Do the Math

I admit it. I've been basking. For a week now I've allowed myself the indulgence of a self-righteous satisfaction, not only that Obama and Senate Democrats won so resoundingly in last weeks election, but that this result has so ambushed and bewildered the alternative universe of the Republican Party. It feels like a long-overdue nod in reality's direction. What a relief! Hurricane Sandy's role in tipping the scales toward reality is more bitter-sweet. The timing was impeccable. It was almost as if Mother Nature had been waiting for just this moment to storm the ramparts of our fortress of climate denial. Even most liberals I know are scratching their heads wondering what just happened, and what it means. The oceans are actually rising? New York no longer viable? - a city whose infrastructure was built for a planet we no longer live on? The future is here, and Sandy is its most decisive messenger yet testifying to this astonishing new reality. Sandy's arrival provided the elusive "Oh, shit!" moment for an awful lot of people, and President Obama will have to do an awful lot more in the coming four years than just mention our "warming planet" as a concern in his victory speech.

I will support any and all efforts by our President and members of either party who are willing to lean into this daunting reality. But I don't plan to wait for Congress to get the picture when majority Rebublicans still hold to the "climate hoax" of their alternative universe. Enough of that!

The night after the election I attended 350.0rg's Do the Math event in Seattle with my wife Sally and daughter Kristin. Fifteen hundred other people jammed Benaroya Hall with me to confront the yawning gap between our current energy policy and where we need to be if we are to have any chance of averting full-scale climate meltdown. The numbers in Global Warming's Terrible New Math are stark, as laid out by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone, and at Benaroya Hall last Wednesday. 3215 new high temperature records recorded across the U.S. last June. The "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record" last spring in the U.S. And here's where it gets really scary. Scientists estimate that we can pour 565 gigatons more CO2 into the atmosphere, and still have hope of keeping the planet's climate survivable for the human species. The number of gigatons of CO2 in current proven coal, oil and gas reserves of our fossil fuel companies? 2,795 gigatons.

So I don't plan to bask in the election results much longer. There is work to do. As David Orr has said, "Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up."