Friday, December 23, 2016

Do and/or Die

Peter Wadhams has ample reason to believe that when a truck ran him off the road, it wasn't just an accident. The Cambridge professor is a recognized and outspoken Arctic sea ice expert who is calling for a dramatic curtailment in fossil fuel use, lest the arctic meltdown shift into a cataclysmic series of positive feedback loops. At one point, the professor speculated that oil industry or government agencies had hired the driver to kill him, just as three other sea ice scientists encountered suspicious demises in the past few years. Causes of their untimely deaths were ascribed to falling down stairs, lightning, and vehicular collision while biking.

Death threats and assassination are nothing new to climate and environmental activists. The least you can do when so threatened is to put it on record, prompting an investigation if you are killed. Professor Michael E. Mann, famous for the hockey-stick graph of global temperatures, recently leveraged his potential martyrdom in a push back against the rhetorical garbage that continually belches from Trump's craw. 

In August 2016, Dr. Wadhams sealed his testimony about our predicament in the form of a book titled, A Farewell to Ice, fortuitously published a few months before the canary in the Arctic began to swoon with temperatures now 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, high enough to melt ice in Winter. Wadhams sees 2017 as the first likely summer without a polar ice cap, which would remove the reflecting shield from the Arctic, causing more warming, which would allow undersea permafrost beds to disgorge greater amounts of methane stored there. He has identified ten positive feedback loops associated with Arctic warming.

Hope, nonetheless, springs eternal and Wadhams puts his hope in a radical shift away from fossil fuels and a Manhattan project scale effort to draw down atmospheric carbon. If we don't carry out this change before 2035, Wadhams fears it will be too late. Leaving out the geoengineering piece, the Green New Deal offered by the Green Party could bring the U.S. to 100% fossil-free energy by 2030. If Wadhams is right, there is little room for letting this timeline slip. Either we change our way of living, or our world will change intolerably. Or, maybe we will die from unnatural causes before that, because we were bold enough to point out the problem.

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