Wednesday, May 14, 2008

climate and bicycles

"When it rains, it pours," "if it's not one thing, its another," everything comes in threes" all speak to that familiar phenomenon, where it seems like events converge and seemingly unconnected things become connected. So, I'm just going to take a moment to revisit to recent topics I've posted on since recent updates just converged for me today.

A week or so ago, I went to a public lecture given by a climate scientist talking about climate models and model validation. He concluded the talk by mentioning why, despite the alarming forecasts, he was still optimistic about our future as a species. One of the questions he was asked alluded to a recent article by a group of notable climate scientists calling for an immediate return to atmospheric CO2 levels of 350 ppm. We're currently a little shy of the 390 ppm mark, so that is no mean feat. And why? Well, according to the group, if we don't get back to 350, we'll cross some critical tipping points in the climate system that mean dramatic (possibly fatal) changes for our species. So the questioner finished by wondering how the speaker could still be optimistic?

So, after my mom also recently mentioned allusions to this article, it seemed like I had to read it. In case you're curious, the approachable synthesis of the article is a piece by Bill McKibben, but if you want the real article you can download it off of Jim Hansen's website; called "Target CO2; where should humanity aim."

On the heels of this, I also looked into an article in the Sentinel (the local paper) about one of the cyclists killed in the last year on Santa Cruz's streets. I provided the link not so much for the article itself, but for the response to it. Scroll down and you'll see over a hundred comments to the article that consist primarily of back-and-forth rudeness and name-calling between motorists who hate cyclists and cyclists who hate motorists.

So how can the speaker still be optimistic? If the local solutions we can all participate in cause so much divisive behavior, where is the room for optimism? That's tricky. I find some hope in the recent and rapid transformation of public opinion and media focus regarding global warming. I found another kernel of hope in the McKibben article, which also promoted a new organization just starting, called, designed to raise awareness for this new target. Give it a look! And I'll stop preaching. Well, maybe not. But I will get back to posting about geology galor (last field trip for the quarter this weekend!) and my vague attempts to become a gardener. This last topic ought to be quite entertaining.....

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