~ PROLOGUE ~ HOW I MET THE CLIMATE ~ THE MEANING OF SCIENCE ~ THE STATE OF THE CLIMATE ~ BEGINNING
ONE CHANCE ~ TRIBES ~ SENTIENCE ~
~ AGONY ~ LETTER TO PRESIDENT REIF OF MIT
WHO IS AT FAULT ~ CRITIQUE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES ~
WORLD CLIMATE AUTHORITY ~ A BIT OF BIO ~ APOLLO 8 ~ EPILOGUE
What did we do to get to this place?
Global warming had begun around 1850. It was too small to pay attention to. In 1959 Edward Teller, the great physist, warned the 100th anniversary gala of the oil companies. They understood and had done their own research but supressed their knowledge. In 1988 James Hansen gave Congress the full story and President George H.W. Bush made a proposal to the U.N. Implementation was feeble and the whole thing was watered down.
This was the time we should have taken on the global warming challenge.
I presented three seminars at annual meetings of the Thoreau Society. Thoreau is often thought of as the first conservationalist. Despite this there was no interet even in one on one with the exective director.
The longer we waited the higher the cost and the less chance of success.
I began to feel intense anguish for the world seemed not to be paying attention. The New York Times would bury climate news at the bottom of page 13.
There were heroes at this time, particularly vice president Al Gore, James Hansen and Bill McGibbon who helped launch 350.org.
For hundreds of thousands of years the CO2 in the atmosphere averaged about 240 ppm.
350 ppm seemed the highest safe value and McGibbon fought to make the world aware of this. But the world was not interested and the emissions of greenhouse gasses kept increasing.
Between 2008 and 2015, Exxon handed $6.5 million to climate-denying groups and $2.3 million to climate-denying politicians. That all happened under Tillerson’s watch — and after the company had pledged to stop funding climate denial in 2007. Exxon led a decades-long misinformation campaign to gaslight the public over climate change, now referred to as #ExxonKnew. Scientists warned the company’s leadership what fossil fuel emissions meant for the planet in the 1970s. Instead of sharing that knowledge with the public, Exxon funneled resources into climate denial and lobbied to block climate action.
When I think of global warming I picture a portion of the "blue marble," the photograph that had been taken from aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft. (The photograph at the top of the page, Earthrise is one of the most famous photographs of the 20th centur. There is a facinating story about who actually took the picture. Click on the caption to read the story.)
And then I was reminded of photographs I had made of the earth as I had experienced it. The thought of the danger to the earth that I felt was overwhelming and I suffered two years of depression. In my fourty–four years of photographing one of the most memorable and popular I made with a 4x5 view camera at sunrise on the entrace ramp of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Millbury, Massachusetts.
My reading and my own calculations CHAPTER III–CALCULATIONS
There have been two important conferences, one in Paris and one in Katowice, Poland ostensibly committing the nations of the world to a rapid decrease in emissions but the emissions are still rising.
The only hope that remains is the "Green New Deal" championed by Rep. Andrea Ocasio Cortez and Rep. Bill Markey of Massachusetts. The Green New Deal is not legislation but a non-binding resolution. Its strength is that it attempts to be bold enough, which is necessary, but is several times anything anyone else is considering. It will be very costly but it, or something very much like it is necessary. Without it the earth and our very civilization are in danger.
We have already suffered storms, droughts, and floods setting new historic records yet despite this not only the United States but the world is not taking nearly sufficient notice.
We need a mobilization something like that which happened when we entered World War II, only larger. And we need Manhattan Projects several times the size of the one that created the atomic bomb.
As extreme as this may sound we have not been able to grasp the seriousness of our situation. I will discuss that in chapters 4 and 5.
However, it will help to list of a few of the consequences that we have already experienced and a few of those we know are coming.
1. Too much warming will melt the tundra and release methane. Then the earth's temperature will rise faster than anything we can do about it.
2. Shortage of food, water, housing, and cures for new diseases.
3. Migrations of millions as people searching for places where food still can be grown and sunlight is not deadly dangerous.
4. Coping with sea level rise and many, and eventual all, coastal cities under water.
And more than I can list here.
There are those who argue that the cost of the Green New Deal will be too high. If it needs every spare dollar the world has it will not be too much. For waiting to act will make the situation still more expensive, and so serious that no amount of money will return the earth to being a good place to live. Large numbers of people will migrate north looking for more suitable places to live. Temperatures in the south will be high enough to cook people. Electricity will be in short supply unless we get serious about nuclear. Temperatures will rise quickly unless we get a jump on negative emissions and get very serious about emission reductions.
It is possibe civil war will break out as groups fight for prize pieces of land. And disease, depending on location will have moved north and northerners will find they are not immune. The population will drop precipitously.
At some point, perhaps several hundred years into the future a new equilibrium will be established and people will tell stories of the wonderful times in the twentieth century.
I wonder what the survivors will think of those of us who ignored the warnings and couldn't muster the united urgency necessary to do the job. They will be like all survivors, they will say that they would have done better. It's known as 20/20 hindsight.