Saturday, January 12, 2013

Climate Change Warning from the USGCRP

We live in strange times. Interconnected, hyper-wired, the global village is real; the power at our fingertips gives us the illusion of super-human prowess, whether we live in a village in Malawi or a skyscraper in New York. At the same time, we are battered by an ever-increasing barrage of natural disasters as if the planet was fighting to put us in our place. There is a disconnect, or some strange feedback mechanism, between the increasing technological prowess that we all benefit from and the growing instability of the natural processes we depend on for our survival. Sometimes I feel like a citizen of the empire in the last waning days of its reign, deluded and anesthetized by the comforts the empire has gained and powerless to do anything while barbarian hordes ravage the land. This week we received one more message written by a hand on the wall, one more mysterious missive from the beyond, one more prophetic warning that our days are numbered. But unlike King Nebuchadnezzar, we don't need a Daniel to decipher its meaning. Instead of Mene, Mene Tekel Parsin, we get the latest report of the United States Global Change Research Program's Climate Assessment. The USGCRP began as a presidential initiative under Bush pere, but was largely silenced during the years of his son's administration. In their latest report, released this week, the research body concludes that the spate of natural disasters, floods, droughts, super-storms, etc,  we have seen in the last few years are unequivocally a result of human induced climate change and warns of much worse to come in the near future. The key takeaway for me, though is this paragraph:

As climate change and its impacts are becoming more prevalent, Americans face choices. As a result of past emissions of heat-trapping gases, some amount of additional climate change and related impacts is now unavoidable. This is due to the long-lived nature of many of these gases,the amount of heat absorbed and retained by the oceans, and other responses within the climate system. However, beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions mean less future warming and less severe impacts; higher emissions would mean more warming and more severe impacts.

We have a choice. We do something about it or not. The mass of ignorant people, plus the people who will throw up their hands in despair and call it quits, means that it's even more imperative for those who do have enough conscious will to organize and clamor for a way out.

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