Witness Tree, Part II

Just a short note to say that, if you are looking for a clear explanation of global warming, climate change, and the central story of us and our carbon-burning habits, chapter nine of The Witness Tree (by Lynda V. Mapes) is excellent. She encapsulates the science and history of climate change — and, of course, why we're literally playing with fire these days. She encourages the climate-change deniers, and those uncertain about the role of humans in the global warming process, to stop conflating weather and climate. On a warming planet, we can still have snowy days and blizzards. In fact, the later are often made more intense by global warming.

Mapes writes: "When global warming has happened before over the past two million years, it has taken the planet about five thousand years to warm five degrees. The predicted rate of warming for the next century though, because of increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is at least twenty times faster. The rate of increase is especially marked since the Great Acceleration, beginning in about 1950, with growing population, prosperity, and, notably, increased burning of coal for industry and to fire electric power plants, stoking emissions. In a new twist, escalating carbon emissions today are tied most strongly not to population increases, but to rising energy consumption and North American-style consumerism driven by global prosperity."  

Most people already understand this, I know. But I think it helps sometimes to have clear reminders. We can keep stoking our train of carbon-powered consumerism and see what happens. Or we can start to rethink what we mean by progress. 

As I write this, NATO leaders are meeting in London. If I were there, I'd ask: Is there a more important issue?