Posts Tagged ‘tipping point’

Yesterday I gave up on my original idea to take the train and then BART,  to my meeting with the folks from Lucid Design Group. One thing led to the next, and before you know it, I had only one hour left before my appointment. Driving was the only way I could make it on time. To be honest, I was not too keen on this elaborate public transit scheme.  I am ok with just taking the train, but ask me to transfer to another mode, and my interest drops!

Today, no such excuse. I had planned to bike to my hairdresser’s appointment. Several hours working, then swimming, and lounging around reading the paper, once again, I cut it too close. Driving the three miles became the only option, if I wanted to make my 4.15 date at La Belle salon. 

What has happened to my green resolutions? Before I left on vacations, I wrote enthusiastically about my biking escapades. Since I came back two weeks ago, I have fallen off track. Rhythm, interrupted. Old habits, not dead, got the best of me, again. 

More telling than all the green consumers’ surveys, is the reality of my tenuous commitment. Symptomatic of a much broader ill, I believe. While away in France and in Italy, I witnessed the same spectacle: never ending flows of cars covering up the freeways, just like in the US. We the people on planet Earth, have not yet reached the tipping point when our collective consciousness will dictate another way of living. 

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In the process of doing research for the 350 campaign, I came across an AFP press release from a few weeks ago, that is too important to be ignored:

Global warming has plunged the planet into a crisis and the fossil fuel industries are trying to hide the extent of the problem from the public, NASA’s top climate scientist says.

“We’ve already reached the dangerous level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” James Hansen, 67, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told AFP here.

“But there are ways to solve the problem” of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which Hansen said has reached the “tipping point” of 385 parts per million.

In a paper he was submitting to Science magazine on Monday, Hansen calls for phasing out all coal-fired plants by 2030, taxing their emissions until then, and banning the building of new plants unless they are designed to trap and segregate the carbon dioxide they emit.

The major obstacle to saving the planet from its inhabitants is not technology, insisted Hansen, named one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006 by Time magazine.

The problem is that 90 percent of energy is fossil fuels. And that is such a huge business, it has permeated our government,” he maintained.

“What’s become clear to me in the past several years is that both the executive branch and the legislative branch are strongly influenced by special fossil fuel interests,” he said, referring to the providers of coal, oil and natural gas and the energy industry that burns them.

In a recent survey of what concerns people, global warming ranked 25th.

The industry is misleading the public and policy makers about the cause of climate change. And that is analogous to what the cigarette manufacturers did. They knew smoking caused cancer, but they hired scientists who said that was not the case.”

Hansen says that with an administration and legislature that he believes are “well oiled, our best hope is the judicial branch.”

Last year Hansen testified before the US Congress that “interference with communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career.

Government public relations officials, he said, filter the facts in science reports to reduce “concern about the relation of climate change to human-made greenhouse gas emissions.”

While he recognizes that he has stepped outside the traditional role of scientists as researchers rather than as public policy advocates, he says he does so because “in this particular situation we’ve reached a crisis.”

The policy makers, “the people who need to know are ignorant of the actual status of the matter, and the gravity of the matter, and most important, the urgency of the matter,” he charged.

“It’s analogous to an engineer who sees that there’s a flaw in the space shuttle before it is to be launched. You don’t have any choice. You have to say something. That’s really all that I’m doing,” he explained.

On my end, I am going to contact NRDC and E2 to get their counsel, and see what kind of actions can be taken to address Mr. Hansen‘s concerns. I would love to get your ideas as well.

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We are all doomed
‘Dont’ bother with trying to save the world, we are all doomed’. Prad called from Honolulu. He had just been talking to his friend Stefan. Stefan Moisyadi, a gene therapy researcher and molecular biologist at University of Hawaii is one of those awesome minds, who truly understand the world of microbs. According to him, ‘the ball has already started rolling down the hill, and cannot be stopped’. I missed half of Prad’s explanation, as I was trying to navigate my cart through the busy aisles at Whole Foods. Still, it sounded alarmist enough, that I started imagining the worst.

What is the tipping point?
Next, I went into crisis resolution mode. Suppose Stefan was right, and we were in a state of immediate world emergency, would I do anything different? A more interesting scenario is, to imagine if we only had a year left to reverse the catastrophic trend. Or two years, three years? The fear would be so great that I would have no choice but act, really do it. I wonder what is the tipping point, the window, at which point, we start forgetting, and living as if we still have the luxury of time? Clearly, that tipping point needs to be brought closer, for global change to truly take place.

The need for clarity
A big issue is our lack of knowledge. We know we are in for trouble, but we do not know yet for sure how soon, and to what extent. There has been a lot of discussions lately about the mathematic models that are being used to predict the outcome. My main take away is all of them fail to take into account factors yet unknown to us. The scientists are constantly discovering new parameters, new catalysts, and new interactions with the potential of altering predictions dramatically. Global warming is still too vague of a threat, both in terms of distance, and time. I need more clarity and definite answers.

The power of No Impact Man
If I we were wiser, we would all behave according to the worst case scenario, just in case. Instead we have chosen to hang on to the tiny thread of possibility that our collective doom is still far away. And we want to believe that small steps, if at all, are all that’s needed at the moment. Intellectually, I know this to be the wrong path. From looking at me, and how I live my life, you would not know that I know. I still take airplanes, I still drive my car, I still shop, I still consume quite a bit of electricity, I still generate more garbage than I really need, . . . There lies the power of No Impact Man.

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