Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Energy Policy and Intergenerational Justice.
Those who are so inclined may download both the PowerPoint presentation
or as a PDF file. I have much more to say, and will call attention to those sections that really brought me up short. Click Read more! to understand just how dangerous these times are.
I want to talk about a single term from Dr. Hansen's title. Intergenerational Justice is not a phrase that I have heard before, but the implications are self evident to anyone who has read / heard Winona talk about our obligations to the 7th Generation.
For those who have talked about Ecological Wisdom on this list recently: Les, Howard, Linda, this is not new what is new is the following from Dr. Hansen's notes:
I will argue that we have a much sharper knowledge of global climate sensitivity than is usually stated.There is a sense of urgency in what he says now, a tone that was not there before. In fact, the email that he sent out tonight with the links to his material was given the subject: The Venus Syndrome. Venus, the planet where a run-away greenhouse gas effect keep the surface temperature far higher than would allow human life to continue.
Also the Faustian bargain that we have cut for ourselves is nastier than has been recognized.
And I will emphasize some important missing observations.
The scientific method and perspective have relevance that reaches beyond pure science. The urgency of implications for energy policy is not yet adequately recognized by governments, but it must be. The implications for intergenerational equity deserve greater attention.
As I plowed through Hansen's presentation, I came to this point (Chart 43) where Hansen tells us what he really thinks about our "Faustian bargain."
In my opinion, if we burn all the coal, there is a good chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse effect. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale (a.k.a. oil shale), I think it is a dead certainty.From that event, there would be no return, no human life.
I stop at this point, not because I want to scare you, but rather because I want to call attention to an interview that Georges Monbiot conducted with Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency. I suggest that you watch the video that the Guardian put together. In this interview, Birol admits that for many years, his agency has been forecasting peak oil based on a rate at which existing oil fields are being depleted. In 2008, for the first time, they actually measured it and the difference was almost double. In other words, we will hit peak oil between 2020 and 2030 no matter what we do. According to Monbiot:
So burn this into your mind: between 2007 and 2008 the IEA radically changed its assessment. Until this year's report, the agency mocked people who said that oil supplies might peak. In the foreword to a book it published in 2005, its executive director, Claude Mandil, dismissed those who warned of this event as "doomsayers". "The IEA has long maintained that none of this is a cause for concern," he wrote. "Hydrocarbon resources around the world are abundant and will easily fuel the world through its transition to a sustainable energy future." In its 2007 World Energy Outlook, the IEA predicted a rate of decline in output from the world's existing oilfields of 3.7% a year. This, it said, presented a short-term challenge, with the possibility of a temporary supply crunch in 2015, but with sufficient investment any shortfall could be covered. But the new report, published last month,
carried a very different message: a projected rate of decline of 6.7%,which means a much greater gap to fill.
The alternatives that Birol was willing to discuss were to tap the Canadian tar sands.
Birol says we need a "global energy revolution" to avoid an oil crunch, including (disastrously for the environment) a massive global drive to exploit unconventional oils, such as the Canadian tar sands.
In other words, he is willing to strike the Faustian bargain that Hansen fears so much. If there were ever a time when we need to change our consciousness, when we need to call out again for a 7th Generation Amendment to our Constitution, that time is now. If not now, there may never be a 7th Generation.