Melting Ice and Frozen Policy
Last week, scientists reported that a large section of the West Antarctica ice sheet has begun to fall apart. Continued melting, now deemed unstoppable, will likely lead to a sea level rise of over 10 feet in the coming centuries. Scientists first predicted that this tragedy could result from climate change decades ago. The Carter administration’s Council on Environmental Quality, chaired by Tellus Institute Fellow Gus Speth, warned of this possibility back in 1981 and urged industrialized nations to agree upon a safe maximum level of CO2 in the air, 420 parts per million at the very highest (last month CO2 levels passed 400 ppm and continue to rise). The feeble response of the international community to this increasingly urgent threat has been tragic. Climate accords, whenever they are reached, have been unambitious in their goals and toothless in their enforcement. Political action in the US has been halting at best and frequently undermined by a trade regime wedded to fossil fuel extraction and a relentless disinformation campaign funded by fossil fuel interests. Nothing less than a broad-based upsurge in citizen concern and activism can melt our frozen politics.