(First written 6/1/07)
Shortly after the world’s scientists warned there are only a handful of years to act on greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst of global warming, the aviation industry reported record increases in the number of commercial flights worldwide–and we suspect the number of military flights are up too. The release of greenhouse gases at great heights compounds, by several times, the effects of such gases released at ground level. Next, NASA’s scientists announced that we are at a “tipping point” for climate change, with the distinct likelihood that the planet will become a different place within the lifetime of our grandchildren, if not that of our children. Once across that tipping threshold, there will be no going back. Yet the general public proceeds on its merry way, as if nothing is up.
Mark Ellingham, founder of the Rough Guides, says there is no such thing, now, as an ethical vacation. Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the 1997 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics says “If I were emperor of the world, I would put the pedal to the floor on energy efficiency and conservation for the next decade.” Unfortunately, most global leadership positions are currently vacant. Meanwhile, scientists are thrashing around looking for geo-engineering options despite knowing that we don’t understand enough to tinker with the climate. All of which means it’s up to each individual to act as best s/he can. And that means now, not later, ‘cos there ain’t going to be any later…. So, me, I’m giving up flying except for emergencies with no feasible alternative. And I’m going to become a nagging beast with my dear ones.