Spreading Awareness, Encouraging Action
Dr. Jim Hansen's Talk - June 1, 2008
"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed, and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." - Jim Hansen
On Sunday, June 1st, Dr. Jim Hansen, the world’s leading climate scientist, along with Dr. Mark Bowen author of the new book Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming, addressed a crowd of more than 700 concerned citizens in Lexington, Massachusetts about the threat of global warming and the urgency of taking action.
Dr. Hansen’s research inspired environmental author and activist Bill McKibben to spearhead the work of 350.org, spreading the word that 350 ppm of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere represents the target that we need to aim for in order to maintain a climate like the one in which we and other species evolved. (We are now at 385 ppm.)
Some of the main points we took away from his speech included:
- Manmade, rapid climate change is happening now. It will lead to serious economic and humanitarian consequences in our lifetimes, and beyond,
- There is a huge knowledge gap between what climate scientists know and what the public knows,
- The public’s confusion stems from both the self-serving tactics of special interest groups, and from the failure of the government to inform its people: there has never been a widely-disseminated “official” U.S. government announcement made to the public about the seriousness of climate change,
- The change we need will only come from public pressure on elected officials. It will not originate in Washington without this pressure,
- Combining a carbon emission fee with a universal citizens' carbon dividend is a suggested partial solution to the problem. (The fee will discourage carbon dioxide emissions, while the dividend will put offsetting cash in citizens' pockets),
- Tackling this issue on the local scale helps, but it is not enough. The problem needs to be addressed on a state, national and international level,
- A “perfect storm” is brewing, mostly because people do not understand the magnitude nor the seriousness of the problem. This is for several reasons, including the fact that large variations of weather mask small variations in climate. Other problems include self-perpetuating positive feedback effects, and huge amounts of inertia in the Earth’s climate systems. All of these things mean that we need to act now, before things are obviously serious to everyone.
In summary, it was an interesting and inspiring speech, supported by science, a sense of urgency, and a need for cooperative action to solve what is probably the largest problem ever to face mankind.
This event was organized by the Lexington (Massachusetts) Global Warming Action Coalition (LexGWAC), in cooperation with Drs. Hansen and Bowen. The photo was arranged by the Global Warming Education Network (GWEN), also of Lexington.
A special "thank you" goes to Carlton SooHoo of panospin.com for donating the photo.
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