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Scientists target safe-climate future

Scientists target safe-climate future

Scientists target safe-climate future
Ryan King, special to
March 11, 2008

Friends of the Earth, Australia, working in conjunction with many of the world’s foremost climate scientists recently published a report which should have quickly pervaded into mainstream media. It is a detailed, 100-plus page manifesto imploring immediate, radical action beyond not only the proposed climate change responses by the IPCC, mainstream environmental agencies, and world governments but outside the procedures and proceedings of our national and international authorities. Coverage of the ground-breaking report, however, remains mostly in the realm of climate sites and blogs, absent not only from major sources such as Reuters and Associated Press, but even from major conservation and environmental new sites.

In “Climate Code Red: the case for a sustainability emergency“, David Spratt and Phillip Sutton call on world governments to issue a declaration of a state of “sustainability emergency” in response to the rapidly deteriorating climate, focusing mostly on the massive arctic ice melt of summer 2007 as an indicator of the need for immediate action. “Climate Code Red” is a compilation of the most recent scientific studies, observations of climate change and call for radical response more than it is an analysis of any specific aspect of global warming. The review is thorough and presents the most recent and emerging analyses of global change. The factors leading to the increasing pace of Arctic ice disintegration, effects of deforestation, terrestrial and marine carbon sequestration, species loss, tipping points and climate threshold sensitivity are all considered and linked in the report.

In addition to citing renowned experts including NASA’s James Hansen, acclaimed scientist and writer James Lovelock, “Code Red” relies heavily on the testimony of a broad spectrum of voices. Environmental activists, climatologists, UN officials and others all champion the “radical is now reasonable” sentiment. The extensive review also characterizes environmental degradation, war, social inequity, peak oil, resource scarcity, and climate change as crucial, inter-linked issues.

“Climate Code Red” presents a painfully evident image that the continued reliance on ineffective and incomplete environmental policy, such as mild emissions reductions set in an uncertain future, will result in catastrophe on an unprecedented and global scale.

There is a substantial lag, though, in the transmission and spread of the emerging opinions in the global change community. In addition to the details of our impending environmental crises, “Climate Code Red” identifies some of the psychological and social influences contributing to the slow reaction to science. The review cites faults such as hesitancy to sound “radical” or “crazy” by proposing drastic changes to transport and energy sectors among the public, politicians, businesses, climate action groups, and even many scientists.

The solutions to global change are rooted in behavioral, not technological alterations. We have adequate information and technology to create sustainable populations. The rapid and requisite shift towards sustainability remains bound in the regulations, rules, and proceedings of ineffective systems. The majority of society in the “developed” world idles in the culturally-reinforced concept that sustainable solutions can be innovated, bought, or sold. Experts and scientists wallow in despair and defeat at the ineptitude of typical policy and practice, frustrated with inadequate remedies to compounding, urgent issues. And the mass of global society remains virtually unaware of both the problems and solutions of the sustainability crisis.

Despite the effort of authors and contributors to Climate Code Red, “business-as-usual” pervades in media reporting, environmental practice, policy, and even within the many of the very scientists at the core of conservation and global change research. This generation of biologists, climatologists, and environmentally-concerned citizens is faced with the tasks of innovating and implementing the “business-as-unusual” paradigm as a last-moment global crisis response. This will be achieved in unison with some of the existing power structures, or at their expense, for it is painfully evident to us that “business-as-usual” will soon result in unacceptable consequences to our biosphere. The first step in this movement is the widespread dissemination of the knowledge of our situation, the implications, and the solutions.

“Climate Code Red” ends with the sobering but crucial statement, “We now need to ‘think the unthinkable’, because the sustainability emergency is not so much a radical idea as now simply a necessary mode of action.” The authors and contributors of “Climate Code Red” have taken the first big leap calling for the sustainability movement to switch from a passive retreat to an emergency response; whether or not other scientists, activists, conservationists, policy makers, reporters and society in general follow their path will determine the planet’s fate.

Ryan King, MS is a tropical biologist, independent writer and environmental activist living and working in Monteverde, Costa Rica. For more information contact ryking (at) or check Project for a Renewable Century at