“President Abraham Lincoln was also thinking of bold action 150 years ago when he said: ‘The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. As our case is new so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the last generation… We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.’ He was speaking before the US Congress to confront the defining issue of his time – slavery. Everyone knew it had to end but no one had the political will to stop it. Remarkably, his words ring as true today when applied to the defining crisis of our time – Climate Change. That is our charge now – you are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it. Or we – and all living things we cherish – are history.” Full Speech
We are at a moment of no return on climate. We either do something very strong now, or lose our chance to give our children and grandchildren any future.
The science behind what is called the ‘greenhouse effect’ was discovered in the mid-1800s.
As Bill McKibben writes in “A World at War” in the New Republic the time is now for a mobilization like we saw during World War 2. This would require bringing the engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to make the route to solve what is an issue of whether humans have a future at all on this planet.
“Even if every nation in the world complies with the Paris Agreement, the world will heat up by as much as 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 – not the 1.5 to 2 degrees promised in the pact’s preamble.” (Bill McKibbon, A World at War, New Republic, Aug. 15, 2016, available here.
Evidence (what we see)
What is Climate Change? – “The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisks. We get it. So we’ve put together a list of quick answers to often-asked questions about climate change. This should give you a running start on understanding the problem.”
Where better to go than NASA!
Rapid ice melt could permanently alter the Arctic ecosystem and trigger catastrophic events as far as the Indian Ocean if greenhouse gas emissions are left unchecked, according to a Stockholm Environment Institute Arctic Resilience Report. This was a five year study that found there were numerous tipping points we are currently crossing.
Websites like Skeptical Science are great to send your friends to when you are confronting deniers.
A climate scientist at Texas Tech has a series of videos and articles that wonderfully illustrate where we are at.
Is it to Late?
Many of you probably saw the headlines this summer that said we have crossed a threshold of no return. So maybe why bother? Here is what that was all about. Scientists measure the lowest level of carbon in our atmosphere each month. In September 2016, carbon parts per million in the air did not drop below 400 ppm.
What is the significance of 400 ppm? This is a threshold that indicates that we are above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Articles have written much about the effects. “Dr. James Hansen, a former NASA climatologist and activist, has said that CO2 levels will actually have to be reduced to 350 parts per million ‘if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted.'”
Do we pack it in?
Ralph Keeling stressed that the 400 parts per million is “a good yardstick,” but “to call it a tipping point is incorrect.”
Gavin Schmidt, a scientist who heads a NASA climate research unit in New York, agreed. “400 ppm is definitely a milestone, but there’s no evidence it’s a tipping point,” he wrote in an email response to questions.
In short we must lower our carbon emissions: now. What gets incredibly complicated is how.