Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Pope Is the Climate Change Churchill Humanity Desperately Needs - by Joe Romm

Pope Francis has just elevated the climate change issue to its rightful place as the transcendent moral issue of our time.  And that matters because winning social movements are inevitably won on moral grounds.

Using Churchillian language, the Pope just called B.S. on the do-nothing and do-little crowds. There are many game-changing lines in the Pope’s near-final draft Encyclical statement on climate change that was leaked this week, but I think these are among the most striking:
The catastrophic predictions now can no longer be looked on with contempt and irony. We can leave to future generations too many ruins, deserts and filth.
... Slate calls that language “apocalyptic,” but it is just a straightforward reading of the science. And the Vatican’s timing is excellent: Wednesday June 17 is “World Day to Combat Desertification.”  The 2015 theme is “attainment of food security for all through sustainable food systems” — and that can’t be done on our current CO2 emissions path, which even the conservative IPCC explains risks “a breakdown of food systems.”

Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) for 2080-2099 with business-as-usual warming. By comparison, during the 1930s Dust Bowl, the PDSI in the Great Plains rarely exceeded -3 (Credit: Cook et al. and Climate Progress) Click to Enlarge.
Probably the greatest danger climate change poses by mid-century is the threat that “too many deserts” — Dust-Bowlification — (combined with ocean acidification, extreme weather, and sea level rise) pose to the world’s food supplies, as multiple recent studies confirm:

So we are currently on track to make drought and extreme drying the normal condition for the Southwest, Central Plains, the Amazon, southern Europe, and much of the currently inhabited and arable land around the world in the second half of the century — for centuries.  Worse, just this week, “two new studies led by UC Irvine using data from NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites show that human consumption is rapidly draining some of its largest groundwater basins.”

No surprise, then, that Pope Francis has spelled out the moral imperative for urgent action. The pope’s first line above goes after the deniers — with their “contempt” for the science — and after the do-little crowd, who treat the whole thing ironically.  That’s why both groups have launched such desperate attacks in recent days.
When I read those words above from Pope Francis, the first thing that struck me is how Churchillian they were — since they went to the essence of 1) how this is now a giant, metastasized problem because we have ignored the warnings for too long, and 2) how “small” the arguments of the disinformers and delayers are.

In words with a strikingly similar message, Winston Churchill on November 12, 1936, denounced those at home and around the world who denied or downplayed a very different — but also very consequential — danger:
So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent… Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger…. The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close.  In its place we are entering a period of consequences…. We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now….
Read more at The Pope Is the Climate Change Churchill Humanity Desperately Needs

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