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Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn’t Exist

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn’t Exist

Instead of scaling up renewable energy, researchers promote unproved ideas

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn't Exist

Credit: Katie Louise Thomas

At last year’s Glasgow COP26 meetings on the climate crisis, U.S. envoy and former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry stated that solutions to the climate crisis will involve “technologies that we don’t yet have” but are supposedly on the way. Kerry’s optimism comes directly from scientists. You can read about these beliefs in the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Integrated Assessment Models, created by researchers. These models present pathways to carbon reductions that may permit us to keep climate change below two degrees Celsius. They rely heavily on technologies that don’t yet exist, such as ways to store carbon in the ground safely, permanently and affordably.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Science—that is to say, Euro-American science—has long been held as our model for rationality. Scientists frequently accuse those who reject their findings of being irrational. Yet depending on technologies that do not yet exist is irrational, a kind of magical thinking. That is a developmental stage kids are expected to outgrow. Imagine if I said I planned to build a home with materials that had not yet been invented or build a civilization on Mars without first figuring out how to get even one human being there. You’d likely consider me irrational, perhaps delusional. Yet this kind of thinking pervades plans for future decarbonization.

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Oceans Break Heat Record for Third Year in a Row

Oceans Break Heat Record for Third Year in a Row

2021 broke the record from 2020 by about 14 zettajoules, or 20 times the world’s annual energy consumption

Oceans Break Heat Record for Third Year in a Row
An Arvor float is deployed from the RV Pourquoi Pas to capture ocean temperature data. The oceans are absorbing more heat as climate change advances. Credit: Argo Program

The world’s oceans reached their hottest levels on record in 2021. It’s the third year in a row it’s happened, and it’s driven almost entirely by human-caused climate change, scientists announced yesterday.

The findings are presented in a paper published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. As excess heat accumulates in the atmosphere, caused by continued greenhouse gas emissions, the oceans soak some of it in.

The study analyzes data from scientific sensors attached to floats scattered throughout the oceans, from the balmy Mediterranean to the icy waters surrounding Antarctica. It relies primarily on two international datasets—one maintained by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the other operated by NOAA.

The study finds that the amount of heat in the oceans last year broke the previous 2020 record by around 14 zettajoules. That’s equivalent to at least 20 times the entire world’s annual energy consumption.

It’s an ongoing pattern. All five of the world’s hottest ocean levels have occurred in the last five years. The record-breaker in 2017 is still a bit higher than 2018. But each of the last three years, from 2019 to 2021, have all broken the previous record.

That’s on top of a decades-long pattern of warming. Every decade since 1958 has been warmer than the previous decade. And the rate of warming has sped up significantly since the 1980s.

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Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct

Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct

Habitat degradation, low genetic variation and declining fertility are setting Homo sapiens up for collapse 

Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct

Credit: Jordan Lye/Getty Images

Cast your mind back, if you will, to 1965, when Tom Lehrer recorded his live album That Was the Year That Was. Lehrer prefaced a song called “So Long Mom (A Song for World War III)” by saying that “if there’s going to be any songs coming out of World War III, we’d better start writing them now.” Another preoccupation of the 1960s, apart from nuclear annihilation, was overpopulation. Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb was published in 1968, a year when the rate of world population growth was more than 2 percent—the highest in recorded history.

Half a century on, the threat of nuclear annihilation has lost its imminence. As for overpopulation, more than twice as many people live on the earth now as in 1968, and they do so (in very broad-brush terms) in greater comfort and affluence than anyone suspected. Although the population is still increasing, the rate of increase has halved since 1968. Current population predictions vary. But the general consensus is that it’ll top out sometime midcentury and start to fall sharply. As soon as 2100, the global population size could be less than it is now. In most countries—including poorer ones—the birth rate is now well below the death rate. In some countries, the population will soon be half the current value. People are now becoming worried about underpopulation.

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