Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's Time

There's a conversation emerging among the climate modelers, and it's about how these models have not only accurately presaged the climate changes we're seeing now, but that things are moving very quickly to a much worse scenario than these models predicted. Why? There's no feedback from natural processes accounted for in the relatively straightline projections contained in these models. The permafrost melt in the arctic, as well as other changes in the ocean, will compound an effect that human activity has set off in the ecosphere. A record Greenland ice melt occurred in June of last year, creating global concern around this issue because of the methane emitted from this process, an extreme positive feedback mechanism, which has not yet been factored into the models.

The warnings from the science community ramped up last year after Superstorm Sandy hit New York city, and the International Energy Agency has warned that on current emissions trends the world would be in for 6C of warming – a level scientists warn would lead to chaos. Scientists have put the safety limit at 2C, beyond which warming is likely to become a runaway change. Increasingly, there are models and numbers that show that we're quickly approaching that limit. The popular press has started to publish the even more alarming predictions that are based on this last years' climate events, and warning of the coming impacts of these changes.

Recently, Secretary of State John Kerry has taken an official position in Washington on the urgency of climate change. Kerry called climate change an economic and national security issue — as well as an environmental one — because it affects oceans, aquatic ecosystems and the food they produce. This is a very strong call to action by the USA. It's critically important for the decision to be made on specific actions and goals in response to climate change.The decisiveness of this particular historical moment is highlighted by an important new paper in Nature - the International Weekly Journal of Science, which finds first, that when we start serious change is the most important factor in limiting the damage from climate change, and second, that we have to start serious change now, with policy shifts comparable to an international carbon price of $60 a ton by 2015 in order to mitigate climate change in time to stop irreversible warming.

At this point in time, lawyers and lobbyists are waiting for the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to issue the long bottled-up standards for how agencies should address climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. Evidently Washington has decided to take this very belated action and establish standards for approving all manner of projects and initiatives that affect the amount of carbon emissions allowed in the atmosphere. This will have major impacts on the economy and businesses, but as the increasing global public outcry shows, the time has arrived to deal with the issue.

We hardly have any time left.