Bioneers 2010: James Hansen and the Million Letter March

james hansen photo

Photo via Jaymi Heimbuch

It's a strange feeling to be simultaneously excited to hear a speaker, and terrified at what they're about to say. James Hansen has the uncanny ability pull these kind of conflicting feelings from entire audiences, inspiring a better understanding of our planet's systems alongside an urgency for us to change how we're functioning within it, and fast. He does so with a quiet, modest air of "I'm just telling the story that the research reveals," which makes the information all the more worrying. At this year's Bioneers conference, James Hansen took the stage to explain what systems are being impacted by heightened carbon levels, but more importantly, a solution that could bring us back down to 350 ppm. The message isn't new -- we release too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and it is changing the way the planet functions, from temperatures to ocean acidification, at a rate that we humans and most of the species on the planet may not be able to adapt fast enough to survive. We have to act fast to reduce Co2 levels from about 395 ppm to 350 ppm. It's a message we've heard may times before but it never ceases to lose urgency.

Hansen gave this message at Bioneers, along with the idea that the best way to make the necessary reductions is to implement a fee for carbon emissions at the source, and redistribute the funds collected to the public. And of course, cease all use of fossil fuels.

He (and many others) believes that this is the best way to make the necessary changes, and asked the audience to take part in Million Letter March, a letter-writing campaign to politicians pushing for stronger climate legislation.

The Million Letter March is backed by Hansen, Bill McKibben and Lester Brown among other major players in the political and social campaigns for getting our carbon and consumption under control. The campaign website states:

Failure to take effective action soon in the U.S. creates an unacceptable risk of locking in irreparable damage to our climate and ecosystems, damage that could potentially last thousands of years. Congress has demonstrated that we, the people, must lead. The Million Letter March is a platform where together we can prove the American people and our international supporters want effective action on climate change. Together we can create the political will for effective climate legislation.

Here is a short version of the message James Hansen brought to Bioneers:

And here is a long version of the science behind humans and global climate change. Hansen is truly fascinating to listen to and the information he provides here is vital for understanding just what kind of future we're looking at on a warming planet.

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