Storms of my Grandchildren

Jim Hansen, the preeminent climate scientist and now political activist has recently emailed out a new note, Never-Give-Up Fighting Spirit: Lessons From a Grandchild. The note was adapted to an article in Sunday’s Observer, and is in part publicity for his new book Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity and part a call-to-arms in the run-up to Copenhagen.

Hansen writes:

The most foolish no-fighting spirit statement, made by scores of people, is this: “we have already passed the tipping point, it is too late.” They act as if a commitment to a meter of sea level rise is no different tha a commitment to several tens of meters. Or, if a million species become committed to extinction, should we throw in the towel on the other nine million? What would the plan be then – escape to Mars? As I make clear in “Storms of My Grandchildren”, anybody who thinks we can transplant even one butterfly species to another planet has some loose screws. We must take care of the planet we have – easily the most remarkable one in the known universe.

Hansen asks:

“Is There Any Real Hope of Cutting Global Carbon Emissions?”

His answer, in line with his recent statements and political actions remains radical:

Absolutely. It is possible – if we give politicians a cold hard slap in the face. The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – “goals” for emission reductions, “offsets” that render even iron-clad goals almost meaningless, an ineffectual “cap-and-trade” mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics-as-usual.

Hansen notes that coal must be phased out in 20 years, yet we are cutting deals to increase our coal imports from Canada. And he calls for a progressive, uniform, rising price on carbon, collected at the source as the only real leverage to ignite the required transition to clean energy.

Hansen is an invaluable vanguard pushing the envelope out and forward. However, I wish Hansen could find a more constructive frame for the argument than to call Copenhagen a fraud. It is a counterproductive position – easily used by those wishing to thwart any progress.

Copenhagen is a weak next step to be sure – but that is the political reality. However flawed Copenhagen is, it will be a fundamentally important international consensus, becoming a new floor on which we must rapidly build.

Given the tipping points we face, the current emissions reductions goals for 2020 and 2030 are horribly laughable – but the goals will accelerate…they must accelerate. Otherwise our children and grandchildren will face a world of unmitigated horror.

It is time Americans and others internalize the fact that we are not talking about preventing horrors on the Maldives, or Bangladesh or some other far away land, we must act to save our own children and grandchildren from a life of misery, and so we must act to save the climate for all the world’s children and grandchildren.

With the realization that we face a truly existential threat to all, to us! – then maybe society’s consensus will be radicalized, like Hansen’s – and demand rapid carbon emissions cuts – demand the elimination of coal.

The lesson, as stated by Hansen’s 5-year-old grandson, Conner, is a simple one:

“I don’t quit, because I have never-give-up fighting spirit.”


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