Tuesday, 14 August 2018


Last blog post was about a Siberian High, causing Hammarby Sound to freeze over. This seems like a world apart today. The past month proved to be the hottest hereabouts in recorded history (dating back to the mid 1700s). If 35° weren't enough, humidity went to the extreme, envelopping us in a wet blanket day and night and leaving us no place to escape. Our apartments here in Stockholm are built with generous windows, granting the sun free access to us sun-loving Northerners. It now dawns on us that sun-flooded rooms are not what the doctor ordered. Even if my apartment is facing north, the sun starts sneaking in around 6 pm, getting up the heat just in time to prevent me from having a healty sleep.

Extreme times crave desperate measures. I discovered that a daily visit to the neighbourhood (Swedish style) Sauna was the way out of misery. After sitting about 10 minutes in it, sweating out at 90° (Celsius) of dry heat and taking a cold shower afterwards, 35° outside heat appears almost normal!

In the same spirit, I decided, in the beginning of last week, to take a quick trip to Southern Turkey. There, temperature surpassed even 40° in daytime and humidity was at its outmost; just like in a Sauna, but a Finnish one. The idea was to spend three days there and return to a more moderate Stockholm, cooler by at least a few degrees. Now, that I am back, I am glad to say that Hammarby Sjöstad has cooled off considerably during my absence. Or is it the contrast to Lykia in Turkey that makes me believe that?

The recent heat wave got me to recognosce up-to-date findings about climate change. Not bothering with reading the most recent articles in scientific journals, I contented myself with gathering insights from Youtube videos in the field. Don't ridicule me! There is quite serious knowledge to be gained there. As an example, let me point to a recent lecture by Professor Wadhams of Cambridge University. He is a convivial enough fellow, hardly prone to exaggerate.

My research, albeit sporadic, leads me to conclude that we already seem to have passed "the point of no return". Even if we drastically diminish carbon dioxide emissions forthwith, we will still surpass the red line (the 2° temperature increase) early on in the next decade. Thereafter, and with sizable methane emissions from the Arctic continental shelf and from melting Siberian permafrost, climate change will accelerate and lead to a more than 3° increase within the following decades.

An increase by more than 3° may not sound a lot, but it will most probably put an end to the main conduit of global food production, the grain belt girdling the northern hemisphere; not to speak of rendering the subtropical regions, Southern Europe among them, into deserts. So the writing is on the wall.

Interestingly enough, Scandinavia, as well as Great Britain, Ireland and Iceland, may not be exposed  to the same degree of heating as the world at large. The global deep sea current transporting warm water north-eastward is already getting weaker and will no longer lend support to the Gulf stream (which is mostly driven by wind), thus counteracting to some degree the overall heating up.

Should we find comfort in this? I fear not! Think about the hundreds of millions living south and east of our borders and getting ever more desperate, as deserts spread in Africa and Southern Europe and food supply is drying up further north. The Völkerwanderung of the 5th to 7th century AD is just an inkling of what lies ahead of us! To get an idea of what this means, look no further than to the failed states in the Middle East and the millions from there streaming into Europe just two years ago!

What can be done about this? On a global scene, probably nothing. That is, unless geo-engineering at hitherto unexperienced scale could be enacted within the near future, which is hardly likely, if even feasible. Better to look at it from a personal angle. Here we have a problem: climate change is not happening in a linear fashion. Feed-back loops are pushing to the forefront and will greatly accelerate the change, even if we at present still appear to experience only a modest and gradual warming. This makes it difficult for us humans to grasp the high probability of a timely demise of civilisation.

To fix ideas: imagine that a meteorite will strike the Earth in thirty years' time, enveloping the Earth in huge dust clouds and rendering food production infeasible over all of Earth for a number of years, except in north-eastern Europe. How would you as a person prepare for such a catastrophe? Speaking as an old-timer, my life would go on as usual, with maybe a bit more propensity to nurture friendships and family relations. For our children, they will have to be more philosophical; we all have to die, sooner or later, and it may just be a bit sooner for them. It is the grandchildren whom we should pity. They will be in the prime of their life and, instead of fulfilling all their dreams of family and career, they will be in constant war and struggle to fend off the hungering hordes invading the few territories where food can still be obtained.

This leads me to suggest a collective action that still could be taken to make life a bit more bearable for those poor grandchildren. Why not re-introduce comprehensive conscription for all 18 year olds, boys and girls, starting a decade from now. Why not borrow experts from the Israeli army to help introduce an efficient training programme involving weapon use, martial arts combat and living off the land. With an intensive training of this kind, we will at least provide these poor youngsters with a minimum of crafts to cope with the coming catastrophe! This quite apart from maintaining the regular army, manned by professional experts, as is the case at present.

Am I an extremist? Probably so, but I think that I will be considered a moderate ten years from now, when the red line of 2° warming will have been crossed and warming will accelerate. A pity that I probably won't be around then to feel righteous about it! Instead, why not enjoy the good life as long as it lasts, and let art and music come to the rescue, when my thoughts risk becoming too dire.


Jan said...

Rockström nourishes some hope. And last winter was terrific. You're sketching a bleak future. But I agree - make best of it.

Karin Forsberg said...

Mycket tänkvärt Emil, jag önskar bara att alla förstod allvaret i detta istället för att “strutsa”.
Med vänliga hälsningar och önskningar om en fin höst,

BeachyGal said...

Yup, probably past the tipping point climate-wise. As clever as we like to think we are, we don't see what you we don't want to see. ANd can keep that up despite all kinds of evidence to the contrary. Afraid that America is the poster child right now for that kind of willful blindness on many scores.

Unknown said...

According to my friends who are atmospheric scientists at JPL and Caltech, the current greenhouse effect models are still far from perfect as they utilize a lot of assumptions plus suffer from error accumulation for long-term predictions (a common shortcoming of complex calculation-intensive models). They also are still weak on feedback mechanisms, such as a decrease in albedo due to increased evaporation and subsequent cloud formation, increase in plant growth, etc. So, all this doom and gloom is not yet warranted since no one can yet reliably define or predict the "point of no return" or max. allowable temperature rise. Let's stop despairing and instead let's decrease our individual carbon footprint by using public transportation, electric cars, trains instead of airplanes, travel less, eat less red meat, etc. ! Do not give up the fight just yet !

BeachyGal - America is the place where the global warming problem was first properly characterized and attributed to fossil fuel burning. It is also the place where key green technologies were developed and where front-line research has been going on at levels outmatching the rest of the world. I think your "poster child of willful blindness" comment refers to Trump and his bandwagon,so it is a mistake not to make a distinction between them and the rest of us Americans...

Robert Ems said...

Hallo Emil,
dazu fällt mir leider nur ein schlechter aber wahrer Witz ein:
…..treffen sich 2 Planeten im Leerem Raum, sagt der eine zum anderen: O’wei, schaust Du aber schlecht aus! Da sagt der andere: Oh weißt, ich habe „Menschen“. Darauf meint der erste: Mach dir nix daraus, dass vergeht wieder ganz schnell…

Jamie Brown said...

Excellent article, Emil! You’’re still sharp, enlightening and just awesome. I've been contemplating fleeing to Costa Rica to flee Nazi-leaning America, but maybe I should head towards Finland or Iceland. God bless you

Lars Jonung said...

Hej Emil
Det var en dyster läsning. Jag har njutit av värmen genom att ha kunnat doppa mig varje morgon i Hanöbukten. Underbart.

Emil Ems said...

Dear Unknown,
I hope you are still young enough to live to see whether my reasoning makes sense or not!
Cheers, Emil

Per Magnus Wijkman said...

Hej Emil,
There is a bright side too. Let's hope that the November elections in the USA will curtail the current President's power, that the otcome of the Brexit negotiations will cause the UK to rethink, and that the EU will accept thtat smaller might be better. Until then those in our generation can danse to the end of love.

Anonymous said...

Dear Emil, many thanks for your sharp, intelligent and thought-provoking analysis, accompanied as ever by beautiful images.
All the best, Heather

wimpissingernews.blogspot.com said...

Lieber Emil, wir haben heute vor allem zwei weltweite Debatten und ich verstehe, dass Du diesen Sommer es nicht lassen kannst, in den Klimadisput und nicht in die globale Völkerwanderung einzusteigen. FAKE NEWS ist omnipräsent, Wissenschaftler, Industrien und Staaten in diesem Zusammenhang haben besondere Eigeninteressen. Ich plädiere dafür die Natur schonhaft zu nutzen im Sinne von "Bewahrung der Schöpfung" und wir werden uns hoffentlich zum Wohle der meisten in der goldenen Mitte treffen.

Agneta Sverkel-Österberg said...

Dear Emil,
Very interesting that I received your mail at the same time as Dagens Nyheter yesterday published an article by Ulf Danielsson which affected me a lot. Both what you point out and the article makes me really sad.
This autumn I will follow some lectures "A tribute to Stephen Hawking" where Ulf Danielsson is one of the lecturers.
Best regards from Agneta

Anonymous said...

Dear Emil,
Once again a brilliant blog and very thoughtful. Indeed, Vienna is also experiencing a really nice hot summer this year (so many days with well over 30° C, also in the office, and many nights with over 20°). Our interim-solution to the green-house effect of big windows is use of curtains and the like if there is no air-condition and there is none in my office or at home. You rightly mention that experiencing more extreme heat makes us feel as if it were cooler thereafter, but perhaps, in addition, we also should learn from civilisations that lived and survived in hot climate how best to accommodate. I am pretty busy, as you will red below, and thus not speculating about decades to come, but am convinced that we should try to make the best of the present time while we are still alive.

The coming months will be a very busy time in the office with the Austrian EU presidency; very interesting professionally, dealing with the trade policy aspects of Brexit, the ongoing uncertainty regarding trade relations with the US, including sanctions and countermeasures or a potential deal envisaged at the highest level and hoped for by us all, etc. One can only hope that reason will prevail and there are no escalations - no one would benefit from a ‘hard Brexit’ or a ‘trade war’ let alone a real one - except some cynical speculators perhaps. Your reflections about another ‘Völkerwanderung’ are serious enough as a scenario for the future.
What about your plans? Any intention to visit Austria and perhaps relax in the Alps or, as a cool alternative, would you rather like to go and see Greenland becoming greener again?
Very best regards form Vienna, the most ‘liveable’ city in the world 2018, as I just learned from a friend living abroad,


Anonymous said...

Jag är orolig - särskilt för mitt lilla barnbarn, på snart 3 år! Må så gott, Emil! // Ylva