It isn’t your imagination. You’ve been hearing that the world is “running out of time” for years.


from the Environmental Defense Fund’s website (click)

“We are running out of time. We know that if we continue to rely on fossil fuels we will face a future of worsening air pollution and an increasingly inhospitable climate.”

So declared Jim Leape, the man in charge of the head office of the World Wildlife Fund, a few days ago.

There’s nothing new about the idea that we’re experiencing a crisis to which we must urgently respond. We’ve heard this line before. Pretty much non-stop, actually.

Back in 1994, Chapter Five of a book titled Social Theory and the Global Environment, was called Running Out of Time.

A decade later, in 2004, the UK’s Independent newspaper quoted a “a former government adviser on green issues.” His message: “we are running out of time to stabilise the climate.”

In 2007, we heard that rather a lot. Here’s a taste:

  • February – the Christian Century magazine publishes an article by Bill McKibben titled Meltdown: Running out of Time on Global Warming.
  • April – a Greenpeace spokesperson declares: “we are simply running out of time.”
  • September – the Worldwatch Institute issues a report. The accompanying press release says the world is “running out of time to head off catastrophic climate is the time to act.”
  • September/October – The Environmental Forum publishes an article about climate policy that declares: ”We are running out of time.”
  • December – Time magazine asserts: “we are rapidly running out of time to cap carbon emissions.”

In 2008. James Hansen portentously warned: “we’re running out of time.” Five years later, during an interview in April of this year, he used the exact same words. For good measure, Australian professor Barry Brook also declared back in 2008 that, where climate change was concerned, “we are perilously close to running out of time.”

Was 2009 any different? I’m afraid not:

  • January – the World Economic Forum issues a press release that quotes Al Gore talking about climate change. “We are running out of time,” he thunders, “we must have a planetary solution to a planetary crisis.”
  • March – a co-director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, opines: “I know we’re running out of time.”
  • May – the Secretary General of the United Nations tells business leaders at a summit in Denmark that they are “running out of time” to make climate change a strategic priority.
  • June – insurance company Allianz publishes an interview with Stefan Rahmstorf, described as “one of the world’s best known climate scientists,” who solemnly declares that “we are now running out of time.”

And so this shabby, tired refrain continues. A month ago, Ian Bruce, a climate change specialist employed by the David Suzuki Foundation, insisted that “We’re running out of time and we need to change the mass way of thinking.”

In case we failed to get the message, Suzuki himself chimed in: “We are in the 59th minute.”

Yeah, yeah. Tell me something I haven’t heard already.


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