Editor’s Note: Edge correspondents Victor Feldman, the author of this story, and his Great Barrington Waldorf High School colleague Evan Seitz will be at the People’s Climate March Sunday. They will be filing their observations of the event on our Twitter feed, @BerkEdge, that is displayed on our home page as “This Just In.” On Sunday, for the duration of the demonstration, our Twitter feed will be titled “Climate March.” Please follow their accounts.
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In 1979, in his memorable “Crisis of Confidence” speech, former president Jimmy Carter warned the American people against increased U.S. dependence on foreign oil. He declared: “The energy Crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are the facts and we simply must face them.”
Later that year, Ronald Regan won the presidential election with 50.7 percent of the popular vote, securing 440 more electoral votes than Jimmy Carter. During his presidential campaign leading up to the vote, Reagan assured the people that America was as great as it had always been, and that an even brighter future was on the horizon.
That was 35 years ago. Today the energy crisis is far greater than one nation’s dependence on another nations oil reserves. The crisis is global, as are the impacts of climate change due to a global dependency on burning fossil fuels for energy.
As evidence stacks up, more and more people are willing to listen to the warnings of climate scientists, ecologists, and other environmentalists about the foreseeable impacts of climate change and its human costs.
This September 21st, tens of thousands of people will flood the streets of Manhattan, in a peaceful march that is expected to be the largest climate change demonstration in history. The march is scheduled two days before a United Nations climate summit in Manhattan on September 23.
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, has called the summit, inviting world leaders to discuss climate change concerns and commit to bolder actions to address climate change. As so little has been done thus far, Ban Ki Moon hopes that this summit will spur future climate talks at the “next Copenhagen” in Paris this upcoming December.
The march is designed to place greater pressure on politicians to pass legislation preparing for, rather than belittling, the already visible effects of climate change.
In addition, the march is also a great tool for social justice, as the impacts of a changing climate will affect everybody.
In his recent article “A Call To Arms: An Invitation To Demand Action On Climate Change,” for Rolling Stone Magazine, Bill McKibben, the bestselling author of “The End Of Nature”, and the founder of 350.org, (the organization behind “The People’s Climate March”), formally invites everyone to join the NYC demonstration saying that, “This is an invitation, an invitation to come to New York City. An invitation to anyone who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced.”
(For those in the Berkshires who might want to join the People’s March, 350ma.org has arranged for a bus to depart for New York from Lee. For information, click here, or contact Ellie Johnston at 336-202-8907. )
McKibben acknowledges that marching doesn’t always bring about change, marking the unsuccessful protests against the Iraq war as one example. “But”, he adds, “…there are moments when it’s been essential. This is how the Vietnam war was ended, and segregation, too — or consider the nuclear freeze campaign of the early 1980s…”
Read Bill McKibben’s full invitation.
The NYC climate march, and the global climate movement may have come just in time, as The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
According to both NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and the NOAA, (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), 97 percent of climate scientists attribute rising global warming trends to human activity.
Ninety-seven is a powerful consensus, one endorsed by dozens of scientific organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the American Meteorology Society (AMS), among others.
According to a climate study by the University of St. Francis in Pennsylvania, the average global temperature has risen 2.50C since the past Ice Age, and .2 (0C) since the industrial revolution, starting from 1880 onward. The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere has also risen a whopping 75-ppm (parts per million), an increase of 30 percent since 1850.
At a glance, the figures above may seem insignificant, but Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the study’s lead author says, “We’re beginning to get the picture that climate change, influenced by humans, is beginning to influence ecosystems.”
Scientists predict that the average temperatures will continue to rise .2oC every decade.
The greenhouse effect is the commonly used term to describe the causes for long term global warming. It is widely know that co2, is a heat trapping greenhouse gas released through such human activities as burning fossil fuels, deforesting, and even respiration.
That being said, the Earth’s climate is always changing; even slight shifts on its axis have noticeable effects on the temperature. Some people use this as evidence to argue that the temperature extremes we have been seeing are not caused by humans, but simply the forces of nature at work.
This argument has become less and less defensible. It is not the warming of the planet that is so astonishing, but the fact that warming trends are rising at a rate unprecedented in the past 1,300 years. Surely this suggests strongly of human involvement?
According to NASA, the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling.
Sea level rise
Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
Global temperatures rise
All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
Shrinking ice sheets
The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005
Declining Arctic sea ice
Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
Surely the science is compelling enough, but science alone is only a tool in which to guide much needed change. The change must come from people, people willing to organize resources, work together, petition, and in this case march for social justice, and the preservation of the environment on which we depend for everything.
To learn more about the scientific studies used in this article, go to: http://climate.nasa.gov/causes/, http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/, http://www.climate.gov/maps-data, and http://www.climate.gov/maps-data