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A study by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research is urging Britain to ramp up action on global warming, saying they have just four years to establish a road map that will ensure a low-carbon economy and a needed 70% reduction in co2 over the next thirty years.  Down the hall in the remedial class, renowned US climate expert and NASA scientist James Hansen is telling the President that the US has a narrow ten year window to do SOMETHING.

The marked difference of time frames is obviously not a testament to faulty science. Rather, it shows the disparity of social, political and intellectual maturity between the two cultures - something we need to rapidly come to terms with here in the western hemisphere.

In the developed countries of the New World - the US, Canada and Australia - part of our resistance to climate change comes the culture of excess we enjoy, and the seemingly inexhaustible plenty of our natural resources. For Europeans, Japanese, and the even the rapidly developing Chinese economy, the idea that human beings can impact their natural surroundings is made obvious through their enormous population densities and the relative scarcity of natural resources. The point is brought further home by thousands of years of Old World history that is largely defined by conflict and wars over those same limited resources. In North America, few of us see our direct impact on the environment, and other than our swift decimation of the native populations, we have never faced direct competition for our natural capital.

But beyond our low population density and wealth of resources there is a more insidious problem, namely our puritanical inability to accept rigorously tested and overwhelming scientific evidence that demonstrates our environmental impact. In European terms, our hysterical opposition to scientific facts on climate change is eerily similar to 1633 Florence, where the Catholic Church imprisoned Galileo for demonstrating that the universe revolved not around the Earth, as religious scholars maintained, but the Sun. In much the same way, Bush and the bishops of big oil actively seek to sentence those advancing scientific evidence for global warming to a social and professional exile - Hansen being one of many whose work was silenced or heavily edited by Bush officials.

Perhaps this isn't surprising. Since the time of Galileo, Europe has moved through centuries of scientific advancement, been home to two world wars, and witnessed the decline of their colonial empires. Both psychologically and economically, they have been required to face the reality of multiple cultures competing over shared resources, and have learned to work with others to protect resources for a shared prosperity. North Americans and Australians by comparison are still playing in the sandbox of the global social world, holding tight to what they believe to be 'theirs' and being unwilling to negotiate beyond that.

Granted, Europe has had nearly 400 years to mature since the days they locked up their scientists as heretics, but as the experts above have said, we have just 4 to 10 years to get this job done (depending on what level of maturity you are ready for). Now would be a good time to brush the dirt off our trousers and take a seat at the grown up table. Leaving our fantasies back in the sandbox and recognizing the scientific evidence for global warming is one place to start.

Originally posted to odiyya on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 12:43 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you, doig just what you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rhubarb, MTgirl, Thursday Next

    Thank you, doing just what you are doing is what is needed most.
    Talking about it in every way we can is the key to getting the political will together that will change the environmental tide. So thanks and keep on. :-)  Rick

  •  Excellant comparison (4+ / 0-)

    between the persecution of Galileo and the repression of scientists today.  Those in charge saw/see them as a threat to their existance and power.  The admin and their oil cartel backers, just like the church in 1633, don't see that the facts don't really theathen them and are missing the opportunity to lead the way to solutions/enlightenment.

    The rest of us will just have to forge ahead without them.

    "An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war."-Mark Twain

    by coloradocomet on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 01:47:44 PM PDT

    •  in the future (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      environmentalist, Thursday Next

      our kids will ask why we kept driving cars

      stop driving

      You will lie to your grandchildren when they ask what you did to prevent climate change.

      by Peter Pan on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 10:57:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Controlling CO2 emissions from personal vehicles (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Thursday Next, odiyya the key to addressing global warming (per the Environmental Defense Carbon Emissions Fact Sheet).  It goes on to say that...Automobiles are America's biggest reason for oil dependence, and therefore represent the single biggest piece of our global warming problem....If American cars and light trucks were a nation, they would be the world's fifth-largest carbon emitter....the total carbon burden of vehicles in the US is more than emitted by ALL of India, and more than 3 times as much as Brazil....the carbon burdens of all major automakers have been worsening, partly because of a shift toward SUVs, but mainly because of the failure to improve fuel economy of all types of vehicles....if automakers made the best use of available technology over the next 10 years to achieve a 40mpg fuel efficiency standard, we could cut America's oil demand by 3.6 million barrels per day and cut global warming pollution by 133 million metric tons per year in 2020....if automobile fuel economy standards remain at the status quo, however, CO2 emissions would rise 31% by 2010 and increase 61% by 2020...California's landmark law to regulate greenhouse gases is a crucial start...Extending this approach to other states and the nation would be the single biggest advance Americans can take to stop global warming.

      •  3.6 million barrel reduction (0+ / 0-)

        is three times the amount pulled from the environmentally nightmarish oil sands projects in Alberta Canada.  Not only would CO2 be substantially reduced by th3 40mpg standard, but massive water loss and peripheral damage as well.  

  •  Act on the Best Theory Available Today (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rhubarb, GayHillbilly, MTgirl

    Or suffer the practicum tomorrow.

    There is no alternative.

  •  Highly recommend. (5+ / 0-)

    If we don't address this issue it won't matter if we are Democratic or Republican.  Nature doesn't give a darn about our political affiliations.  We'll all suffer the same fate.

    Want to turn those red Western states blue?  This is the issue.  People who work the land know how important the environment is.

    Hammer it home.  Thanks for a great diary, odiyya.

    The media are only as liberal as the conservative businesses that own them.

    by MTgirl on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 04:23:17 PM PDT

    •  my pleasure (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MTgirl, blue jersey mom, aphra behn

      and i'm also interested in anything else that can be done to get the progressive debate on the rails and/or keep it there.  Send me any resource you feel relevant.  I'm always looking.

      •  we need more rails (3+ / 0-)

        using a 2 ton car to transport 1 person is inefficient no matter what the source of power

        bikes are efficient

        goto critical mass

        You will lie to your grandchildren when they ask what you did to prevent climate change.

        by Peter Pan on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 11:01:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  critical mass (0+ / 0-)

          is huge in my hometown.  Interestingly, during our last rally a month or so back, thousands of cyclists were escorted at the front by fuel efficient motorbike cops who safely and professionally escorted the rally and ensured all intersections remained safe, calm and orderly.  

          In the rear of the rally were the unmarked, tinted, and fully outfitted police SUVs with their associated officers bellowing through megaphones for the cyclists to disband or face arrest.

          Still more connections between SUVs and social problems ;)

    •  outstanding job (0+ / 0-)

      Clear, well-written, and moving. Thanks for this!

      "He that knew all that learning ever writ/Knew only this - that he knew nothing yet"

      by aphra behn on Tue Sep 19, 2006 at 07:47:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As the proprietor (3+ / 0-)

    of ProgressiveHistorians, a new online community dedicated to the intersection of politics and technology, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

  •  Australia, Not so Easy to Characterize (3+ / 0-)

    The green community is much stronger in Australia than in the US. While the national government, mainly in the person of John Howard, supports th Bush-baby the situation on the ground is much greener.

    For example:
    1. Our house has solar heated water
    1. When you go shopping many people bring reusable cloth bags. You see them everywhere.
    1. Cars are smaller and gas more expensive
    1. Some have suggested we leave some of our oil resources unexploited for future generations. The US representatives shouted them out of the conference because that was not promoting open development.

    While Australia has a large landmass about the size of the continental US, much of that landmass is really not fit for human habitation on a large scale. The interior of Australia is largely deserted ... think Western US without the irrigation. For example when we flew ovr on Quantis one of the movies was a documentry on a young farmer who was deciding to close his farm because it was unsustainable. In addition we in South Australia are being wracked by a serious draught.

    Even John Howard is changing his tune. This coming from a PM who changes his tune every other day. He is talking about clean coal and carbon sequestration in an effort to produce cleaner energy. This doesn't  even address his recent moves to encourage further nuclear energy development.

    My point. Australia can see its ecological future and isn't happy. I suspect change will be quicker than many expect.

    The author I recommend is Future Eaters by Tim Flannery. It presents an fascinating natural history of Australia. Also Collapse has a chapter on Australia's ecological challenges.

    •  thanks USxpat (6+ / 0-)

      and I agree, from everything i know on the aussie's.  I think the case is very similar here in Canada.  70% of folks support kyoto, but so far our government has done nothing aside from sign on.  And now that is in danger with our current conservative government.  I tried to spread the 'cause' around in mentioning social and political development.  Clearly if 70% of the people support kyoto and the government is doing nothing, something in the system is broke.  I imagine the case is similar in oz.  

      cheers on the recommendation.  I'm halfway through collapse as we speak.

    •  "Western US without the irrigation" (5+ / 0-)

      I'm afraid with what we're doing to the water tables out West, we'll be in the same position - the "breadbasket of the world" is DEAD, we're just not acknowledging it. There's been a "drought" for what, 8, 11 years - no one can agree. The real scientists (as opposed to development industry shills, who can afford to pump out the most studies), tell us that dryness is the natural state out there, the U.S. just happened to go through a very unusual wet period for 100 years or so, which largely fueled both our economic expansion and "limitless" viewpoint.

      We're pumping water out from underneath the grainbelt states so that millionaires can play golf in Las Vegas and Phoenix - build a golf course in the middle of a fucking desert, ooh we're powerful and smart. People treat the aquifiers as discrete, separate water tanks, but they're all dropping. When you pump all the water out of one and sell to it rich people somewhere down the pipeline because you, personally, haven't experinced a crop failure, all the aquifiers around you leak in to refill yours. The oil companies have moved into purchasing water rights big-time the past few decades - gee, it good to know somebody still knows how to turn a profit out of human mismanagement....

      Las Vegas real estate is the last thing you'd want to leave your grandchildren, that place is going to be a ghost town in forty years. No water? No oil to fuel the trucks that bring the food? We don't do the long term/short term thing well at all, I'm afraid.

      •  this is a huge issue (0+ / 0-)

        John Doll, Democrat for US Congress, Kansas District 1, posted on this topic a number of weeks back.  That diary has now seems to have been pulled after it created an absolute furor from Americans and Canadians alike.  In it Mr. Doll suggested that a solution to the midwest's water problems was channelling it in from Canada. The plan would have the added plus of being 'environmentally sound", allowing water to be flushed through coal mines in Wyoming to lower the transport costs of this CO2 producing fuel while 'solving' Kansas' water problems.  

  •  Don't act at all. Its too late (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    environmentalist, odiyya

    "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise" - U.S. Constitution author and fourth President James Madison

    by Iowa Boy on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 10:47:25 PM PDT

  •  Good points, good ideas (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    environmentalist, Thursday Next

    No doubt population density, etc. is a great factor in understanding the situation.

    Which is good, in a way -- any country that develops solutions, means that they'll be available to others.

    Be good to each other. It matters.

    by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 10:53:47 PM PDT

  •  Canada (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    environmentalist, Thursday Next

    is slightly different in this regard (but not much) because it is obvious to Canadians, given our climate, that we cannot overcome nature and need to work with it and accept its power. So Canada is a little ambivalent -- we signed Kyoto, but have failed to live up to it (making only a half-hearted effort that the present government is undermining).

  •  Great thoughts! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Thursday Next, odiyya

    While I agree with all you are pointing here, I would add that there is still much more too it.  I've been trying to figure Americans out on this too and while I quite put my finger on it yet I have some thoughts.

    There is an inconsistency here.  The USA has some of the greatest environmental laws in the world.  We have a deep history of conservation.  In fact, much of the conservation movement in the rest of the world is based on what has happned here in the last 100-150 years.  I lived in Switzerland for a year, France for over a year, Spain for a year and Finland for three years.  I dont see those countries as 'better off' than the USA environmentally in any way.  In fact, many of them, particularly Finland, have a very destructive streak going on.  So, I wouldnt exactly say that Europeans have somehow figured out how to live within thier resources. No way.

    Something else is going on.  You speak of maturity and the "grown up table".  Europeans (I would toss OZ, NZ and Canada into the mix here with the recognition of the problems in those countries) ARE sitting at the grown up table.  Americans act like uneducated children.  We are in general a selfish crowd.  But more than that, we are self-styled "know it alls".  We think that we each have all the information we need to move forward and make logical choices. Its a sort of self-confidence that is astoundingly undeserved.  Then there is the vanity.  Again, I am speaking in general, but one of the things that stikes me about Europeans (beyond the Swiss) is the ability to actually sit and listen to other people, engage in a discussion and alter thier thinking based on what they have heard. In general, I dont see Americans do that.  Once we get an idea, we hang on to it.  We seek data to back it up, not test it.  We dont want to admit we were ever wrong.  One of the things I miss most about Europe is the discussions.  Intelligent, informed give and take discussions.  Something that is very difficult for Americans and Canadians to engage in.

    Then there is the fact that Europeans appreciate that there are other people in the world.  Americans dont seem to appreciate that there are other living, breathing people out there who are just like us, suffer just like us and strive for prosperity just like us.  Americans, in general, suffer a profound xenophobia and disrespect for other peoples.  I cant tell you how many times I've heard an American say that 'we are the only democracy in the world' or 'the free-est country in the world'.

    I've been around. Nearly 40 countries.  We are not the free-est country in the world.

    Above all, I dont think the European maturity has to do with environmental protection but rather self-preservation and a concern for other people and other cultures that Americans dont have.  Take, for example, two things: city planning and health care.  In both of those arenas the Europeans excel by far.  BY being able to step out of the ideological cement boots Americans are stuck in ('nobody tells me what to do with my land!' and 'public health care?  why thats communism!')Europeans have found a way to live in healthier communities that make more sense socially, economically and environmentally while our health care system flounders and flops about not serving anyone but the rich and out communities sprawl all over the place impacting the environment, costing more and so on.  I would include in this our system of legalized bribery (lobbiests) that we hold near and dear.  European MPs go to jail for things our congressional members do day in and day out.

    Then, there is the question of the rich.  If the uber-rich here in America. I wont go into that now cause I think most people here understand the impacts the income disparity has on our system.Coupled with that is our ideaological marriage of the capilatist system and beleif that it can do no wrong. Remember, Exxon and thier amigos are partially to blame for our inability and unwillingness to act as a society.

    There's my rant for the morning. Like I said, its a mix of things that I cant quite put my finger on.  I'm not disagreeing with you here, just tossing more thoughts in to the mix.

    You might find this post interesting.  this post.  Note the comment at the bottom by DC Vote.

    Thanks again!

  •  Great diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think the fact that the UK has managed to lower emissions is proof to Canada and the US that it can be done.

    Unfortunately, the Canadian Cons have decided that there is no way that we can reach our target. Sorry. Can't do it.

    Right now in North America, the push is coming from the grassroots up, in large part thanks to An Inconvenient Truth and other educational initiatives.

    I'm finally carbon neutral and I expect that other people are quietly doing it on their own too.

    The Next Agenda a dkos-style blog for Canadian politics

    by Thursday Next on Tue Sep 19, 2006 at 08:40:42 AM PDT

    •  Taking action (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I agree with TN wholeheartedly.   The paradigm shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable-only energy sources is a people's movement rooted in soulfulness.   As Thomas Moore stated in Care of the Soul  "Since soul is more concerned with relatedness than intellectual understanding, the knowledge that comes from soul's intimacy with experience is more difficult to articulate than the kind of analysis that can be done at a distance.    ...Should I be a vegetarian? Is there ever a just war? Will I ever be free of racial prejudice?   How far should I go toward responsibility for the environment?  Moral reflections like these give rise to a philosophy of life that may never have absolute clarity or simplicity.   But these soul thoughts can generate a deep-rooted moral sensitivity."  

      Relying on politicians and lobbyists to "do the right thing" like mandating lower emissions, makes me feel powerless about my responsibility to the environment.  When I realized I couldn't honestly answer the question "what have I done to be an agent of change around global warming?", I decided I would become a debunker of myths about ethanol (being from corn country and all).   Since there's so much confusion and misinformation out there about its many benefits, I went to their conference in KC last month to learn all about it from the experts.   Its amazing what I discovered, and I plan to take that knowledge public (more about that later), but  I'm curious to hear what others are doing to make global warming personal--whether its becoming carbon neutral like TN did or just driving more consciously.

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