Books and Articles

Ed. Feldman, Mitchell, MD and Christensen, John, PhD. Behavioral Medicine: A Guide for Clinical Practice. 4th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2014.
 This excellent book has a thoughtful chapter by Christensen, titled “Environment, Health, and Behavior” pp. 76-85. It speaks to many of the issues and challenges alluded to in the letter. The two simple graphs on pp. 80 and 81 eloquently say it all in terms of the problem. Note also “The Precautionary Principle” section on p. 84, which gives important guidance for how we might act wisely now. For those of you interested in communication in the healing arts, the entire book is a gem.

Hoggan, James with Littlemore, Richard. Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. Vancouver BC Canada: Greystone Books, 2009.
Hoggan documents many examples of misinformation and cover-up marketing by the fossil fuel companies. (To this day look at fossil fuel marketing. They make it APPEAR that they are the most environmental corporations on this earth!). He also explains the insidious ways in which the media’s aim to present “both sides,” “a balanced view,” (on the surface an important value) has led to much confusion by the public. Despite the fact that the majority of bona fide climate scientists have acknowledged the reality of human-caused climate change for years (current percentage 97% according to the AAAS), nevertheless the media kept looking for balance. They, of course, have found many scientists (not climate scientists), virtually all of whom have been receiving payment from fossil fuel companies or connected institutions, who are more than happy to offer whatever the fossil fuel companies want them to say.

Here are the last two paragraphs in his book: “There can be a good future if we make it so. But if we stand about, if we allow energy-industry flunkies to control the conversation—or even if we just let it ride, cynically accepting that politics is inherently corrupt and that nothing we do can make a difference—we will all have time to regret the passing of a beautiful and sustainable world.

So please, be bold. Be courageous. Be positive. Act and demand action. This, for our sake and for the sake of all those who follow, is a fight that we can and must win. For this bears repeating: the world is worth saving.” P.235

Klein, Grady and Bauman, Yoram (the one and only stand-up economist). The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change. WA DC: Island Press, 2014.
If you’d like your Climate Change information with a generous dose of humor, this is your book!

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
I’m not entirely sure that I agree with the degree of negative emphasis she puts on capitalism. Some other forms of government have been profligate with carbon also. I think if I understand her that her biggest concern is unbridled capitalism run by huge entirely profit oriented corporations. That concerns me, too. The book itself is extraordinary in its scope, depth and research. Read the New York Times review here.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2014.
Most important, Kolbert delivers a compelling call to action. “Right now,” she writes, “we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy.”

Since the origin of life on earth 3.8 billion years ago, our planet has experienced five mass extinction events. The last of these events occurred some 66 million years ago when a six-mile-wide asteroid is thought to have collided with earth, wiping out the dinosaurs. The Cretaceous extinction event dramatically changed the composition of biodiversity on the planet: Marine ecosystems essentially collapsed, and about 75 percent of all plant and animal species disappeared.

Despite the evidence that humanity is driving mass extinctions, we have been woefully slow to adopt the necessary measures to solve this global environmental challenge. Our response to the mass extinction — as well as to the climate crisis — is still controlled by a hopelessly outdated view of our relationship to our environment.

Fortunately, history is full of examples of our capacity to overcome even the most difficult challenges whenever a controversy is finally resolved into a choice between what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong. The anomalies Kolbert identifies are too glaring to ignore. She makes an irrefutable case that what we are doing to cause a sixth mass extinction is clearly wrong. And she makes it clear that doing what is right means accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world.

Read the New York Times review here.

Macy, Joanna and Brown, Molly. Coming Back to Life. Gabriola Island BC Canada: New Society Publishers, 2014. (updated version)
From Kathleen Dean Moore (noted author of Wild Comfort, many other books and see below) among many other comments at the beginning of the book:

“Where there is bewilderment, Joanna Macy brings wisdom. Where there are division and discord, she speaks for the Other. Where there is despair, she joins hands to dance. Humankind is about to make a Great Turning in one direction or another. If we find a way to turn toward a deeper, fuller humanity, one of the reasons will be the fiercely compassionate genius of Joanna Macy. (This) book is a great gift to the reeling world.”

McKibben, Bill. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007.

McKibben, Bill. Eaarth. (No! this is not a mis-spelling.) New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011.
This is strong but important medicine. We already live on a planet markedly and long-term altered. How can we think about it both to urgently minimize damage to humans, other animals and plants? Also how can we find resilient new (or old) ways of living on this new planet?

Moore, Kathleen Dean & Nelson, Michael P., editors. Foreword by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu. Moral Ground. San Antonio, Texas: Trinity University Press, 2010.
In Moral Ground visionaries from around the world call us to honor our moral responsibilities to the planet. In the face of species extinction, environmental degradation, and climate change, scientific knowledge cannot be our only guide. We must find ways to respond on deeper spiritual and ethical levels. Moral Ground empowers us with myriad ways to fulfill our obligation to future generations and leave a world as rich in possibilities as the one we live in now. (from note on back of book)

This is a very ecumenical, wide-ranging book. I suspect nearly everyone reading it would find some deeply meaningful sections and some that raise sparks.

Peterson, Deborah.  A Missing Piece in the Sustainability Movement: The Human Spirit
Peterson focuses thoughtfully on a missing element in the sustainability movement—a discussion of the role of the human spirit. As she writes, “Sustaining the human spirit ensures that we each have the hope, clarity of vision, and courage to do challenging work in complex organizations while bringing diverse stakeholders into the conversation during tumultuous times of change. Sustaining the human spirit will result in sustaining our natural world while also creating communities in which the human dignity of each person is honored.”

Primack, Joel & Abrams, Nancy. The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos. New York: Riverhead Books, 2006.

Primack, Joel & Abrams, Nancy. The New Universe & the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World (from the Terry Lectures Series at Yale University). New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2011.
Primack and Abrams are in good company with this series of lectures. A few of the other past lecturers include Paul Tillich, Carl Jung and Marilynne Robinson.

I initially found the first book when I was working on my first cosmos-inspired painting series and reading widely about the universe. I was fascinated by many of their ideas, including their aim to provide a new mythology for and of our earth that included the most recent scientific findings. Our earth may never look the same to you after reading their books. They also provide important perspectives on living sustainably.

He is a cosmologist, and she is a philosopher, historian and attorney (who has worked in WA DC to help politicians understand the science that they need to know for various political decisions, among other things).

Thich Nhat Hanh. Love Letter to the Earth. Berkeley CA: Parallax Press, 2013.
“Thich Nhat Hanh makes an eloquent, uplifting, and urgent call to recognize that our health and happiness are inextricably tied to Mother Earth and to all of our kin. We need this great wisdom if we are to move from our destructive path.” David Suzuki

Ed. by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth (a collection of essays). Point Reyes CA: The Golden Sufi Center, 2013.
This collection includes essays by Thich Nhat Hanh, Joanna Macy and Wendell Berry, among others.

Beneficial Actions

Past Successes
DDT use has been markedly decreased after we learned about all the damage it causes. Likewise, CFC’s are now only minimally used in special situations, after we learned that they were negatively affecting the ozone layer. The Hudson River clean-up by Pete Seeger and others has markedly improved the health of this river. Polio has been virtually eliminated thanks to vaccines.

Are you interested in learning more about these and other successes? And passing on this information to help others learn from our past successes?

The News Including Successes
Are you interested in learning about and passing on stories of successes, large and small? Repeatedly I hear people tell me that almost the only news they read is bad. While we need to not ignore the tough issues, I also think that so many good things are happening, but usually they are not broadcast widely. How can we change that?

Psychological Effects
Many people for many different reasons find this enormous issue challenging to even begin to grasp. Are you interested in helping? What are good resources for all of us in this arena? One resource is the book, Coming Back to Life by Joanna Macy, especially pp. 22-31.

Carbon Footprints
There are some very good (and some less good) Carbon Footprint Calculators. This is an area that it would be wise for each of us to look at in an ongoing way and continually try to lessen our footprints.

shrinkthatfootprint.com is our current favorite.
http://www.climatecare.org/climate/low-carbon-living/ has a number of good, practical ideas.

As we do so, it’s important to find the joy in this practice. A profound resource for this is Coming Back To Life by Joanna Macy. Another resource for this is Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, second edition.

Do you have other resources to suggest? Do you want to learn more and share with others? Do you want to start a neighborhood group to learn more about this and support each other in making important changes? Or…?

Food
Our ways of eating have enormous impact on the environment. Fortunately, it is easy to learn how to create utterly delicious meals that have a low carbon footprint. This is a fertile area for learning and sharing. More information at shrinkthatfootprint.com.

Stories
We need rediscover the old stories and find new stories to tell each other that ultimately bring us joy as we live on this minuscule planet in ways that are not damaging to us and many other species. See the books by Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams in the books link for newer, more sustainable and accurate myths. Also, for inspiration you might want to learn about the stellar storytelling duo, Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo and listen to “Trouble Talk,” a green story over a thousand years old (www.ethnohtec.org/). Protecting our earth is not a new phenomenon. It just needs us now more than ever.

Anyone interested in interviewing people who are working on climate change issues in good ways? Perhaps put these interviews on a website and/or publish them somewhere. Or do you have stories or myths to tell in different setting that touch on these issues?

Local or Regional Forums

A group of neighbors in Portland OR are beginning to plan a forum to discuss Climate Change and possible solutions on individual, local, regional and larger levels. This gathering will include a panel discussion and plenty of opportunity for neighbors to identify areas of action that appeal to them and potentially find others to work with. The aim for the future will be to increase a sense of community as people work together, increase resilience, and decrease fossil fuel use in many different ways from individual to large infrastructure, as well as increase renewable energy use.

The Nawtsamaat Alliance
The Nawt-sa-maat Alliance is an empowered coalition of Coast Salish Indigenous Peoples, environmental, interfaith, and youth activists, and impassioned community members who love the land and waters of the Salish Sea and call it home.

Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest and ranging from Washington State to British Columbia, the Alliance was created to heighten awareness of the increased risks and threats to our beautiful region by a fossil fuel industry that continues to exploit and destroy it. The Alliance mobilizes international, cross-cultural, and co-creative joint action to block fossil fuel projects such as the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion in British Columbia, as well as oil trains, coal trains, oil tankers, ports and other pipelines.

The Nawtsamaat Alliance is calling for unprecedented unified action to protect and restore the Salish Sea and the communities surrounding it.

Socially Responsible Investing
If you are fortunate enough to have any extra money to invest, are you considering carbon footprints of companies you are investing in? Are they leading to much more CO2 and methane release into the atmosphere? Do you need to divest from all fossil fuel corporations? If many of us do so, the odds go up that the fossil fuel folks will much more seriously move toward products that are much better for the earth, including all of us. Can you educate others?

Other Species
Do you have a strong interest in and connection to orcas? Lichen? Trees? Forests? Deer? Native plants to your area? Butterflies? Bees? Blueberries? Mosses? Fungi? Frogs? Cacti? Birds? Or…? Are you interested in learning about them more and helping protect their environments?

Looking At the Whole Picture
We need more people looking our entire planet, including our atmosphere and our oceans. It would be helpful if they come from many different groups, so there are many perspectives.

Websites
Are you aware of good websites that address climate change issues? How can we best disseminate that information? For starters see the section on Other Pertinent Websites.

Elders
Some elders have more available time. If you do, is there something that interests you in this arena? Below is information I received about one possible group (Are there raging granddads out there, too?!)

Another inspiring group taking action is the Raging Grannies, of which there are groups nationwide. The Seattle group is very active and recently protested the oil trains moving through Western WA. see: http://q13fox.com/2014/10/30/demonstrators-rally-to-protest-oil-trains-moving-through-area/

Politics
Are you a politician? If so, as you may know, you have an enormous opportunity to influence these issues for the better. What can those of us who care about climate change do to help support you better?

Are you interested in following legislative issues? Could you keep the rest of us informed about how best to easily send emails? Could you craft sample letters? Could you help us learn what are the most effective ways to communicate with politicians these days?

Other thoughts?

Carbon Taxes, Carbon Offsets, Cap and Trade, and Other Political Responses
Are you interested in learning about any of these possible approaches? Could you educate others? Are there any practical things to do? If you’re interested, Climate Solutions is working in these areas in OR and WA.

Big Corporations That Are Big Polluters
How can we influence these corporations? How can we help them shift to looking at the larger picture? They, too, are and will be affected by climate change. What if they moved their enormous financial powers to renewable resources?  Some are beginning to do so. Others are still more like the tobacco companies were/are.

Corporate Person-Hood
The Bill of Rights – the 1st ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution – protects basic rights of persons.  These rights include freedom of speech and assembly (gathering together) protected by the 1st Amendment, and many others.  In a 2010 case known as Citizens United v. Federal Communication Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court decided  that corporations are considered  persons protected by the constitution.  According to the court, limiting corporate political contributions violates corporations’ constitutional free speech rights.   Unlimited corporate contributions support the climate change-deniers and pollute discussion of what to do about climate change.  Are you interested in supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United?  Or in changing the laws that create corporations to limit what they can do? (information courtesy of Debbie Maranville, Professor of Law, Director, Clinical Law Program, University of Washington School of Law)

Psychopaths
1% of the population are psychopaths. These are people who lack empathy, conscience and guilt. Consider implications of this carefully. Politicians and higher executives (including in fossil fuel corporations) appear to have a higher percentage of psychopaths in their groups (document. find a more exact percentage if possible). Until we learn better how to deal with this issue, I suspect it will remain more difficult to fully deal with Climate Change. It seems to me that having very clear laws to protect our earth would be especially helpful in these instances, since we can’t count on psychopaths acting in good conscience. They need an external and clear conscience. We all need to learn more about this group. Are you interested in helping us do so?
Two books on the subject are Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare and The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.

Also, if you are reading this and wonder if you might be a psychopath, take note and remember that this issue affects every one of us, including you. If you are “benefiting” from short-term wealth gained from polluting sources, you will be causing major health and other problems for yourself and others. Please look at the big picture of the entire earth and put your money to better uses.

Entrepreneurs
If you are an entrepreneur, what role could you play in terms of climate change issues? You might want to look into becoming a B Corp.

Spiritual
There are many ecumenical groups and individual wisdom traditions working on these issues. What all are they? Are you interested in compiling a list? Or working with one of these groups? Or…?

Joanna Macy’s new book, Coming Back to Life, is a wonderful way to learn more about many of these groups, as well as ways of being more congruent with a sustainable approach to life on this earth.

Mindfulness
Whatever your perspectives on this world, we would be likely to improve our situation, if as many as possible of us bring a mindful approach to climate change issues. Does this speak to you?

Art
If your gifts fall within this broad area, are there any ways in which you could sometimes use them to help bring your truths, joy, beauty, empathy or…?

I am starting to envision a round button and/or pin showing our earth and with TEAM EARTH printed on it. These could be sold for a nominal amount with part going to a Climate Change organization and part to the artist. It could help remind us daily and also help connect us. Any artists out there interested??

Poets, especially, keep writing. You help sustain us!

Improvisation
We will all likely need to develop our skills in improvisation in future decades. Can you bring anything to this area?

Resilience
We need it now and in the future. Consider forming small or larger groups to help those around us, including those who have fewer resources. For example Growing Gardens in Portland OR supports low-income folks with resources and education they need to grow their own food (growing-gardens.org). This will likely become increasingly important in the future. Would you like t help in this area?

Humor
Yeah! And we need this, too! Can you help us remember to chuckle, giggle and guffaw?!

Other
What other areas can you think of? Please let me know.

Other Pertinent Websites

This is a work in progress. Below are some preliminary sites. Please let us know if you have any thoughts.

 

Climate Solutions

Worldwatch Institute

Physicians for Social Responsibility

SeaDoc Society

World Resources Institute

WWF is a world-wide organization that operates in more than 100 countries. Their WWF International website has much information about climate change and its impacts on the planet. They publish an annual Living Planet Report which analyzes our planet’s health and the impact of our activities.

The US affiliate website also has a large section on climate change.

Ecotrust

350.org

Sierra Club

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Environmental Defense Fund

Union of Concerned Scientists

Ceres

National Wildlife Federation

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly Pew Center on Global Climate Change)

Greenpeace

US Climate Action Network

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

Earthjustice

The Climate Reality Project

Friends of the Earth

Center For Clean Air Policy (CCAP)

The Nature Conservancy

Fossil Free Indexes – website for index investors

My Carbon Footprint and Why Does it Matter? Carbon Footprints of Different Countries.

For some background about these things we, as individuals and groups,  are putting into the air and water, here’s a link:

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html

This link gives more information about Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

There are some very good (and some less good) Carbon Footprint Calculators. Our current favorite is on Shrink That Footprint. This website also features many interesting articles about ways to shrink our individual footprints, often in enjoyable ways.

When starting to calculate your footprint, you’ll need some information about your current lifestyle, including electricity, heat, and water usage and your travel habits.

There are a few caveats about carbon footprint calculators. Different  calculators can give you quite different results. One reason is they make different assumptions about the amount of the carbon you use for transportation. For the same number of miles driven, a longer trip at highway speeds is more efficient than in-town shorter trips. Another is the results might be in different units, sometimes without telling you what they are! In the US, we still use pounds and a ton is 2000 pounds. Internationally, the amount is specified in “metric tonnes” which is 1000 kilograms( about 2204 pounds) or about 10% larger than a US ton. Another caveat is whether the results are just for carbon dioxide or whether they include all greenhouse gases. Since it is awkward to specify the amounts of many different greenhouse gases from some activity, the impact of non-carbon dioxide gases are converted to an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that would give the same impact. Pound for pound, methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, for instance.  While carbon dioxide is written as CO2, when the greenhouse gases are all lumped together,  the carbon dioxide equivalent is written as CO2e.

Clearly none of us have totally clean hands in terms of our individual environmental impact. Rather spectacularly, as I look back, in 1996 my husband and I had an unusually long upcoming vacation. Our response was to look for some place that was as far away as possible and had a very different culture from ours. Tonga was our destination. It seemed all good… Back then! Calculating the carbon footprint of that trip now makes it an extremely self-indulgent trip. Now I know that almost all that carbon is still floating around in the atmosphere and will be, probably for centuries.That said, many of us are becoming more aware of individual impacts and that they add up in the aggregate. In a both/and kind of approach I am becoming increasingly excited about working with other people on our individual carbon footprints, as well as attending to the larger political issues. And we can make the individual changes much quicker. Given that approximately 70% of global carbon emissions ultimately occurs because of our individual actions, many individuals joining together could make an enormous difference! Let’s do it TEAM EARTH!

Our Timeline is not endlessly in the future. According to the IPCC, climate scientists have reached a consensus that from the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 1750’s on we have roughly a total carbon budget of 1 trillion metric tons to use before we tip into runaway Climate Change. We have already used about 600 billion metric tons. At our current trajectory we will have used up the rest of our earth budget in 25 years, that is by 2039. Let’s use that as a challenge to become more creative. More flexible. Let’s share ways to enjoy low-carbon adventures. Let’s get to know our neighbors better and create stronger communities, so we can work together on these issues and play together, too.

What carbon footprint numbers should we be targeting? Many of these questions are answered on Shrink That Footprint.

 The following information gives a rough sense of what we, especially those of us in the U.S. need to be thinking about:
  • The average footprint for people in United States is 20.40 metric tons
  • The average for the industrial nations is about 11 metric tons
  • The average worldwide carbon footprint is about 4 metric tons
  • The worldwide target to combat climate change is 2 metric tons

From:  http://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=8

Plane flights these days are an interesting challenge. It has seemed to me that every time I turn around this year, 2014, somebody or several somebodies or a huge group are heading far away for some great adventure. Many of the groups sponsoring these large groups are environmental groups, universities, radio music stations…  I relate to this. I am from this demographic, those of us who call ourselves ecologically minded. And yet! Research (REF) shows that our individual carbon footprints are larger than those who do not designate themselves ecologically minded. Sit with that one for awhile. Then do your carbon footprint if you haven’t yet. Some friends I know have done just that and are dramatically changing their lives. Consider writing about, reading about, and living a life of low-carbon adventure. Future generations will look back and thank you!

Here is an interesting article on the environmental impacts of aircraft.

We’ll talk more in the future about carbon offsets and the issues with understanding what they really do.  The situation is, to say the least, confusing. This article

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/20/opinion/to-save-the-planet-dont-plant-trees.html?_r=0

raises my level of concern. Please let me know if you have any other information regarding best thinking about the positive and negative issues about trees and Climate Change.

PORTAL 8 Mystery, Wonder, Astonishment, Terror, Beauty, Imperfection, Never ending

I recently attended a stellar Crazy Jane concert. This group features new compositions by a group of Pacific NW composers. The pieces were wildly different and each fascinating in their own ways. I had two aha’s during the evening. No three! First, I personally need an arts PORTAL. And so do many others, I imagine. Second, this concert entirely fits with this PORTAL in that it was a benefit concert for the organization, Environment Oregon. This reminded me of all the incredible generosity I have seen over the years by many artists for environmental causes, among others. What a great way for us artists to do what matters most to us and to help promote Climate Change solutions. Third, my friend, composer Susan Alexjander had a stunning new piece featured titled “PORTALS,” which led to the first two aha’s. Thank you Susan!

I mentioned Cosmos, as well as the Arts, above, because I have been so influenced in my two painting series inspired by all that we have been learning in the “Golden Age of Cosmology.” This universe is so much larger (perhaps including multiverse), older and awe inspiringly stranger (black holes, dark energy, dark matter…) than we had ever guessed. As I have come to increasingly understand the minute and yet amazing place of our speck of a planet (see Primack and Abrams in the book section) in the universe, I much more clearly see the importance of all of us joining together to care for our little planet with love, rather than with wanton disregard.

So… Poets, other writers, storytellers, artists, dancers, composers, musicians, food artists and any others, let us (continue to) give, each in our own ways.

PORTAL 3 “Does this make economic sense?”

The Economics of Climate Change

The economics of climate change are tricky, but not necessarily dismal. With few exceptions, we who buy fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases aren’t paying a price that reflects the costs imposed by that pollution. Because the effects are global and persist for hundreds and thousands of years, most of us will see very little of the negative consequences that have already been set in motion.

Barring major interventions, global emissions of greenhouse gases are bound to increase dramatically in the years ahead due, in part, to world population growth and the increasing incomes of people in developing countries, which allow them access to refrigeration, motor bikes, and other opportunities to emit greenhouse gases. Options for curtailing greenhouse emissions include:

  1. marketing campaigns to convince people that the moral thing to do is stop emitting greenhouse gases because of the harm resulting for people and living things all over the globe in decades and centuries ahead;
  2. laws and regulations that limit how much can be emitted; and
  3. laws and regulations that require purchasers of greenhouse-gas-producing fuels and technology to bear the cost of the negative effects. These give us economic incentives to reduce these emissions. Examples include cap and trade regulations and carbon taxes, which can be offset by reductions in other taxes. [Note1]

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century, the world has heavily invested in greenhouse-gas-emitting infrastructure. Transforming our world with new technology that keeps greenhouse gas emissions at safe levels is estimated to require $45 trillion of investment between now and 2030. [Note 2] If we wait to tackle this problem, the cost of making this transformation will rise dramatically. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors estimated that to meet the internationally agreed upon level that would limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius would cost about 40 percent more if we wait a decade to act. [Note 3] Moreover, the additional cost of trying to redress the increased effects of climate change, such as severe heat waves, droughts, flooding, extinction of many species, and sea level rise, would be astounding.

Is fighting climate change worth $45 trillion? Probably not, from the perspective of a corporate leader, who in the absence of a cap and trade system or carbon tax is thinking about the costs the corporation will face, not all the long run costs. If their business plan focuses on the period between now and their retirement, it’s too short sighted to be worth that level of investment. Under a cap and trade system or with a carbon tax that imposes a substantial share of the cost of avoiding the harmful effects from greenhouse gas emissions, the investment may well become worthwhile. It’s even more financially sensible if you have a business plan focused on the long run and you don’t discount the enormous cost of lives lost and damage far in the future.

How can such investments be financed? By governments, businesses, families, and individuals. The gross world product (GWP) was about $75 trillion in 2012. Assuming it doesn’t increase between now and 2030, investing $45 trillion between 2015 and 2030 would require an average of $2.8 trillion a year—3.8 percent of GWP. If the world economy grows at a 3 percent annual rate (after adjusting for inflation), the $45 trillion dollar investment would represent an average of 2.7 percent of GWP each year. [Note 4] We could start by eliminating government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, estimated by the IMF to be $1.9 trillion annually. [Note 5] The IPCC estimates that making the investment needed to avoid warming above two degrees Celsius could reduce the annual growth rate in global consumption by 0.04 to 0.14 percentage points. [Note 6] Others conclude that it would not affect consumption. [Note 7] These estimates do not, however, take into account the enormous benefits of reducing climate change. If we work together, this is doable. For the sake of posterity and the biosphere, let’s just do it.

 Notes

1 British Columbia, Canada, for example adopted a carbon tax in 2008. For an accessible discussion of climate change and carbon taxes, see Yoram Bauman and Grady Klein, The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, Island Press, 2014.
2 The Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate, “The New Climate Economy Report”, 2014, http://newclimateeconomy.report/, accessed 11/18/2014
3 Executive Office of the President, “The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change,” July 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/the_cost_of_delaying_action_to_stem_climate_change.pdf, accessed 11/19/2014.
4 From 2005 to 2014 the world gross product increased at an estimated annual rate of 3.7 percent. See International Monetary Fund: Legacies, Clouds, Uncertainties October 2014, p. 184, http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2014/02/pdf/text.pdf, accessed 11/21/2004.
5 International Monetary Fund, “Energy Subsidy Reform: Lessons And Implications,” 1/28/2013, http://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2013/012813.pdf, p. 1, accessed 11/19/2014.
6 International Panel on Climate Change, “IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report: Approved Summary for Policymakers,” November 1, 2014, https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_SPM.pdf, p, SPM-17, accessed 11/19/2014.
7 Paul Krugman, “Errors and Emissions: Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free?” New York Times, September 18, 2014 and Ian Parry, “Carbon Pricing: Good for You, Good for the Planet,” International Monetary Fund ( IMF) Direct, http://blog-imfdirect.imf.org/2014/09/17/carbon-pricing-good-for-you-good-for-the-planet/, accessed 11/18/2014.

What is our timeline? And how might we think about it?

At some point, given the very long time that CO2 stays in the atmosphere, we will reach a negative tipping point of no return (WHAT MIGHT THAT MEAN?) if we continue our current ways of living on this planet.

I am interested, however, in actively finding ways right now to explore every possible good avenue to help move us toward a more positive future for us human and most other animals and plants. (There are, of course, a few plants and animals that will thrive in the conditions toward which we are moving.) I would like to see the extinctions start slowing down; the CO2 in the atmosphere level off and then (ever so slowly, given its long duration) start decreasing; the floods and hurricanes start decreasing in frequency and intensity (MORE IDEAS?)

One of the things we need to keep reminding ourselves is that any timeline predictions necessarily have large uncertainty ranges because this issue is so sprawlingly large and full of multiple uncertainties. However, here’s my thought when I ponder this from a medical perspective. If a person (or planet) has some likelihood of a number of very terrible things happening if they don’t take a number of preventive measures, I am more likely to strongly encourage the preventive measure the more dire the potential problems are. I think this is exactly the case with us and Climate Change. Do we primarily just care about our short-term high-fossil fuel current lives? Or can we join together to do what needs to be done to become a very low fossil using planet?

That said, here are some of the years I have seen suggested by which Climate Change might become irreversible:

2017 (ref; get; Naomi klein book)

2020 (again, Klein)

All of the links below give some information about the 2014 IPCC reports and perspectives on timelines except for the first one. Keep in mind that the cut-off for information in the IPCC report was 2013, as you read any of these links that interest you. Then look at the first link to an article from the World Resources Institute, which looks at the specifics and escalating pace of events in 2014.

Let us continue waking up and do all we can on any pertinent levels to decrease our carbon (fossil fuels) output. It will never get any easier or more cost-effective or likely to work in the future.

http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/10/9-significant-scientific-findings-too-recent-be-included-new-ipcc-report?utm_campaign=wridigest&utm_source=wridigest-2014-11-05&utm_medium=email&utm_content=title

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/26/us-climate-thresholds-idUSBRE82P0UJ20120326

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/11/united-nations-ipccclimatechangereportglobalwarming.html

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/11/04/3587527/ipcc-irreversible-impacts/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/03/world/europe/global-warming-un-intergovernmental-panel-on-climate-change.html?_r=0