Gratitude on Thanksgiving Day 2030
Thanksgiving is, in many ways, the truest of holidays. It is not connected to a religion or to a national political event. It is about giving thanks and sharing lifeâ€™s abundance, manifested by a large meal to be shared by friends and family. Giving thanks for all the wonderfulness of this planet.
On Thanksgiving day in 2030, I hope my then middle aged son will be sharing this day with loved ones hopefully including me. I hope that they all will be able to give thanks for what those of us alive today did between 2007 and 2015 to mobilize humanity to slow and start to reverse global warming. That is the window we have to allow those of us still living and our descendents to have some semblance of a Thanksgiving that might be similar to the one we celebrate in 2007.
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change issued itsâ€™ final, synthesis report this past weekend. The fact that it had recently won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore gives the I.P.C.C. an amplified voice for this, itsâ€™ fourth and final report. The report is stunning in its conclusions and recommendations. It puts in stark relief the fact that urgent and global action must be taken immediately to avoid almost unimaginable consequences.
The I.P.C.C. said that the world would have to reverse â€” not just slow â€” the growth of greenhouse gases by 2015 to prevent â€œserious climate disruptionsâ€. As Rajendra Pachauri, who heads the organization said: â€œIf thereâ€™s no action before 2012, thatâ€™s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining momentâ€.
This report, unlike the three prior reports, was not allowed to be watered down by national governments such as those from the U.S., China and India. It is therefore much more blunt and alarmist in its language. That being said, what some scientists now admit is that, since the I.P.C.C. has taken five years to gather, analyze and report on climate change data and computer projections, recent developments make the worst case scenarios predicted in the report only match the reality of today. Change is occurring that quickly. For example the National Academy of Science reported that 8.4 gigatons of carbon were put into the atmosphere from fossil fuels in 2006. That is what the worst case prediction of the panel indicated for last year.
Additionally, the International Energy Agency, in looking at the unexpected rapid emissions increase from China and India estimated that if current policies were not changed, the world would warm six degrees by 2030. That is a calamitous increase and far higher than the panelâ€™s estimate of one to four degrees by the end of the century.
I have written here that global warming should be thought of as a risk management issue by those that still have doubts. What the I.P.C.C. report does is dramatically increase the urgency and therefore risk of the situation. It is changing dynamically day by day. The three countries that the rest of the world will begin pointing fingers toward are the U.S., China and India. The U.S. because it consumes 25% of all energy yet has 5% of population, China because it is becoming the nation with the largest amount of greenhouse emissions, and India because of its exploding population and double digit economic growth. A profound change in policy and leadership is needed in these three countries.
The I.P.C.C. report makes every single energy proposal of the leading presidential candidates seem lame and incremental. It is time for the U.S. to have a government that will lead its citizens and the world in addressing â€œthe defining challenge of our ageâ€ as stated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. America, certainly in the last 100 years has seemed to rise to the occasion of global challenges. We now need to do it once again, this time for every person alive and all of our descendants. We must mobilize as the engine of innovation of the globe and find ways to reverse emissions and bring renewable energy to market.
The time from Thanksgiving 2007 to Thanksgiving 2012 is the five years we have to slow down the acceleration to catastrophe. If we do that then the Thanksgiving of 2030 might well be a holiday of gratefulness and thanksgiving for all that we are about to do.