“We’re Toast…

…if we don’t get on a very different path.”

I suppose a veteran NASA scientist who first testified about global warming to the U.S. Senate 20 years ago has earned the right to get a little snarky. This week Jim Hansen was back in front of congress again, testifying that unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, within a couple decades we can expect mass extinctions, ecosystem collapse, and dramatic sea level rises.

Not news to anyone who’s been paying attention, but for information that is so stunningly overwhelming, everyone, not least our elected representatives, needs to hear it over and over. Regular readers of this blog (assuming there are such masochists) know that I have been repeating similar dire warnings about climate change in order to justify the push for rapid and massive changes to the urban built environment. But the truth is, even though I have an intellectual understanding of the situation and can write the words, somewhere in the back of my mind I’m still in some level of denial, still wondering if I’ve been smoking crack and somehow inventing a scenario that couldn’t possibly represent actual reality, as in, the reality of the world that my two innocent small children will inherit.

If we are to successfully take on the challenge of climate change, the first step is to get beyond denial, so it helps to hear it all again from the mouth of the “godfather of global warming science.”  Once we fully accept the reality of our predicament, it then becomes more likely that we will be motivated to reassess everything, including deeply-rooted institutional and cultural roadblocks such as blind faith in the free market, or the doctrine that individual property rights can trump the common good. 

Because as Jim Hansen put it, “this is the last chance.”