Iraq, health care, the economy – all important issues.
And all are a diversion from the one true crisis we face. For if we don’t solve the global warming crisis all other important issues will cease to be, period.
An article by Joseph Romm, “Obama and Clinton plan to cool it” takes a look at Hillary and Barack and climate change.
Mr. Romm starts strong with a clear-eyed description of what’s at stake:
The gravest threat to the American way of life is posed by unrestricted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Global warming threatens to put the Southwest into a permanent drought, raise sea levels by 6 or more inches a decade, generate hundreds of millions of environmental refugees at home and abroad, wipe out half the planet’s species, and increase average temperatures in the nation’s interior 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit. And these impacts would likely get steadily worse for hundreds of years or longer.
Unfortunately, Mr. Romm then goes on to talk about the crisis as if it’s about to happen rather than saying it’s happening.
Humanity’s great challenge is to stop the warming before we cross key thresholds or tipping points, in which amplifying feedbacks in the carbon cycle start to seriously kick in and overwhelm human efforts to reduce emissions. A typical feedback would be the melting of the permafrost or tundra, which currently has locked away some 1,000 gigatons of carbon — more carbon than the atmosphere is holding today.
If the permafrost stops being perma…
I feel compelled to impolitely clarify:
Tipping points are being crossed now.
The permafrost is melting now.
The acidification of the ocean is happening now.
We don’t have 40 years to reduce emissions 80% nor 100 years to get to zero – we must drop 90%, and damn fast. (We must really be shooting for zero in the very near term.)
Mr. Romm rightly notes that both Obama and Clinton have relatively strong and detailed positions (if inadequate) on global warming. While supporting McCain at this point is best described (by me, not Mr. Romm) as a suicide pact.
We know we must elect a Democrat – not for the healthcare plan, not the Iraq withdrawal timeline, not the economic packages – although all important – it is to save the planet we know for our children so that we might worry about these other things again. (Or I may qualify slightly and say these other issues are important now in as far as the help or hurt climate change. Climate change is the driver.)
We also know that the Democratic plans are inadequate. They can only be seen as a first baby step in an effort that must rapidly accelerate. Given this fact while trying to find some reason to pick Barack or Hillary on this issue, Mr. Romm’s article has a tantalizing description:
Obama said in early February he would start working on a global climate effort as soon as he becomes the Democratic nominee (which at the time he probably thought would have happened already): “I’ve been in conversations with former Vice President (Al) Gore repeatedly, and his recommendation, which I think is sound, is that you can’t wait until you are sworn into office to get started … I think we need to start reaching out to other countries ahead of time, not because I’m presumptuous, but because there’s such a sense of urgency about this.”
May I tip my hand here, and say that, while a narrow and fleeting look at the candidate regarding this issue, it’s stuff like this that gives me some confidence there’s “can do” substance backing up Obama’s rhetoric – and that perhaps he appreciates the climate crisis is much, much worse than most of us realize.
If we’re to take a serious shot at saving the planet we inhabit, it’ll take leadership that’s willing to leapfrog ahead and change the game.
And lastly (and not completely unrelated), may I suggest downloading the Checklist Toward Zero Carbon. While our leaders leapfrog, so must we.