Monday, 30 June 2008

Fiddling while Rome burns

Katrina cartoon: Danny HellmanAustralian scientists' joint statement on 12 June:
We are shocked
by the urgency of the situation. Global warming is accelerating.

There is a real danger that we have reached or will soon reach critical tipping points...with huge human and societal costs, and perhaps even the effective end of industrial civilisation. We need to cease our assault on our own life support system, and that of millions of species. Global warming is only one of many symptoms of that assault.

The need for action is extremely urgent and our window of opportunity for avoiding severe impacts is rapidly closing. Yet the obstacles to change are not technical or economic, they are political and social.

We know democratic societies have responded successfully to dire and immediate threats, as was demonstrated in World War II. This is a last call for an effective response to global warming.

What new research shows : Barrie Pittock, of the CSIRO, said the rate of increase in greenhouse gas exceeded the worst-case scenario included in last year's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. Barry Brook of Adelaide University said CO2 could reach 600 ppm, and warming 6ºC degrees:
3º might result in the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, a 4º increase would lead to the displacement of hundreds of million of people and the extinction of up to half the world's species, and a 5º increase would create an ice-free planet and sea-level increases of 80 metres. We're seeing events predicted for the end of the 21st century happening already.
Arctic summer sea ice is expected to melt entirely within the next 5 years. Sea level rise is doubling every decade, says Brook. What has this got to do with our daily life? Take a family of four eating 4kg of beef a week and driving a two-tonne Ford Territory 200km each week, Brook said last year: you think the worst emissions is going to be your vehicle but will almost certainly be your red meat intake -- 4 times worse than an SUV!

Another panic attack - excerpts from mwmwm on DailyKos

The quagga mussel, brought as an evil seed in ballast water, a fingernail-sized predator-free mussel that makes its aquatic environment oxygen-free. It's now migrated to the Colorado River and all the Great Lakes. And, the voracious pine beetle, blown by "freak winds in 2006 ... into the province from neighbouring British Columbia" that's eating its way through the boreal forests of Canada east, ever east to the Atlantic. And the algal sludge that the New Zealand Olympic crew members are training in, in Qingdao, China. And the prawn die-off in South Africa. And the precipitous drop-off of the invasive, predatory Nile Perch in Lake Victoria, introduced in the late 50s as a crop, but which may simply have eaten through all the available fish in the lake. And the meadowlark decline in previously song-heavy Minnesota.....slow-motion harbingers of the next decade.

In my dark moments, these are indicators of our human propensity to use up our available environment... In my more normalized moments, these are just bad news, not unlike the collapsing economy, the unbelievable debt accrued from the war in Iraq...

So right now, I'm in non-normalized mode, and I'm freaked. I'll calm down soon, but these panic attacks -- driven as they are by the research I'm doing -- are hard to combat. I can't even begin to express how important the next election is, especially when I'm in this panic mode, driven by indicator realities. If we can elect a mandate for change, we might have a hope of a positive future, complete with new industries and full employment, healing what we've damaged over the last century. If we elect McSame and co, we can kiss our future goodbye.

The warming climate, a major threat to liberty -- by winterbanyan in DailyKos

If you want to see people give away freedom, make them scared. Make them feel threatened...are you just waiting for the government to deal with it? Because if you're waiting, you can probably flush the Constitution...
More moves toward trouble with Iran, more arguments about FISA... the imperial presidency, the idiots in Congress? torture?....
[Another] major threat to our liberty is rising right before our eyes... if you consider what 9/11 caused us to do to the Constitution, consider what an even bigger threat might do.

...we're talking about major human migrations, millions of people pushing through political borders to escape starvation and climate catastrophe. We're talking about food shortages on a scale larger than any we've ever seen. We're talking about losing our coastlines, and in some cases, people losing their entire islands. We're talking about the inevitable unrest and rising violence as people fight for their lives. And if you think that won't be a great tool for governments to become more totalitarian, then you don't understand history, or even the last decade.

...feeling depressed this morning, I thought, "God, what can I possibly do? This is so big and I am so small. [then] I remembered something. Last year I made a commitment to lowering my carbon footprint. By most standards, the available calculators said I was already doing pretty good, with a carbon footprint for my household below average. When I saw that, I wondered what else I could do...I changed all my lights to CFCs. I figured out which appliances I could turn off or unplug (in the case of those with clocks or standby features). I started watching my thermostat and changing it throughout the day, and finally got programmable thermostats so I never forget. I kept at it, a little here, a little there...doing without, cutting back.

A funny thing happened on the way to my electric bill this June. I cut my usage steadily over the course of year until it was less than half of what I'd been using. My quality of life didn't suffer. Only my awareness got a workout. Enough so that when my bill ballooned in June I called the electric company in a panic and the woman who looked over my usage said, "Oh, your bill was impossibly low in May, so maybe they hadn't read your meter." My response: "No, that's not it, because if you look at the past year you'll see a steady decrease. I've been conserving and it's been working."...You can do it too. And if you really want to preserve the Constitution and our liberties, you need to start doing it now.

Combine auto trips, skip the impulse to go out and get that ice cream and wait for the next regular shopping those too-expensive CFCs for every fixture (they now have dimmable ones --unfortunately some of those strobe when you dim too far) and candelabra bases... and I've gotten used to the funky look of them around the vanity in my bathrooms. Close closet doors because except in extraordinary circumstances you don't need to heat/cool them too. I could go on, but there are websites that do it better. The health of our climate is intricately interwoven with our freedoms. Not the freedom to buy what we choose (which is what too many TV ads suggest) but the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.

Thanks to the DailyKos Environmentalists group for pointing us to these sources. See also our previous posts on ghost forests, ocean acidification, food crises, and peak everything. And see the "recovery scenario" in Mwmwm's post-Apocology. We will compare this and other biosphere governance proposals in a later post - Ed.

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