a net zero carbon footprint.
Early in 2020, at the dawn of what is likely to be the decade of climate crisis and responses thereto, three major themes are emerging that show promise of an increased resolve to fight back and find solutions.
First, as mentioned above, the world transportation infrastructure and in particularly the auto industry are finally accepting the challenge of a total transition to sustainable methods of propulsion.
In a second thread – and this has only very recently become a trend – powerful financial industry leaders, often referred to collectively as “Wall Street”, are stating unequivocally that they see fossil fuel investments as unsustainable (no double entendres intended) and “Green” investments as absolutely fundamental to the future of the world economy.
An example is the CEO of BlackRock, an asset management firm with $7 trillion in assets, is pushing his firm toward sustainable investment options and at the same time demanding that all companies disclose potential risks posed by the reality of a world with a rapidly changing climate.
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of successful asset management firm GMO, who is known for having predicted both the 2000 and 2008 bear markets, has been speaking out about the dangers of climate change for more than a decade. He says that the tide has now turned, and people in his industry are starting to pay attention. Quotes below are from a recent interview in Barrons.
The last two years have been very encouraging. The previous eight were a nightmare. I used to talk about climate change, and my clients would roll their eyes and ask why I was wasting their time. But now everyone is at least talking about it.– Jeremy Grantham, Grantham, Mayo, & van Otterloo (GMO), in barrons interview
While he is optimistic about the potential to solve the problems using advanced technology, it is essential that the transitions start immediately.
The problem is, it’s all talk. Last year more carbon-dioxide molecules went into the air than any single year in history. We must try harder.– JEREMY GRANTHAM
And, ultimately, the outlook for asset managers and others such as venture capitalists is shifting quickly:
Obviously, chemicals, oils, fossil fuels in general are looking pointless on a long horizon. Decarbonizing the system is a massive move that permeates every industry in the end.– JEREMY GRANTHAM
”Too Little Too Late” would not be a great Phrase for the Tombstone of the Earth
And this leads to the third thread – the eventual exposure of the fossil fuel industrial complex as a destructive, greed based system that must be forced into “retirement” since it will not quit or change fast enough voluntarily. On this topic Grantham does not mince words:
Capitalism has a way of taking perfectly reasonable human beings who play at the weekend with their grandchildren, who are occasionally altruistic, and turning them during the workweek into Milton Friedman zombies working to maximize short-term profit.
If you said, “My only objective as a human being is to maximize my own advantages,” that’s a workable definition of a sociopath.– JEREMY GRANTHAM
For a deeper look into this rampant ethos, one that permeates the world’s most powerful industry, read “Blowout” by Rachel Maddow (yes, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow). A mind blowing exposé of the inner workings of fossil fuel oligarchs and Oklahoma Wildcatters, it is a must read for anyone wanting to delve into the challenges we face as a species in adapting our own behavior (and particularly the behavior of the worst of us) in order to survive the climate crisis and all its evolving dangers.
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