Andrew Revkin has another not-to-miss piece. The message is stark and not to be put off even as the global economy keeps cratering. Flourishing has little possibility to show up until we put the Earth back into working order. The nub of Revkin’s piece starts with a quote from Todd Stern:
“This not a matter of politics or morality or right or wrong. It is simply the unforgiving math of accumulating emissions.”
Todd Stern, the new United States special envoy on climate change, clearly understands the “bathtub effect” that experts say makes the rising human contribution to the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect such a thorny challenge.
The “bathtub” effect is pretty simple. Think of the atmosphere as a big bathtub with all global emissions of greenhouse gases coming out of the spigot. Now think of the drain pipe emptying some of the accumulated gases. Only when the flow from the spigot is less than or equal to the flow out of the drain, will the bathtub stop filling up. Even if all the countries in the world reduced their emissions to the levels they have currently promised or suggest they will, the bathtub will keep filling up, and the temperature will continue to rise in the future. No world leader has been willing even to hint at the level of reductions that would limit, much less reverse, the increase that is already going to happen in our children’s lifetimes. Even the most generous estimates of what seems to be politically tenable fall short of maintaining the level in the bathtub at the amount that most scientists consider to pose reasonable levels of risk. Picture Nero fiddling away while . . .