How ironic that during the same week that scientists confirmed the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe, other scientists confirmed that we are close to destroying our planet. As though we needed further testimony, two groups of climatologists—one, an international group of 18, the other a group of a thirteen Americans—have told of the high risks we face if we continue to put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at current rates.
In fact, both reports state that 97 percent of the world’s climatologists concur as to the human causes of climate change and the need to change course immediately. One of the groups specifies that the growth rate of fossil fuel emissions in 2000-2012, 3 percent a year, already crosses the danger line (2 percent) that both scientists and international government leaders have previously agreed was the maximum to keep the planet from a terribly destructive course.
At the end of this post I append two brief quotations from the reports and the links to them. I urge you to take a look; they are frightening and urgent.
How many more expert findings do we need before taking decisive remedial action to reverse course? What more explicit warning will shake the US and other governments into doing the right and necessary things? In my very first post I suggested that climate change is the number one national security problem. Yes, nuclear weapons are right up there, as one friend reminded me. But at this moment, I’m inclined to stick with my initial assertion, because the consequences of climate change are a clear and present danger to all of us.
The danger signs are right before our eyes: changing weather patterns, drought and floods, water deficits, loss of species, rising sea levels, melting glaciers—all with the potential for conflict within and between nations, for major shifts in food production, for large population movements, for different energy choices, for disease control, for employment, and for global poverty, just to name a few.
The issue is survival, and the starting point must be here in the US, which accounts—on a cumulative basis—for over 25 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Rome supposedly burned while Nero fiddled. Will Earth burn while governments continue to war over territory, spar over health care and human rights, and endlessly debate responsibility for global warming?
We are now in our fifth decade of international negotiations over environmental sustainability and investigation of the causes of climate change. It’s time to walk the talk. We have run out of excuses of inaction. The science is incontrovertible, and the moral obligation to future generations is unambiguous. We should be in emergency mode. Let it not be said, we were warned.
Here are the two reports:
(1) From the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), http://whatweknow.aaas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/AAAS-what-we-know.pdf:
“There is a possibility that temperatures will be much higher and impacts will be much worse than expected. Moreover, as global temperature rises, the risk increases that one or more important parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience changes that may be abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible, causing large damages and high costs.”
(2) From the Plosone group of 18 international scientists headed by James Hanson (James_Hanson_et_al_Dec._2013-EXTREME_DANGER.pdf, or www.plosone.org):
“Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects. Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions . . . would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice.”