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Apr 222009


Joel Makower, Executive Editor of, admittedly made up the number. When he was on stage at a speaking event, Makower said “We’ve got about 5,000 days to figure things out.” He says he just blurted it out, but that blurt was a very educated guess.

Makower got varied responses to his projection. For some members of his audience, it was the first time they had felt a real deadline. “And when I put 5,000 days into perspective — that if you have a child in kindergarten now, in 5,000 days she’ll be a college freshman — that drives it home, especially for people with small children,” said Makower.

He said in his blog, the number was a mix of all the numbers he is hearing and his own feelings. Many people may have their own estimate for the point of no return. In his blog, Makower backs up his claim with other’s predictions.

Britain’s Prince Charles said that we have less then 100 months (slightly more then 3,000 days). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted ten years (about 3650 days) to enact polices that will prevent a catastrophe.

Nobel prize winner Rajendra Pachauri said that we had only seven years (about 2,555 days).

Makower said in his blog retrospect his number “may be optimistic.”

One big problem with the green movement according to Makower is the lack of a sense of urgency.

“This problem seems too large for most people to get their arms around,” he said.

Indeed, the New York Times explored this problem in a story Why Isn’t the Brain Green? this past weekend, noting that in a poll taken in January Americans ranked global warming a lowly 20th on their list of concerns. (Though this was before the Obama Administration teed up to raise awareness and fight global warming.)

Makower recalls the past environmental issues, like the pollution of one river or lake. “When it comes to ‘yesterday’s’ environmental problems,” said Makower, “the problems are local, immediate, visible (or smellable or tastable), caused by a limited number of sources, and short-lived, in that if you stopped the cause, the problem would soon clear itself up.”

Unfortunately, “climate change is just the opposite: it’s global, invisible, from billions of sources, and long-term and if we stop the causes it will still take decades (or more) for the problem to go away,” said Makower.

Makower says that we live in a society where other people fix all our big problems. “I’m fairly certain that if you ask Americans and most other people how they see the climate crisis being resolved, they will overwhelmingly respond that they expect ‘them’ to figure it out,” said Makower.

No one can know for certain the exact number of days left before the earth has reached the point of climate catastrophe. Whether it be 5,000 or 500 days, the time to make a change appears to be now.