Congress has all but stopped talking about taking meaningful action to reduce carbon pollution or invest in protecting our communities and wildlands from climate impacts — but that hasn’t stopped others from continuing to ring the alarm on the climate crisis, including one unexpected (and pious) one.
First up is a new report commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences — yep, the Vatican. Taking a “both/and” approach to the climate crisis, the Vatican’s report calls for:
- Reducing worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets and ensure the long-term stability of the climate system
- Prepare to adapt to the climatic changes, both chronic and abrupt, that society will be unable to mitigate.
Of note, the recommendations make special mention of protecting our mountain systems and related watersheds — something we’ve been advocating for quite some time.
The National Research Council also released its final America’s Climate Choices report. Not surprisingly, the NRC calls for reductions in carbon pollution and moving away from energy policies and practices that lock us into a carbon-intensive economy for decades to come. Additional priorities in the report are indeed good news, especially considering “adaptation” was a bad word amongst good environmentalists not that long ago (because it was seen as conceding defeat on passing a strong climate bill or at least weakening efforts to push for such a bill). These include focusing on adaption “at all levels” of government, ramping up science and research investments so we can track climate impacts more effectively, and increasing our ability to coordinate climate response efforts.
And while the governor of Florida has bucked what scientists and insurance companies alike say is a clear and present danger to the state, leaders in San Francisco have a new resource for investing in climate adaptation. This new report kicks off with just about the best way to talk about adaptation I’ve seen yet:
Although we must do everything in our power to slow down climate change, it is too late to prevent it entirely. All levels of government, and especially local governments, must begin preparing for and building resilience to the effects of climate change, an area of planning known as climate change adaptation.
Where many urban adaptation reports focus on infrastructure and public health, this report pays special attention to the Bay area’s ecosystem — correctly seeing ecosystem health as critical to community health in a warming world.
And finally was a very familiar voice on climate change — mine! I just returned from Anchorage, where I spoke at the Classrooms for Climate conference hosted by the fine folks at University of Alaska, Anchorage and the Chugach National Forest.
As I sat on a long plane ride back from Alaska last week, thinking of the tragic irony behind attending a climate conference that ballooned my personal carbon footprint, I wondered what it would take to get the political change we need to move from reports to action.
It’s more than a little disconcerting that over 20 years after James Hansen first testified in front of Congress on the dangers of climate change that we are barely a hair closer to reducing carbon pollution or dealing with the climate impacts to come. What would it look like if the 2012 election was a referendum on climate science — and candidates were held to account on their willingness to jumpstart our economy, protect our communities, and keep our wildlands resilient by addressing the climate crisis? We have plenty of reports that tell us what we already know is the right answer.
The question is what are we, each one of us, going to actually do with this information to affect the change we need?
Follow JP on Twitter @twsjp
Photo courtesy USGS