The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

Imagine that the earth’s atmosphere is a bathtub.

At one end of the tub is a faucet, and from that faucet drains all the carbon dioxide that humans release into the atmosphere, ranging from car exhaust to manufacturing to ranching. . At the other end of the tub is a drain, and that drain dumps all the carbon dioxide that humans remove from the atmosphere.

An overwhelmed crowd attended a conference at the Katharine Cornell Theater on Thursday evening. – Mark Alan Lovewell

What’s wrong with this equation?

The faucet is open, but the drain is clogged. The tub is overflowing.

“We’ve been procrastinating for so long to turn off the tap, that we now have to remove the roto-rooter and unplug that drain,” famed climatologist Dr Philip Duffy told the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and a crowd of listeners at the Theater. Katharine Cornell Thursday night.

“It’s urgent. Because it’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. “

An astrophysicist trained at Harvard and Stanford who worked in the Obama administration to push through the Paris climate accords, Mr. Duffy is now a researcher at the Woods Hole Research Center which has devoted himself to studying the large-scale effects. scale of climate change and advocating for solutions.

During the special presentation to the committee on Thursday, Mr Duffy explained the dire state of the global climate crisis, giving a grim prognosis for the planet that has ignored the consequences of its actions for too long. Even if humans had completely turned off the carbon dioxide tap in 2010, he said, the planet would continue to heat up for another three centuries. To reverse the trend, humans will not only have to become carbon neutral; they will have to remove carbon from the atmosphere. It’s a history lesson that dates back almost a million years.

“The past tells us a lot and helps us educate ourselves on what we’re going to do in the future,” said Duffy. “Overall, the main driver of climate change on Earth over the past 800,000 years has been carbon dioxide.”

Ten thousand years ago, the Earth warmed considerably and the temperature stabilized, providing humans with predictable seasonal temperatures that enabled formal agriculture, ranching and, in turn, civilization. But over the past two hundred years, greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial revolution have gradually caused these temperatures to vary, causing more extreme weather conditions, droughts, rising sea levels and the threat of displacement. massive humans and migrations out of the equator.

On a human scale, temperature changes, loss of arctic ice caps and sea level rise may not appear significant – less than a degree so far, causing sea level to rise about 10 millimeters. But on a geological scale, this kind of change is supersonic.

“This is happening much faster than expected,” Mr. Duffy said.

Commissioners voted 13-0 to adopt an emergency resolution on the climate crisis. – Mark Alan Lovewell

He said projections of future sea level rise have been adjusted upward over time. The old permafrost is melting, releasing huge amounts of methane and primordial talons that were once trapped under the earth’s crust for millennia. Ice loss is also accelerating faster than scientists predicted, which means if the planet is unable to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius from here 2040, then the entire Greenland ice sheet will irreversibly melt, leading to over 20 feet of sea level rise.

The rise in temperature will also lead to an increase in extreme weather conditions, Mr Duffy said, including tropical hurricanes, polar vortices and droughts in traditionally water-infested regions of the world like the southwestern United States. United States, Mexico, Sub-Saharan Africa and India. All of these places, which are home to billions of people, are also said to be two more months a year with temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of India is reportedly over 160 days a year with temperatures above 95 degrees. Millions of people will move, he predicted.

“The number of unsafe days to be outdoors is increasing,” Duffy said. “It is a worrying threshold that we have crossed. “

The effects of climate change will also be felt in New England, he said. Scientists have inextricably linked climate change to an increase in cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. There will be more hurricanes, flash floods and coastal erosion. There has already been a 71 percent increase in extreme rain events in the region. Parts of Vineyard Haven harbor may soon be underwater, according to maps.

“Increases in extreme precipitation have occurred all over the United States, but nowhere more than here in the northeastern United States,” said Mr. Duffy. “Climate change does not fix itself. If we turn off the tap, it doesn’t improve.

So how does the planet limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rototoot the faucet, remove carbon dioxide from the atmospheric tub, and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change?

“Really, we don’t know,” Mr. Duffy said. “Most of the solutions are science fiction. . . the only technology that might work for carbon dioxide removal on this scale is deliberate land management on a large scale. “

The good thing, he said, is that polls show support for climate activism is widespread, despite mainstream rhetoric that suggests otherwise. Solutions in agriculture and reforestation are promising and promising, he said, with old-fashioned methods of sequestering carbon dioxide in soil and trees – although carried out globally. – a feasible step towards eliminating greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. New technologies, like artificial meat, plant-based diets, recycling efforts and the sharing economy are also promising developments.

“We need action. We need it now, ”said Mr. Duffy. “What is missing more than anything is the will to go ahead and do it.”

The presentation was followed by a solid question-and-answer session between Mr. Duffy, the curators and the winemakers, all wondering how people could do their part? Discussions have ranged from tighter regulations on land clearing and better insurance policies, to climate equity and social justice. As an island, said Mr. Duffy, the vineyard has a unique opportunity to act.

And on Thursday, the MVC did.

The committee voted 13-0 to adopt an emergency resolution on the climate crisis, requiring them to develop a framework to take climate impacts into account in its analysis of regional impact developments. The resolution also supports the non-binding resolution that island cities will present at their annual municipal assemblies to eliminate the island’s dependence on fossil fuels by 2040, as well as the draft energy and adaptation master plans. Commissioners Clarence A. (Trip) Barnes 3rd and James Joyce abstained.

More than two hours after the presentation began, the crowd applauded the vote.

“It looks like it’s a step,” Duffy told the commission. “I’m proud of you for taking this step, and I think you should be proud of yourself.”

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