A sobering fact (1): The amount of planet warming carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is now greater than at any time in the past 4 million years. Fact (2): The United States is the world’s second-biggest annual emitter of greenhouse gases, after China, and is responsible for a greater portion of historical emissions than any other nation.
Less well known, but predicted (in 1987) by then Geophysical Institute Prof. Gunther Weller,is that rapid Arctic melting and increased warming could precipitate a climate emergency in the 21st century. By late 1986 Prof. Gunther Weller had shown the abnormal heating of the Arctic - some 5 - 7F greater than the continental U.S. The ice cores available at Dr. Weller's Atmospheric Physics lab were extracted from Arctic ice at depths corresponding with geological time frames dating back over 80,000 years. His results showed that the greatest ambient temperatures corresponded to the highest CO2 concentrations recorded in the ice cores. Also the largest increases in ambient temperatures have occurred over the past 50-60 years, during which the CO2 increases have been largest (now approaching 400 ppm). Since then this relationship has only been further corroborated
Prof. Weller's forecast of "climate emergency" then hinged mainly on massive damaging effects of a rapidly warming world on infrastructure- such as melting tarmac at airports, rail way degradation from temperatures 40 C or more, collapse of power grids, and impacts on human health where "thousands can die at a time in heat waves." He may even then have had an inkling of the 15,000 that would perish in a French heat wave in 2003. Along with his ice core data, Prof. Weller likely saw two other factors that contributed to such forecasts:
As the shape of the potential V(x,c) changes the original global minimum becomes metastable or even disappears. I believe we are at such a metastable point now with the concentration having jumped by > 5.1 ppm in just 2 years. The danger then is the global climate system being knocked into instability and assuming a new global minimum leading to a planet with even more hostile conditions. (In this case like the Pliocene era.)
2) The pre-existing CO2 burden only adds to (1). While about half of that carbon dioxide is currently absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans, the other half stays in the atmosphere, where it lingers for thousands of years, steadily warming the planet. Even if all CO2 emissions halted today it would not make a dent in the long term accumulations already in the atmosphere.
Whether President Biden can issue a climate emergency order is another matter. As noted in the main editorial in today's WSJ ( The Beast Mode Presidency, p. A12 )
Congress passed the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to abuses of executive power. The law requires the President to activate his powers under one of 130 or so statutes that authorize emergency actions.
While this is so, there may be extenuating circumstances to do an end run around it, namely that climate scientists can show that the climate situation in 1976 was not the critical one we're at today. I.e. with approach to a global tipping point leading into a runaway greenhouse nightmare world. The WSJ editora are also disingenuous when they babble (ibid.):
Climate change is neither sudden nor unexpected. The world has warmed by 1.1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century, and the pace of future warming is uncertain and depends on multiple variables.
Given while climate change is not unexpected, the degree of change - UK meteorologists had predicted a day like yesterday (40.2 C) in London for 2050, July 19- has absolutely not been anticipated. Also the trope that the world "has warmed by 1.1. C since the 19th century) is now old, lame news. The actual degree of warming is more like 3 C (or 5.4F). This comports with the 2021 IPCC report's SSP5 -8.5 scenario from which will see an increase of 5.7 C by 2100. This is also the level expected by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - which noted two years ago that IPCC climate report understated the threat then.
In other words we would see the advent of an entirely new potential V(x,c) - with c > 600 ppm, and a catastrophic global equilibrium. Climate blogger John Atcheson cited a prime reasons why this is highly probable last September:
Most of the climate-related estimates you hear in the news and from the IPCC have built in assumptions that we humans will take necessary actions to mitigate the worst of the climate crisis. There’s no evidence that making such assumptions is a prudent thing to do. We’ve known about this unfolding tragedy for three decades now, yet we’ve been steadily increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses we release.
In other words human behavior is not going to change in the short term, any more than it has in the longer term. So one's best bet is to project the most dire SSP5-8.5 scenario on the temperature change- which means 5.7 to 7.0 C or effectively runaway greenhouse level. Again, conforming to the projected increase in CO2 concentration by 2100. Alas this means one sentence in the WSJ editorial is the only one that bears attention:
"In any case, nothing progressives want Mr. Biden to do will affect the climate or even reduce global CO2 emissions."