World Watch, a Washington-based research group working for a sustainable society, celebrates 20 years of World Watch magazine this fall, with packages of articles and essays looking at a range of urgent issues. World Watch President Christopher Flavin looks back at an article he wrote in 1988 about global warming called “The Heat Is On.” The article was pegged to a NASA scientist testifying before the Senate that global warming was occurring and was most likely caused by human activity.
In the nearly two decades since then, while governments, industry leaders and scientists have argued or ignored the looming ecological land mine, carbon dioxide emissions have risen faster than ever, making a reversal of the current climate trends more difficult.
“While politicians and diplomats have battled, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the key human-caused greenhouse gas, have risen 40 percent since 1990 and are still headed steeply upward,” Flavin laments. ”Two decades have been wasted, and we have not yet addressed one of the gravest problems humanity has ever faced. During the past year, however, the climate issue has unexpectedly reached a second turning point as both the scientific and public consensuses on the need to act have mushroomed.”
But there is good news, Flavin writes, “innovative policies, advancing technology, and growing investment have led to a pace of change in energy markets unseen since men like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford created the last great energy revolution a century ago.”