We have reached a planetary climate emergency. Something must be done. Because we have waited far too long to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate feedbacks in the sensitive arctic – which has experienced at least 300% of the global average warming – are already beginning to amplify globally the impacts of human emissions. As in all emergencies, the order and timing of our responses will now become critical.
According to several of the world’s preeminent sea ice experts, one of whom is a member of this group, the arctic summer sea ice minimum is likely to reach near-zero just a few years from now, decades sooner than predicted by most major climate models. Because of the immense stores of methane and other carbon locked in the arctic, the dramatically accelerating input of summer insolation into the arctic ocean as more and more of the summer sea ice disappears, and the probable connections between these arctic changes and increased extreme weather at lower latitudes, the risks of allowing the arctic to melt unchecked are becoming untenable. Something must be done about it. Right away.
1250’s mission is to help shift our orientation towards, and contribute to the development of, intelligent and well-informed near-term climate choices to help alleviate our immediate crisis, without ignoring our long-term goals and needs. In this way, 1250 provides an important complement to the 350 movement begun by Bill McKibben. 1250 is not just an advocacy group for methane cuts, however. Rather, it is a group focusing on near-term climate as a whole, and the remaining practical pathways to constructing a ‘climate bridge’ towards a stable and sustainable future, towards the world of 350.
Steep black carbon cuts, for example, as well as those of other short-lived climate forcers, are also essential to building that bridge. The non-CO2 contributions to current warming taken together exceed those of CO2 (they total about 57% of warming since industrialization), so there is considerable potential to alleviate our situation through these means, and black carbon cuts in particular could bring their benefits quickly to the rapidly accelerating arctic crisis.
Unfortunately, however, doing the math these days suggests that even with the most rapid reductions of black carbon, methane and other non-CO2 components, along with CO2 cuts, emissions reductions alone cannot reverse the so-called death spiral of arctic sea ice. 1250 thus advocates an immediate arctic ‘rescue package.’ We agree fully with the goals of Greenpeace and their ‘Save the Arctic’ program. But apart from pledging to keep out fossil fuel interests – which is unquestionably very important – Greenpeace has not yet detailed plans to save it.
If the arctic is left to keep melting, moreover, it will become well nigh impossible to stop the fossil industry from moving in, making this one the largest societal tipping points of our time. Either we move in the direction of 1250 – which demands a change of consciousness about the plurality of climate change causes and cures, and, regardless of the clear need for massive CO2 cuts, quickly undertaking a holistic set of ambitious non-CO2 measures – or we will likely slide inexorably toward a catastrophic future, even if positive steps are taken to move towards clean energy and lower CO2 emissions.