Climate Change: “Like a Smoke Alarm Going Off in the Kitchen”

You know that metaphor caught my eye because of my recent experience of having a smoke alarm go off in my house at 3am. The sound is piercing, and can’t be ignored.

Forces allied against tackling climate change here in the U.S. include some of our least coherent legislators like Senator Inhofe who claim it all to be a hoax — and Trump for that matter, who pins the hoax on China — but also industries that make much of their profit from fossil fuels. Enter the Koch brothers again.

The report was prepared by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the gold standard for research and a body known for its conservative conclusions.

The good news is that the IPCC feels that with dramatic change, the goal of keeping warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible. The bad news is what we all know: the concerted action that would need to be taken by governments around the world is extremely unlikely. The fact that climate change deniers, some of them at the highest reaches of government, risk getting all of us mugged by reality seems not to penetrate.

“It’s like a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen. We have to put out the fire,” said Erik Solheim, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program. He added that the need to either stop emissions entirely by 2050 or find some way to remove as much carbon dioxide from the air as humans put there “means net zero must be the new global mantra.

The radical transformation also would mean that, in a world projected to have more than 2 billion additional people by 2050, large swaths of land currently used to produce food would instead have to be converted to growing trees that store carbon and crops designated for energy use. The latter would be used as part of a currently nonexistent program to get power from trees or plants and then bury the resulting carbon dioxide emissions in the ground, leading to a net subtraction of the gas from the air — bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS.

“Such large transitions pose profound challenges for sustainable management of the various demands on land for human settlements, food, livestock feed, fibre, bioenergy, carbon storage, biodiversity and other ecosystem services,” the report states.”

This is much larger than a battle over a single pipeline or concern about a single coral reef or alarm over the air quality in Beijing. This is a galvanizing call to action, something that could draw all countries of the world together in a single, planet-saving battle.


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