It’s still referred to many places as “global warming,” but that phrase — though technically accurate — does not convey the seriousness of the probem, or its magnitude. “Catastrophic climate change” may sound rash, or desperate, but that’s what we face, and according to the latest data, it’s closer than anyone predicted.
Tim Flannery, the Australian scientist who’s regarded as the shrewdest and best-informed observer, says new data gathered by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that the level of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere has already reached critical levels.
What the report establishes is that the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is already above the threshold that can potentially cause dangerous climate change. We are already at great risk of dangerous climate change, that’s what these figures say. It’s not next year or next decade, it’s now.
It’s a worldwide issue. We’ve had growing economies everywhere, we’re still basing that economic activity on fossil fuels. The metabolism of that economy is now on a collision course clearly with the metabolism of our planet.
What does it mean? It means that your plans to get a hybrid next time you buy a new car are out of date. Start thinking bicycle. It means that torrential storms and prolonged drought will become normal in regions where they’ve never been known before. It means homes many miles inland may, in a few years, be ocean-front property. It means that paying for the Iraq war may not be as important for our grandchildren as finding food to eat and a safe place to sleep.
The only amusement value in all this may come from watching Adminstration spokepeople trying to make the threat disappear in a puff of smoke and mirrors.