If your doctor told you in 1990 that someone you love had breast cancer and that 80% of her breast would have to be removed immediately in order to save her life - you would not wait until 2025 and remove only 25% of the cancer. Nor would you remove 80% of the cancer, but wait until 2050.
There is scientific consensus that we are in the midst of a worldwide emergency with catastrophic climate change -- the human-made, warming-driven destabilization of the earth's climate system. This crisis is perhaps the most daunting challenge ever faced by humanity. Our survival on this planet may depend on a swift, dramatic response.
The head of the UN Environmental Program says, "It is now unequivocal that the burning of fossil fuels is fundamentally changing our climate." Some have called coal and oil unintended weapons of mass destruction.
In 1990, the statured scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told the world that to stop catastrophic climate change we must reduce greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide, by 60-80% immediately.
Nineteen years later, due in large part to negligence by the George W. Bush administration, the world has done little to reduce greenhouse gases or avert the threat of catastrophic climate change.
In 2001 the IPCC said that global warming was increasing 50% faster than originally believed. Even so, the toughest proposals offered to date for reducing greenhouse gases is to cut them 25% below 1990 levels by 2025 and 80% by 2050.
We need immediate, worldwide leadership, far bolder than anything currently proposed. Without action, we face devastation from the resulting severe storms, insect infestation, disease, flooding, drought, fire and temperature and weather extremes of all sorts.
Today marks the grassroots launch of Head off the Threat Political Action Committee, hottpac.org, the first and only national PAC working on the grassroots level, to focus exclusively on electing candidates to reverse climate change.
The centerpiece of the hottpac.org platform is reducing greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, 80% below 1990 levels by 2025. We should not wait another two generations for something that should have happened two decades ago.
Ross Gelbspan, author of The Heat is On, says that our response to the crisis of global warming must be "the social counterpart to a climate snap -- a rapid, immense, worldwide gathering of political will " if humanity is to survive.
Let's be clear that dire predictions are no excuse for despair. Instead we must see the challenge of catastrophic climate change as an opportunity for positive change. But how, you ask, can we make such major cuts so quickly?
Clean, Renewable, Non-nuclear Energy
Oil is responsible for about 44% of U.S. fossil-fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions and coal is responsible for up to another 40%. All coal is a dirty, polluting, non-renewable energy source producing 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide per year on average. Coal fired power plants emit sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, mercury, arsenic and lead.
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There is no such thing as "clean coal." In addition, coal mining companies engage in the heinous practice known as mountain-top removal, destroying life in nearby communities.
Renewable energy sources such as wind, tidal, geothermal, solar and small hydro projects create new economic opportunities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an added bonus, renewables increase our energy independence and promote national security.
We must support federal policies to mandate that the production of all America's energy come from 100% clean, renewable, non-nuclear sources of energy by no later than 2018. We must mandate the immediate end to construction of all new coal-fired power plants.
Accidents on the scale of Chernobyl, causing death and deformities for generations, can still occur in all commercial reactor designs. Nuclear waste remains an unsolved problem that poses significant long-term health, environmental and safety risks. We have the technology to develop and use clean, safe, renewable sources of energy and do not need more nuclear power plants.
No matter how much we try to create more efficient, less polluting gasoline engines, they will continue to be an unacceptably large source of greenhouse gas emissions. By no later than 2018 we should entirely replace gasoline-powered engines with a technologically feasible range of options including plug-in electric, hydrogen and fuel cell engines.
Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation are larger than emissions from vehicles, aircraft, ships and trains combined. The loss of forests is the biggest man-made contributor to climate change after burning fossil fuels, accounting for about 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions per year. The best way to remove vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere is by maintaining healthy forests, meaning an end to all logging on public lands immediately.
Significant advances in conservation do not require large-scale new technology. It requires only changes in our life habits. Other countries -- such as Japan, Italy and France -- are far more efficient in their conservation of energy. Even small increases above the pittance the federal government now spends on programs such as conservation, insulation and energy-efficient appliances, could significantly reduce our energy consumption.
We need federal policies to mandate the reduction of energy consumption by 50% by 2018 through serious conservation incentives and education.
No more passing the buck. The gentle measures offered at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland are simply inadequate. It's time to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2025 and put an end to the cancer of catastrophic climate change. It's our time to lead on the most critical issue of our time.