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Connecting the Dots: Extreme Weather, Climate Change and Fossil Fuels

By Bob Lawson

You will be seeing a lot of ‘dots’ around Concord Center this Saturday, May 5th. To understand all these ‘dots’, please log onto YouTube, and type in ‘Test Tube Earth’. This will bring you to a video that I created at the conclusion of last year, which highlights the extreme weather that the United States endured in 2011. Remember? Record snowfalls; tornados that destroyed places like Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Joplin, Missouri; droughts and wildfires that devastated farming and ranching across the South; thousands of summer heat records across the nation. Remember? And then there was Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that brought unprecedented flooding to the Northeast.

We regularly watch these amazing news stories on TV, and then, I fear, we forget. My short YouTube video is a whirlwind synopsis of these weather stories, as reported by the major networks. When you review all the record setting and destructive weather events of 2011, it will leave you a bit stunned. There is something very alarming going on here. When weather records are being smashed by the thousands in a very short time, you realize that climate change is not a future threat. It is already underway. The National Academies of Science in every country in the world and 98% of climatologists are in agreement: man-caused CO2 in the atmosphere is loading the dice for extreme weather.

We are a civilization based on science. We can split the atom, transplant human organs, and fly nonstop from Boston to Tokyo. We accomplish these feats through the understanding of natural laws that science has given us. The idea that humans would change the climate through the burning of fossil fuels is not new. A Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, first published it in 1896. Since then the work of thousands of scientists across a multitude of specialties has created an overwhelming consensus. The first US President to be briefed on the problem was Lyndon Johnson in 1965. In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC) was formed specifically to assess and compile the most reliable climate research from the world’s best scientists. Twenty-four years and four report later, and we can barely say the words “climate change” in the halls of Congress. We have delayed action long enough. It is time to stop debating whether this is real and get serious about it.

350.org, the organizer of “Connect-the-Dots”, is a worldwide group devoted to inspiring action to mitigate climate change. The name 350 comes from the number of parts-per-million of CO2 in the atmosphere that is considered the maximum safe limit to maintain climate stability. When scientists first learned to measure CO2 in the 1950’s, the atmospheric level was at 315 ppm. Today, it is 394 and rising by about 2 ppm per year. That is why there is a global day of climate action this Saturday, May 5th. It is time to “Connect-the-Dots” between the increased CO2 in our atmosphere and the unprecedented violent weather.

So when you see strange dot-shaped signs around town this weekend, you will understand that there is serious meaning behind them. And here is one other thought: the people holding these dots are not radicals. The true radicals are those who think that we are entitled to change the chemical composition of our atmosphere and to destabilize the climate.

Watch the YouTube clip, and please plan to join a Metro West gathering at the Old Manse at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, May 5. There will be speeches, music and a group photo that 350.org will spread around the world!

Bob Lawson is a Concord resident, a member of the Trinitarian Congregational Church and a member of the ConcordCAN Steering Group.

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