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How to Think Differently About Climate

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
…nearly all the world’s credible authorities have now accepted that climate change is real, here and dire. That is an important step, but three more steps remain.

1) Climate change demands that our goal be carbon-negative growth.

The greatest threat we now face is not ignorance but the half-measures and faltering steps that convince people that doing something means you’re doing enough.

There are simple standards here: we need to drastically reduce, then eliminate, then reverse our greenhouse emissions, and we need to do so on relatively predictable timelines…

2) Climate change demands that we build rapidly towards resilience.

We’ve written before about climate commitment and the need to go beyond reducing emissions and move towards adapting intelligently to a warming and increasingly unpredictable world.

…That means resilience. That means survivability. That means recognizing how brittle the systems on which we depend actually are, and working quickly and intelligently to replace and retrofit and reimagine them so that they can withstand the kinds of torque a changing planet will put on them.

3) Climate change demands holistic solutions.

We cannot solve the problems climate change is making manifest simply by cutting emissions and building sea walls. That’s because climate change is not an issue, it is a symptom: it is not a discrete problem to be solved but part of the warp and weave of problems that define and worsen our civilization’s inability to sustain itself. If we want to stave off the collapse that will inevitably come when that which cannot continue does not continue, we need to move forward with a broad front of solutions which interlock to solve many interrelated problems at once.

…To think that we can “solve” climate change without addressing poverty, human rights, democratization, conflict, epidemic disease, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, food issues and the like is to suffer from carbon blindness. Any climate plan which does not have sustainable prosperity as its ultimate goal will fail, just as surely as any effort to address these other challenges which ignores climate change will fail.
(8 March 2007)

The anti-Crichton

Andrew Leonard, How the World Works, Salon
Here’s a quick list of climate change highlights from the three and a half years between June 2004, when “Forty Signs of Rain,” the first installment of Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy about global warming, was published, and last week, when the third volume, “Sixty Days and Counting,” arrived in bookstores.

The Kyoto Protocol came into force, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, crude oil prices went on a sustained rise, “An Inconvenient Truth” was released, investors madly poured money into “green technology,” and, last but not least, the midterm elections of 2006 booted James “global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” Inhofe from his Environment and Public Works Senate committee chairmanship. Paging Michael Crichton! Kim Stanley Robinson just kicked your ass all the way from the White House to a melting ice cap and left you there, alone with a bunch of starving polar bears.

The “debate” is over. The culture has changed. Three and a half years ago, carbon offsets, cellulosic technology and peak oil were not the stuff of cocktail party conversations. Today you can’t click three times across the Web without a flame war on the net energy efficiency of corn-based ethanol breaking out.

What does this mean for a science fiction writer exploring the question of how humanity will confront the challenge of climate change? For starters, it results in all three novels becoming so tightly coupled to current circumstances that as I read them I felt as if I was inhabiting some weird limbo land in which it was impossible to distinguish between what Robinson was reporting and what he was prophesying.
(5 March 2007)

Sports Illustrated covers climate change

Going, Going Green
Alexander Wolff, Sports Illustrated
As global warming changes the planet, it is changing the sports world. To counter the looming environmental crisis, surprising and innovative ideas are already helping sports adapt
The next time a ball game gets rained out during the September stretch run, you can curse the momentary worthlessness of those tickets in your pocket. Or you can wonder why it got rained out — and ask yourself why practice had to be called off last summer on a day when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky; and why that Gulf Coast wharf where you used to reel in mackerel and flounder no longer exists; and why it’s been more than one winter since you pulled those titanium skis out of the garage.

Global warming is not coming; it is here…
(6 Mar 2007)

A cost of climate change that can’t be counted in dollars – survival

Tony McMichael, Sydney Morning Herald
…Climate change, if not constrained, is ultimately a biological threat. We have been slow to grasp this fundamental point.

Warming is affecting physical and biotic systems. Icesheets are melting faster than was expected just five years ago. Long-term drying is emerging in southern and western Africa, southern Europe, India and Australia. The seasonal cycles of birds, bugs, bears and buds are changing, and are getting out of kilter with one another. This evidence that climate change is disrupting many of Earth’s life-support systems means that human health is also at risk.

Initially, the health risks will be greatest in – though not confined to – poorer and vulnerable populations. Many of these vulnerable populations are in tropical and subtropical regions.

In Australia, climate change (including greater weather variability) will cause more death, illness and injury from heatwaves, storms, floods and bushfires. It will influence the range and seasonality of various infectious diseases. For example, outbreaks of the mosquito-borne viral disease dengue will tend to extend southwards, near the coastlines.

Changes in climate will also impair various ecological processes that underpin our health. Crop yields, for example, will be affected by changes in soil moisture, pollinating insect activity, and temperature-sensitive photosynthesis. Recent research indicates that rice yields will decline with warmer temperatures. Such changes in local food production and, hence, prices will affect food choices, nutrition and health.

Meanwhile, the rising probability of population displacement and environmental refugee flows in much of the Asia-Pacific region, due to climatic and other large-scale environmental changes, will pose other risks to social stability, wellbeing and health.

Tony McMichael is the director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University. This is an edited version of an ABC Radio National’s Perspectives program and is based on a paper given yesterday at the National Rural Health Conference.
(8 March 2007)