Guest Editorial: Climate Change Steps Crucial

(*In conjunction with the group, Cincinnati will be one of dozens of cities worldwide on Saturday that hosts an International Day of Climate Action event. The local event will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fountain Square. Activist Jeff Cobb, of Climate Change Advocates of Cincinnati, outlines why the effort is important.)

The most important meeting in the history of humanity is the climate change treaty meeting in Copenhagen this December. As hyperbolic as it sounds, it is being said more often and more stridently by thousands of scientists the world over specializing in climate change.—-

The reason this alarm is being sounded is more and more data coming in from increasing numbers of scientists that show we are approaching the “tipping elements” that will lead to irreversible, catastrophic, runaway climate change that could wipe most of humanity off the planet by the end of the 2100s.

Swift, urgent action can still — just barely — prevent us from reaching these tipping elements.

The signs of these tipping elements being reached include increasing summer polar icecap melts, leading to new shipping lanes being opened on the sides of the Arctic ice cap that have never been opened before. Glaciers are receding, which are the source of drinking and irrigation water for tens of millions of people. Interruption of this basic necessity of life could easily spark mass migration and tension over water rights potentially leading to armed conflict.

The Climate Change Science Compendium 2009, published just last month by the United Nations Environment Program, states in part that we have already committed 20-25 percent of humanity to disruptive altering in socio-economic and cultural conditions, due to glacier and high-altitude ice melting.

Melting permafrost in the Arctic is suspected in the rise of methane concentrations in the atmosphere noticed first in 2007. Methane is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. CO2 is responsible for most of the current warming due to greenhouse gases, but it is thought that there are about 1,400 billion tons of methane that could be released by further warming, conceivably becoming a greater threat than CO2.

There would be no control over the rate or length of time methane could be released, and the amount of methane extant has been likened to another supply of coal, natural gas, and oil. At these quantities, methane release would almost certainly lead to abrupt planet-wide climate change, resulting from a positive feedback loop by adding to the current rate of warming. (More warming in that region would release more methane, which would lead to more warming, etc.)

Beginning in 2004, it was noted by Discover magazine that enough scientific evidence existed that we had reached a turning point in understanding that global warming was real. The nail on the coffin of any debate among scientists about climate change came in the form of a United Nations group of 2,500 scientists and government experts from 130 nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC published a report in 2007 that stated the scientific evidence for climate change was “unequivocal,” and man-made (anthropogenic). In press conferences about the report, participants urged action by the world's policymakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent “dangerous” climate change.

We are now beyond that, and some dangerous climate change is inevitable. The key now is to avoid reaching the tipping elements that will lead to runaway, catastrophic climate change.

Cincinnati and Ohio are quietly leading the way in many areas of climate protection and environmental preservation. Mayor Mark Mallory has initiated the Cincinnati Green Plan and joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to get our greenhouse gas emissions on a reduction trajectory in line with the goals of of the IPCC.

According to the Cincinnati Green Building Council, Ohio has more LEED certified buildings than all of California, Washington, and Oregon combined. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” and is a stringent certification for environmentally sustainable building construction.

The U.S. Green Building Council just last month awarded Cincinnati State Technical and Community College a $10,000 grant in a competition among 150 colleges for it's "Excellence in Green Building Curriculum."

The only person from Ohio who will be attending the climate change treaty negotiations in Copenhagen as an U.N.-certified delegate is also a resident of Cincinnati, Liz Trombley, who will be a youth delegate with

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation recently completed a study for greening Over-the-Rhine as part of its preservation work there, possibly the only such study in the world marrying historic preservation and creation of more climate-friendly buildings for the future.

The Worldwatch Institute is an international research organization dedicated to providing policymakers the world over with fact-based information focused on created ecologically sustainable human societies. Worldwatch works with a network of 150 partners in 40 countries to provide their research, as part of the global environmental movement. The Worldwatch Institute’s board chairman is Cincinnatian Tom Crain, a lifelong resident of Cincinnati and retired investment counselor.

On Saturday an international climate advocacy organization, called, will host 2,252 climate actions in 152 countries. The purpose of this “International Day of Climate Action” is to send a message to policymakers. We want them to take swift action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 350 parts per million (ppm) as an emissions trajectory necessary to prevent passing the tipping elements that will lead to catastrophic, runaway climate change.

We are currently at 385 ppm and climbing about 2 ppm per year. Leading scientists have endorsed the goal of 350 parts per million as the path to saving humanity on the planet.

These supporters include James Hansen of NASA; Rahendra Pachauri, IPCC’s chairman; leading climate activists such as Al Gore, Bill McKibbon, Van Jones, Vandana Shiva (who will speak at Xavier University Oct. 28), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and politicians such as U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives.

You, too, can lend your voice to this growing cry to save our planet and send a message to all of the 192 nations of the United Nations who will meet in Copenhagen this December.

Fountain Square is the location for Cincinnati's International Climate Action, and we hope to see you there.

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