Earth near tipping point, climatologist warns
WASHINGTON–James Hansen returned to Capitol Hill a hero yesterday, but certainly not a conquering hero.
The soft-spoken scientist, hailed as the "whistle-blower for the planet,'' tried to quiet a standing ovation from environmentalists here with a typically blunt admonition.
"It is not a time to celebrate,'' said Hansen, 20 years to the day since he became the first leading scientist to warn of the dangers of global warming before a congressional committee.
He returned not to bask in any adulation, but to warn that the Earth is nearing a tipping point, to call for a national carbon tax and to say that CEOs of energy companies may be guilty of crimes against humanity and nature.
Imagine if there was a meteor headed toward our one and only planet, with the potential to do devastating and possibly lethal damage to the planet. Imagine that we had the technological capability to divert the course of this weapon of the massiest mass destruction, and all we needed was the will to do so. And imagine that we chose to focus our society's energies instead on ... gay marriage. Or illegal immigration. Or premarital sex. (Alternet.org)
But I digress. There is a monstrous catastrophe not only headed our way, but actually already here. I'm not a climatologist, but my sense from paying attention to media reporting on this issue over the last two decades is that there is not only a one percent chance that global warming is both real and anthropogenic, but rather a ninety-five percent chance. Perhaps ninety-nine. Yep, sure, there are a few scientists out there still making the opposite argument. Probably some of them aren't even on oil company payrolls! But the vast majority of reputable climate scientists now agree that this is happening, that we are making it happen, and that the results will be catastrophic. This, after ten and twenty years of a (somewhat) healthy scientific skepticism about those claims, which only further underscores the validity of the findings.
Last week we had James Hansen reminding Congress, twenty years after originally doing so, of the gravity of this situation. One of the top scientists from one of America's premier science agencies -- who was told, by the way, to shut the hell up by the Bush administration -- was reminding us yet again that we are facing mass species extinctions and ecosystem collapse among the lovely perils awaiting us if we continue in the current direction. Assuming, that is, that it isn't already far too late to turn it around now.
Think about that for a second: Mass extinction. Ecosystem collapse. Meteor. Ninety-five or better percent chance.
...Indeed, we -- or at least some of us -- half-deserve this fate for choosing the likes of Nixon, Reagan, Bush, DeLay, Scalia and the rest these last decades. It's the rest of the world I feel especially sorry for...
...So, last week James Hansen reminded us that we are headed for such joyous 'lifestyle changes' as mass extinction and ecosystem collapse. Of course, most regressives continued to pooh-pooh such warnings as some sort of liberal conspiracy to undermine capitalism. Do climatologists seriously strike anybody as crypto-anarchists masquerading as scientists in order to destroy capitalism? And, if that was really their goal, wouldn't there be a lot easier ways to crash the system than to go spend years getting a PhD, do a bunch of boring research for low pay, and grade a million mind-numbing term papers written by a million grammatically-challenged college sophomores?
Then there's that pesky little problem of evidence. Every week there's more, though hardly any quite as egregious as what you could have seen on CNN.com just a few days ago: "North Pole Could Be Ice-Free This Summer, Scientists Say"...