Need to explain the urgency of climate change? Here's your elevator pitch, by @DavidOAtkins

Need to explain the urgency of climate change? Here's your elevator pitch

by David Atkins

Climate activism has a hard time gaining traction even in progressive circles in competition with other issues. This isn't surprising: when unemployment is high, the economy is slow, inequality is rampant and violence is ubiquitous, it's hard to become deeply emotionally engaged on a subject that won't likely directly impact one's life tomorrow or even ten years from now, even though it will certainly cause increasing weather-related disasters and global catastrophes as the years march on.

Most progressives take climate change seriously as an issue, but understanding that the issue isn't just a long-term problem but requires the fierce urgency of now can be a challenge. It isn't intuitive to our human brains to think that a long-term problem must require immediate solutions (except for the deficit fetishists, of course, but their motivation is killing the safety net, not solving the deficit per se).

To grasp why we need to act now on this crucial issue and why we cannot wait, Gaius Publius wrote a basic climate change elevator pitch a while back explaining the situation. Here's the key part:

Take a look at the chart below. It’s a version of the Michael Mann “hockey stick” diagram showing average global temperature from 500 AD to today, plus various predictions through 2100.

The black line near the right edge of the chart shows global warming measurements. This is global warming — starting from 1900 it never stops climbing.

Where are we headed?

Where are we headed?

All you need to know in four numbers:

■ We get 1½°C — 3°F — by 2100 regardless, even if we Stop Now. We’ve gotten half already (that’s where the black line stops). The rest is in the pipeline.

■ The political elites — G8, Copenhagen conference, etc. — want to stop 2°C — 3½°F. But no one wants to do anything.

■ At 3°C — 5½°F — we have James Hansen’s mass extinction scenario (“game over” he says). 20–50% of species will disappear.

■ What are we on track for? 6–7°C — a whopping 11–12½°F. This is Stop Never, the carbon industry plan.

Short form — We get 1½°C regardless and we’re only halfway there. 2°C is where elites want to stop, but won’t. 3°C is a mass extinction scenario. And we’re on track for 7°C by 2100.

How do we know we’re on track for 7°C?

Go back to the chart above and look at the projection labeled A1F1 (the red line). It takes us to 6°–7°C by 2100.

Now look at the chart below. It zooms in on the time 1980–2010. The projections start at 2000. The measurements keep going through summer 2008. See for yourself:

We’re doing what was predicted. Stop Never is taking us to 7°C by 2100. Our grandchildren will see the result. You and I will live through the early stages.

We can Stop Now or Stop Never; there’s no middle choice. Stop Later is the same as not stopping.

Stop Now means aggressively pursuing — as a action, not an aspiration — “zero new carbon into the air.” Permitting new carbon means not stopping.
We have to stop now. It's not a far-off distant problem. It's an immediate problem, and it has to be tackled now, not later.