Friday, July 04, 2008

Climate Crisis Update: The Price of A Barrel of Oil is Not the Number You Need to Focus On, The Number You Need to Focus On is "350"

Variations of the Earth's surface temperature: year 1000 to year 2100, IPCC

Climate Crisis Update: The Price of a Barrel of Oil is Not the Number You Need to Focus On, The Number You Need to Focus On is "350"

By Richard Power

Year after year, it becomes painfully clear that even though many (if not most) people now accept the Climate Crisis as real, they are still in denial about what must be done. Each year that the governments of the world fail to make Climate Crisis their number one priority is another grain of sand in the hourglass.

The number of grains is finite. There are already more grains at the bottom of the hourglass than at the top. There is not much time left.

I do not know the exact number of grains left, but I do know that just like the sparrows of the air and the hairs on your head, they are numbered.

There is another number that I do know: 350.

"350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide--measured in 'Parts Per Million' in our atmosphere. 350 PPM--it's the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change." (For more information, click here.)

This number is the most important number in your life, it is the most important number in the lives of your children now and for the rest of their journey on Earth. Dr. James Hansen gave us this number 350 in a paper he published earlier this year. (To read the paper, click here.)

Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy, puts the number in perspective:

We haven’t come up with words big enough to communicate the magnitude of what we’re doing. ... But a number works. And this is a good one. Arcane, yes-parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. But at least it means the same thing in every tongue, and it even bridges the gap between English and metric. And so we secured the all-important URL: (Easier said than done.) And we settled on our mission: To tattoo that number into every human brain. To make every person on Planet Earth aware of it ... The weekend before we officially launched the campaign, for instance, 350 people on bicycles rode around the center of Salt Lake City. ... We need 350 churches ringing their bells 350 times; we need 350 spray-painted across the face of shrinking glaciers (in organic paint!); we need a stack of 350 watermelons on opening day at your farmers’ market; we need songs and videos; we need temporary tattoos for foreheads. We may need 350 people lining up to get arrested in front of a coal train.
It makes sense that we need a number, not a word. All our words come from the old world. They descend from the time before. Their associations have congealed. But the need to communicate has never been greater. We need to draw a line in the sand. Say it out loud: 350. Do everything you can.
Bill McKibben, When Words Fail: Climate change activists have chosen a magic number, Orion Magazine, 6-29-08

Meanwhile, there is a danger that instead of acting on the desperate need to change our economic model before it devours itself, and decimates the environment (i.e., climate, natural resources, etc.) on which it is predicated, the world's leaders are going to choose short-term political advantage and waste this window of opportunity.

The Guardian's indefatigable George Monbiot explains:

Almost everyone seems to agree: governments now face a choice between saving the planet and saving the economy. As recession looms, the political pressure to abandon green policies intensifies. A report published yesterday by Ernst & Young suggests that the EU’s puny carbon target will raise energy bills by 20% over the next 12 years. Last week the prime minister’s advisers admitted to the Guardian that his renewable energy plans were “on the margins” of what people will tolerate.
But these fears are based on a false assumption: that there is a cheap alternative to a green economy. Last week New Scientist reported a survey of oil industry experts, which found that most of them believe global oil supplies will peak by 2010. If they are right, the game is up. A report published by the US department of energy in 2005 argued that unless the world begins a crash programme of replacements 10 or 20 years before oil peaks, a crisis “unlike any yet faced by modern industrial society” is unavoidable.
If the world is sliding into recession, it’s partly because governments believed that they could choose between economy and ecology. The price of oil is so high and it hurts so much because there has been no serious effort to reduce our dependency. Yesterday in the Guardian, Rajendra Pachauri suggested that an impending recession could force us to confront the flaws in the global economy. Sadly it seems so far to have had the opposite effect: a recent Ipsos Mori poll suggests that people are losing interest in climate change. Opportunities for energy populism abound: it cannot be long before one of the major parties abandons the pale green consensus and starts invoking an oil cornucopia it cannot possibly deliver.
George Monbiot, This Economic Panic Is Pushing the Planet Right Back Down the Agenda, The Guardian, 7-1-08

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

To participate in the 350 campaign, click here.

Click here for access to great promotional tools available on The Eleventh Hour action page.

To sign the Live Earth Pledge, click here.

For analysis of the US mainstream news media's failure to treat global warming and climate change with accuracy or appropriae urgency, click here for Media Matters' compilation of "Myths and Falsehoods about Global Warming".

Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"

Want to join over one million people on the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, and become part of the movement to demand our leaders freeze and reduce carbon dioxide emissions now? Click here.

Center for American Progress Action Fund's Mic Check Radio has released a witty and compelling compilation on the Top 100 Effects of Global Warming, organized into sections like "Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun" (e.g., "Goodbye to Pinot Noir," "Goodbye to Baseball," "Goodbye to Salmon Dinners," "Goodbye to Ski Vacations," etc.), "Global Warming Kills the Animals" (e.g., "Death March of the Penguins," "Dying Grey Whales," "Farewell to Frogs," etc.) and yes, "Global Warming Threatens Our National Security" (e.g., "Famine," "Drought," "Large-Scale Migrations," "The World's Checkbook," etc.) I urge you to utilize Top 100 Effects of Global Warming in your dialogues with friends, family and colleagues.

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