Bill McKibben:

"Warning on Warming," New York Review of Books, March 15, 2007. pp. 44-45.

"That legislation is our last meaningful chance"

Who | What | Where | How

"After twenty years of inactivity –a remarkably successful bipartisan effort to accomplish nothing– the first few weeks of the new Congress have witnessed a flurry of activity.
A series of bills have been introduced by people...that call for more or less aggressive carbon reduction targets. Some of the bills would set in place a 'cap-and-trade' system that would set overall limits on emissions of carbon dioxide but would allow companies to freely buy and sell credits permitting them to emit certain amounts of it; this would produce a market for carbon-cutting measures." Mt. Kilimanjaro, 1989
NYRB (March 15, 12007), p. 45.
Mt. Kilimanjaro from Kenya, JVS, 1989

What is a "cap-and-trade" system?


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NASA experts say that we are creating 'totally different planet.'

kilimanjaro88 years

Eighty-eight years of Mount Kilimanjaro's profile. In an attempt to "put a face" on global warming's effects, advocates for social change have, to a large extent, not had the persuasive power that photographs of starving people in famines or wildlife in distress have had in provoking people to action.


How Come?

Commentary on the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report of February 5, 2007.

"What the IPCC Report makes clear by implication is that that legislation is our last meaningful chance: anything less than an all-out assault on carbon in our economy will be rendered meaningless by the increasing momentum of global warming."

p. 45

"..our economy is only part of the problem. Though we use more energy per capita than any other country, the Chinese may pass using total carbon emissions by decade's end. Even if we get our own house in order, we will need to figure out how, with desperate speed, to lead an equally sweeping international response."


"The IPCC assessment offers a modest account of just how out of whack it [the planet] is–and just how hard we're going to have to work to have a chance at limiting the damage."



"In short, the new report is a remarkably conservative document. That it is still frightening in its predictions simply indicates the huge magnitude of the changes we're now causing, changes far larger than most people fully understand."

p. 45.

"The IPCC's new Fourth Assessment of this February (known as AR4) arrives at a more congenial moment, as the new Congress takes up a wide variety of legislation designed, finally to curb emissions."

p. 44.

"The process by which the IPCC conducts its deliberations....[is] a reasonable method, but one result is that the 'shocking' conclusions of the new report in fact lag behind the most recent findings of climate science by several years."

p. 45

Predicted rise in sea level

"That's most obvious here in the discussion of the rise in sea level. Researcher's Europe's coastlineknow that sea levels will rise fairly quickly in this century, in part because of the melting of glaciers and in part because warm water takes up more space than cold. The new (IPCC) assessment refines the calculations of the rise in sea level and puts the best estimate at a foot or two, which is actually slightly less than the last assessment in 2001.

Though it doesn't sound like much, a couple of feet is actually a large amount –enough to inundate many low-lying areas and drown much of earth's coastal marshes and wetlands. Still it might be more or less manageable."

A map of the English Channel region if the Greenland ice cap were to melt.

p. 45.

"But [recent sea level findings] not included in the (IPCC) report, except as a caveat: 'larger values cannot be excluded, but understanding of these effects is too limited to assess their likelihood or provide a best estimate or an upper bound for sea level rise."

p. 45.


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The IPCC | Ocean Thermal Expansion | Quality

"In its discussion of the momentum of climate change, however, it does introduce one particularly disturbing statistic. Because of the time lag between between carbon emissions and their effect on air temperature, even if we halted the increase in coal, oil, and gas burning right now, temperatures would continue to rise about two-tenths of a degree Celsius per decade."

"But, the report writes,'if all radiative forcing agents [i.e. greenhouse gases] are held constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming trend would occur in the next two decades at a rate of about 0.1 degrees C [Celsius] per decade."

"Technically speaking, that's enormous, enough to produce what James Hansen has called a 'totally different planet,' one much warmer than that known by any of our human ancestors."

p. 45

"Climate change is a problem with a very 'high procrastination penalty': a penalty that just grows and grows with each passing year of inaction."

pp. 44-45.

see for good discussions of current science and public policy matters.




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Bill Mckibben


Summary remarks from the Fourth Assessment Report

Who is the author of the above comments?

Bill McKibben wrote a book on acid rain, climate change and ozone depletion, in 1990. He is a writer about the Adirondack's and environmental matters for the New Yorker Magazine. His book, the End of Nature, insists that:

    1. you count
    2. your behavior matters
    3. it is human to care for others


You do count–that is, really matter–because of these laws:

Laws of Ecology


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Need more information?


Conclusions, thus far are:

By examining our dependence on automation and industrialization, it is clear that:

Acid rain is due to high sulfur coal emissions that damage forests, fisheries and facades of buildings.

Gasoline or petroleum for cars and transportation is a long term threat due to heat trapping vapors.

Deforestation is so widespread that wood shortages will occur by 2010-2025.

Energy efficiency needs to be encouraged.

Location efficient design [ LED ] is a serious approach to follow.

Urban reforestation must be a priority, People and Trees

Retreat from the shoreline in low lying areas and along river flood plains is a prudent, if not necessary problem to cope with increased rainfall and ocean thermal expansion.


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