08 August 2010

The Cake is Burning! The Oven's Still On!

We had a lovely dinner here last night with two wonderful young friends. Over ratatouille (it's that harvest time of year) on couscous with pain de campagne (sounds fancier than it was), we talked about a lot of fun things as well as harrowing life experiences — as friends do over dinner.

And then, sometime during dessert, C sat back in his chair and said, "I guess this is a debate that could go on all night.... [long pause to leave us in suspense] ...but a lot of people are saying that there's no such thing as global warming and that the Earth is actually cooling."

I'm happy to say that I avoided spewing my blood orange sorbet with fresh cherries all over the table! My beloved very calmly explained that the temperature has gone up — and it hasn't gone back down again, therefore the Earth can't be cooling.

Then he used the analogy that's so easy to understand, our friends were nodding in no time.

If you put the oven on at 350ºF (my stove hasn't gone metric yet), the temperature of the oven will rise until it hits 350, and then stop rising. That's when the little light goes out and we put the pan full of cake batter in. Now, if we don't at some point (about 30-40 minutes later) turn the oven off and take the pan out, what happens to that cake? It is going to go past "baked" to dried out and then to burned.

Globally, we have turned the oven up by 0.8ºC — AND WE HAVE NOT TURNED THE OVEN OFF! Hence there's no way the Earth can be cooling.

I know that a 0.8ºC increase in global average temperature doesn't sound like much, but it's been enough to rough up the climate in numerous parts of the world: I'm freezing (okay, chilly) in early August where I live, Russia is ablaze with forest fires and heat records, precipitation patterns are changing (hence more droughts and floods), and on it goes.

Remember, we've evolved to be an agricultural species since the last Ice Age, and our agriculture has been based on a stable climate (and stable global average temperature) over the last 10,000 years.

Folks, we have to turn the oven off (mitigation) or at least start taking the pan out of the oven (adaptation) — and we have to start yesterday. Why are so many people still listening to the progenycidists, children haters, and fossil fuel investors?

What's stopping us from drumming up a little courage and compassion, putting on our metaphorical oven mitts, and simply getting the job started?

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?