Tuesday, May 13, 2008

350 is the number

A stark column from Bill McKibben about the need to start acting now to reduce greenhouse gases. Or our civilization will die. "All of a sudden it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth."

McKibben writes,

A few weeks ago, NASA's chief climatologist, James Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several coauthors. The abstract attached to it argued -- and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper -- that "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."

And we must act quickly. The tundra is beginning to release methane that has been buried there for millions of years. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Ice caps are melting - white surfaces reflect heat; dark surfaces like a non-ice-covered Arctic Ocean ABSORB heat.

It's good to hear McCain acknowledge climate change is real and say we need to do something. It's clear the current de facto Bush Administration will finish its disastrous term as it began: by doing nothing. That means that Obama or McCain will need to act immediately and effectively, in concert with the private sector and other countries to begin reducing emissions immediately. We might already be screwed - but we should not just fiddle while Rome burns, as Nero Bush and Nero Cheney have done.

If we are lucky, Bush/Cheney (and the US Supreme Court...) will be remembered and reviled by billions as environmental villains for their role in stopping any action during eight crucial years, much more than for their criminally stupid and ineffective invasion of Iraq, their evisceration of American civil liberties, and their sullying the name of America by torturing people.

If we aren't lucky, Bush/Cheney will be reviled by many, many fewer people - because there will be far fewer people alive in the remnants of our civilization.

350 is the number.