Copenhagen And Beyond: Climate Change Is An Emergency
By Bill Henderson

04 March, 2009


The climate change science conference in Copenhagen next week is going to update the emerging and very concerning science since the release of the IPCC report last year: methane bubbling up from melting permafrost and from the Arctic ocean bed, ocean and forest greenhouse gas (GHG) sinks turning to sources, the previously underappreciated long life and long term effects of GHGs (akin to a financial deficit as a weight on future generations), the unpredicted and tipping point nature of the melting Arctic ice cap, the soaring increase in GHG emissions in spite of two decades of attempts at mitigation, and the already manifesting impact of rising temperature upon vulnerable species with a new appreciation of the threat of abrupt climate change to all species including man.

The inherently conservative IPCC report was already outdated on release. There was emerging science warning about a much more serious and immediate climate change danger. The conference in March is an attempt to focus global attention on the real and immediate danger of climate change in the run up to global treaty negotiations in the fall also in Copenhagen. The science will reframe climate change as a humanity threatening emergency requiring urgent and deep emission reductions - 2020 targets instead of 2050, probably 80% by 2020 - so that climate change does not become dangerous, runaway, no longer controllable.

There is no longer any real debate that human caused climate change is happening but will the emerging science presented push publics everywhere out of New Denial? New Denial: Yes, climate change is happening, but it is a gradually building problem with weird weather, melting ice, endangered polar bears and bug infestations and maybe catastrophic consequences late in the century, but we have time to mitigate with technology - new clean power sources and carbon capture and sequestering - and instruments like carbon taxes or cap and trade, completely within business as usual so that except for a few smart consumer choices our lifestyles, jobs and socio-economies do not need to really change.

Will the science presented at the Copenhagen conference awaken the informed public and policy makers - if not general publics everywhere - to climate change as an emergency requiring a massive reconfiguration of our socio-economies not possible in the present political and economic business as usual?

Will the message that we are close to if not over a tipping point to a runaway climate change that will create hell on earth for our children and threaten extinction for humanity and most of the species with which we share creation on this small blue planet

push Obama, Hu Jintao, Putin and the Browns, Rudds and bin Abdul Azizs past denial to actual action of a scale necessary

both in their countries and globally to halt the rise of omissions almost immediately - an immediate moratorium on burning coal or dirty oil - and to begin the reconfiguration of their economies to not only a post fossil fuel economy, but to powered down, re-localized, low throughput economies where growth is only minimally material?

If you were a betting man....

But if there is immediate climate change danger, if the Copenhagen conference provides convincing scientific evidence that climate change is a humanity threatening emergency, what choice is there? Failure is not an option. Those who have digested the science and appreciated the danger - Sutton and Spratt in CLIMATE CODE RED, Lester Brown in PLAN-B 3.0, the UK New Green Deal -100 month group - each advocate emergency legislation to get out of BAU and believe that a wartime-style mobilization can achieve the needed massive reconfiguration to a new, safe and far healthier socio-economy with rapid emission reduction so that getting back down under 350 would be possible.

A global climate change treaty in Copenhagen in November that will be effective in finally achieving emission reductions of a scale necessary will require contraction and convergence provisions where the present developed world individual annual emission production must fall from 4 - 5 metric tonnes (tM) to 0.2 - 0.6 tM as fast as possible. This is impossible to even consider in BAU but possible with emergency mobilization. PLAN-B 3.0 aims for 80% by 2020. Here's another tentative vision:

Emergency legislation will stabilize the patient; triple digit carbon taxes are the scalpel to reconfigure the economy without eco-fascism, the monies raised used to hasten and ameliorate the transition; federally organized but regionally deployed; re-localization and a controlled step down to 50's era material throughput must mean a new agriculture and natural resource management primary production and a much shrunken transportation system and service economy.

A very much shrunken domestic economy in a very much downsized global economy - but what is the alternative? It could also be a solution to the $80 trillion bad bet financial meltdown and peak oil too. And, thinking positively, the transition could be to a very much more harmonious, secure, quality lifestyle and richer culturally, happier socio-economy then our present deathtrap economy.

In his press conference cancelling the 2010 Winter Olympics my premier, Premier Campbell of British Columbia concluded:

"Of course this is bad news - could I be delivering any worse news? But I've had this uh,.. this problem, this our serious climate change predicament, on my mind for some months now, and it is a heavy burden as you will begin to realize when the shock wears off and as you read the science.. but I know that we have to move forward, we have to take action and yes, that we can survive this emergency if we act quickly now. In my own mind I've compared it with receiving the diagnosis of a possibly fatal disease - the doctor promises full recovery if, IF, we change our lifestyle immediately. This is what we have to do. There is no other course. So we're going to change our lifestyle immediately and maybe even find that there is a better lifestyle, a better life when we make it through this emergency, to a cooling planet. "


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