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The Sky Really Is Falling

November 19, 2012 - With the issuance of the World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 Degree Centigrade Warmer World Must Be Avoided, the chorus of voices in Washington, D.C. that belong to organizations that have at last found their courage has become quite raucous.  What are they saying?

This will happen!  That will happen!  This AND that will happen!  This and that must not happen!  It's serious!  It's very, Very, VERY serious!!  Why?  Because this will happen!  And that will happen!  Etc., etc., etc.

Not that they're wrong.  Far from it; the ramifications of doing nothing - which is, in essence, what we are currently doing - are staggeringly awful.  I've covered them quite thoroughly, in the nearly four years I've been writing this blog.  This part of the report they got right. Without mitigative actions, we're in a world of hurt.  Yes, the World Bank speaks truth. They are to be commended.  (They also need to be told to stop funding coal-burning plants at various locations throughout the world, but we'll get to that later.)

These reports are also replete with percentages.  Percentages of increase, percentags of decrease; percentages of percentages if we don't act in X number of years; percentages of improvement if this percentage of something is met.  They deal in gigatons of carbon dioxide, billions of cubic yards of methane, thousands of feet of depth in order to frack gas.  I'm pretty sure they think if they dazzle us with numbers, they can leave out the hard part.

Hmmm, you're thinking.  I must have missed something.  What's the hard part?

No, you didnt' miss it.  I went flying past it on purpose.  It wasn’t time yet.  We have now reached the point in our narrative where the logical next step is to discuss the hard part.  Remember “Without mitigating actions, we’re in a world of hurt?”  I guess you could say we’re in a world of hurt either way, because it’s those mitigating actions that constitute the hard part. 

Before we go on, it’s important to know what “mitigate” means.  To mitigate means to lessen the impact of something, to make it more bearable.  Next, let’s make sure we know what needs mitigating.

·         Extreme heat waves
·         Drought
·         Flooding
·         Declining food stocks
·         Loss of ecosystems and biodiversity
·         Substantial rise in sea level

Here is why I say mitigating these catastrophes will be very, very hard.  The problems need to be addressed immediately.  We are neither mentally nor emotionally ready to act immediately. The fact is, we never will be.  We can’t wait until after we’ve talked about climate change some more.  Climate disasters won’t wait until after we’ve equivocated, procrastinated, and prevaricated.  We already know it costs too much money.  And no, we cannot wait until after we once again fail to say that the real reason for NOT doing what we need to do is because we’ll have to give up our standard of living.  Been there, done that. Time’s up.  It’s do or die, folks.  We’re out of time.

Mass transit is the first pill we must swallow.  Cars are now to be used for essential trips only.  Buses must be purchased and put into action immediately.  Work is essential, you say.  The cost of tickets will have to be steep enough to convince you otherwise.  Telecommuting, here we come.  A trip to the doctor’s office?  Sure – but you better have a temperature!  I know I sound hard, but this is the only way to change habits formed over a lifetime.  My son doesn’t own a car.  Lots of people his age don’t.  Ask them how they do it (they probably live in cities).

Our fossil fuel-burning power plants must be powered down. No matter the source of energy, we must make do with less.  If the source of energy is alternative, we’ll have to.  During the winter, the thermostat will have to be set at 60.  Remember all those quilts your Great Aunt Harriet made every year for Christmas?  Get ready to use them.  Sweatshirts, wool socks, wood stoves: they all have a purpose.  Summers will present their own challenges.  If you’re the proud owner of a basement, now might be a good time to install drywall and bamboo flooring.  Set the thermostat at 78 upstairs, and keep a wet bandanna around your neck. Floor fans will be essential.  If there’s an extended period of 100 degree days, the power company will tell you what to do.

You’ll be growing some of your own food.  Preserve what you can.  Grow lots of comfrey; it makes a sensational organic fertilizer tea.  Learn to knit.  If there aren’t any handymen in your neighborhood, start a tool library.  Save old clothes.  Learn a skill you can barter (beekeeping?).  Make sure you own at least one bike.  The kids will be moving back home, so be prepared.  Buy some rain barrels.  Recycle everything.

Finally, write a letter to the World Bank and ask them to stop financing fossil fuel-burning power plants.  Don’t call; I wound up being connected with their IT department!  You can reach them at 1818 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20433.


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