Climate Awareness Shift?

by Joshua on June 6, 2011 · 5 comments

Occasionally I have to fly for my day job. I’m not a huge fan of it – I can handle the actual act of flying, but I hate the whole experience, from the pre-boarding body search to the crammed-in-a-seat-built-for-someone-two-feet-shorter-than-me. Not to mention that it is the worst way to travel if you care about the climate. Alas, I still have to do it from time to time (though I am trying to phase it out all together).

I recently had to fly down to Davis, CA for a site visit on a project of mine in construction. While waiting to board my flight I talked with a gentleman from outside Tulsa, Oklahoma on his way home. He lamented on the horrible destruction of the tornados that recently hit the area. We talked briefly of the sporadic and crazy weather there and elsewhere. Then I said the two ominous words in any discussion with a stranger: “climate change.”

In all honesty, and to my own personal shame, I expected this man from the south to call me a lunatic or spout off some climate denier propaganda. But to his credit he nodded in agreement, as did another lady next to us who was listening in.

I went on to say that our atmospheric CO2 concentration is now at 394ppm and in order to maintain a planet in which life evolved and is accustomed too, the maximum safe level is 350ppm. Neither of my fellow travels appeared to be aware of this fact, there was shock on their face when I explained the numbers.

The women to my right speculated that we will evolve, but I felt compelled to correct her. All evidence is the the contrary. We’ve stamped out life on Earth quicker and with more vigor not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are absolutely no guarantees of our survival going forward.

Flooding in Pakistan, drought in Texas (and Pakistan), record tornados in Oklahoma and elsewhere the likes of which has never before been seen in record history. All pointing to the fact that climate change has arrived, it’s no longer “on it’s way.” Because of all of this (not to mention that it’s undeniable science, really) I feel more and more that the “debate,” for which I no longer bother engaging in with climate deniers, might finally be coming to an end soon. We all see the craziness now. We’ve entered into a new geologic era. Perhaps now our lifestyles can finally shift.

The gentlemen from Tulsa asked me if I worked in this area or if I was just interested in the subject. “Concerned, deeply,” I replied. “I have a young son, how could I not be concerned?” We all nodded in agreement. As Mark Hertsgaard says in his book Hot:Living Through The Next Fifty Years On Earth, taking action against climate change is now “part of a parent’s job description, no less vital than tending to your child’s diet, health or eduction.” The tides of awareness are changing. Are you coming along?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve June 10, 2011 at 05:18

Climate change, huh? Silly me. I’ve been calling it spring.

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Joshua June 10, 2011 at 13:02

Steve,

Your correct. It is spring this time of year. Heaven forbid we make connections to all these extreme weather events – it might link us to the conclusion that an overwhelming majority of scientist have made and been warning us about for years. I’ll refer you to this article.

Cheers,
Joshua

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Byron Smith June 30, 2011 at 17:38

All pointing to the fact that climate change has arrived, it’s no longer “on it’s way.”
Anthropogenic climate change has been named as already here since James Hansen testified to the US Congress in 1988. But it is also the case that every year since then, more and more has been coming as well. While people frequently don’t get the numbers (innumeracy could end up killing us), they also don’t get the idea of a time lag between emissions and effects. Speaking crudely, we are currently experiencing the effects of the emissions from the early 1980s, when we were still under 340 ppm. (This is crude, because while it is common to speak of a 30 year lag in the system, there are actually multiple lags, some likely to be very slow.)

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Joshua June 30, 2011 at 17:42

Byron,

True. It is crazy to think of this in depth. If we were to stop emitting today, we’d still see another 2-3 decades or more of increasing affects of climate change. But, of course, we’re not about to stop emitting anytime soon.

Thanks for the comment!

Cheers,
Joshua

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Byron Smith June 30, 2011 at 17:48

Yes, though another consequence of (the entirely hypothetical) ceasing all emissions today would actually be a sudden surge in warming as the masking effect of aerosols was removed after a few weeks. See here for a brief discussion with further links.

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