Have we reached the climate change tipping point?

The rational impulse is to stay calm and transition away from fossil fuels, but we may have already exhausted our quota of delays

climate change tipping pointQUATHIASKI COVE, B.C. July 21, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Have we run out of time to deal with climate change?

The science of climate change has reached a level of sophistication that can’t be refuted, and the global temperature rise is documented with stunning accuracy. The cause is known: our greenhouse gas emissions. The consequences are sobering: global ecological havoc. The solution is obvious: a shift to clean renewable energies.

A vivid reminder of the seriousness of our situation arrived on June 23 in an open letter from 20 prominent Australians. Directed to their government, the letter describes the Paris Agreement’s objective to hold the global temperature increase below 1.5°C, how this temperature briefly spiked to 1.6°C early in 2016, how corals are bleaching and dying, ice sheets are melting, “methane is leaking from thawing permafrost,” and Earth “is already too hot.”

The letter calls for an immediate ban on all further fossil fuel development and a speedy “transition to zero emissions.” It asks for the declaration of “a climate emergency.”

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The letter doesn’t exaggerate.

The actual rate of warming has exceeded almost every worst-case scenario in scientific predictions. NASA confirmed that February 2016 was 1.35°C above the global long-term average, 0.2°C above January 2016, the previous warmest month ever measured.

A fascinating spiral graph illustrating temperature increases from 1850 to the present clearly shows a recent acceleration. The graph infers that we may have reached the feared tipping point, where warming accelerates beyond our control.

Let’s hope this is not so. Regardless, all the evidence suggests we are dangerously close to unleashing climate conditions that will be extremely disruptive to the way we live.

The rational impulse, of course, is to stay calm and transition away from fossil fuels. But we may have already exhausted our quota of delays. When we are on a one-way journey with no return ticket, each decision is final.

The climate we are making will last for millennia. Are we making the right decisions? Are we responding too slowly?

Those 20 prominent Australians believe our climate problem has escalated to emergency status.

Are they being irrational? They’ve just come through a Southern Hemisphere summer with its searing heat, droughts and fires. But Australia is not exceptional. Almost every country is experiencing anomalies of extreme weather: Britain, France, Russia, Venezuela, China, Brazil, India, Canada. America has suffered successive weather traumas of increasing intensity and frequency – 10 climate disasters of more than $1 billion each in 2015 alone.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark now frequently mentions the serious threats of climate change. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to get provincial leaders to agree to a national strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, continues to plead for aggressive climate action.

Given the recent rapid rise in global temperatures, the signatories of the Australian letter don’t believe our present efforts and investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are sufficient.

If, indeed, our climate is “already too hot,” perhaps it’s time for our politicians to consider what comes after “emergency.”

Troy Media columnist Ray Grigg is the author of seven internationally published books on Oriental philosophy, specifically Zen and Taoism. Ray is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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