Year 4, Month 7, Day 4: Find The Cost Of Freedom…

The Washington Post channels its inner tree-hugger:

THE INTERNATIONAL Energy Agency (IEA) last week warned that global carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 were the highest ever. Yet international climate negotiations have floundered. Many Americans and their representatives in Congress still doubt climate change is a problem worth addressing. And as the developing world advances, its peoples are polluting more to obtain higher standards of living.

Forget for a moment the ideal or rational response; what’s the bare minimum global leaders could do? The IEA had some useful, if modest, suggestions.

An energy-gobbling world emitted 31.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2012, the result of extracting and burning vast amounts of coal, oil and natural gas. Last month, the world reached another milestone that scientists and policymakers said they wanted to avoid — CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere that exceeded 400 parts per million. Scientists reckon that the last time concentrations were that high, the Earth was far warmer. Though the planet’s sensitivity to carbon emissions is still a matter of intense study, the IEA figures that, under policies in place now, the planet could warm between 3.6 and 5.3 degrees Celsius, mostly over the next hundred years. By contrast, world leaders have committed to limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, the point past which the consequences could be very negative.

Very negative. Indeed. June 18:

Any appropriately robust response to global warming must take place on multiple levels of scale. Regional projects like infrastructural reinforcement need to be supported by local-level changes in roadway use, power consumption, and waste processing, such as New York City’s plans for comprehensive composting. Ultimately, however, all strategies will succeed or fail based on two factors.

Without comprehensive reform of our energy economy and a global move away from the destructive fossil fuels that caused the problem in the first place, all other initiatives are doomed to failure. And without a reformed and responsible news media that recognizes the severity of the situation and the crucial importance of accurate reporting on climate change, there will be no widespread societal support for any actions could possibly impact the problem. When it comes to the civilizational threat posed by the climate crisis, ignorance has profound moral implications — and delay is suicidal.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 28: We Can Get Down To What Is Really Wrong…

In the Holland Sentinel (MI), Mary Colborn has a personal take on the doom-laden atmosphere:

Call him stubborn. My father, a dairy farmer, cut hay in his fields on a Monday, fully intending to bale it later in the week he was dying from the lung cancer that ravaged his body.

My husband, a Navy officer, was out to sea and my mother kept insisting that my father did not want me to make the trip across the country from Washington state with my small children by myself. “He’s fine,” she kept saying. “He doesn’t want to bother you. I’ll call you if it gets worse.”

He slipped into a coma the day he planned to bale. By the time the call came, it was too late. Everything I did — frantically negotiating a grievance flight, packing the babies and their things, rushing to the airport, transferring three time zones — wasn’t enough. Without the loving arms of hospice, my father died before we landed in Chicago for our connecting flight. I was too late.

That was the feeling that arose this summer when the temperatures soared, when it was 95 degrees in the shade for days on end, when we watched all the crops in nearby fields wither and die, when it stopped raining, and my sister and I struggled to keep alive the first gardens planted on my father’s Allegan farm since he died 22 years ago. We have been in denial for too long and now it is too late.
I came back to Michigan to turn the farm around, to teach the skills that he had taught me, to feed people the way he fed them, to honor him in the best way I knew how and maybe I was too late.

“Breathe, Mary, breathe,” friends said. “Do the next right thing.”

So, when the call came, an e-mail really, that I was chosen to join a thousand people from around the world to train with Al Gore and the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in San Francisco this summer on my own dime, I went. I had already spent part of the summer, when I wasn’t weeding and watering, in D.C. meeting people who had been affected by the adverse effects of carbon extraction.

I listened to people as they cried over the mountains they had lost to mountaintop removal coal mining. I met farmers, ranchers and townspeople who had their water contaminated from hydrofracking. I listened as they related stories of cancer, asthma and high rates of birth defects. I came to see that what is happening with our climate in our thirst for energy as the social justice issue of our lifetime.

Beautiful. Sent September 21:

Our media-driven culture tells us that climate change is somehow a distraction from “the issues that really matter”: Jobs! Wars! The Deficit! Gay marriage! But this is a profound misunderstanding. What really matters is something our species has been doing for hundreds of thousands of years. Passing on our genetic and cultural heritage to our children — and making sure they can to the same for theirs — is more important than any of the fleeting issues that obsess politicians and pundits..

A runaway greenhouse effect threatens the hard-won wisdom of millennia, offering our posterity a dystopian scenario drought, extreme weather, and ecological collapse. A failure to address the likely consequences of our past century of carbon consumption means our descendants will be too busy trying to survive on a suddenly hostile planet to curse us for our inaction. And this is the only issue that really matters.

Warren Senders