Tuesday, September 12, 2017

This Is The Moment

The news coming from North America over the last two weeks has been increasingly dark. Mother Nature is not happy. Bill McKibben writes:

That one long screed of news from one continent in one week (which could be written about many other continents and many other weeks – just check out the recent flooding in south Asia for instance) is a precise, pixelated portrait of a heating world. Because we have burned so much oil and gas and coal, we have put huge clouds of CO2 and methane in the air; because the structure of those molecules traps heat the planet has warmed; because the planet has warmed we can get heavier rainfalls, stronger winds, drier forests and fields. It’s not mysterious, not in any way. It’s not a run of bad luck. It’s not Donald Trump (though he’s obviously not helping). It’s not hellfire sent to punish us. It’s physics.

People have been ignoring the physics of climate change the way they used to ignore the link between smoking and cancer. But now:

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are the equivalent of one of those transient ischaemic attacks – yeah, your face is drooping oddly on the left, but you can continue. Maybe. If you start taking your pills, eating right, exercising, getting your act together.

That’s the stage we’re at now – not the warning on the side of the pack, but the hacking cough that brings up blood. But what happens if you keep smoking? You get worse, till past a certain point you’re not continuing. We’ve increased the temperature of the Earth a little more than 1C so far, which has been enough extra heat to account for the horrors we’re currently witnessing. And with the momentum built into the system, we’re going to go somewhere near 2C, no matter what we do. That will be considerably worse than where we are now, but maybe it will be expensively endurable.
The problem is, our current business-as-usual trajectory takes us to a world that’s about 3.5C warmer. That is to say, even if we kept the promises we made at Paris (which Trump has already, of course, repudiated) we’re going to build a planet so hot that we can’t have civilisations.

In other words, this is the moment when we either do something to halt climate change  -- or we perish.

Image: BBC.com


Lorne said...

I read this piece yesterday, Owen. It is clear we are the cusp of unmitigated disaster, but the forces of neoliberalism seem committed to extracting the last ounce of value from this world before the end.

Owen Gray said...

McKibben has been trying to drive this point home for thirty years, Lorne. He must be deeply frustrated by the refusal of so many to see what is so obvious.

Toby said...

Why is it that when I try to communicate with politicians I feel like I'm talking with a child. I have written several missives about the climate problem to our Prime Minister and Environment Ministers (past and present) and I swear that I can have more intelligent conversations with a five year old. The bobbing and weaving and obfuscation is like a kid getting caught stealing and trying to pretend he/she didn't do it. Canada will not address global warming until we elect adults.

Owen Gray said...

It has a lot to do with where the money comes from, Toby. The Fingers of Fossil Fuels are everywhere.

ffd said...

Voters don't want to pay extra taxes to limit climate warming or to adapt to it. The politicians were voted into office by irresponsible and childish voters.

The European media were commenting on how the electricity lines in Florida were all above ground and so highly vulnerable to high winds. Burying electric lines is standard in Europe and should be in North America. It would save a fortune in preventive tree trimming since every falling branch can bring down an electrical line.

But I can't see burying electric lines happening any time soon in North America.

Owen Gray said...

It's a case of pay me now or pay me later, ffd. And it North America we think we can always put off the day off reckoning.