2019-09-16

Climate Strike! Acts 2-3

Act 2
Truths Still Inconvenient

It’s been 13 years since the 2006 release of “An Inconvenient Truth” – the slideshow that brought so much attention to climate change that it earned Al Gore an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize. The predictions back then are all coming true – in some cases faster than predicted.

Through most of the 200,000 year history of homo sapiens, CO2 levels have been around 280 ppm. 350 ppm appears to be the upper limit of what the planet can handle without becoming a very different sort of planet. Above 350, NASA said, you couldn't have a planet "similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted." The journal Nature said that above 350
"we threaten the ecological life-support systems that have developed in the late Quaternary environment, and severely challenge the viability of contemporary human societies." (McKibben, Eaarth 16)
By 1960, we reached 320 ppm.
By 1980: 341 ppm.
We passed the 350 mark in 1987 – 32 years ago.
By 2000, we were at 370 ppm.
By 2010: 392 ppm.
As of 2019 May, we’re at 415 ppm of CO2, still adding another 2 or 3 ppm every year.

The Earth has seen CO2 levels this high before – but not for at least 2.5 million years – in other words, not in Quaternary Period, and not when there were any people or civilizations or mass populations depending on agricultural and finely tuned economic systems. The longer we stay above 350 – and the further above 350 we go – the more and stronger hurricanes, floods, and droughts; more sea level rising; more dying of coral reefs.

Even if rich countries adopt draconian emissions reductions, it is improbable that we will be able to stop short of 650 ppm of CO2. As Bill McKibben notes,
"Even if you erred on the side of insane optimism, the world in 2100 would have about 600 parts per million carbon dioxide. That is, we’d live if not in hell, then in some place with a similar temperature."
Right now, annual global average temperatures are about 1 degree Celsius hotter than pre-industrial temperatures. Because of the climate change that has already occurred, increased frequency and severity of heatwaves and floods have reduced global grain yields by 10%. That’s already happened. Over 1 million people living near coasts have been forced from their homes due to rising seas and stronger storms. That's already happened.

We will probably see the annual global average temperature reach 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter by the year 2030 – and some time around mid-century, we’ll hit 2 degrees C higher than pre-industrial. The difference between 1.5˚C and 2˚C could mean well over 10 million more migrants from sea-level rise.

Act 3
Polls

Americans may be warming to the concept that the planet is warming. On Thursday September 12, the Washington Post reported results of a poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. (The WaPo article is HERE. A PDF of the full poll report is HERE.)
“The poll finds that a strong majority of Americans — about 8 in 10 — say that human activity is fueling climate change, and roughly half believe action is urgently needed within the next decade if humanity is to avert its worst effects. 38% -- nearly 4 in 10 -- now say climate change is a “crisis,” up from less than a quarter five years ago.”
Another 38% say it’s a major problem but not a crisis. 15% say it’s a minor problem. Only 8% said, “not a problem at all.”

So, what are we willing to do about it? How about increase federal gas tax by 25 cents a gallon? Only 25% supported that.

A 2-dollar tax on monthly residential electricity bills is supported by 47% of us – almost half. A 10-dollar tax on electricity bills, however, garners only 27% support.

On the other hand, 60% of us are in support of “raising taxes on companies that burn fossil fuels even if that may lead to increased electricity and transportation prices.”

The most popular approach: raise taxes on the wealthy households. Over two-thirds of respondants – 68 percent – were in favor of that.

* * *
Climate Strike! Act 1: Fermi's Question
Climate Strike! Act 4: Joy, Compassion, and the Big Picture
Climate Strike! Act 5: Thrilling Conclusion

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