27 November 2008

why we need to go farther, faster

One of the most important climate change campaigners in the US, Dr James Hansen of NASA, was in London this week for an Environment Agency conference. It was a privilege to hear him speak because he's been the only significant voice in a public position in the US speaking out about climate change over the last eight years. The Bush Administration and NASA both tried to shut him up, but he refused to stay silent.


Two years ago Dr Hansen said: "We have at most 10 years - not 10 years to decide upon action, but 10 years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions." He now believes we have to have to reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere to under 350 parts per million. The problem is we’re at 385ppm at the moment and rising by 2ppm a year.

Read here for more from Dr Hansen.

Our closing window of opportunity was powerfully illustrated this week by George Monbiot in his latest piece “One shot left”.

In conclusion - climate change is speeding up, our emissions are rising not falling, and peak oil, recession or no recession, is almost upon us. To quote Zac Goldsmith, the editor of The Ecologist: "Peak oil informs everything. People ought to know that but they don't. When it's going to peak or if it's happened already I don't know but if oil ran out tomorrow we would be stuffed. We depend on it for everything."

There is a positive alternative to a world based on cheap oil where runaway climate change becomes more likely by the day. It’s called the Transition Town movement, which began as a grassroots attempt by communities to work out for themselves how to address the twin problems of climate change and the end of cheap oil. Transitioners believe that life after oil will be better - more local, more in touch with nature, more vibrant, less polluted and less stressed. It’s about preparing for change.