Year 4, Month 2, Day 3: Of Course. Why Do You Ask?

The San Antonio Express-News (TX) runs a rather grim op-ed from Carolyn Lochhead, who wonders if it’s too late already:

In his inaugural address last week, President Barack Obama made climate change a priority of his second term. It might be too late.

Within the lifetimes of today’s children, scientists say, the climate could reach a state unknown in civilization.

In that time, global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are on track to exceed the limits that scientists believe could prevent catastrophic warming. CO2 levels are higher than they have been in 15 million years.

The Arctic, melting rapidly and probably irreversibly, has reached a state that the Vikings would not recognize.

“We are poised right at the edge of some very major changes on Earth,” said Anthony Barnosky, a biology professor at the University of California at Berkeley who studies the interaction of climate change with population growth and land use. “We really are a geological force that’s changing the planet.”

Short answer: yes. Long answer: below. Sent January 27:

If what we’re aiming for is the preservation of the status quo, an Earthly condition in which a largely benign climate supports the continued growth and prosperity of our species, then yes, we’re definitely too late to arrest the consequences of global climate change. It’s barely possible that had we heeded the calls of environmentally conscious leaders like Jimmy Carter back in the 1970s, we would not be facing such a crisis today — but just barely possible. The power and complexity of a planetary fossil-fuel economy is beyond our comprehension, and it’s been growing unchecked for well over a century.

The question is not whether we’re too late to avert catastrophe; we’re not, and it is ironic that our inability to understand the crisis was facilitated by “conservatives” whose fear of social and economic change prevented them from acting in time to avert a tragedy of planetary scope. Humanity’s best hopes now rest with science and communication: in expanding our ability to understand a rapidly transforming climate, and bypassing our wholly-owned politicians to apply these insights to species-wide action.

Warren Senders