Monday, March 27, 2006

Doomsday goes mainstream


We’re pretty short on English-language newsstands here in Karlskrona, so I hadn’t seen the most recent Time cover story until just now, but it looks to be fairly comprehensive (here’s a summary from CNN.com). It’s one of few I’ve seen in the popular press to talk about systems, time delays and feedbacks. The article touches on the melting tundra and consequent release of methane; the melting ice and the decreasing albedo effect; and the warming oceans adding heat to the atmosphere – all effects that feed on each other in positive feedback loops.

It gives pretty good perspective on the relative vulnerability of different species – but it does little to highlight the vast differences in vulnerability between groups of people, with the toughest burden falling on the world’s poor in drought-ridden and low-lying coastal areas.

The article does touch on the breakdown of the US in taking responsibility as 5% of the world’s population emitting 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions, we have thus far exhibited a tremendous failure in leadership. As we’ve discussed some action is being taken at the local and state levels and encouraging signs are showing up, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative trading scheme in the Northeast. Still, hopefully this will act as a wake-up call for all of us to realize how drastically we really do have to change our behavior and lifestyle – not only for the sake of our children’s generation – but for our own.

To me this article seems to sound the final nail in the coffin of the “is climate change happening?” debate, and gives hope that all of that energy can now be focused on working together to enact the solutions we have and creating a sustainable future. The article sums it up nicely:

That goal should be attainable. Curbing global warming may be an order of magnitude harder than, say, eradicating smallpox or putting a man on the moon. But is it moral not to try? We did not so much march toward the environmental precipice as drunkenly reel there, snapping at the scientific scolds who told us we had a problem.

The scolds, however, knew what they were talking about. In a solar system crowded with sister worlds that either emerged stillborn like Mercury and Venus or died in infancy like Mars, we're finally coming to appreciate the knife-blade margins within which life can thrive. For more than a century we've been monkeying with those margins. It's long past time we set them right.

Stay going…