In Boston’s Government Center, several people are gathered it the midst of a week long vigil through which they are seeking to break what has been popularly termed “Climate Silence”. According to several reports, for the first time in 20 years the presidential debates have not had any direct mention of climate change. (3rd parties, as always, not included.) The Massachusetts senatorial candidates have also been hesitant to say much directly about the climate.
The vigil was spear-headed by Better Future Project, Students for a Just and Stable Future, and 350MA. The later is a local chapter of the 350.org movement, working to build grassroots coalitions that will bring the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere down to the safety threshold of 350 parts per million. (This means that out of every 1 million particles in the atmosphere, 350 would are CO2). Anything above can cause problematic warming. We are currently at about 392 ppm.
This might seem very small at first, but a little bit of change the world over can make a huge difference. There is general consensus in the scientific community that this is what is happening:
“The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has reaffirmed the position of its Board of Directors and the leaders of 18 respected organizations, who concluded based on multiple lines of scientific evidence that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway, and it is a growing threat to society.”
- American Association For the Advancement of Science 2009
Making matters even more pressing, we have stalled for too long, and now must deal with some of the consequences:
“However, even with an 80 per cent emissions cut, damages will be large: any impact that occurs below a temperature rise of 1 °C is likely to be unavoidable, even under the most stringent mitigative action. Residual damage will be great unless we invest in adaptation now. Much of the damage could be avoided by adaptation, but again, this would require a much larger effort than is currently planned.”
M Parry, J Palutikof, C Hanson, J Lowe
Nature Reports Climate Change 2008
The great hope is that we can finally stop making matters worse, and begin dealing with the consequences already in play. It is a critical national conversation, that has been all but, and sometimes straight up, ignored by our leaders. Instead, this conversation is being driven by concerned, otherwise ordinary, people from all over the world. On February 4th, the Occupy Boston GA passed a statement calling for the following:
- An end to all government subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear energy interests;
- An end to corporate influence, including energy industry influence, on politics;
- Immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations to below the safe atmospheric threshold of 350 parts per million CO2e; starting with the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline;
- A just transition for workers currently employed in fossil fuel and nuclear energy sectors to sustainable employment.
To reiterate, the important topics to address now are not only how we can curb greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, but also how we can adapt to the changes that have already been set in motion. For example, how will this country respond to the marked increases in the frequency and intensities of hurricanes, droughts and floods?
Hurricane Sandy might make history over the next two days or it might just peter out. Regardless, an increase in storms of that ilk are predicted, along with an increase in several other devastating weather related events. There is strong evidence that this has already begun. We need to start thinking about how we can stop making that worse and begin making it better. There exist several existent options and alternatives to pick and choose from. Right now you can go down to Government Center and not only join that discussion but make it a little louder too.
On Tuesday Oct 30th, the vigil ends with a rally at noon and a march down to the final debates between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown. Bring signs.
Nature Reports Climate Change: