Gaming the climate emergency: how much time do we have?

Yesterday upon the stair, I met a climate emergency that wasn’t there;

It wasn’t there again today. I wish that climate emergency would go away.

after William Hughes Mearns

We prevaricate; we kick it into the long grass; we hedge; we pass by on the other side; we shilly-shally; we look the other way; we fence; we kick it down the road; we pussyfoot; we hum and we haw; we stick our head in the sand; we procrastinate.
We pretend it isn’t there.

“Have you any ideas how much damage this climate emergency would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?”
“How much?”
“None at all.”

The Guardian asked a number of climate experts how much time  we had before we needed to start changing our economies and ways of consuming and producing. The following is from Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. He is also the author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution

We have zero years before climate and ecological breakdown, because it’s already here. We have zero years left to procrastinate. The longer we wait to act, the worse the floods, fires, droughts, famines and heatwaves will get.

The primary cause of these catastrophes is burning fossil fuel. Therefore, we must shut down the fossil fuel industry as quickly as we can. Fossil fuel subsidies must end today. New fracking wells, pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure can no longer be built; that we continue on this path is collective insanity. Fossil fuel must be capped and rationed, and diverted to necessities as we transition to a zero-carbon civilization. If we fail, the planet will continue to heat up, creeping past 1.5C, then 2C, then 3C of global heating as we keep squandering precious time. With every fraction of a degree, the floods and fires and heat will get worse. Coastal cities will be abandoned. Ocean currents will shift. Crops will fail. Ecosystems will collapse. Hundreds of millions will flee regions with humid heat too high for the human body. Geopolitics will break down. No place will be safe. These disasters are like gut punches to our civilization.

There are tipping points lurking in our future, but it’s impossible to know when they will be triggered. What’s certain is that every day we fail to act brings us closer. Some, like the loss of the Amazon rainforest, may already have been passed.

Yesterday, upon the stair . . . . . . .

John Bullock is the editor of The Light Review

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