It's a few days later, and I'm still motivated to write something (hopefully persuasive) to help people get a glimpse of the message about climate change that Bill McKibben came to Asheville this week to deliver. I took notes; it's the student in me. I love to learn, but I have also learned that I can't trust my recall as much as I'd like. So here goes. These are not "news flashes" but they are important points..."power points" in my humble opinion. I will add a second blog about my response/s. The italicized sentences are statements made by Bill McKibben...to the best of my ability to capture them.

1) Bank of America and Royal Bank of Canada are the primary funders of the Keystone XL Pipeline (from the tar sands of Canada). Whether or not the pipeline ever comes down into the U.S., they also plan (and are preparing) to send the products to the west coast of Canada for shipment overseas. James Hansen (another climate hero) said it's "game over" for the climate if the tar sands are developed. Carol here:  We really, really, really need to pay attention to this.

2) The bottom 90% of Americans share only 7% of the wealth of this country. I feel like repeating that, but I'll simply ask you to read it to yourself again. Bill said, "We must dismantle corporate control of politics".

3) The "scale of the problem dictates the scale of the response that's needed."  I am no expert on climate change, but I have read the reports for about 15 years. I also work with experts who study the phenomena (Earth's systems), some of whom are world-renowned climatologists and climate modelers. I've heard them respond to points raised by deniers (not really skeptics), and they help me when a question is raised that puzzles me. I can assure you that our inaction about fossil fuels will have very serious consequences in our lifetime (yes...even the baby-boomers). I wish I could talk with you to help you understand the magnitude of what we're facing. We cannot afford to dally any longer.

4) Bill referred to how he has changed from the picture in his high school yearbook. He used it as an analogy to illustrate how the Arctic is visibly changing in appearance. Those changes are observable from satellites, and those changes are predictably affecting the fundamental functions of Earth and its systems because of the basic laws of physics that are involved.

5) China:  Yes, China is building coal-fired power plants at a record pace. China also produces/uses half of the world's alternate energy, particularly in the form of solar hot water heaters. He met with the Chinese billionaire (energy magnate) who has an "antique" solar panel in his private museum. It's one that was removed from the U.S. White House during the Reagan years. (Carol here:  Just pause to think about that for a minute. Did he buy it on eBay? I wonder how that transaction occurred, and who profited from the delivery of property that belongs to the American people to a VIP in China?)

6) Congressional representatives have scientific experts talking in one ear, and industry lobbyists "bellowing in the other" with both threats and promises. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC's) "business as usual" scenario that seemed like a "worst case" in 2007 is already lower than actual emissions and measurements in 2011. Put another way, we are exceeding (already--in just four years) what were thought to be the likely projections of CO2 and other measures if we did nothing.  (Personal note: Seven of the scientists at Byrd Polar were primary contributors to the IPCC report. In 2007, just after it was published, they said that the projections and estimates in that report were "conservative". It is really sad to know that this is already measurable.)

7) The atmosphere currently consists of 393 parts per million (ppm) by volume carbon dioxide. As a point of reference, over the last 10 to 12 thousand years (during which "life as we know it" has existed) CO2 concentrations did not go over 300 ppm--until the Industrial Revolution was underway. If we burn the fossil fuels contained in the Canadian tar sands, it would put CO2 concentrations at 540 parts per million. (Carol here: I don't even want to think about what that would mean! We really cannot allow this to happen. Seriously.)  Bill: We must get rid of subsidies to the fossil fuel industries.

8) Finally, Bill likened the actions of those who would willingly alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere to increase their profit as "radicals". "It is almost too radical for a plot in Bond movie." Instead, (and I'm paraphrasing) he thinks those of us who would like to have our grandchildren enjoy the natural world in roughly the same state as it was when we were young are really the conservatives. He also pointed out that the Pentagon and the U.S. military have been preparing for the climate changes (and related effects) that have been predicted. They understand that doing so is a matter of national security.

I'll stop. If you haven't already, please spend 23 minutes of your life and listen to Senator Whitehouse's presentation to President Obama and the full U.S. Senate.

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Comment by Robert Starkey on December 6, 2011 at 10:49am
Thank you for this Carol. As I watch others "debate" the issue of climate change, I am usually unable to participate because I'm too busy trying to survive the effects that those of us with respiratory disease have to deal with everyday of our lives! We are the invisible "canaries" in the coal mine who flinch each time we hear the word "future" applied to the discussion of consequences of climate change. Many of the elements that contribute to that change have made their way through our lungs, in many cases puncturing them. I'm the person who is warned to stay indoors when ground level ozone is high. What most people don't understand is that I am their future. Already, children of today are plagued with the epidemic of Asthma. From the confines of my cage, I see one thing clearly. Money is almost always more important than the truth and even life itself. If anything is going to change, we need to deal with that one issue FIRST!

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