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Climate Hope and Fear

The Dali Lama expressed a great wisdom when he said that hope is the base of human existence. And in the past, when one died after a long life, that person could be assuaged that, as he left, whole generations would continue.

Today we are at the end of the beginning of an extinction event, which parallels the great grand daddy of them all, the Permian Extinction of 250 million years ago. In fact, we are loading up the atmosphere and the oceans with CO2 and 50 other greenhouse gases. What took centuries in the Permian, we are doing in decades.

I have been an activist and alarmist about climate change for decades. Some 70% of our populous now understands the climate is changing, and sees the impacts of great fires, floods and amped-up storms. However, most don’t realize how fast this synthetic Permian extinction event is coming upon us.

It will be 2040 when we reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above normal, 2 degrees by 2060, and 4 degrees by 2100. The startling aspect of this is how just 1 degree of warming has fostered catastrophic impacts of fires and storms. The impacts of even greater heat are set to create a virtual hell in the later parts of this century, with winds exceeding 200mph and unprecedented global fires, as well as millions displaced by rising seas. Then there is the profound danger of a carbonized ocean.

The question is: will there be a breakdown of civilization within the life span of those born this year?

The tragedy of this is that we humans are supposed to be here for tens of thousands of years. We are at a point in time where the the planet’s biodiversity is at its peak, and yet countless generations of intelligent beings may be denied their place in the sun. Some millions of years hence, when life remerges, the conditions for intelligent beings to evolve will not be as favorable.

In the next 20 years we need to reduce greenhouses gases by half. Currently GHGs are rising, and it well maybe our last chance to forestall the pending catastrophes, as complacency - waiting for others to act- and resistance to change, continues a deluded self-deception around climate.

We have 2 kinds of realities in conflict with each other:

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Assn. states: “We have close to 40 million people in the state who drive 26 million vehicles. You cannot stop production of oil for quite some time.”

Science tells us that we need to reduce our GHGs by 50% immediately, hence we need to take 13 million vehicles off the road.

There are many good ideas for how to bring about change and eliminate fossil fuels. Ocean currents, wind and solar energy sources need to be ramped up by billions of dollars. We need to focus on more collective solutions: streetcars that emit oxygen and water are a new twist on an old idea; new building systems without wood that are fireproof, can go 4 stories and reduce your heating and cooling costs by 70%; greater understanding of how agriculture can retain carbon in the soil; new battery systems.

Currently we live in what appears to be a normal time for the seasons. If we don’t act, it will be one of the last decades to be so. The heat is on, and we are headed for difficult times, and before long, the end of habitable life for millions of years on this planet.

Implementation of the necessary changes will require citizen action to transform the status quo culture to one of change. It will be a mighty struggle. Recently the House of Representatives passed a “Climate Action Bill”, that has no chance to pass in a Republican-controlled Senate. The technology is there, but the economic and political challenges are formidable. We have 20 years to re-stabilize the planet’s climate. Do it for your children and grandchildren.

Allan Nichol,




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