Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Climate Crisis: Somewhere Between Al Gore's Optimism & George Monbiot's Pessimism is Where We Need to Be

Frida Kahlo's Roots

The more we know, the grimmer it gets. George Monbiot, Guardian, 3-13-09

Al Gore, the former US vice-president, delivers an upbeat assessment of the global response to climate change today, saying he believes a "political tipping point" has been reached which will enable leaders to avert environmental catastrophe. Guardian, 3-14-09

Climate Crisis: Somewhere Between Al Gore's Optimism & George Monbiot's Pessimism is Where We Need to Be

By Richard Power

I am a champion of Al Gore's visionary leadership on the Climate Crisis. But I also admire and respect the work of George Monbiot who writes on environmental issues for the Guardian. Monbiot is one of Al Gore's harshest critics.

Both Gore and Monbiot made important statements recently.

Gore surprised me with his optimism about the do or die conference in Copenhagen later this year:

"There is a very impressive consensus now emerging around the world that the solutions to the economic crisis are also the solutions to the climate crisis," he says. "I actually think we will get an agreement at Copenhagen."
While admitting there is a big challenge ahead, he says he is seeing signs of hope. "[Obama's election] is one of the main factors," he says. "But we also have a big ally in reality the planet is under assault. This collision with human civilisation ... is increasingly dire."
World will agree new climate deal, says Al Gore
Guardian, 3-14-09

But responding to reports offering further evidence that scientists have seriously underestimated the impact of climate change, Monbiot laid down some even more inconvenient truths:

Apart from the sheer animal panic I felt on reading these reports, two things jumped out at me. The first is that governments are relying on IPCC assessments that are years out of date even before they are published, as a result of the IPCC's extremely careful and laborious review and consensus process. This lends its reports great scientific weight, but it also means that the politicians using them as a guide to the cuts in greenhouse gases required are always well behind the curve. There is surely a strong case for the IPCC to publish interim reports every year, consisting of a summary of the latest science and its implications for global policy.
The second is that we have to stop calling it climate change. ... It's a ridiculously neutral term for the biggest potential catastrophe humankind has ever encountered.
I think we should call it "climate breakdown". Does anyone out there have a better idea?
George Monbiot, Climate Change? Try, Climate Breakdown: What's clear from Copenhagen is that policymakers have fallen behind the scientists: global warming is already catastrophic, Guardian, 3-13-09

Somewhere between Gore's optimism (i.e., his confidence that a global agreement is possible in Copenhagen) and Monbiot's pessimism (i.e., his conviction that even if there is agreement it to will not be adequate to the task at hand) is the reality of our circumstances.

We will continue to keep pushing for the best of both points of view to be heeded.

If you have not already joined the Alliance for Climate Protection, Al Gore and I urge you to do so. Click here.

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

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

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