Hair–And World–On Fire

by Bill McKibben

Statewide Drought Takes Toll On California's Lake Oroville Water Level

This afternoon a draft of the next report from the world’s climate scientists to the world’s political leaders leaked to a few reporters. In the words of Justin Gillis at the NYT, it showed those scientists using even “blunter, more forceful” language than ever before to warn that

Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades,

and that

Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human emissions…The world may already be nearing a temperature at which the loss of the vast ice sheet covering Greenland would become inevitable, the report said.

Short of actually engaging in self-immolation (with resulting carbon emissions), it’s hard to imagine what more scientists can do at this point to warn us. The report apparently lays out the math of climate in just the terms I described in this morning’s post about the fossil fuel divestment campaign:

The report found that companies and governments had identified reserves of these fuels at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level.

That means if society wants to limit the risks to future generations, it must find the discipline to leave the vast majority of these valuable fuels in the ground, the report said.

Did I mention that there is a large-ish march being planned for New York on Sept. 21? There is. In a rational world, a lot of people would show up to demand that political leaders actually pay attention to this kind of warning.

(Photo: Boaters launch their boats hundreds of yards away from designated boat ramps at Folsom Lake on August 19, 2014 in Folsom, California. As the severe drought in California continues for a third straight year, water levels in the State’s lakes and reservoirs is reaching historic lows. Folsom Lake is currently at 40 percent of its total capacity of 977,000 acre feet. By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)