Friday, May 11, 2012

For Your Urgent Attention

First Bill McKibben and his sounded the warning, and organized demonstrations opposing the pipeline from Canada, but for all their claims, their main issue--the catastrophic damage to the climate future that exploiting the Canadian tar sands would do--was lost in the general environmental uproar.  In the end--at least as I read it--the Administration's stopping the original pipeline had more to do with environmental fears along its proposed route: insufficiently investigated threats to water and land, for instance.

But now the other American heavyweight on the issue has added his even more prominent voice.  In an oped in the New York Times, "Game Over for the Climate,"  NASA scientist James Hansen wrote:

 "If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk."    

Hansen reinterates the Climate Crisis facts, noting that we are experiencing the weather he predicted we would at this time--a prediction he made in 1981.  He calls for leadership, and calls out President Obama.

The power of this statement must not be lost in the ozone of the twittercycle.  Hansen has focused the argument and others must repeat it--not with cute images or generalized slogans but with precision, power and repetition.  So far there has been nothing that has focused attention on this issue for very long.  This is another opportunity.  Now that President Obama has led on marriage equality, this must be the next issue to assume its rightful prominence, its urgency.

And not just in the United States.  This is also a Canadian responsibility--and a global responsibility. 

No comments: