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Is Climate Change An Emergency?

By Bill Henderson

05 December, 2011

'' The door to 2C is closing,'' the International Energy Association warned on Wednesday, in its World Energy Outlook 2011. We have until only 2015 to make major systemic change or be locked-in by fossil fuel capital stock to emission levels that promise at least 2C warming and, more probably, 4C plus warming and hell on Earth.

The Permafrost Carbon Network reported this week in Nature that present anthropogenic warming is releasing enough carbon from thawing permafrost to greatly accelerate warming. Melting permafrost is just one ticking time bomb, one of several latent carbon bombs, that activated by our present emissions could become a positive feedback accelerating climate change.

And at the COP meeting in Durban the voices of the developing countries who will be most effected by climate change are trying to at least use this forlorn opportunity get the big emitters to recognize the urgency of climate change in a world preoccupied with the economic crisis.

Climate change is an emergency requiring urgent systemic change but governments everywhere and particularly multilateral governance needed to deal with a global-scale problem requiring global scale action are either gridlocked or captured by business or otherwise preoccupied with the economic crisis.

What can we do - those of us who recognize climate change as this emergency requiring presently impossible action? Today. Action today that has at least some hope of being effective in helping find a new path to needed mitigation?

Here are a couple of possible ways to force the emergency nature of climate change on to the public menu for debate:

A coalition of environmental and/or scientific organizations could put up a website: IS CLIMATE CHANGE AN EMERGENCY? Such a website could have pages delineating the state-of-art science - cause and effect and full suite of dangers. It could invite commentators of all persuasions to enter a fairly moderated debate that quantifies risk and possible mitigation approaches. With enlightened planning and web2.0 promotion such a website could bypass MSM in focusing and informing globally about climate change as emergency.

A similar coalition of those concerned that climate change is an emergency could target key constituencies world wide hoping to push at least some legislators to actually take actions commensurate with the degree of danger presently quantified. Somewhere, sometime soon, a political leader is going to be pushed across the Rubicon. He or she will shut down their coal or dirty oil industries or introduce Draconian rationing or form a wartime-style coalition government to proactively reconfigure their economy. (Maybe as part of seeking a new, viable economic path too.)

They will break the present impasse of politicians trapped in political and economic business as usual and send a signal to the world about how serious climate change really is, about climate change’s urgent, emergency nature, and about the presently difficult massive systemic change that needs to happen if we are to pull back from approaching tipping points to unimaginable tragedy. Target likely candidates and push with every skilled political activist tactic possible.

Build on what he have learned; innovate and keep trying. CLIMATE CODE RED by Sutton and Spratt remains the best single publication documenting climate change as an emergency. CLIMATE CODE RED informs about the melting Arctic tipping point science perspective. It details the presently unsolvable problems of scientific consensus building and divided and path depended governance in our neoliberal, global economy dominated governments and offers an historic path - emergency legislation, wartime-style mobilization - to needed action.

Climate activists that recognize that there is no possibility of effective mitigation in time in present economic and governmental business as usual could get together around updating CCR and catalyzing both a Chinese and American equivalent version/new publication/video. This could stimulate at least some debate about escaping BAU as a first step to needed systemic change and real emission reduction of a scale necessary, NOW, fast and before we go over tipping points to runaway, uncontrollable warming.

Is climate change an emergency? Our present emission path will take us to a 4C rise in temperature within the lifespan of a toddler today; only one person in ten will survive the predicted destruction of the present Holocene environment. Those of us who recognize the danger have to step up while there is still time. We must do what we can using whatever tools or opportunities we have. There is still time. There is still hope. But if you care for your children and the species with which we presently share creation on this small blue planet we need real action now.

Bill Henderson is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents.org He can be reached at bill (at) pacificfringe.net




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