A little good news, lots of bad news

I’m the first to admit that covering the environment in an age of climate change can be dispiriting. In the face of a constant flow of cataclysmic predictions (whether its the extinction of gorillas, penguins, or polar bears) I sometimes want to just hide under the covers. That makes the rare good news extra important: species prospering in protected areas, big new energy advances and so on. This morning’s email delivered news on both sides of the line dividing hope & despair. From the World Conservation Union (IUCN) comes news that North American reptiles aren’t showing the sort of population crash that’s wiping out amphibians in many parts of the world. The news is encouraging (whether you like snakes or not!). Yet even this good news comes with a sting. The findings, part of IUCN’s “Red List, an annual survey of species’ health, are the exception. Click through to the report to see what species are under climate change stress in your region. A deeply troubling aspect of this wave of predictable extinctions is that today’s deaths represent the effects of changes that have already happened in the climate, caused by green house gas (GHG) building up from the dawn of the industrial age, some 120 years ago. Flip that idea forward, and the implications of today’s accelerating GHG emissions become nightmarish. We have yet to see the effects of the sharpest rises of emissions of the past 20 years or so. What’s more, since it will take decades more for humans to slow the accumulation of, let alone reverse, our emissions much worse is to come. The conclusion: We’re running out of time. Which gets me to the second, darker email that came in over the e- today transom. An announcement from Worldwatch, a D.C. based non-profit think tank that it released its annual Vital Signs 2007 report today. The headline says it all: “Window to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change Closing.” I may head back under the covers now.

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