Mr. Premier: Beyond the tipping point of climate change?
By Bill Henderson
“I am not a doomsayer, I am not one who wants to say we are beyond the tipping point. But I am afraid that we are getting close to that,” [Forests Minister Pat] Bell told 200 of the world’s leading experts on bioenergy attending the conference at the University of B.C....
“Climate change is absolutely real and we need to deal with it. We have to get beyond the politics.”
The world is on a path right now to a six degree centigrade change in temperature over the next century, said Ralph Sims, a senior analyst at the International Energy Agency, and a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Business as usual is no longer an option, he said.
(“World nearing ”˜tipping point’ on climate change, forests minister warns”, Vancouver Sun, August 25)
So now we have the forests minister stating publicly that we are in tipping-point danger: “Climate change is absolutely real and we need to deal with it. We have to get beyond the politics.” (And then it’s blah-blah-blah about biofuels and making money from dying forests.)
Yesterday, the Grist op-ed “The fallacy of climate activism” was sent to me independently by five different people. (It’s over; we lost; it’s too late; we’re already over the tipping point.)
The author, Adam Sacks, only states bluntly what most climate scientists and activists know but don’t often say: given the 30-odd-year carbon-cycle time lags, the now obviously activated positive feedbacks of decreasing albedo from the melting Arctic ice cap, and increasing methane and carbon dioxide from melting permafrost and from drying soils and burning forests, and the non-linearity—or abrupt, wild instead of gradual, pattern—of climate change, we are probably already over or past that tipping point to dangerous, runaway, uncontrollable-by-human-action climate change already.
Minister Bell is not such a doomsayer. But Minister Bell can’t even see the reality of the dying forest because he’s too busy still being the minister of the dying forest industry and a minister in a government presiding over a dying economy in a province of dying ecosystems.
Minister Bell is not a scientist; Pat Bell is not a climate activist, but even he knows now about the tipping point danger of climate change. But Minister Bell has to keep his head in the sand and continue the blah-blah-blah of biofuels from dying forests as effective climate change mitigation even though he must surely know that, emission-reduction-wise, biofuels really do nothing even though the consequences of continuing to do nothing are tragic beyond our comprehension.
Most climate scientists and activists (and I’m guessing the premier of this province) know that climate change is an urgent, humanity-threatening emergency that requires massive systemic change now so that we can quickly get back to the safe side of that tipping point, to a world getting cooler instead of relentlessly warmer, to a world where the ice caps regrow and the methane release ceases and forests regrow.
But we can’t afford to regard climate change as that emergency. We can’t afford to think beyond politics, outside of business as usual. We can’t afford to look up from our dying economy to see that we are a species at risk in dying ecosystems.
Global agreement at Copenhagen—the last chance for agreement on an effective global mitigation strategy so as to not go over that tipping point—now looks increasingly unlikely. The weak and leaky Waxman-Markey U.S. energy bill will be the prototype for a weak and leaky piece of paper signed on to by ministers at Copenhagen (but probably not even ratified by the key emission-producing countries, but what will it matter).
So we are heading for a six-degree rise and the probable extinction of most species with which we now share creation on this small blue planet, including us, but we can’t do anything about it because we can’t recognize the danger and do something about it in time—ministers as well as scientists, activists, and publics.
Premier Gordon Campbell, you know there is something that you could do—that only you could do—that could make agreement on an effective strategy for getting us back on the right side of that tipping point much more likely. An action that would awaken the world to the danger and the need for real commitment at Copenhagen.
Bill Henderson is an activist who lives in Gibsons.