Reality Report: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency, Part I


20 Feb 2008 |
View all related to Climate Change | Reality Report
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Part I | Part II | Part III

The Reality Report interviews Philip Sutton of the Greenleap Strategic Institute and coauthor of a new report called “Climate Code Red: the Case for a Sustainability Emergency.” The report reviews disturbing new data and scientific understanding of climate change, explains why existing institutions have failed to respond adequately to the problem, and outlines an appropriate response. Read the transcript of the interview here.

These are not a choice amongst many options, but a necessity for life. It requires a “crashprogramme” — as quickly as possible — to thoroughly decarbonise the economy in a time periodmeasured in years to a decade or so, not decades to a century or more. - Climate Code Red report

Jason Bradford hosts The Reality Report, broadcast on KZYX&Z in Mendocino County, CA.

In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Fourth Assessment Report and shared a Nobel Prize with Al Gore. While this is big news, even more important evens unfolded during the Arctic summer where the polar sea-ice turn to water at a frightening speed and, in the words of one glaciologist, “100 years ahead of schedule”. A black open ocean in the Arctic absorbs more heat and undermines the already precarious situation with the Greenland ice sheet, which is now poised to slip into the sea this century and raise sea levels by 5 meters. Once sea levels rise, the fate of the West Antarctic ice sheet is sealed, unleashing an additional 5 meter rise. Droughts are intensifying, forests are dying and burning, major crops are failing, killer storms are more frequent, and it is all happening with a 0.8 C global temperature rise. Because of climate system inertia the emissions already in place would probably take the planet up to 2 C.

NASA scientist James Hansen told a December 2007 congregation of the American Geophysical Union that we surpassed the dangerous temperature zone a few decades ago at a 0.5 C increase and that we should be aiming to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations substantially below today’s level of 380 ppm to around 320 ppm. But United Nations negotiations and most national governments are targeting a range of 450 to 550 ppm--deciding that it is okay to create an inhospitable planet with temperatures rising 3 to 8 C. The last time the Earth was that warm, sea levels were 25 meters higher and no glaciers existed. Scientist James Lovelock states that in such a world ocean life would collapse and humans could only inhabit the polar regions.

Politics and business as usual are no longer options anymore. The report from David Spratt and Philip Sutton “Climate Code Red: the Case for a Sustainability Emergency” provides an overview of:

  1. Recent science
  2. Appropriate targets
  3. Case for emergency action

The report’s Introduction reads:

“Because we are primarily guided by the need to advocate actions that are capable of fully solving the problem, we can only conclude from the available evidence that if we are to stop global warming becoming ‘dangerous’, it is not a question of how much higher will be OK, but rather by how much we need to lower the existing temperature if we are to return our planet to the safe-climate zone.”

This report is a jolting break from the soft-pedaling and dangerous compromises that have led climate policy to accept greenhouse gas levels that lock in catastrophe. The report is ultimately empowering because it clearly makes the case that only through facing reality and making arrangements that conceivably solve the problem is our work purposeful. And the report finally outlines how, with a shared sense of purpose and heroic leadership, humans have the technical and social capacity to go into “emergency” mode and design an economic and environmental turn-around in 10-20 years.

This is the first of two interviews with Philip Sutton about Code Red.


James Hansen presentation
Sea level rise maps


AudioThe Case for a Sustainability Emergency (audio) (length 47 min): download, stream
Read transcript: English