Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Season of Change

Eric Otto

Al Gore is going to be in our town tomorrow, in the large basketball venue that we used to call the the Super Drum. I checked out the tickets and it looks like the good seats are gone, and the rest are going fast. I'll probably go anyway.

Not only are these tickets going fast, so is our climate, and the time we have to actually stop it from going into a runaway feedback mechanism.

Here is part of piece from Sharon Astyk that gives you an idea of how fast climate change has occured in the past.

"My husband, an astrophysicist who teaches environmental physics, also tracks the same material. And what, overwhelmingly I'm seeing, and most scientists seem to be seeing, is that global warming is progressing far faster than anyone would ever have expected. For example, as recently as this spring, the IPCC report was estimating that arctic ice might disappear in the summers as early as 2050, but more likely towards the very end of this century.

Research by James Hansen and other scientists at NASA projected an ice free arctic as early as 2023 this year, which stunned the scientific community.

In fact, however, this summer's ice retreat was so dramatic, that in, fact, the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center is now suggesting that the arctic could be ice free as early as 2015, 8 years from now. In less than six months, we've jumped our predictions for a major tipping point factor up by a minimum of 30 years. That's astonishing - and terrifying.

The IPCC's assessment of when major climate induced famines may occur originally focused on 2050, but yesterday the IPCC released a study suggesting that all agricultural production in Africa may halve in 12 years.

Given that Africa presently has millions of people struggling to feed themselves, we can only imagine how horrifying this may be. Or rather, we don't have to imagine it - almost all of us will live to watch it. India, set to become the world's most populous country, also stands to lose up to 40% of its agricultural production by mid-century. (clip)

According to James Hansen's most recent studies at NASA, an ice-free arctic would virtually ensure we pass the critical 2 degree mark, setting in motion a sea level rise of up to 25 meters.

A 1 meter rise could happen as early as 2019, 11 years from now, if sea level rises continue as predicted. Such a rise, incidentally, would do irreparable harm to American, Canadian, Australian and European coastal communities as well. clip

12,800 years ago, the Younger Dryas climate change occurred. It was the last great climactic shift of the great ice age, and is notable mostly because of its tremendous rapidity - in less 20 years, the world went from warm to cold, entering a 1300 year old ice age.

In Maine, over a decade, average temperatures dropped by 28 degrees. But believe it or not, that's not the disturbing bit of data. As Richard Alley, of Penn State University documents in his studies of Greenland ice cores, when the Younger Dryas ended, it did so even faster, within a decade. Fred Pearce quotes Alley as saying, "Most of that change looks like it happened in a single year. It could have been less, perhaps even a single season." more

Will our current leaders act now to immediately move to a Post Carbon economy to avert this calamity? With the exception of Mr. Gore, and a few others,

Probably not.

David Tattershall finishes his piece on rapid accelerated climate change with this:

"In truth, many people do not want to change and it has been established that to avoid change, four specific factors are used to influence human thinking: denial, escapism, scapegoating, and cynicism.

Warnings by Dwight D. Eisenhower (in his final speech) relative to the necessity to limit the power of the industrial/military complex have been long forgotten and if Rachel Carson were to publish ‘Silent Spring’ today it is most likely she would be hounded into the ground.

We are without leaders and thus it is totally implausible that until the disasters are well beyond comprehension, that anything will be done beyond the most marginal actions by the professional political community.

The consequence is quite simple: if one considers we are currently at 11:59 PM on the ‘doomsday clock’, then we are most certain to pass through midnight and start a new day. Some people have a tendency to react to such statements as a ‘doom and gloom’ scenario thereby employing denial and cynicism in the same breath. clip

Long before 12:01 AM the world, as we know it, will have been taken from us by our own neglect as stewards of this planet. The damage can be minimized and a new world can be created: potentially within a few hundred years, we could even restore the Holocene Period.

Right now, we have to deal with the mess, and either you will know how to steer through it, or you will become one of the many casualties."

Last thursday, during a dinner with a west texas land owner, I talked about how I believe that humankind will repond to the challenges that lay ahead; that humankind, as Churchill said of the Americans, will do the right thing once all the other alternatives have been exhausted.

I still believe that.

I just hope that our season of change,

comes before that other season of change.


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art courtesy of Eric Otto



Blogger Charlie Loving said...

Once you fall out of the airplane without a parachute you are in trouble depending of course on how high the airplane is. I think that things have gone beyond the point of return and fixing. We are falling from 20,000 feet and the Keystone Kops are trying to save us. Not a chance of that happening our kids will see some real catastrophes.

3:07 PM  
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