Waking in the night to complete and utter stillness, I marvel at the beauty of silence. Later, I wake and hear the distant roar of the surf, and think the tide must be high now. Still later, rain arrives, and I listen to it dripping onto leaves, falling from the eaves, and fall back into sleep again.
I wake again to intermittent flashing, and Koko and I emerge from the house into darkness, the sky chock a block with stars. Venus and Jupiter hold down opposite sides of the heavens, but the moon has not yet risen when we set out walking, with lightening playing peek-a-boo behind clouds in the north.
Before long the lightening has extended its range, stretching from north to west, across the interior mountains, and then it is in the south and east, too, encircling me, and the stars have disappeared. I can hear the rain coming before it actually arrives, softly at first, then picking up intensity, until Koko and I are both fully drenched. Then it stops, the clouds part briefly, and I look up to see the thinnest sliver of golden moon.
Things change quickly in nature, and it seems that’s the case with the global warming trend, which appears to be progressing far more rapidly than predidcted.
Already, UN chief Ban Ki-moon is warning of dire consequences if the world doesn’t get serious about this pressing issue at climate change talks set for December. According to an
article by AFP:
Ban said unchecked climate change would intensify drought, floods and other natural disasters and bring water shortages and malnutrition -- aggravating tensions and social unrest and even sparking violence.
"The human suffering will be incalculable," Ban said.
He said he was confident the world could avert catastrophe but time was running out. "We have the power to change course but we must do it now."
He’s not the only one warning that we’re down to the wire on this one. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, created the world’s first climate models and is sometimes referred to as the “father of global warming.” According to a New Yorker profile entitled The Catastrophist:
Hansen has now concluded, partly on the basis of his latest modeling efforts and partly on the basis of observations made by other scientists, that the threat of global warming is far greater than even he had suspected. Carbon dioxide isn’t just approaching dangerous levels; it is already there. Unless immediate action is taken — including the shutdown of all the world’s coal plants within the next two decade— the planet will be committed to change on a scale society won’t be able to cope with. “This particular problem has become an emergency.”
What is now happening, Hansen said, is carbon dioxide is being pumped into the air some ten thousand times faster than natural weathering processes can remove it. There’s no precise term for the level of carbon dioxide that will assure a climate disaster; the best scientists have come up with is “dangerous anthropogenic interference,” or D.A.I. Hansen estimates the dangerous amount of carbon dioxide to be no more than three hundred and fifty parts per million. The bad news is that carbon dioxide levels have already reached three hundred and eighty-five parts per million.
In scientific circles, worries about the D.A.I. are widespread. During the past few years, researchers around the world have noticed a disturbing trend: the planet is changing faster than had been anticipated. Anartica, for example, had not been expected to show a net loss of ice for another century, but recent studies indicate that the continent’s massive ice sheets are already shrinking.
At the other end of the globe, the Arctic ice cap has been melting at a shocking rate; the extent of the summer ice is now only a little more than half of what is was just forty years ago. Meanwhile, scientists have found that the arid zones that circle the globe north and south of the tropics have been expanding more rapdily than computer models had predicted.
I couldn’t help but reflect on that article, and others I’ve read on the topics of global warming and climate change, when skimming through a report on Sunday’s annual KIUC membership meeting in today’s The Garden Island:
[KIUC President and CEO Randal] Hee told KIUC members that one of the co-op’s key components is to become more energy efficient. KIUC is working together with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to figure out how much the co-op can reduce usage on Kaua‘i.
The co-op’s long-term strategic plan says that by 2023, 50 percent of its electricity has to come from renewable sources, without burning fuel fossils.
So we’re looking at another 14 years before our utility is even half-weaned, and that’s if all goes according to plan. Thus far, it seems like pretty much everything is still in the “study” phase.
Meanwhile, according to The New Yorker, Hansen is sufficiently alarmed by the current unraveling of the global climate that he’s moved outside the comfort zone of the scientific world and begun engaging in political action and civil disobedience in an effort to wake us from our stupor.
Speaking before a congressional special committee last year, Hansen asserted that fossil fuel companies are knowingly spreading misinformation about global warming and that their chairmen “should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
He’s compared freight trains carrying coal to “death trains,” and wrote to the head of the National Mining Association, who sent him a letter of complaint, that if the comparison “makes you uncomfortable, well, perhaps it should.”
Hansen insists that his intent is not to be provocative but conservative: his only aim is to preserve the world as we know it. “The science is clear,” he said, when it was turn to address the protestors blocking the entrance to the Capitol Power Plant. “This is our one chance.”
Somehow, I just don’t think we’re going to take it — or make it.