a practical guide to a future worth having.
It’s nearly the end of the year and time to think about Hope.
Our great green planet has survived another trip around the sun. But, of course, scientists estimate the Earth and our sun are 4.54 billion years old, give or take 50 million years. Stars like our sun keep burning for about nine or 10 billion years, so, human beings aside, our planet is likely about halfway through its life cycle.
Humans can be immensely slow to recognize warning signs when it suits us. The use of fossil fuels boosted the standard of living in many parts, but certainly not all of the world. It transferred work done by humans and animals to machines and allowed the world population to grow faster than ever before.
Nobody seemed to worry about possible impacts on our planet.
I wondered when the first widespread warnings began to appear? And where is the world going from here?
I was alive in the 1950s when Charles David Keeling was taking continuous measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the island of Hawaii. He supervised this monitoring program until he died in 2005.
Charles Keeling created the Keeling Curve, a graph of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. Many scientists consider him the first expert to draw awareness to the effect of CO2 on the Earth’s atmosphere.
It looks, at first glance, like a doodle, a zig-zag pattern squiggled absent-mindedly on a notepad during an uninspiring meeting. In fact, it has been called one of the most important scientific works of the 20th century and its emergence in the 1950s offered one of the first key readings of the health of planet Earth.—When Global Warming Was Revealed by a Zig-Zagged Curve
Pre-internet, few people heard of Keeling’s work, though. In the 1970s, the first awareness of human interference with the Earth’s climate was the news that the post-WWII boom in the use of aerosols could impact the ozone layer. As a result, the United States banned almost all chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC, compounds as aerosol propellants in 1978.
The summer of 1988 was the hottest on record at the time.
It was a summer of widespread drought and wildfire. In June, NASA scientist James Hansen presented models to congress, saying he was 99% sure that global warming was upon us.
The first global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol, was adopted in 1997 and signed by President Bill Clinton.
In March 2001, shortly after taking office, President George W. Bush announced the United States would not implement the Kyoto Protocol, saying the protocol was “fatally flawed in fundamental ways” and citing concerns that the deal would hurt the U.S. economy.—history.com article.
In 2006, former Vice President Al Gore wrote the book The Inconvenient Truth, later made into a movie. Gore, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change awareness, is probably the person who first brought the subject to the public’s attention.
Fast-forward to 2015, when President Obama signed the Paris Climate Agreement, a declaration signed by 197 countries to prevent a global temperature rise of 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).
Many experts considered 2 degrees C of warming to be a critical limit, which, if surpassed, will lead to increased risk of more deadly heatwaves, droughts, storms, and rising global sea levels.
Most of us know that in 2016, former President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, citing its onerous restrictions.
In August 2018, Swedish teenager and climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting in front of the Swedish Parliament with a sign: “School Strike for Climate.” Her youth and passion startled the world and helped even more people pay attention.
This year, 2021, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) brought together 120 world leaders and over 40,000 registered participants.
After two intense weeks of negotiations, the Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted by almost 200 countries, reaffirmed the global climate emergency. It reiterated “alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1°C of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.”
Participants acknowledged a need for balance between mitigation and adaptation and the responsibility of those who have done the most damage to help pay for damage to developing countries.
COP27 starts now.
While COP26 didn’t deliver the full range of ambition needed to address climate change, it did provide many of the building blocks for future action. “I know we can get there. We are in the fight of our lives. Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward. I will be with you all the way. COP27 starts now.—U.N. Secretary General António Guterres
We’re worn out from worrying.
I totally get it: politics, pandemics, jobs, inflation, AND climate change. But, most of the time, it seems like too much to keep in our heads.
And I know, as ordinary people, it seems we can’t do much about the problems. It can be hard to have hope!
My champion and hero is Jane Goodall.
As she says, if we give up hope, we sink into apathy and do nothing. In July, I was dismayed when my granddaughter said she doesn’t expect ever to have children—because the world won’t survive due to climate change.
I processed my thoughts by writing Is It Wrong to Have a Baby in Today’s World? Please read this article for helpful, concrete actions we can all take.
Would you please end the year by viewing this video? Let Jane Goodall’s words and example inspire you. And read Goodall’s latest writings in The Book of Hope. Here Jane focuses on her Four Reasons for Hope:
The Amazing Human Intellect,
The Resilience of Nature,
The Power of Young People,
and The Indomitable Human Spirit.
The greatest danger to our future is apathy.
— Jane Goodall
It’s absolutely essential for those of us who love the natural world and value its inhabitants to keep fighting and keep believing.
Let her inspire you because we cannot quit as long as our great green globe keeps turning and the sun rises.
May you have a Blessed and Peaceful New Year.
And please, get in touch. I’d love to know how you cope with fears and worries, whether about climate change or any other worries. Also, what are you doing to create change? Questions you have? Information you need?
Thanks for reading and if you have a friend who may enjoy this newsletter, please pass it along.