Climate change – we have run out of time; it’s now or disaster

Posted November 21st, 2007 in Blog 3 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Okay, this is getting really scary. Or, to put it more bluntly, I am getting really scared. Just think how long it takes us to get anything meaningful done in this political system. We voted last year to end the war in Iraq, and Democrats cannot figure out a way to do it in the paralysis that is the federal government. Democracy — we have never needed it so badly, and it has never in my lifetime seemed so elusive.

How, then, are we going to transform the underpinnings of our entire industrial and post-industrial society, along with the values that support them — in just seven years? I mean, actually, now, because we can’t wait that long for the changes to be implemented, can’t wait that long for us to figure out we need to change how we live.

So here we are faced with this most dire consensus of the world’s scientists presented to us by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — that we have at most seven years — let’s just take that in, okay — seven years — to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, and after that, see levels drop precipitously, or we are in real and irreversible trouble.

As reported in the Washington Post on Sunday the 18th:

To avoid heating the globe by the minimum possible, an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the world’s spiraling growth in greenhouse gas emissions must end no later than 2015, the report said, and must start to drop quickly after that peak. By 2050, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric polluting gases must be reduced by 50 to 85 percent, according to the estimates.

That would require a drastic reworking of industrial processes, transportation, agricultural practices and even the buildings people live in, according to the report’s calculations.

“We may have already overshot that target,” said David Karoly, one member of the core team that wrote the report. Current emissions already are nearing the limit required in 2015 to limit the warming to 2 degrees Celsius, he said in an interview from Valencia.

Even at that threshold, the seas will continue to swell for centuries from thermal expansion and meltwater from ice caps and glaciers; the oceans will turn more acidic; most coral reefs will become lifeless expanses; floods and storms will increase; and millions of people will be short of the water they need, the report said.

That’s a long quote, but it lays out our predicament clearly. We have barely begun here in the US to address the global warming crisis, and even these beginnings do not amount to anything near the turn required: em>“a drastic reworking of industrial processes, transportation, agricultural practices and even the buildings people live in.”

Last evening, PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer included an interview with one of the IPCC scientists, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. His words did not comfort, but he did make note of one reason why the crisis is finally getting the attention it deserves: climate has already changed and people are feeling it.

I think one of the reasons this problem is getting attention finally is not only the scientific consensus, but the sense among the average person that they’re actually living the climate change…

The world is already changing. The climate is changing. We are, whether we know it or not, subtly adjusting to those changes. And there’s more to come. And as the climate change accelerates in the future, the question is, can we really adjust successfully to some of those reasons for concern?

The answer is: not if we let them get out of control. Really, there’s a short window of opportunity. Maybe 10 or 15 years, as was said in the set-up piece, in which the world has a chance on get its act together…

If we don’t do that, the chance of avoiding that two- to five-degrees Fahrenheit window, where the really strong impacts start to increase in risk, well, that window just shuts.

I probably don’t have to describe those changes if you are a regular visitor to this and other blogs and websites on global warming/climate change. It amounts to disaster upon disaster.

Denial is one thing, but that even now there is so little public upset and outcry is appalling, a sign of real social insanity. After all the scary headlines and articles the past two days, we have once again moved on to other things, other news stories. We are a sick culture, a sick world, that does not know how to look disaster in the face and then do something to avoid it — why? because of our stock portfolios, our profit margins, campaign contributions, pure selfishness, indifference to collective suicide?

Remember that when they talk about mass die-offs of species, we too are a species. That’s all we are — another species of life on the planet. All that makes us unique is our consciousness, which is all we need to change the course we are on, but it is an evolutionary trait that seems wasted on the species in which it emerged.

Okay, I’m having a bad day. Obviously, the world is waking up to this crisis, the existence of the IPCC being one of the signs. And there are so many good people around the world working hard on the crisis. But we have made hardly a dent in the carbon-emitting values of this culture, and I see myself growing into my elder years on a deteriorating planet with mounting crises and suffering, and passing on to all the children and young people in my life the promise of worse to come.

Unless, unless… That is the other message — that we have all we need to save ourselves — if we start right now. We have the technology for the switch, but we need to change our lives, too. We have to get out of those crowded skies and stop complaining about raising taxes for clean mass transit systems. We have to stop all car-dependent growth, along with prohibiting growth that is beyond the sustainable natural life systems of local bioregions — in other words, put an end to Las Vegas. We not only have to stop moving to the shore, we have to start retreating from it, because the water is coming –even if we really did stop emissions growth by 2012.

And we need to start taxing carbon emissions — hugely!

We have to stop living the way we live. I’m sorry, folks, there is no way around this.

Obviously, this will take more than technology — as proven by the fact that we have known for three decades what we needed to do differently to stop this process of global warming. We have known for a long time that we are ruining the planet, and many have worked on the technologies to stop the atmosphere from cooking.

We didn’t do it because it takes more than knowledge and technology. It takes spiritual and psychological commitment. It takes a change in attitude, values, meaning frameworks, religiosities.

This ought to be the biggest moral challenge of our lives. This should be our permanent and constant preoccupation. That’s what it will take.

Do we have this within us? Do we have what we need inside to do this?

[tags] intergovernmental panel on climate change, ipcc, biggest moral challenge of our lives, mass die-offs of species, collective suicide[/tags]


Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Antonia Geraldi

    I just read an article that states ” France has a per capita carbon emission of 1.64 tonnes, compared to 2.67 tonnes for the U.K and 5.61 tonnes for the US” on Very informative. It’s enlightening to read that efforts are being made by France to improve global warming conditions. I’ve also added a quiz question from the article to the “Safe Guard the Earth Quiz” on The quiz link is

  2. D.Bheemeswar

    Dear Margaret Swedish,

    Do not panick you may be knowing in UK english the anagram for politician is a–. They only bray and spoil the people who work or disturb. But Nature has it’s own remedies. Most of the leaders in the world are more bothered about their seats rather than about the problems humans may face due to environ-mental problems. As it is you might have understood that most of the present day problems due to man made rather than accidental. His creed and greed and egoism are the root cause. If we take it financial terms those who fund such political aspiramts need some thing in return, you know it is a big circle. What we can do is only vote/elect either this or that political person, in oreder to get elected to coveted psots they promise so many but do only what the funding people wanted. If you you believe in Almighty just leave it.

    with all the good wishes

  3. ecologicalhope

    We are not made aware and conscious so that we can leave it. We are given these gifts so that we can respond with all of our creative abilities to address the crisis, to make the transformation. We don’t need politicians for that, or corporate heads. They will follow us one day. So the point is to get about the business of ‘the great turning,’ from one way of life to another. This movement is happening everywhere and in that lies our ecological hope.