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I'm sorry.  I've been lurking since the election, and now the recommended list is alien to me.  

Tax cuts.

Unemployment insurance.

Wikileaks.

These matter today, and they'll matter tomorrow, but I tend to take a long view: what will matter in 2020? what will matter in 2100?

What matters to me now?

In the year between Copenhagen and Cancun, the science has shifted, the Senate has fiddled, and I'm close to losing hope. While the Senate bickers on tax cuts, rising seas threaten indigenous Panama tribes. And while United States negotiators criticize the latest UN climate text, Republican senators undermine the United States' foreign policy.

Nothing of significance will occur in Cancun.  The Economist explains that hitting the two degrees Celsius target is a wishful dream:

The IEA also looked at what it might take to hit a two-degree target; the answer, says the agency’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, is “too good to be believed”. Every signatory of the Copenhagen accord would have to hit the top of its range of commitments....

But for the two-degree scenario 2.8% is just the beginning; from 2020 to 2035 the rate of decarbonisation needs to double again, to 5.5%. Though they are unwilling to say it in public, the sheer improbability of such success has led many climate scientists, campaigners and policymakers to conclude that, in the words of Bob Watson, once the head of the IPCC and now the chief scientist at Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, “Two degrees is a wishful dream.”

The fight to limit global warming to easily tolerated levels is thus over.

What will matter to the world by 2020, and 2100?

Five million deaths are predicted by 2020, predicts a new study.

A citadel of ice begins to melt in Antarctica; the melt of the Antarctic Peninsula is well underway, as it's warmed faster than virtually any place on the planet.  Changes in this part of Antarctica are unprecedented throughout the entire period of human civilization.

...if all the ice from the ice streams feeding the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers were to flow into the Southern Ocean, global sea levels could increase by five feet, inundating low-lying coastal areas from Florida to Bangladesh. Such an event...could happen in the next half-century. Should the ice from the far-larger Western Antarctic Ice Sheet eventually melt, global sea levels could rise by 16 to 20 feet....

Climate threats to argiculture risk becoming insurmountable, says another group of experts.  For example:

In Uganda, which has one of the fastest rates of population growth in the world, farmers are already struggling to produce enough food on ever-smaller plots of land that, when passed on to the next generation, are divided among a large number of children, said David Obong, a climate change and agriculture expert in Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment.

Now, however, as a result of climate change, the country is facing a host of new problems. Heavier rains and more frequent, extended droughts are worsening soil erosion and landslides. Crop failures are “very common these days,” he said, and farmers find their fields attacked by a host of new or more virulent pests, from army worm to cassava mosaic. Rivers that once ran all year are now reduced to a trickle in some seasons.

“Water is becoming a rare commodity, unpredictable,” Obong said. Most of the country’s water – from rivers like the Nile – is shared with neighbouring states, raising concerns about growing cross border conflict.

Scientists fear mass extinction as oceans choke. Declining oxygen levels have played a role in 4 out of the last 5 mass extinctions, and may also play a role in this one.

Tax cuts and unemployment insurance matter now.  They represent politics and survival.  But climate change is survival as well.  We -- on DailyKos and the country's leaders -- need to be discussing adaptation to climate change with equal gravity. But we're not.  So I lurk.

Originally posted to RLMiller on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 08:55 PM PST.

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