Tuesday, May 05, 2009

climate change by numbers

The current issue of Nature has two very significant research papers on the modelling of climate change and how much carbon dioxide we can still emit before crossing the threshold towards unmitigated disaster (pp 1158, 1163). It's all very depressing reading, but good to have some solid numbers to fall back on (and very easy to remember: 1 trillion tons of CO2 = very bad news). Plus there are also several editorial pieces to explain the background.

I just have to disagree with the headline of the editorial which says "Time to act". The time to act was 15 years ago. I remember learning about all this at the tail end of the previous environmental crisis (forests dying from SO2 and acid rain) and I remember how I first came across a mention of CO2 as a pollutant, and thinking what's wrong with CO2 now? That must have been about 1989 -- I was involved in local politics with Germany's Green Party at the time.

If there is one thing we haven't got now it's time. And very depressingly, as has become obvious from the recent not so very green budget of the UK government, certain politicians haven't understood that yet. Or maybe they just cynically rely on the fact that the catastrophe will only happen after they are out of office anyway ...

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