Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We Are All Post Toasties

Oh yeah. We are. We may not have realized it at the time, but we managed to miss the memo telling us. Read this article by Bill McKibben, and if you don't have time for that let me help focus your mind for you (he's reacting to the G8 summit lack of action on climate change):

But two years ago, almost to the week, scientists noticed that the Arctic was losing ice at an almost unbelievable pace, outstripping the climate models by decades. Clearly we’d passed a threshold, and global warming had gone from future threat to present crisis. It wasn’t just Arctic ice; at about the same time methane levels in the atmosphere began to spike, apparently as a result of thawing permafrost. Surveys of high altitude glaciers showed they were uniformly melting, and much faster than expected. Oceanographers reported – incredulously – that we’d managed to make the oceans 30% more acidic.

Those observations changed everything – and they produced what is almost certainly the most important number in the world. A Nasa team headed by James Hansen reported that the maximum amount of carbon the atmosphere can safely hold is 350ppm, at least if we want a planet “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Since we’re already at 390ppm, the message was clear: we don’t need to buy an insurance policy to reduce the threat of future warming. We need a fire extinguisher, and we need it now.

Did you get it? In case you didn't, let me break out the Crayola for you and draw the picture from the same article:

But global warming is different, the first truly timed test we’ve ever faced. If we don’t address it very dramatically and very soon, then we won’t ever fix it – each season that more ice melts and more carbon accumulates increases the chance that we’ll never get it under control, because those feedback loops are taking the outcome out of our hands. So far we’ve raised the temperature less than one degree Celsius, and that’s melted the Arctic. You really want to go for two?

I've commented before on the Artic ice melting, here is a Q&A on what it's about.

The bottom line is that the ppm for carbon is already higher than what is considered safe. We are no longer talking about reducing the threat, it's already here. And yah, I know this summer has been unusually cool and wet compared to the past, but that is what climate change is all about: weather extremes. You can cap and trade all you want, but at the end of the day if we don't stop spewing carbon all over hell and back we'll hit that 2 degree global average temperature increase. At that point bend over and kiss your backside goodbye boys and girls.

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