Sunday, August 17, 2008

...and let's not forget climate change

I've been reading Climate Code Red - a new Australian book that looks at the real state of our planet's climate systems - and it's not good. In fact we are seriously in crisis. There is a planetary emergency happening around us but little is being done to address it. But we all know this. We watch the tv, we listen to the radio, we search the internet. The truth is out there. But is it is awfully inconvenient to think about it.

It's all to do with human behaviour.

Climate change is environmental symptom of our dependency on fossil fuel and our bad decisions on land use.

Peak oil is lining up to be the social and ecomomic symptoms of that same dependency.

What are governments doing about it? Very little.

What happening in the community about it? Very little.

Sure, there are plenty of 'events' to become involved in. Plenty of sustainability 'expos' to attend. Plenty of new booklets, magazines, websites to read.

Plenty of new products to buy that's for sure. Just replacing one form of consumerism with another.

If you've been watching the ABC's the Hollowmen, you'll know what I mean.

I've been working very hard on trying to do something on the ground. Trying to change things. Like many others (but not enough) I've been preparing my own home, backyard and trying to reach out into my community to find others like us who want to really act on this, rather than meet and talk about it.

Small, tiny steps. Not enough and certainly not going to save the planet. May not even save ourselves.

So - as I have been doing around the place when and where I can - I'm calling for everyone to step forward and admit this is a planetary crisis and to put the planet and all the species left on it before economics and 'growth'.

Here is an excerpt from the book that I have sent around to the limited circles I'm involved in.

This is an emergency
Excerpt from Climate Code Red

This is an urgent call for immediate, comprehensive and emergency action on climate and energy uncertainty. Today, right now. We have known about climate change and peak oil for decades, very little has happened and the need to act is becoming more and more urgent every day – it must begin now and it must be in earnest if we are to return the planet’s weather systems to a safe level and avoid the civil and social unrest that could come as global oil supplies decline.

Below is a direct transcript from a new Australian book Climate Code Red*. It sums up the level of action believed necessary to address both climate change and peak oil in a way that will avoid the major loss of eco-systems, species and humans. This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in finding out what effects the current agreed political thresholds of global temperature increases will truly mean to the planet.

This is an emergency situation – in fact it is the biggest emergency humankind has ever faced, yet we are continuing to put the economy above all else and there is incomprehensible inaction generally – we must acknowledge the dire situation the planet is in and call for this emergency to be addressed, resourced and managed in a way that matches the seriousness of the situation.

Climate change is the environmental and global symptom of our dependence on fossil fuel. Peak oil is the social and economic symptom of that same dependency.

This excerpt clearly outlines the serious situation we are all in.

[Transcript begins]

On 13 April 1970, some 321,000 kilometres from Earth, the Apollo 13 spacecraft was hit by an explosion that resulted in a loss of oxygen, potable water, and most electrical power. The access panel covering the oxygen tanks and fuel cells, which extended the entire length of the main craft’s body, had been blown off. Apollo commander Jim Lovell’s laconic message, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ signaled a technological failure so great that mission objectives were abandoned. The moon landing was aborted.

The priority of the astronauts onboard the craft was survival at any cost. Life-support systems were at risk, and energy use had to be cut to a minimum, since little power was available. The crew shifted to their tiny lunar module – an emergency procedure that had been simulated during training – and abandoned the main craft, to which the module remained attached. But the lunar module was equipped only to sustain two people for two days; now, with insufficient capacity to keep the air clean or to heat the module to a habitable temperature, it needed to sustain three people for four days. There was no precedent, no manual, and no set of pre-tested solutions, but there was a driving imperative that was reinforced by mission control in Houston; ‘Failure is not an option!’

A sequestration filter was invented on the run while carbon dioxide rose to dangerous levels. With inadequate mechanical control, the astronauts had to negotiate course alterations while engineers on the ground calculated the best way to use auxiliary motors to position the craft for the return journey.

Under this level of pressure, the on-the-run problem solving required ingenuity and intense teamwork. The outcome was in doubt up to the last moment, but the crew made it and survived. This mission was deemed a ‘successful failure’. Careful planning and training (including allowing for the possibility of having to jettison the main craft), strong cooperation between all involved, creative off-the-wall solutions and a great measure of good fortune had combined to save the day.

Today, Earth faces a similar degree of peril, and its message can only be: ‘People of the world, we have a problem.’ Our planet’s health and its capacity to function for the journey through time are new deeply imperiled.

We stand on the brink of climate catastrophe.

Like Apollo 13, we have only one option; to abandon our ‘life-as-normal’ project, hit the emergency button, and plan with all our ingenuity how to survive and build a path for a return to a safe-climate Earth (not just avoiding dangerous climate change as current policy focuses on). We have to act with great speed, determination, and ingenuity. Our life-support systems – food, water, and stable temperatures – are at risk, and our consumption of fossil fuels is unsustainable. Energy use must be cut. The voyage will be perilous, and will require intense and innovative teamwork to find and mobilise technological and social answers to as yet unidentified problems. Putting aside mantras about high costs, our collective actions need to be driven, instead, by the imperative; ‘Failure is not an option!’

If we do not succeed we will lose most of the life on this planet.

Lacking its main motors and with uncertain technological control functions, Apollo 13 had only one chance to position itself in exactly the right trajectory so that the moon’s gravitational force would pull it back to Earth safely. We, too, have only one change to get global warming under control and to guide the planet back to a safe-climate zone. If we do the wrong things, or we set our approach incorrectly and don’t do enough, there will be no time for a second chance.

We have already entered an era of dangerous climate change. If left unchecked, the dynamics and inertia of our social and economic systems will sweep us on to ever more dangerous change and then, most likely within a decade, to an era of catastrophic climate change.

If the response to global warming continues to be contained within the current all-too-narrow parameters, it will guarantee disaster. Given the lessons from the Arctic summer of 2007 – let alone all the other early-warning signs that climate scientists are noting increasingly – allowing warming to reach even 2 degrees, let alone the increasingly advocated 3 degrees is reckless.

This is our emergency.

[Transcript ends]

After working on and researching energy descent full time for the past 18 months I make the following call for immediate and comprehensive action;

For immediate and emergency response to both critical problems of climate change and declining oil supplies. For action NOW. For all levels of government and the entire community to begin working cooperatively toward real changes that will move our planet’s climatic systems to safe levels and move us immediately and equitably from oil dependency to local resilience.

We have some structures in place to do this – Transition Towns and relocalisation groups will play a major part in the community as we build urgent local resilience. Permaculture too has the capacity and experience to quickly train people in self-reliance across a wide range of human needs – food, shelter, water, and soil care for example. Permaculture was developed in the 1970’s following the US oil shocks, and the first page of Permaculture One (published in 1978) clearly states it is a solution to our fast-depleting energy supplies. We have the tools, we have the examples, we have creative ingenuity in the community – the thing we lack is the will to act.

There I've had my say... for anyone still reading

Climate Code Red – the case for emergency action is a new book released by David Spratt & Philip Sutton, both of Victoria.

Comments in the forward by Ian Dunlop – deputy convener of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas and former oil, gas and coal industry executive;
“If we are to have a reasonable chance of maintaining a habitable planet, placing our efforts on an emergency footing is long overdue. We only play this game once; a trial run is not an option.”

And from Ken Caldeira – Director of the Caldeira Lab of the Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution of Washington says;
“Climate Code Red asks us to take stock of the climate and sustainability emergency that is unraveling around us and respond with a large-scale transition to a post-carbon economy. There is no time for slow transitions.”