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Friday, January 12, 2007

"Wacky Weather" Is Deadly Global Heating by Glen Barry


t r u t h o u t Thursday 11 January 2007 Guest Contributor
Editor's Note: Dr. Glen Barry is responsible for an extremely valuable news source on global warming at climateark.org. The news about Earth's climate is changing rapidly day by day. While we do our best at Truthout to inform you of the top climate stories, we would like you to know that climateark.org is a good place to learn more. - kw/TO

As of 2007, the Earth System has already undergone profound global change, of which global heating is the most immediately evident profound impact. It is getting hot, and it is happening fast. Many leading scientists tell us we have 10 years at most given current trends before climate change becomes irreversible and dangerous, beyond the generally accepted rise of 2 degrees Celsius considered adaptable (we are about 1/3 the way there).

Yet the chortling television weather people tell us the unprecedented wave of global mild weather - really a lack of winter in many parts - is not climate change. We are encouraged to take advantage of our good fortune and get out there and play golf. At what point will abrupt climate change and deterioration of the Earth System's life giving biosphere be recognized as a global ecological emergency, and responded to as such? And will it then be too late to limit damages, or even to survive?

Global warming is not a slow, gentle, pleasant rise in temperatures to be savored. It is an abrupt fundamental breakdown in the Earth System's climate sub-system that threatens the Earth's, humanity's and your family's ability to live. It is not enough to blame the weather on El Ninño, which itself can be and is exacerbated by climate change. As climate change continues, unabated by systematic policy responses, and "wacky weather" becomes more prevalent, we can expect immediately budding trees to die from later frosts, agriculture to struggle to define growing seasons, pest insects to multiply, and ecosystems to deteriorate and die.

The ability of individuals, communities and nations to deny the obvious is amazing. People do not like hearing that their consumptive, wasteful lifestyle is destroying God's creation. For most, our addiction to lethargic comfort is so great, our ignorance of ecology and our total dependence upon a healthy biosphere so complete - and our psychological inability to grasp that humanity has overrun the biosphere, becoming the dominant force in nature so absolute - that we do nothing, as the greatest avertable disaster to ever face civilizations looms, increasingly recognized but not nearly sufficiently addressed.

Humanity is deeply within the Anthropocene Era, whereby our presence is the greatest force shaping the biosphere. We are witnessing the jarring collapse of the Earth's most recent climate equilibrium, and depending upon how much climate forcing occurs from continued emissions, there are no guarantees what the next climate will look like or if it will even be regularized within a decent time period. And the longer-term results will be calamitous - extreme weather including super storms, floods and droughts, massive crop failures, vegetation die-back over whole regions, a proliferation of tropical diseases, rising seas destroying cities, a massive refugee crisis, and a general breakdown of anything resembling dependable climatic patterns.

Don't believe me? Walk outside right now - see or feel anything different? Are the trees blooming in the middle of winter as they are in Washington, DC, and New York? Is there a lack of snow as in Minnesota and Europe, while other areas like Colorado get dumped upon? Are the rains failing as with Australia's "Big Dry?" So much of the global ecological system's processes and patterns that provide the life-giving context for human civilization have been lost and changed, and it continues to intensify. Essentially, no natural processes are assured as a very different Planet emerges: climate patterns, water supplies, ocean fisheries, soil fertility, terrestrial ecosystem energy and nutrient cycling are all in doubt.

Many rightly do what they can individually, but are discouraged by the fact that many necessary changes like widespread public transportation, caps on emissions, and universal adoption of a low-carbon energy economy require societal changes beyond an individual's immediate grasp. Goddamn it, snap out of it! I want to shake every climate denier and ambivalent Earth slayer, slapping them in the face to awake them from their slumberous death march. We are witnessing a human-caused disintegration of ancient climatic cycles, with anthropogenic emissions forcing the global climate beyond what has always been a high level of variability.

We must get past the ingrained illusion that humanity has not become a planetary ecological force. And that the changes we are witnessing in a single lifetime are good. As the ecologically ignorant chortle, pleased to be outside in winter in short sleeves, perhaps they should consider how global heating will impact their water, food and shelter requirements for life - to say nothing of the economy and their prospects for employment.

How deeply and sadly we are in denial regarding the consequences of the abrupt climate changes we are witnessing. The life-giving biosphere is in tatters and near collapse because of you and me and everyone. We are witnessing the logical conclusion of deforesting 80 percent of the world's natural ecosystems while working on the rest, breeding and increasing in numbers recklessly, using fossil fuel energy wastefully, and believing our lifestyles and consumption are independent of the Earth.

Massively reducing emissions must become this next greatest-generation's central call to duty. Dramatically and rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions must become the central organizing principle of governments, business and individuals. Contracting rich nations' carbon emissions, while allowing materially poor nations to converge with the rich's level of emissions, is the only way forward that is both equitable and likely to be successful. We need contests, and publicity for best practices, and technology sharing, and a rejection of coal, and emission caps, and global carbon trading, population control, huge renewable energy subsidies and so much more.

Only massive public and political pressure - now - can save the Earth and all her species. The recent vote in the US was a repudiation of oil industry governance. Now it is up to Democrats to stop pandering on gas prices and propose a progressive, workable carbon tax; ratify Kyoto and meaningfully rejoin international climate talks; launch an "Apollo project" supporting renewable energy; and generally, for the US to get on the ball and rejoin the league of civilized nations that are working on climate solutions.

I exhort all who read this to break the denial that the current "wacky weather" is natural; it is more, much more; the start of a systematic collapse of being as we know it. And I ask that you help other non-ecologically attuned people grasp what their way of life is doing to creation - risking ridicule as an acolyte of ecological truth. Take responsibility personally, and become involved in the great climate change/ecological sustainability movements that are set to rock this world - bringing forth the necessary societal changes. Time is short, but solutions exist. Save the climate, save the Earth, save yourself and your posterity. Get active, organize, agitate, protest and above all else reduce your carbon!

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