It's becoming clear that moves to cut global carbon emissions may be too little and too late for us avoid the worst effects of climate change. This is a photograph of an agricultural area not too far from Beijing that's quickly being overrun by the Gobi Desert. We all know about the recent devastating fires in Australia and everyone in the Gulf areas of the US are naturally terrified of another Hurricane Katrina coming ashore.
Scientists are predicting the average global temperature will rise from 2-6 degrees Celsius in the coming century. So what? Celsius is unAmerican and doesn't mean much of anything, does it? Anyhow, just for the heck of it I looked up the number on a conversion program and learned that the mid-range temperature of 4C actually translates to 39 degrees farenheit. Yow. Is it silly of me to worry about such a thing? After all, overnight temperature swings can be much like it just about anywhere we live or we could compare it to moving from Montreal to Miami.
Whether we like it or not we need to understand that an average warming of the entire world by 4C would make the planet unrecognizable from anything humans have ever experienced. When will we know when it's time to take drastic action and will the human race ever be able to act positively in a coordinated way? Okay, I know the answer to that one but I had to ask. Goodness knows someday a few people will look back at what we've done to the planet and wonder what were we thinking. Maybe that's the answer. It will be a few people.
It's definitely time for the world to pass on the clean coal fantasy. Coal provides 50% of our electricity which comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. The Chinese have been opening a coal-burning power plant every week. How can we even begin to discuss alternatives with them until we do something ourselves?
On Monday there's going to be a big rally in Washington, DC of environmental activists. The people in Appalachia have suffered for decades under the rule of the coal mining companies and the ugly, old and dirty coal fired power plant owned by Congress should be the first to go.
There are plans made and still shelved to rebuild and electrify the railroads here. A revived rail service could remove 85% of the long haul trucks from the highways within 25 years. What a great concept and how nice it would be if people didn't have to give up their cars.. at least so long as they're electric ones.
A little symbolic action may be just what the country needs to raise awareness that things can be done so we don't have to plan on moving our families to sunny Labrador. I consider it an encouragement to the current administration to keep moving forward. We've already lost too much time and I'd like to know there'll always be an April in Paris.
You can check out the full size version of the map here.
Late addendum: Lindsay Lobe came by today and noticed I'd made a serious error with my translation of a 4C temperature increase meaning 39F. Although 4C does translate to 39F, in actual practice I'd failed to note that average global (combined ocean and land) temperature is 57F and a subsequent rise of 4C translates to about 8F. Ooops. Sorry. I never was renowned for my math skills but 8F isn't good either. All the rest stays the same.