The Obama Administration Needs To Hear and Then Say 350!
Today, I visited the White House’s blog to check up on what the administration is doing. Perhaps the most interesting entry for the day was one by John P. Holdren, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy for the Obama Administration, better known as the “science czar.”
Mr. Holdren’s entry was on the “latest” science and what it tells us we should do to avert climate catastrophe – i.e. 1-meter-plus sea-level rise, off-the-records tropical storms and weather events, extreme drought, loss of biodiversity, and all the impacts these will have on human society (leading to violence, instability, and economic depression) – and ensure a prosperous future for our generation and those to come.
According to Mr. Holdren, the latest science says that we need to keep the global average temperature from increasing 2 degrees Celsius in order to prevent carbon sinks from becoming carbon sources, which would eventually heat up the planet up to 10 degrees Celsius. Now, in order to keep temperature below that threshold, Mr. Holdren uses the IPCC‘s 2007 assessment to indicate that the world’s greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 and then shrink 50% of current levels by 2050.
Now, it must be acknowledged that this position is a breakthrough. A few years ago, the United States would not even consider something like this, and today we are affirming that we must go down that path. In addition, in the first several months of the Obama administration, the United States is engaging with China, the European Union, Latin America, and other players to build technological partnerships that will lead to breakthroughs and technology transfers. This is all in addition to the biggest investment in U.S. history in clean energy and energy efficiency, as Mr. Holdren rightly points out.
However, the position that global emissions must shrink 50% below current levels by 2050 is not made with the latest science. Instead, it is made using outdated science, as the IPCC uses data up to 2005 only. Since then, science has made many breakthroughs, and much of the new findings about climate change has been released in a report by the United Nations Environment Programme. The 2009 Climate Change Science Compendium says that under the path outlined by Mr. Holdren, the global average temperature will rise by more than 3 degrees Celsius this century, which would effectively do nothing to stave off climate catastrophe.
Fortunately, there are those out there who get where we need to go. We can no longer afford to follow the IPPC’s Fourth Assessment Report. We must follow the most recent, cutting-edge science that tells us that atmospheric carbon dioxide must remain below 350 parts per million to avoid rapid climate change. An international movement is brewing up and calling exactly for that goal, but it needs to reach the Obama administration very soon.
I envision people, especially young people, going to events organized by the Obama administration (whether it be for Obama, Bide, Clinton, or anybody else) and asking why the administration refuses to look at the most recent science rather than the science up to 2005. I envision 350 making it to Obama events in one way or another and forcing him to no longer ignore the fact that the most recent science calls for even more aggressive action, and that we have to go to Copenhagen knowing this and ready to negotiate how we will put in place a treaty that will get us to 350ppm of carbon dioxide this century. Fortunately, that’s what the International Day on Climate Action will hope to do…