Some Holdren pieces

John Holdren in an op ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle advocates rapid changes in policy. John Holdren is one of the most important people in US energy policy, president of AAAS, MacArthur award winner in 1981, founder of the Energy Resource Group at UC, Berkeley, Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy and Director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy in the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Professor of Environmental Science and Public Policy in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, at Harvard University, etc.

What he cannot do from his position is ask, how will people who fail to take climate change seriously today feel in 10 years, or in 5 years, when options are fewer. or no longer exist? How will we address young people — those who will be alive mid-century, answering why we who are adults today dawdled, failed to change our behavior, did not elect legislators focused on climate change, did not campaign for programs that limited greenhouse gas emissions and raised fuel prices and tax ourselves to pay for third world mitigation, or argued against nuclear power?

Also watch John Holdren’s talk at the China US Climate Change Forum. There are four talks in this video, beginning with Holdren’s talk and ending with Paul Baer’s talk on EcoEquity. In between, speakers focus on the China contribution to the problem and to the solution. The message sounds much different when accompanied by a discussion as to what will happen if we don’t respond sufficiently, and how hard it will be to succeed.

The term climate sensitivity is used frequently. There is a temperature increase associated with each doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, so that temperature would increase by n degree C when atmospheric carbon levels reach 550 ppmv (parts per million volume) and then would go up about the same amount if carbon levels reached 1100 ppmv. This ignores the contribution of other greenhouse gases.

Climate sensitivity is estimated to be between 1.5 C and 4.5 C, with a middle value of 2.9 – 3 C. As Holdren points out, there are questions as to whether sensitivity is even higher, because we are seeing the current increase with enormous pollution which masks climate change by reflecting light and cooling the Earth (temporarily).

For a discussion of voluntary simplicity, fast forward to 1:48:30 or so. Baer places current “sustainable” emissions of carbon at 0.3 tonnes C (multiply by 44/12 to get to carbon dioxide).

Read the op-ed piece, see the video, and then comment here.

2 Responses to “Some Holdren pieces”

  1. Doug says:

    Holdren is exactly right about all of it, both the risks and the required actions. Most of all he gets it that there’s no perfect solution, no silver bullet, and that we need to do everything. Outside the blogosphere, that’s a rare insight.

  2. Chris M. says:

    You’ll also want to see this piece by Bill McKibben, originally published in the Boston Globe, and reprinted on where I saw it:

    “Finally, Fired up over Global Warming”

    Quote: “Progress is by no means impossible: Vermont independent James Jeffords has introduced a credible bill in the Senate calling for an 80 percent reduction in carbon by 2050. But if the bill is to have any chance in a capital dominated by the energy lobby, it needs strong backing from think tanks and scientists — and from people in the street. The lesson of every movement in US history is that being right is only half the battle; being loud helps, too.”

    — Chris M., San Francisco Monthly Meeting