Earth Doctor / Climate Troubadour

What’s in a Number?

What’s in a number? I’ll give you a clue

It’s pretty important To know one or two.
Ninety-eight point six Or a hundred and five
Makes  all the difference In staying alive.

Our planet is warming, And science foresees
We’d better stay inside Of two degrees.
Three hundred and fifty We hit a stone wall,
With carbon dioxide At the heart of it all.

Parts in a million May not seem like much,
But it’s making your mama Just too hot to touch.

Some try to deny it, but here is the glitch:
Keeping you in darkness Is keeping them rich.
More than 500 billion You and I subsidize.
Just follow the money. It’ll open your eyes.

While oceans are rising, While rivers run dry,
There’s less food and water On which to rely,
And  hundreds of millions Of new refugees,
When low-lying places Go under the seas.

I’m not telling your future, Not picking your path,
Just showing you numbers. Now you do the math.

Dedicated to Bill McKibben and

Words and music ©Doug Hendren 2014

What’s it about? If you think climate change is just about polar bears, take a look at this article from Business Insider: “25 Devastating Effects of Climate Change”.  If we stay on our present course, climate change will undo much of civilization as we know it, yes, including the economy. Climate change is mainly attributable to CO2 and methane from worldwide extraction and combustion of coal, gas and oil. Global deforestation and agricultural livestock are also heavy contributors (source: Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data). A few important numbers:  Before the Industrial Revolution began in 1712, atmospheric CO2 stood at 280 parts per million. CO2 acts like a blanket wrapped around the earth, trapping heat in the land and the oceans. We have already seen chaotic changes in our seasons and acidification of the world’s oceans, with a global temperature rise of only 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. There is essentially unanimous scientific agreement on the importance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C., in order to prevent catastrophic positive feedback loops from loss of arctic ice, release of methane and CO2 from melting permafrost and other mechanisms. In recent decades, human activity has raised earth’s atmospheric CO2 from 280 to 400 parts per million, firmly on course for catastrophic changes in our way of life. Staying below the 2-degree threshold means getting back down to 350ppm, and quickly. The American public and business communities are waking up to these numbers, but are being sabotaged by a Congress which serves the short-term financial interests of the fossil-fuel industry. While there are virtually no credible scientific experts who dispute human causation of climate change, the United States Congress is loaded with “climate deniers”, who are being well paid by the fossil industry and their bankers. Investing in members of Congress is highly profitable for the fossil industry. Current US policies include many billions of taxpayer dollars every year spent on subsidies for these exceptionally rich companies (global fossil subsidies estimated at $548 billion per year). The network of deniers, classic “merchants of doubt”, including politicians and industry-funded think tanks, have been practicing their deceitful art against the American people for decades. Humans have a narrow window for averting “climate Armageddon”. If we expect to take an intact civilization into the next century, it is necessary to break the stranglehold of corporate influence over Congress, and force our legislators to enact rational climate policies. In the face of urgent threats to our water supplies, food security and international stability, “business as usual” is a clear and present danger to rich and poor alike. Instead of handing tax dollars out to the companies that are killing us, we must be rapidly deploying non-carbon energy to power our lives. As engineers from Stanford University have demonstrated, the world can transition now  to 100% renewable energy, using existing technology. What are you waiting for?

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