First Sunday of Advent: 7.6%

Four horsemen of the bible
The Four Horsemen: Conquest, War, Famine and Death (Vasnetsov)

Appointed Gospel

This week we enter the Advent season. The lectionary gospel reading is taken from Matthew 24:36-44.

Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Christian thinking to do with the future generally anticipates sudden, one-time events that arrive with little or no warning. “The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour”. We see the same way of thinking in Revelation and in the story of Noah and the Ark.

Such a future does not seem to align with predictions to do with climate change and other Age of Limits issues. Instead we are more likely to see a slow, dreary, inexorable downhill trajectory — with a few bright spots here and there. Indeed, as shown in “Aha!” Moment #4, described below, that downhill trajectory started some years ago.

“Aha!” Moment #4: The I-10 Freeway

In previous posts I have shown how I have had various “Aha!” moments when an idea or an insight suddenly clicked. There have been five of these “Aha!” moments (at least, so far). They are:

  1. Predicaments, Not Problems
  2. Augustine’s City of God
  3. Light Bulbs
  4. The I-10 Freeway
  5. Psychohistory

The first three are described in the linked posts shown. This week I take a look at “Aha!” Moment #4 — The I-10 Freeway.

Katy Freeway flooding tropical storm Harvey

This “Aha!” moment occurred when I saw the following photograph. It is a before-and-after picture of the I-10 freeway between Houston and Beaumont, a road I have driven many times during the course of my business career. The “before” picture shows the freeway and feeder road in its normal state. The “after” picture was taken during tropical storm Harvey. It is estimated that this ‘1 in 1,000 years’ storm dropped a million gallons of rain for each resident of south Texas. (Just two years later, a second ‘1 in 1,000 years’ storm, Imelda, flooded the same area.)

This picture taught me that climate change is not just something that will happen in the future, it is happening now. Indeed, it is something that started some years ago. And it is not just a matter or reports and blog posts — real people, people I know, are being really affected.

7.6%

At this blog I don’t spend much time describing current events, including reports and analyses from professional and trustworthy organizations. But I would like to make a few comments on the recent United Nations report which states that fossil fuel CO2 emissions worldwide grew by 2% in the year 2018. The report also states that we are on track for a global temperature increase of 3.9°C by the end of the century. It goes on to say that we must reduce emissions by 7.6% each year, starting next year.

Let’s pick on two of those numbers.

Ozymandias symbolic of four degree temperature rise

The first is the 3.9°C temperature increase, which we will likely reach well before the end of the century. If we reach that point then the world will be drastically and irreversibly changed. With respect to Europe, and the droughts that will ensue, Mark Lynas, author of the book Six Degrees, evokes Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias,

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Moving on to the second number, the call for a reduction of 7.6% per annum in greenhouse gas emissions, starting now — the effect on the world’s economy would be disastrous. In 2009 worldwide CO2 emissions fell by 6% following the most serious recession since the Great Depression.  (If we are increasing emissions by 2% per annum now, then a 7.6% reduction really means that we need to cut emissions by 10% per annum.)

Therefore the UN is suggesting that we cut emissions by an amount that we have never before seen, even during the 2008 recession. And they are also suggesting that we maintain this pace for decades. A reduction on this scale would require a massive restructuring of the world’s industrial and commercial systems. To make such sweeping changes is, as suggested in the post The Slow Train, completely unrealistic if we hope to simultaneously maintain our current lifestyles.