Climate Change

Published on November 20th, 2012 | by Bob Higgins


We’re In The Record Books, But There’s No Trophy

November 20th, 2012 by  


Greenland surface melt measurements from three satellites on July 8 (left panel) and July 12 (right panel), 2012. Source: NASA, 2012

We set another record last year, but not for the fastest mile, the most home runs, or a quintuple axel, so don’t call Guinness. We may want to keep this one quiet. The record is for blithely pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at alarming rates in spite of four decades of increasingly dire warnings from the very people most qualified to recognize this type of threat, climate scientists.

The World Meteorological Orginazation (WMO) says that last year we reached 390.9 parts per million of CO2, which is 40 percent above the pre-industrial level. It’s been increasing by 2 ppm for the last ten years.

That may not sound like much, but neither does gaining weight at the rate of five or ten pounds per year. That, too, seems reasonably innocuous, but after a year or two you don’t fit your clothes and after twenty you’re voiding the warranty on the wife’s pickup truck.

Yesterday, the World Bank, a strange source for climate change warnings, issued a gloomy projection of where we might be in 2100 with the continued increase in atmospheric CO2 and a worldwide average temperature increase of 4°C (7°F). There’s nothing comforting in the report, it’s not a forecast for a walk in the park or a day at the beach, especially when the park is a withered tangle of noxious weeds and the beach is forty miles inland.

World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim commented about the report:

“It is my hope that this report shocks us into action. Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change, I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency. This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes.”

I hope it shocks us, too, but I’m not expecting much. We’ve been warned by nearly every credible climate scientist; by one of the largest reinsurance companies, Munich Re, which is likely worried about the claims; by the US Department of Defense, which tells us that warming and its effects are a principle threat to national security; and by more Nobel Laureates than you can fit in the Kennedy Center.

I hope that the obvious increase in severe weather incidents and patterns, wildfires, drought, crop failures, and the appearance of tropical diseases in Saskatchewan will arouse public opinion to incite leadership to lead from the front rather than listening to the political winds in the rear.

But again, I’m not expecting much. If we continue with our environmental denial and energy profligacy, the oceans will continue to warm and acidify, the coral will steadily die, food sources (both flora and fauna) will diminish and disappear, and we will create a planet where we are no longer at the top of the food ladder and the critters on the lower rungs will survive by feeding on our scattered carcasses. But have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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About the Author

Lifelong liberal of the Tom Paine wing. Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter, cabinetmaker, writer and editor. Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing, and complaining about politics and the environment.

  • Please change “principle” to “principal”, “Meteorlogical” to “Meteorological”, “Axel” to “axel”, and “2ppm” to “2 ppm”. I’m fully behind your points, but ignorant-looking writing doesn’t help as much as intelligent-looking writing.

    • Thank you for picking the fly crap out of the pepper.

  • BlueNH

    Dear Bob,

    I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, too. While we sit around the table with family, let us ask each one of us what we will do to stop climate change. Even the youngest ones can agree to reduce their carbon footprint by refusing any new toys for Christmas and by pledging to stop watching TV. The adults can promise to write a letter to their politicians and local newspapers about the need for a carbon tax. And they can pledge to reduce driving by half this year and stop flying, too.

    What better time to talk about conservation than when we are celebrating our over-abundance?


  • _sd_

    I almost always hear the argument that fighting climate change is a “moral obligation”, which has failed us for 40 years. The greedy people stopping action against climate change are not moral, so a moral argument is useless. “Know your audience!” Lets talk to their interests, MONEY. Stop talking morals and don’t stop talking about how much money they will lose, and how much it will cost, and how much cheaper it is to avoid digging this hole. That has a fighting chance of working.

    • I don’t believe that I used the word moral. I’m more concerned with words like sanity and suicide.

      When we talk money all they can focus on is the idea of all that oil, gas and coal on their balance sheets that will be left in the ground as we transition to alternative energy sources. This is a frightening concept that clouds their ability to see the profit potential of new technologies.

    • We focus on both (and more) quite a lot here. Humans aren’t simply money machines.

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