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Climate Siren Is Going Off

November 3, 2014

Climate warnings don’t get much clearer than this:

The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report.

Despite growing efforts in many countries to tackle the problem, the global situation is becoming more acute as developing countries join the West in burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said here on Sunday.

Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the report found.

What does all that mean? That we can only put another trillion tons of C02 into the atmosphere if we want to keep global warming below the 2 degrees C/3.6 degrees F threshold that scientists believe marks the difference between manageable and disastrous. That may sound like a lot, but at current growth rates the globe is projected to emit that trillion tons in just 30 years.

This sort of projection from the key scientific panel tracking climate change exposes climate denialism in the pursuit of political advantage as both cowardly and nihilistic. And the failure of the mainstream media to force the public and politicians to come to grips with the threat of climate change. If we feared it as much as we fear ebola, and paid as much attention to it as we pay the threat of ebola, we might actually be getting somewhere. But that is a rant for another time.

Most important, it also demands leadership and a willingness to change and sacrifice from a global culture of advanced economy consumers who are pursuing lifestyles that are clearly incompatible with a healthy planet.

How our lifestyles, values, and choices might change to become more compatible with a healthy planet, and what that means for our politics and the global political structure,  is a subject I want to start exploring in depth in the coming year. I am calling it The Earthism Project, and I will need lots of help…

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