Wight/My Turn: Running out of time

As an investigative journalist and international activist who went to Copenhagen for the United Nations Global Warming Summit in 2009, I make it my business to find out the truth about what’s going on today. After reading 12 books and hundreds of climate research articles, I know the American people are being told a half-baked lie. Here’s the lie: “You have nothing much to worry about until 2095 because global warming/climate change will proceed slowly!”


Here are the scientific facts from peer-reviewed scientific research papers:

“The current rate of warming today is occurring more than 10,000 times faster than the previous catastrophic warming event that occurred 65 million years ago,” says world renowned oceanographer John Englander, who has spent over two decades exploring both polar regions.

“The fact that greenhouse gases have a warming effect, rather like an extra blanket around the globe, is indisputable and has been established physics for over a hundred years. These gases cause a ‘greenhouse effect’ because they are opaque to long-wave infrared radiation: Heat coming in from the sun is short-wave and thus passes straight through, but when this heat is re-radiated by the Earth, its wavelength is longer, and some is then (continually) trapped by the gases — just as glass in a greenhouse also traps heat,” writes Mark Lynas, author of “Six Degrees.”

Lynas continues, “Scientists have established beyond a reasonable doubt that the current episode of global warming, of about 0.7 degrees Celsius (now 0.83 degrees C) in the last century, which has pushed Earth’s temperature up to levels unprecedented in recent history. The U.N. IPCC’s 2007 report confirmed that no proxy records of temperature — whether from tree rings, ice corps, coral bands, or other sources — show any time in the last 1,300 years that was as warm as now. Indeed, records from the deep sea suggest that temperatures are now within a degree (C) of their highest levels for no less than a million years.”

“The part of the globe most vulnerable to this sudden onset of warming, and the part that will likely see the first important tipping-point crossed, is the Arctic,” Lynas writes. “Here, temperatures are currently rising at twice the global rate. Alaska and Siberia are heating up particularly rapidly. In these regions, the mercury has already risen by two to three degrees Celsius within the past 50 years. The impacts of this change are already profound. Underground ice wedges on the normally cold North Slope are now melting, but had previously remained frozen for at least the past 3,000 years, thus indicating just how far outside previous historical variability current warming is. Scientists have increasingly realized that the Earth’s climate is a good example of a nonlinear system (which means that energy “forcings,” positive feedbacks and tipping-points will all have multiple interconnected and interdependent acumulative effects).

“It’s very important to understand that our climate system can ‘tip’ from one state into another with surprising rapidity. Episodic sudden warming embedded within the last ice age saw temperatures in Greenland rise by as much as 16 degrees C (22.4 F) within just a few decades. The reasons why the climate flipped are still not completely understood, but it is clear that only tiny changes ... have in the past led to dramatic responses from the climate system.”

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1760, when the parts per million of harmful CO2 were around 260-280 ppm, we’ve now added about 120-140 ppm to reach today’s total of 400 ppm. According to NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen, we need to stay below 350 ppm in order to maintain life on Earth as we know it.

Furthermore, what’s truly disturbing is the fact that all the permafrost in Siberia, Greenland, Alaska and Canada is now starting to melt. This catastrophic phenomena will release humongous amounts of harmful CO2 and lethal methane gas that is 256 times more potent than CO2 during the first 20 years of its existence. As a consequence, most, if not all, of the phytoplankton and blue-green algae in the ocean will be killed, eliminating 50 percent of Earth’s oxygen supply. Because temperatures in our atmosphere will then soar to new record highs as well, how long will it be before our forests, grasslands and crops are on fire, too, eliminating the other 50 percent of our oxygen?

It’s much more likely that all of this will come to pass by 2050, or much sooner if we fail to take strong action NOW!

Since “Global Burning” is horrendous, and accelerating exponentially in leaps and bounds, it’s far, far worse than most Americans realize. If you are truly concerned about Global Burning, come to the largest global warming action rally in the history of western Massachusetts on Sunday, Aug. 25, at noon on the Greenfield Town Common.

This rally will focus on solutions — large and small — see you there!

Doug Wight, who has been on a hunger strike to draw attention to climate change, lives in Greenfield.

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