A LETTER FROM JOHN BERGER
During many years of professional work in the fields of renewable energy and environmental policy, I have been deeply concerned about the effects of human activities on the environment. My focus was originally on the environmental impacts of energy technologies. After studying the energy options globally available, I was convinced by the mid-1970s that the most economically and environmentally sound way forward required the vigorous adoption of renewable energy and efficiency technologies. In the decades and books that followed, I strongly advocated for those technologies and for more intensive use of environmental restoration technologies to repair damaged natural resource systems.
“John Berger has produced a critically needed and eloquent compendium of not only the crisis of global warming, but of the many interdependent shortages and crises
. . . that all exist today and that conspire to challenge us to be better stewards of the planet.”
— Daniel M. Kammen, Distinguished Professor of Energy, UC Berkeley
The world is experiencing accelerating global climate change. The planet is at increasing risk of triggering strong amplifying positive feedback processes inherent in the climate system. Once initiated, no conceivable human action can arrest these processes, no matter how devastating the consequences become and no matter how earnestly we may wish to do so or how desperately we may try.
RECENT POSTS & UPDATES
By altering temperature, rainfall, wind, and weather patterns, sea levels, ocean chemistry, and ocean currents, a rapidly changing climate affects all natural resources, all species, all people, everywhere. This chapter provides far-ranging, irrefutable evidence of several major climate changes that are already profoundly affecting the Earth, its ecosystems, and ourselves. The evidence suggests that a climate catastrophe has already begun.
The first decade of the 21st century (2000-2010) is the hottest ever recorded. The year 2012 now appears to have been the hottest ever recorded in the lower 48 states―three and a half degrees above the long-term average and a degree higher than the previous hottest record year, 1998.
Climatologists believe that before industrialization, global mean temperature had not varied as much as 1.8 F within the past 10,000 years. But in the past 100 years, the world got 1.4 F hotter. That’s 66 times faster than normal. So the Earth is not only warming astonishingly quickly by historical standards, but the sizzling pace is itself steeply accelerating. Many natural processes, societies, and living organisms, are already showing the effects of the temperature increase that has already occurred…
It’s worth pondering why, with information on the harsh impacts of climate change so readily available (as in theGlobal Climate Change Impacts in the United States (GCCIUS) report), we seem so unwilling to heed the trenchant warnings. Maybe it’s because the impacts of climate change are so dire they produce a surreal sense of gloom. How much easier to focus on mundane daily events over which we have more control.
So we detach psychologically from unremitting bad news, or we deny it. We deal with pressing immediate concerns, and we welcome distraction. Our favorite TV shows beckon. So do movies, sports, music, and the web. How much more pleasant to escape from seemingly intractable global problems. So we refrain from getting involved or we embrace the illusion that life can go on as normal if we ignore the gathering climate crisis.
But there must be more to it than that. Why else might we as a nation be so unwilling to fully face the realities of climate change? Why do we seem so lethargic at best in responding to the ever more urgent warnings that scientists are delivering about it? The reasons are intricate and include the inherent complexity of understanding the climate system, and the difficulty of grasping some aspects without scientific training…
I’m making good progress on completing my forthcoming book, Climate Peril: The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Climate Crisis, and from time to time, I will include brief excerpts here that I feel may have broad relevance to the ongoing public climate debate, such as the very basic question: what is the difference between climate and weather? Please feel free to offer any comments, corrections or other feedback.
“Climate is another word for average long-term weather, an ensemble of conditions marked by temperature, moisture, as well as atmospheric motion and transparency. Weather, by contrast, is a relatively short-term phenomenon, even though individual episodes can last for days, weeks, or even months.
Unfortunately, many people lose sight of these distinctions between climate and weather. They mistakenly allow their judgment about climate change—which can be reliably deduced only from the careful analysis of long-term weather trends—to be clouded by their perceptions of weather…
Grist reported last June that activists protesting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline throughout the midwest have been subjected to a vicious and calculating disinformation campaign by the pipeline sponsor, TransCanada.
Completion of the pipeline would be a step backward in the battle to curb global carbon emissions and slow dangerous climate change. Project opponents have been protesting peacefully and nonviolently. TransCanada, however, is not responding amicably.
According to the report, TransCanada has been characterizing demonstrators as terrorists and has been attempting to persuade the Nebraska State Patrol, FBI and Department of Homeland Security to treat them as such…