In November 2008, I'll be presenting at an interfaith conference on climate change called by the archbishop of Sweden. In preparation, I started writing a Climate Change Primer, trying to briefly list the most important technologies and approaches. It kept growing... If you want to better understand the issue and the spectrum of solutions we need to put into place, it's a good introduction. If you are a policy maker or an activist who likes to hound and harass policy makers to do the right thing, it's a good guide. And if you're thinking about how to invest your own time and energy and/or such dwindling funds as you might have, it will suggest fruitful avenues and new approaches.
While the financial markets have been melting down around us, another sort of meltdown has been occurring, one even more frightening and dangerous. Climate change has been progressing, more quickly than anticipated, fueled even more rapidly by methane bubbles released from a warming Arctic sea, in just one of the self-reinforcing cycles that will trigger unstoppable cascades of devastation unless we act now.
None of the [US] presidential debates have addressed the central question of our time: can we transform our energy, our economy, our food systems and our culture rapidly enough to forestall complete global meltdown?
The present economic woes are frightening, but the environmental crisis is truly terrifying. With all the furor about falling markets and frozen credit, nothing real has changed in the economy. Granted, the repercussions will be that many of us have less money in our pockets and fewer opportunities. But we still have the natural resources we had a month ago. We still have our skills, our knowledge, and our productive capacity. What we've lost is a towering edifice of icing with no cake underneath.
But environmental meltdown means we lose the real basis of economy and survival. We will see more and more devastation like we've seen in the Gulf Coast. We'll see droughts, floods, lowered food supplies, huge losses in biodiversity and ecological resilience, rising seas that will take out major cities around the world, and all the associated problems of poverty, starvation, refugees and resource wars. Time is not running out -- it's out! What we do now and in the next ten years is absolutely crucial.
The good news is, we don't have to take the path to disaster. We have the knowledge and technology we need to make the change. But our politicians, even the best of them, won't do it unless we make it a top priority.