Monday, December 3, 2012

Scientist Warn Time is Running Out to Avert a Climate Catastrophe

It is still possible to stave off the worst effects of climate change but the window of opportunity is rapidly getting smaller. There have been a spate of reports just ahead of COP 18 in Doha that conclusively make the point that we must act now to reduce CO2 and other GHGs.

As reported in the Huffington Post, "It is still possible to avoid 2-degree warming, and arguing it is too late could very easily be a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Michael E. Mann, a climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. "That having been said, the real issue is whether or not we have the political will."

However, a moderate effort will not be sufficient. The scope of the required actions is immense. In the absence of widespread popular support we have no reason to believe that governments will muster the political will necessary to make the required changes.

Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, and the co-author of the first comprehensive analysis of the 2-degree limit back in 1989, has a more optimistic take.

"We tend to underestimate the possibility for change," Koomey said "At certain times, when people perceive a crisis, things can change very, very rapidly."

No matter how difficult it may seem Koomey believes that we can meet the challenge. He cites the example of the federal order that precipitated the herculean rise of America's industrial might in World War II. Still, he added, "We have to separate the lessons that this way of thinking can teach us and the realities of politics and interest groups. Urgent action is required."

"It would take an incredible effort, but that's what we're trying to spur," said leading climate activist Bill McKibben. "Given the damage that 1 degree is doing, we're already at 'dire. We dearly don't want to see what 2 degrees looks like, much less 3."

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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