Posts Tagged ‘James Hansen’
How libertarian ideology is holding back our liberty to change.
Martin Lack, he of the popular blog Lack of Environment is taking a small break from his writings. In his own words,
I am afraid this may be the last post on this blog for a while because – what with the all the willful blindness and ideological prejudice that seems to stop people from recognising what an Eff-ing mess humanity is in – and my as yet unresolved employment situation – I am feeling somewhat emotionally drained. However, please don’t cancel your subscription (as who knows how quickly I may recover).
So what a pleasant surprise when less than a day after those words in came an email that read, “Since I have told readers of my blog that I am taking a rest, I offer you the text appended below to post on your blog instead (or not – as you see fit).“
On reading the text I most certainly ‘saw fit‘ to publish it!
It is a very interesting approach to climate science denialism resulting from an analysis of conspiracy theories.
So over to Martin.
Libertarian ideology is the real road block
I have recently been catching up on a bit of reading – focusing on the recent work of Professor Stephan Lewandowsky (and others). Following in the wake of James Hansen, Ben Santer and Michael Mann, Lewandowsky has recently been the target of hate-mail campaigns by climate change sceptics. Unlike all the others, however, Lewandowsky (formerly at the University of Western Australia but now at Bristol University in the UK) is not a climate scientist. This is how Bristol University announced his recent appointment.
Steve is an internationally renowned cognitive scientist who has joined us from the University of Western Australia. His research has already revolutionised our understanding of human memory and cognition, and he now stands poised to build upon his impressive body of work with a project as ambitious as it is timely. In particular, Steve’s intention to improve our understanding of how people choose to acquire information, and to use this understanding to help create a more informed populace, is a unique and much needed undertaking. Thus, this research offers enormous benefits in the fields of experimental psychology, climate research and the wider public engagement with and understanding of scientific research.
I must admit that, until recently, I had not sat down to read either of the papers by Lewandowsky et al ( ‘Motivated Rejection of Science’ [PDF] or ‘Recursive Fury: Conspiracy Ideation in the Blogosphere’ [PDF] ) – I had only read about them.
However, now that I have read them, the thing that strikes me most forcefully is not the stupidity of conspiracy “ideation”, the invocation of conspiracy theories, it is the fact that, as Lewandowsky et al acknowledge, their work confirms the findings of many previous studies; that climate change scepticism is associated with prejudicial adherence to libertarian ideology. Also key is that climate change scepticism can be predicted by that prejudicial adherence to libertarian ideology.
Amongst many other things, this explains why EU sceptics are climate sceptics and why the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) do not like Wind Farms. I had understood this for some time. However, I had not fully realised its importance; it was just one theme among others. Anyone who has read my blog recently will probably have noticed my post about New World Order (NWO) conspiracy theory, in which I acknowledged that I had not realised just how significant such thinking is, and how subliminal and subconscious it may be.
Although adherence to free-market economics and libertarian ideology were themes I highlighted in my MA dissertation and in my subsequent book, and mentioned on my blog numerous times, everything I have read in the last few days points to one conclusion: We will not succeed in communicating the urgency of the need for radical changes in energy policy until we can convince people that climate scientists are not trying to perpetuate their research funding or halt human progress.
Professor Lewandowsky’s research shows that little can be achieved by simply telling people they are wrong. Far better is pointing out to people that Limits to Growth and Peak Oil have already halted the progress of globalised Capitalism, as recent times prove dramatically. In other words conveying facts to people rather than ideology.
I must admit that this has been a tough pill to swallow. I am not naturally progressive and certainly not naturally “liberal”. On the contrary, I am socially and politically conservative. However, the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption is a game-changer. Therefore, unlike members of the Flat Earth Society or Young Earth Creationists (YECs), I do not refuse to accept what scientists tell me simply because I don’t like the message.
We cannot defeat such obscurantism by telling people they are irrational; we can only defeat it by focusing on the evidence that suggests strongly that they are mistaken. To this end, I think the words of St Augustine of Hippo are an important consideration; words going back over 1,400 years before anyone started to question the Age of the Earth or the Origin of Species! Words echoed by Thomas Aquinas, (often quoted to those YECs):
“… since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing.”
– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (1273).
In the last 150 years or so, most Christians have now come to reject conspiracy theory explanations for fossils, for example, and have realised that it is inappropriate to treat the Bible as a scientific text book. Regretably, the main source of ideological blindness today is not conventional religion; it is adherence to free-market economics.
Therefore, it is important that we acknowledge the ideological nature of the communication problem we face. That is that the research by Prof Lewandowsky and others has discovered a tendency for libertarians to prefer conspiracy theories to reality. Perhaps, therefore, not surprising that he has been attacked; no-one likes to be told they are deluded.
Roadblocks to policy change will not be cleared by social and political scientists telling libertarians that they are deluded. All that will do is confirm their suspicions and reinforce their prejudices! No, what is needed is for climate scientists to be bolder in stating the facts.
The majority of climate scientists seem content to continue to soft-soap the issue; afraid of “telling it to people straight” because it may induce despair.
No, it is not too late to prevent an ecological catastrophe but I am certain that we are now very short of time and, as everyone from the International Energy Agency, the Pentagon and the IMF agree, further delay will not be cost-effective.
At the same time, I think social and political scientists need to focus on debunking the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy myth and pointing out the logical fallacy in the idea that all Greens are Communists in disguise (the so-called ‘Watermelons’).
The environment has become a political football when it is nothing of the kind. It is our life support system and we have pushed it near to the point of collapse, as E.F. Schumacher once said, by mistaking Nature’s capital for a form of income. Therefore, if we do not change course, bankruptcy would seem inevitable.
Having read and reflected on Martin’s essay, a couple of recollections surface. The first is Guy McPherson’s book Walking Away from Empire that I reviewed earlier this year then referred to in a recent republication of a George Monbiot essay:
So very difficult to pick out the sentence that carried the most power, for the essay is powerful from start to end. But this one did hit me in the face, “The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.“
Finally, I can’t resist reminding you, dear reader, of the point made by Prof. Guy McPherson in his book Walking Away from Empire, which I reviewed on March 6th. particularly in the first paragraph of the first chapter; Reason:
At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.
The second recollection comes most recently; from yesterday’s The story of carbon. A story that showed the power of academic, peer-reviewed, properly conducted, rational science!
I will close with a repeat of the closing words from yesterday:
“By my calculation, we have a 5–10 year window to avoid the catastrophe. It won’t be easy — we’re past the point where any transition will be smooth — but we can make the transition and survive as a civilized species, humans in a recognizable world.”
Nothing counter-intuitive about that!
The full copy of an email received yesterday from 350.org
Breaking news about a good friend
Big news has just emerged: Dr. James Hansen, the planet’s premier climate scientist, announced his retirement as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, where he began his career in 1967.
If 350.org has a patron saint, it’s Jim. It was his 2008 paper that gave us our name, identifying 350 parts per million CO2 as the safe upper limit for carbon in the atmosphere.
But as much as for his science, we respect him for his courage. He’s always been willing to speak the truth bluntly, from the day in 1988 when he told Congress that the time had come “to stop waffling so much and say the planet was warming,” to all he’s done to bring attention to damaging projects like Keystone XL — even to the point of risking arrest to do so. I have no doubt he’ll go on doing science, and speaking plainly — indeed, he told the New York Times that one reason he’s leaving the federal payroll is so he can take on the government more directly.
But this is a big moment, and we need to mark it. Here’s what I hope you’ll do: honor Jim’s lifetime of work by making a public comment to the State Department about Keystone XL and tell them to reject the pipeline. In this case, speaking out is simple — click the link below to go to the page to submit from. There’s a list of ten arguments to choose from – you can mix and match or put it in your own words and just speak from the heart.
Sending a message to the State Department might not seem like much, but I think it’s actually quite fitting tribute.
One reason we’re fighting the pipeline is because Jim Hansen did the math to show that if we combusted the tar sands on top of all else we burn, it would be “game over for the climate.” So far that message hasn’t gotten through: the State Department hired a bunch of compromised oil industry analysts to ‘review’ KXL, and unsurprisingly they decided it would have ‘minimal’ environmental impact. We need to get them to take reality seriously, and change that assessment.
Maybe — just maybe — with a truly overwhelming flood of comments, we can break through. Together with our friends across the movement, we’re aiming for an ambitious target of 1 million comments to the State Department to stop the pipeline.
Beginning this comment push is all the more timely after the disasterous tar sands pipeline spill in Arkansas, where thousands of gallons of toxic oil ran freely through the streets of a suburban community.
Jim Hansen has been to jail twice to try and block KXL. When I saw him in handcuffs, I cringed. I don’t mind going myself, but it seems crazy that we have to send our best climate scientist off in handcuffs; in a sane world he’d never have to leave the lab. And in a sane world we’d just be toasting his retirement from NASA with well-deserved champagne.
But it’s a crazy world, heating fast, and so we need to mark this historic day in a way that really counts. Please do take a couple minutes to submit a comment on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
So many thanks,
P.S. This article about Jim’s work in the New York Times is supurb — please take a moment to read and share: nytimes.com/2013/04/02/science/james-e-hansen-retiring-from-nasa-to-fight-global-warming.html
P.S. please submit your comment re the Keystone XL Pipeline; for all our sakes. This is the acknowledgement you will receive from 350.org.
Thanks for submitting your comment. We’ve set the ambitious goal of 1,000,000 comments to the State Department because our best defense against the big money behind this project is overwhelming numbers — in short, people power.
Submitting a comment is just the first step — to hit that big goal, we each need to get our friends, family and maybe a few new people to join us. The next step is to share this with your social networks. You can click below to easily share with Facebook and Twitter:
Also, emails to friends is a great way to encourage people to share as well — just include this link when you reach out:act.350.org/letter/a_million_strong_against_keystone/
No doubt we’ll talk again soon about all this — there’s still a ways to go.
Doing nothing is not an option.
So back to non-doggy stuff although I hope the themes of truth and integrity continue to rein supreme though this blog!
In the last couple of weeks, I have devoted a number of posts to the subject of change, as in how do we humans change. The first post was Changing the person: Me where I started examining the process of change; by process I mean the models of change commonly understood in, say, management change.
The next post was You have to feel it! which drew heavily on research from Ezra M. Markowitz & Azim F. Shariff regarding the psychological aspects posed by climate change to the human moral judgement system.
The final post was From feeling to doing. In this post, David Roberts of Grist showed that one could put aside all the ‘head stuff’ about change and in just 15 minutes cover all that one would ever want to know about the biggest issue of all facing this planet.
So rather a long introduction to two guest posts that today and tomorrow set out the case for what we all have to consider; doing nothing is just not a viable option. The first is from Martin Lack of the popular and hard-hitting blog Lack of Environment.
Avoiding the catastrophe of indifference.
by Martin Lack.
Paul has very kindly invited me to follow-up his recent post regarding David Roberts’ item on the Grist blog entitled ‘Why climate change doesn’t spark moral outrage, and how it could’ followed by a second post in which was embedded David Roberts’ excellent video ‘Climate change is simple – we do something or we’re screwed’.
So my guest post is an expansion of a comment I submitted in response to the first of those two posts, You have to feel it. However it would be wrong not to first add my voice to all those that have applauded David Roberts for all his excellent work.
In 2010, the Australian social anthropologist Clive Hamilton published Requiem for a Species: Why we Resist the Truth About Climate Change – one of the scariest but most important books I think I have ever read.
Reading Hamilton’s book was one of the reasons I decided, as part of my MA in Environmental Politics, to base my dissertation on climate change scepticism in the UK.
In the process, I read much but Hamilton’s book was one of very few that I actually read from cover to cover – I simply did not have time to read fully all the books for my research. However, because I have a background in geology and hydrogeology, my greatest challenge was learning to think like a social scientist.
I was all for taking these climate change sceptics head on and demolishing their pseudo-scientific arguments or taking them to task for the ideological prejudices that drive them to reject what scientists tell us. Thus, it fell to my dissertation supervisor to mention politely but firmly that I needed to disengage with the issues and analyse patterns of behaviour and frequency of arguments favoured by different groups of people. In short, I needed to stop trying to prove the scientific consensus correct and start understanding the views held by those that dispute that consensus.
Having said how I read Professor Hamilton’s book in full, I must admit to learning about a load of other equally-scary sounding books since subscribing to Learning from Dogs; Lester Brown’s World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse being just one that comes to mind!
Then of course there is what David Roberts himself says, which is just as scary. I think we have good reason to be scared. However, as Hamilton points out, we must move beyond being scared, which is simply debilitating, and channel our frustration into positive action.
Because if we do not, there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that civilisation may well fail. If that means engaging in acts of civil disobedience, as it has done for James Hansen and many others, well, so be it. I suspect that nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved without someone breaking the law in order to draw attention to injustice – the abolition of slavery and child labour, the extension for all of the right to vote including women, come to mind.
That is the conclusion of Hamilton’s book; that civil disobedience is almost inevitable (p.225). Just as turkeys won’t vote for Christmas, our politicians are not going to vote for climate change mitigation unless we demand that they do so.
So it was the steer from my dissertation supervisor that lead me to read David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History, and much more about psychology. All of which guided the Introductory section of my dissertation, which summarised the philosophical roots of scepticism, the political misuse of scepticism, and the psychology of denial; see a recent post on my blog Lack of Environment. In terms of what I want to say here, it is an elaboration of the last of those topics, the psychology of denial. Indeed, it formed the preamble to the findings of my research.
To help me research this unfamiliar subject, my dissertation supervisor sent me a PDF copy of a paper written by Janis L. Dickinson in 2009 and published in Ecology and Society. It was called ‘The People Paradox: Self-Esteem Striving, Immortality Ideologies, and Human Response to Climate Change’ and dealt with a challenging, almost taboo subject, namely our own mortality.
Despite my initial reluctance to learn about psychology, the more I read the more I realised just how central psychology was to explaining why we humans have failed to address the problem of climate change.
I ended up summarising the work of Dickinson, together with other sources of material, in the following manner.
In considering reasons for the collective human failure to act to prevent anthropogenic global warming (AGW), a number of authors appear to have been influenced by Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death (1973). For example, Aaronovitch proposed that we try to avoid the “catastrophe of indifference” that a world devoid of meaning or purpose represents (p. 340). Hamilton suggested that climate disruption “has the smell of death about it” (p. 215).
Janis Dickinson elaborates a little more, exploring what she describes as “…one of the key psychological links between the reality of global climate change and the difficulty of mobilizing individuals and groups to confront the problem in a rational and timely manner”, then referring to what psychologists call terror management theory (TMT) – Dickinson also categorises denial of climate change; denial of human responsibility and immediacy of the problem as proximal responses (Dickinson 2009).
Furthermore, as referenced here, both Dickinson and Hamilton suggest that other distal TMT responses, such as focussing on maintaining self-esteem or enhancing self-gratification, can be counter-intuitive and counter-productive. Dickinson summarises the recent work of Tim Dyson by saying “[b]ehavioral response to the threat of global climate change simply does not match its unique potential for cumulative, adverse, and potentially chaotic outcomes” (ibid).
Based on the evidence of the most frequently used arguments for dismissing the scientific consensus regarding climate change, I collated the findings of my research and which might be summarised as follows:
Having analysed the output of such UK-based Conservative think-tanks (CTTs), along with that of scientists, economists, journalists, politicians and others, it would appear that the majority of CTTs dispute the existence of a legitimate consensus, whereas the majority of sceptical journalists focus on conspiracy theories; the majority of scientists and economists equate environmentalism with a new religion; and politicians and others analysed appear equally likely to cite denialist or economic arguments for inaction.
As I find myself saying quite frequently, the most persistent arguments against taking action to mitigate climate change are the economic ones.
However, as all the authors mentioned have suggested, or at least inferred, I think it is undoubtedly true that the most potent obstacle to people facing up to the truth of climate change is our psychological reluctance to accept responsibility for something that is obviously deteriorating – namely our environment!
Nevertheless, all is not yet lost. We do not all need to go back to living in the Dark Ages to prevent societal and environmental collapse but we do need to accept a couple of fundamental realities:
- Burning fossilised carbon is trashing the planet. Therefore, fossil fuel use must be substituted in every possible process as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, it is not substitutable in the most damaging process of all; aviation. That merely increases the urgency of substituting where we can (i.e. power, lighting and temperature control).
- Poor people in developing countries have a legitimate right to aspire to having a more comfortable life but the planet definitely cannot cope with 7 to 10 billion people living like we do in the “developed” countries.
Once we accept these realities, we will learn to use less fossil fuels and, if we can become self-sufficient using renewable energy sources, we can have a flat-screen TV in every room and leave them on standby and the A/C on full power 24/7 and still have a clear conscience. However, we must get off fossil fuels ASAP.
I am indebted to Martin for writing such an insightful analysis of how we all have to change. Tomorrow, another guest post further exploring the options that face us all as we work towards a sustainable future. As I opened this post, doing nothing is not an option!
Day by day we threaten the planet we all live on.
It struck me recently that there is no easy journey of change. Must have been like that since time immemorial. Using the phrase ‘no easy journey’, is a safe interpretation! The reality for all thinking, feeling individuals when we look at the madness of where mankind has arrived and the journey ahead must cause us all to weep; not all that infrequently I suspect. Hence my choice of title for today’s Post on Learning from Dogs.
Maybe I am drawn to this reflective mood because I have finished James Hansen’s book, Storms of my Grandchildren. To say it has disturbed me is a massive understatement. But let me not wander off into some emotional haze but come back to the journey.
Let’s take coal. Here are Hansen’s thoughts on “Old King Coal” going back to 2007. Note: CCS stands for carbon capture and sequestration.
Scientific data reveal that the Earth is close to dangerous climate change, to tipping points that could produce irreversible effects. Global warming of 0.6°C in the past 30 years has brought the Earth’s temperature back to about the peak level of the Holocene, the current period of climate stability, now of nearly 12,000 year duration, and more warming is “in the pipeline” due to human-made greenhouse gases already in the air. The Earth’s history tells us that the world is approaching a dangerous level of greenhouse gases, a level that would produce accelerating sea level rise, extermination of many animal and plant species, and intensification of regional climate extremes, including floods, storms, droughts and forest fires. It is urgent to slow emissions, as another decade of increasing emissions would practically guarantee elimination of Arctic sea ice, accelerating disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and regional climate deterioration during coming decades.
The most important time-critical action needed to avert climate disasters concerns coal. Consider: 1) one-quarter of fossil fuel CO2 emission remains in the air for more than 500 years, 2) conventional oil and gas reserves are sufficient to take atmospheric CO2 at least to the vicinity of the “dangerous” level, and it is impractical to capture their CO2 emission as it is mostly from small sources (vehicles), 3) coal reserves are far greater than oil and gas reserves, and most coal use is at power plants, where it is feasible to capture and permanently sequester the CO2 underground (CCS = carbon capture and sequestration). Clear implication: the only practical way to keep CO2 below or close to the “dangerous level” is to phase out coal use during the next few decades, except where CO2 is captured and sequestered.
The resulting imperative is an immediate moratorium on additional coal-fired power plants without CCS. A surge in global coal use in the last few years has converted a potential slowdown of CO2 emissions into a more rapid increase. But the main reason for the proposed moratorium is that a CO2 molecule from coal, in effect, is more damaging than a CO2 molecule from oil. CO2 in readily available oil almost surely will end up in the atmosphere, it is only a question of when, and when does not matter much, given its long lifetime. CO2 in coal does not need to be released to the atmosphere, but if it is, it cannot be recovered and will make disastrous climate change a near certainty.
The moratorium must begin in the West, which is responsible for three-quarters of climate change (via 75% of the present atmospheric CO2 excess, above the pre-industrial level), despite large present CO2 emissions in developing countries. The moratorium must extend to developing countries within a decade, but that will not happen unless developed countries fulfill their moral obligation to lead this moratorium. If Britain should initiate this moratorium, there is a strong possibility of positive feedback, a domino effect, with Germany, Europe, and the United States following, and then, probably with technical assistance, developing countries.
A spreading moratorium on construction of dirty (no CCS) coal plants is the sine quo non for stabilizing climate and preserving creation. It would need to be followed by phase-out of existing dirty coal plants in the next few decades, but would that be so difficult? Consider the other benefits: cleanup of local pollution, conditions in China and India now that greatly damage human health and agriculture, and present global export of pollution, including mercury that is accumulating in fish stock throughout the ocean.
There are long lists of things that people can do to help mitigate climate change. But for reasons quantified in my most recent publication, “How Can We Avert Dangerous Climate Change?” a moratorium on coal-fired power plants without CCS is by far the most important action that needs to be pursued. It should be the rallying issue for young people. The future of the planet in their lifetime is at stake. This is not an issue for only Bangladesh and the island nations, but for all humanity and other life on the planet. It seems to me that young people, especially, should be doing whatever is necessary to block construction of dirty (no CCS) coal-fired power plants. No doubt our poor communication of the matter deserves much of the blame. Suggestions for how to improve that communication are needed.
OK, before I finish off, enjoy Hansen’s interview on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman” which has found it’s way onto YouTube, (I found the sound level pretty low!)
All of us who embrace this beautiful planet and acknowledge the extraordinary set of circumstances that enabled man to achieve so much must now weep. Weep for what we have unwittingly done to Planet Earth, and hope our tears bring about change.
Truth: the true or actual state of a matter.
Well nothing complicated about the definition, is there! If only society was equally motivated by getting to the truth of climate change. Yes, I know I’m being naive!
Why my mini-rant?
I’m well in to James Hansen’s book Storms of my Grandchildren and it’s confirming my fears about the issues that are facing mankind now! But more of that later.
What triggered me putting ‘pen to paper’ was a recent report from the Yale forum on climate change and the media. Here’s how it opened,
Scientific Consensus Stronger than Scientists Thought?
Bruce Lieberman May 2, 2012
More than two decades after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began publishing the latest scientific consensus on the globe’s changing climate, widespread doubts persist in the U.S. over whether there really is widespread agreement among scientists. It’s the primary argument of those who deny basic scientific foundations of warming.
But new and innovative survey results suggest the consensus among scientists might actually be stronger than the scientists themselves had thought.
The battles to define and debunk scientific consensus over climate change science have been fought for years. In 2004, University of California San Diego science historian Naomi Oreskes wrote about a broad consensus she found after studying 928 scientific papers published between 1993 and 2003.
But what I found deeply fascinating was that later on Bruce Lieberman, the report’s author, lists in detail the actual levels of agreement compared to the perceived levels. To make it easier to take in, I have amended the telling differences to italic.
In sum, the newly released poll results identified surprisingly common points of agreement among climate scientists; and yet for each point, those scientists underestimated the amount of agreement among their colleagues. The results:
- Human activity has been the primary cause of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures in the last 250 years. (About 90 percent of respondents agreed with this characterization, but those respondents estimated that less than 80 percent of their scientist colleagues held that view.)
- If governmental policies do not change, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will exceed 550 parts per million between 2050 and 2059. (More than 30 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 20 percent of their peers held that view.)
- If and when atmospheric CO2 concentrations reach 550 ppm, the increase in global average surface temperature relative to the year 2000 will be 2-3 degrees Celsius, or 3.2-4.8 F. (More than 40 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 30 percent held that view.)
- If governmental policies do not change, in the year 2050, the increase in global average surface temperature relative to the year 2000 will be 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, or 2.4-3.2 F). (More than 35 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 30 percent held that view.)
- The likelihood that global average sea level will rise more during this century than the highest level given in the 2007 assessment of the IPCC (0.59 meters, 23.2 inches) is more than 90 percent. (More than 30 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 20 percent held that view.)
- Since 1851, the U.S. has experienced an average of six major hurricane landfalls (> 111 mph) per decade. The total number of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. from 2011-2020 will be seven to eight. (Nearly 60 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 30 percent held that view.)
- The total number of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. from 2041 to 2050 will be seven to eight. (About 35 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 30 percent held that view.)
- Given increasing levels of human activity, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere can be kept below 550 ppm with current technology — but only with changes in government policy. (Nearly 70 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 50 percent held that view.)
Now back to Hansen’s book. Here’s what Hansen writes starting on p.144,
Sea level rise is one of the two climate impacts that I believe should be at the top of the list that defines what is “dangerous,” on any time scale that humanity can imagine. Ice sheets take thousands of years to build up from snowfall. Reasonable “adaptation” to a large sea level rise is nearly impossible, because once ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continually changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain.
The other climate change impact at the top of my “dangerous” list is extermination of species. Human activities already have increased the rate of species extinctions far above the natural level. Extinctions are occurring as humans take over more and more of the habitat of animal and plant species. We deforest large regions, replace biologically diverse grasslands and forests with monoculture crops, and introduce foreign, invasive animal and plant species that sometimes wipe out the native ones.
Hansen points out that about a billion people live at elevations less than 25 metres (81 feet).
I included a short video of James Hansen in a Learning from Dogs Post just a few days ago. You’ll find it here – go and watch it – and think about the truth!
Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.– Winston Churchill
Sometimes one wonders what happened to common sense!
Today’s Post is motivated by a number of items that have crossed my screen over the last few days which when looked at collectively might remind one of the old saw, “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it does help!“
Sit with me, metaphorically, and allow me to muse.
First was a recent Post on 350 or bust that included the March 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach, California where NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen explains why he must speak out about climate change. (See the video later on.) That Post refers to an item on Martin Lack’s Blog, Lack of Environment, where Martin as well as including the video below also lists the challenges that we on this single, finite planet face. Here is that list,
- The Earth’s current energy imbalance is 0.6 Watts per sq.m.; a rate of energy input 20 times greater than the energy output of all human activity; and equivalent to the detonation of 400,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs every day.
- Since measurements began in 2003, there has been a noticeable acceleration in the annual rate of mass loss from both the Greenland and Antarctica ice caps.
- The last time atmospheric CO2 was 390 ppm, sea levels were 15 m higher than they are today, which implies even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow, this is where they would end up several centuries from now because the warming “is already in the pipeline” (i.e. because the Earth must warm-up in order to restore its energy balance).
- Unless we stop burning fossil fuels soon, sea level rise will continue to accelerate, which is likely to cause between 1 and 5 metre rise by 2100AD (depending on how quickly we now decide to stop burning them).
- Palaeoclimatology tells us that 350 ppm is the safe limit for avoiding significant disruption to the planet’s ecological carrying capacity (i.e. in terms of both populations of individual species and overall biodivesity); and it now seems likely that between 20%-50% of all species will be “ticketed for extinction” by the end of the century.
- If we push the Earth beyond it’s “tipping point” (i.e. allow all the emerging positive feedback mechanisms to take hold); ACD will become unstoppable; and the ensuing socio-economic damage will be almost unimaginable. The total global cost of mitigation is already put at somewhere between 35 and 70 Trillion US Dollars depending on how soon we choose to act.
- If we had started to get off fossil fuels in 2005, it would have required 3% reduction per year in order to restore energy imbalance by 2100AD. If we start next year, it will require 6% p.a. If we wait 10 years it will require 15% p.a.
- Recent droughts in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico were 3 Standard Deviations outside the norm. Events such as these cannot therefore be ascribed to natural variability; anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is happening just as Hansen said it would 24 years ago (if we did not change course – which we haven’t).
- Pursuing emissions limits (i.e. Cap and Trade) will not work because there is no actual incentive to reduce emissions without any self-imposed restraint being to the advantage of others who do not do the same (i.e. the Tragedy of the Commons problem).
- Hansen uses the analogy of an approaching asteroid – the longer we wait to prevent it hitting us the harder it becomes to do so.
Do watch that Hansen video,
Second is that yesterday Martin Lack published an item that really does seem to endorse the view that there is no sign of intelligent life living on Planet Earth (not counting dogs!).
Think about it. The planet is warming up. The use of carbon-based fuels is a strong suspect, putting it mildly, of the rising levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, 394.45 on April 5th, so rather than change the incentives for using such fuels, we are taking advantage of this warming planet causing the melt of the Arctic ice cap by allowing Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic. But even crazier than that, Shell have contracted for a Finnish icebreaker to assist them in breaking up the ice! (I really do feel a headache coming on!)
Greenpeace in the UK are running a campaign to stop this.
Sign up to save the Arctic
The pristine and beautiful Arctic: Shell wants to exploit it for oil. We want it protected.
Dozens of Greenpeace Nordic activists have boarded and occupied a Shell-contracted icebreaker in Helsinki harbour as it prepares to leave for the Alaskan Arctic.
Drilling in this fragile ecosystem – home to the polar bear, narwhal, Arctic fox and other iconic species – is unacceptable. A spill or accident in these waters would be disastrous and the harsh conditions would make responding to such a disaster almost impossible.
Demand Shell stop their plans to put the fragile Arctic and its biodiversity at risk. We’ll keep you updated on our campaigns.
Write to Mr. Peter Voser.
Mr Peter Voser, Shell
The Arctic isn’t a place you can exploit, it’s a place we have to protect. Time and time again, experts have expressed serious doubts about the possibility of cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic. The technical challenges posed by drilling there are obvious and no matter how much you try to convince people that your company can operate safely in such a harsh environment, we know the truth.
Because of this, I demand that you scrap your Arctic plans immediately.
By the end of this week we want 500,000 people shouting at Shell that it must end its campaign of Arctic destruction. Click here now. [N.B. This is a time-sensitive campaign response - please visit Greenpeace website and enter your name and email address and they will email Shell on your behalf.]
We can change things! Together we can stop Shell and other oil companies from destroying the Arctic. Not everyone can board a ship to demand that change. But today, you can email Shell and ask them to stop drilling for oil and ask 10 of your friends to do the same. Together, we can save the Arctic!
Greenpeace Nordic activist from Finland.
It’s not just an isolated instance of madness! Just a little over 10 days ago, I reported on President Obama’s support for the oil companies that threatens the polar bears, see “President Obama’s proposal for these magnificent and imperiled animals is a gift to Big Oil”
In closing, luckily there are many voices being raised about putting an end to this madness; see the recent item from Patrice Ayme. Hopefully, all these voices will bring about the changes to the way so many of us are governed. As Patrice commented recently on Learning from Dogs, “Hope is the breathing of the planet“. Maybe, just maybe, hope will win through. No better put than by James Hansen,
Most impressive is the work of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fastgrowing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 46 chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group.”
- Dr. James Hansen, head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA
Oh, and before I forget, a tornado touched down in Southern France! Not common and not making sense!
Taking a bit of a breather.
All my life, well all the years that I have appreciated a ‘tea-break’, stopping for a cup of hot tea has been laden with symbolism. A chance to let the brain catch up with whatever one is doing. When working with others an opportunity to stand back and evaluate how the particular project is going. When sharing a project with a loved one, an opportunity to lay down memories for future years, and so forth. (Jean and I were building a chicken coop yesterday afternoon.) Sure there are millions of people that share these feelings.
Anyway, as many of you have been aware, the last 10 days or so on Learning from Dogs have been pretty ‘full-on’ in terms of man and Planet Earth. It started with me publishing on the 27th February a Post called Please help! - A plea to those who understand climate science so much better than I do!. Then on the 2nd March, I republished a Post from Patrice Ayme called The collapse of the biosphere.
Then on the 5th March, with a big thanks to Dan Gomez, I published A skeptic’s view and then responded to that Post with Reply to a skeptic on the 8th March. Finally, last Friday, I republished a Post first seen on Naked Capitalism which I called I must go down to the sea again, spelt H2CO3!
That there were a total of 6,313 viewings of those Posts and 69 comments (OK, that doesn’t mean different individuals) was incredibly gratifying – a very big ‘thank you’ to all of you that read the Posts, and likewise to those that commented.
But one of the most wonderful aspects for me was the incredible sharing of ideas and resources. So the point of today’s Post is to bring all those links and contacts onto one ‘page’, so to speak.
On October 28, 2010 historian of science Naomi Oreskes gave a presentation at Forum Lectures (US Embassy Brussels), based on her new book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, about how right wing scientists founded the George Marshall Institute which has become a key hub for successfully spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about climate change, along with other environmental issues, and how myths about science enable these political strategies to work.
An in-depth video of over an hour from the University of Rhode Island’s Spring 2010 Vetlesen Lecture Series, hugely worth watching, is here.
Then there is the powerful blog site, De Smog Blog. As the site explains, “The DeSmogBlog Project began in January 2006 and quickly became the world’s number one source for accurate, fact based information regarding global warming misinformation campaigns. TIME Magazine named DeSmogBlog in its “25 Best Blogs of 2011″ list.“
Moving on. One of the challenges is knowing how to look up some reasonably reliable information about a person who is claiming this or that. That’s where SourceWatch is invaluable. The website describes itself, “The Center for Media and Democracy publishes SourceWatch, this collaborative resource for citizens and journalists looking for documented information about the corporations, industries, and people trying to influence public policy and public opinion. We believe in telling the truth about the most powerful interests in society—not just relating their self-serving press releases or letting real facts be bleached away by spin.“
Let me give you an example of how SourceWatch works. In my Post A skeptic’s view, Dan offered extensive comment about U.S. Senator James Inhofe’s book The Greatest Hoax. A quick search on SourceWatch revealed (a) (my emboldening)
Arthur B. Robinson is one of the three co-founders of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a group best known for organising a petition disputing the scientific evidence for human-induced global warming.
On January 7, 2009, the Willamette Week reported that Robinson is “in the vanguard of a small but vocal and persistent collection of scientists, industry advocates and commentators who dismiss human culpability for climate change. … Robinson’s critics say his analysis is simplistic, but it remains persuasive a decade later with powerful policymakers like U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a visible and effective player in blocking a bill to limit greenhouse-gas emissions last fall.
and then very quickly revealed (b),
James Mountain Inhofe, usually known as Jim Inhofe, has been a Republican Senator for Oklahoma since winning a special election in 1994.
James M. Inhofe has voted in favor of big oil companies on 100% of important oil-related bills from 2005-2007, according to Oil Change International. These bills include Iraq war funding, climate change studies, clean energy, and emissions.
On to another book. I forget who recommended the book by James Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren but it’s another ‘must-read’ for all those wanting to better understand the risks that lay ahead. As the book’s website explains,
In Storms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen—the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues—speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return.
On that website there is a section Hansen On The Issues that includes this 2-minute YouTube video of Dr. Hansen talking about his book.
I can’t close without mentioning some other wonderful websites. There is Skeptical Science, described thus,
Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation
Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn’t what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that refutes global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?
Then there’s ClimateSight, a wonderful effort by Kate, “Kate is a B.Sc. student and aspiring climatologist from the Canadian prairies. She started writing this blog when she was sixteen, simply to keep herself sane, but hopes that she’ll be able to spread accurate information about climate change far and wide while she does so.” Kate’s interest and passion in the subject is unmissable and it’s a real pleasure to subscribe to her postings.
350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.
350 means climate safety. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.
350.org works hard to organize in a new way—everywhere at once, using online tools to facilitate strategic offline action. We want to be a laboratory for the best ways to strengthen the climate movement and catalyze transformation around the world.
Read the full statement here.
RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science. All posts are signed by the author(s), except ‘group’ posts which are collective efforts from the whole team. This is a moderated forum.
There are so many more fabulous sources of real caring about the society we are and, more importantly, the society we hope to be. In this category comes Wibble. Then there’s Dogs of Doubt, that I shall be referring to tomorrow on Learning from Dogs, and The Green Word and so on and so on. It shows the power of ‘hands across the ether’ that the modern world of web sites now offers. I put great faith in this power becoming the power of truth and the power of change. (If you have a blog or a website that resonates with the ones mentioned here, please do drop me an email giving me details.)
Finally, I’m closing with this. If it all sometimes feels too much for you and you want to drift away into the world of the inner consciousness, into the world of dreamtime, then you can do no worse than to call by Sue Dreamwalker‘s wonderful website. Try this, for example. Dan and I had no idea what we were getting into.
Oh blast, my tea’s gone cold!
Last mutterings for now regarding man’s effect on our Planet!
There’s been a string of items on Learning from Dogs in recent days about mankind’s footprint changing our planet but this Blog is not a single issue Blog unless learning the values of life from dogs is to be seen as a single issue.
So I’m going to include a few more items about climate change/global warming here and leave it for a while. (But, please, don’t let that stop you sending me interesting stuff, as so many of you lovely readers do!)
So more evidence about how the planet has warmed up in this video released by NASA.
Global temperatures have warmed significantly since 1880, the beginning of what scientists call the “modern record.” At this time, the coverage provided by weather stations allowed for essentially global temperature data. As greenhouse gas emissions from energy production, industry and vehicles have increased, temperatures have climbed, most notably since the late 1970s. In this animation of temperature data from 1880-2011, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average. (Data source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Visualization credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)
NASA Finds 2011 Ninth-Warmest Year on Record
19th January, 2012
The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis that shows temperatures around the globe in 2011 compared to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.
“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS Director James E. Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”
The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). This underscores the emphasis scientists put on the long-term trend of global temperature rise. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.
The first 11 years of the 21st century experienced notably higher temperatures compared to the middle and late 20th century, Hansen said. The only year from the 20th century in the top 10 warmest years on record is 1998.
Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. These gases absorb infrared radiation emitted by Earth and release that energy into the atmosphere rather than allowing it to escape to space. As their atmospheric concentration has increased, the amount of energy “trapped” by these gases has led to higher temperatures.
The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, when the GISS global temperature record begins. By 1960, the average concentration had risen to about 315 parts per million. Today it exceeds 390 parts per million and continues to rise at an accelerating pace.
The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis.
The resulting temperature record is very close to analyses by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years because solar activity is on the upswing and the next El Niño will increase tropical Pacific temperatures. The warmest years on record were 2005 and 2010, in a virtual tie.
“It’s always dangerous to make predictions about El Niño, but it’s safe to say we’ll see one in the next three years,” Hansen said. “It won’t take a very strong El Niño to push temperatures above 2010.”
Finally, the blogsite Skeptical Science have recently published a fascinating graphic that shows how a single set of data can be interpreted in different ways. That graphic may be seen by clicking here and it comes from a revealing article Still Going Down the Up Escalator. Go read it!
This is so important.
Regular readers will know that I wrote about the XL Pipeline on the 29th August setting out the arguments of those who know much more of the detail as to why the tar sands of Canada are just the worst possible way to continue the madness of using oil. If you didn’t read that then it’s here, and please do so.
The rest of this Post is taken from the Credo Action website. Please do participate. Sign the petition NOW.
“Essentially game over” for the climate.
That’s what climate scientist James Hansen calls the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — which would carry oil out of Canada’s vast tar sands oil fields to Texas, where it will be refined, then burned across the globe, dealing a catastrophic blow to our chance of returning earth to a stable climate.
This project requires a presidential permit to start building — and it is President Obama’s decision alone to grant or deny that permit. He will make the decision as soon as September.
Tell President Obama: Stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Alberta tar sands are a carbon bomb. The 3rd largest oil field in the world, the difficult extraction and transportation of the tar sands oil ultimately produces up to three times the carbon emissions of traditional oil. (And extreme environmental devastation along the way.)1
The Keystone XL pipeline is the fuse to this bomb – a highway to swift consumption of this dirty, dangerous crude. As if that wasn’t enough, it poses a massive spill risk in the six states along the pipeline route, including over the Ogallala Aquifer which provides up to 30% of our nation’s agricultural water.
We. Must. Stop. This.
Tell President Obama: Stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
Twenty leading climate scientists have just sent a letter to President Obama urging him to deny the permit.
And from August 20th to September 3rd, there will be a massive, historic, daily sit-in outside the White House where more than 1500 people, including CREDO staff, have already signed up to risk arrest in peaceful protest. (For more about the sit in, see below.)
The administration’s previous decisions on climate do not inspire confidence that they will deny the permit. Recently the administration has opened new areas to offshore drilling and coal mining, and late last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even said she was “inclined” to approve Keystone XL.
But President Obama still has the final word. He does not have to negotiate with Congress or industry. As his State Department reviews the permit, the decision — which could have a devastating impact on the livability of our nation, and our world — is entirely in his hands.
We’ve lost too many climate fights already. We need a massive, historic show of pressure to make sure we don’t lose this one. Please sign the petition and read below for other ways to get involved.
Tell President Obama: Stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
1. “Keystone XL Pipeline,” Friends of the Earth
Because this fight is so important, leading climate activists including Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and climate scientist James Hansen are organizing a historic, daily series of peaceful protests between August 20th and Sept. 3rd. The CEO’s and Directors of nearly 30 leading Environmental Organizations, including CREDO’s Michael Kieschnick and Laura Scher, are urging people to participate.
More than 1500 people from across the country, including CREDO staff, have already signed up to join the sit-in outside the White House and risk arrest.
Please read the invitation letter below for more information. If you would like to sign up to join the protest, and possibly be arrested, click here.
This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age–it’s serious stuff.
The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will quite possibly get you arrested.
The full version goes like this:
As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.
And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.
These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.
To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities–First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous–and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.
As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.
Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the administration has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 powerplants operating at full bore.
And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. The US Chamber of Commerce–a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined–has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising–they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.
So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent–from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home–the earth–will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.
And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces. We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes–who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting–this is, in fact, serious business.
And another sartorial tip–if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure his government for change. We’ll do what we can.
And one more thing: we don’t just want college kids to be the participants in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change–10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; a young man named Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest.
Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere to step up too, just as many of us did in earlier battles for civil rights or for peace. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.
This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, till the administration understands we won’t go away. Not all of us can actually get arrested–half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada–the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.
Twenty years of patiently explaining the climate crisis to our leaders hasn’t worked. Maybe moral witness will help. You have to start somewhere, and we choose here and now.
As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.
We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.
Maude Barlow — Chair, Council of Canadians
Wendell Berry — Author and Farmer
Tom Goldtooth — Director, Indigenous Environmental Network
Danny Glover — Actor
James Hansen — Climate Scientist
Wes Jackson — Agronomist, President of the Land Insitute
Naomi Klein — Author and Journalist
Bill McKibben — Writer and Environmentalist
George Poitras — Mikisew Cree Indigenous First Nation
Gus Speth — Environmental Lawyer and Activist
David Suzuki — Scientist, Environmentalist and Broadcaster
Joseph B. Uehlein — Labor organizer and environmentalist