Too late to stop climate change – which means we must act fast

Posted January 27th, 2009 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

[Isn’t our world beautiful?!?!  How I wish I could have seen this annular eclipse with my own eyes.  Now I wonder if there will be future generations of us still on the planet to witness the beauty of our solar system, to gasp in awe.  We are in trouble in that regard, says my post below. ]

We have been saying this for a while.  Not only has climate already changed irreversibly, but we have passed the tipping point at which we can halt some pretty painful consequences for life as we know it on the planet.

This does not mean it is time to surrender or for passivity, it means it is ever more urgent that we get to work as a political and economic culture to change how we live, how we draw energy, how we consume, the patterns of our economic and work lives.

Yesterday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

A new scientific study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reaches a powerful conclusion about the climate change caused by future increases of carbon dioxide:  to a large extent, there’s no going back… changes in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are completely stopped…

source: NOAA

If CO2 is allowed to peak at 450-600 parts per million, the results would include persistent decreases in dry-season rainfall that are comparable to the 1930s North American Dust Bowl in zones including southern Europe, northern Africa, southwestern North America, southern Africa and western Australia.

…decreases in rainfall that last not just for a few decades but over centuries are expected to have a range of impacts that differ by region. Such regional impacts include decreasing human water supplies, increased fire frequency, ecosystem change and expanded deserts… increases in CO2 that occur in this century œlock in sea level rise that would slowly follow in the next 1,000 years… Rising sea levels would cause œ¦irreversible commitments to future changes in the geography of the Earth, since many coastal and island features would ultimately become submerged, the authors write.

I’m not making it up, just reporting.  I recommend reading the article.  Also the NY Times coverage: Emissions cuts won’t bring quick relief.  Or The Washington Post: Long droughts, rising seas predicted despite future CO2 curbs.

So this is what I worry about.  Yesterday President Obama (still trying to get used to saying that) said that on climate change, “we will not deny the science, we will be guided by it.”  I am still a bit traumatized by these past 8 years and couldn’t believe these words could make me cheer out loud in front of my TV.  Why is being guided by science such a cultural breakthrough?  How bad off have we really been as a society?

Anyway, you can see already the pressures Obama will face as he works on climate policy.  The auto industry is very upset about his decision to allow states to regulate CO2 emissions.  They are very upset that he intends to greatly strengthen gas mileage standards.  And now we see that midwestern and other coal states, like Pennsylvania, critical to his electoral victory are also very upset because of Obama’s support for cutting CO2 emissions along the lines of the woefully inadequate cap-and-trade approach.  Divisions within the Democratic Party are shaping up: Geography is dividing Democrats over environmental policy.  If you are working on this, on climate and energy policy, I urge you to read this article because understanding the politics of it is crucial to how we move forward and whether or not we will be successful in saving any vestiges of life as we have known it on this precious planet.

I understand about jobs and all that, but there will be no jobs to be had on this depleted, ravaged, gassed out planet if we don’t do something right now to turn this around.  I remember James Hansen at Goddard Institute for Space Studies saying we had just 10 years to get those policies in place.  He said this 2 or 3 years ago.

We are running out of time.

On this site we contemplate this matter of how we humans must learn a different way of life, and do that with urgency.  In our project, this is what we go out and talk to folks about, in churches, grassroots gatherings, community meetings, wherever.  We need your earnest, most creative thoughts and ideas on how we construct a new framework of meaning, a spirituality, to guide us through this difficult transition.

I have a great-niece who will be born in June.  She will come into the world at this moment of crisis.  Along with the other children in my life, she provides me a fierce urgency about this mission.

From the Wash. Post article:

“I think you have to think about this stuff as more like nuclear waste than acid rain: The more we add, the worse off we’ll be,” NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon told reporters in a conference call. “The more time that we take to make decisions about carbon dioxide, the more irreversible climate change we’ll be locked into.”


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One Response

  1. Vi

    My life’s work has been to write books to wake people up to the coming changes, a save the world mentality, and help people find and pursue their dreams. In recent years I have come to realize that I need to refocus the thrust of my awakening stories. Given that most people I know and meet are shining on the climate changes, the vast islands of decomposing trash in the oceans, the poisoning of everything we need to survive, etc., I just don’t see how life can survive. Right now I am in the process of reorienting my storylines, and as yet, I’m not sure how to focus them. I’m not in despair, but I am very concerned and very glad I did not bring children into this.

    I was born for this, but at this point what “this” is is changing.

  2. Steve Salmony

    “This Tiny Planet” workshop, sponsored by the Foundation for the Future.

    The proceedings of the workshop, including transcipts of all presentations and dialogic sessions, is available for download (4.3MB PDF).