Climate Stick Basics

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The details of the story the Climate Stick tells are included below. You can use for your own needs as much, or as little of the information below for your short and/or long conversations about the climate crisis with the people you meet.

If you view the video it presents the information in a slightly different manner.

Remember that your goal is to get more people angry about how their children’s futures are made bleak by the continued burning of carbon. And help them turn that anger into effective work to end the burning of carbon.

The Basic Story: Green, Black, Yellow, and Red

After 60 plus presentations about climate change that included up to 50 slides, and taking 40 minutes, I have reduced the story about climate change to a two minute discussion with the Climate Stick as my visual aid.

My hope is that each person masters the short version and uses it to expand the number of people who will help us get to a sane energy policy.

The Green

The green represents the last 11,000 years up to 1804 CE (estimated date of reaching one billion people on the planet). It is the time when humans developed agriculture and during that time the CO2 in the atmosphere was about 275ppm and the average earth temperature was about 55 °F. The total CO2 in the atmosphere was about 2300 Gigatons. The greenhouse effect from the CO2 was beneficial. It helped keep the climate consistent enough for us to develop agriculture in many places on the globe, and allowed for the human population to grow to 1 billion people.

The beginning of the Industrial Age starts sometime after 1750 CE and between then and 1850 CE there was little addition of CO2 by humans to the atmosphere. Choosing 1804 when the population was estimated to reach one billion is a convenient, but arbitrary, date for the change from Green to Black.

The Black

The black represents the additional CO2 in the atmosphere that has mostly been added by humans burning coal, oil and natural gas. What began with the steam engine has continued until 2011 with the result of having 396ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere which added an additional 1,852 Giga Tons of CO2. The average Earth temperature increased 1.5 °F because of this increase in CO2 and in methane which comes from increased milk and meat production.

Within the Black section is a Yellow Stripe showing when the CO2 in the air reached 350ppm – the amount that is believed to be the maximum amount of CO2 that can exist in the atmosphere without beginning to change the general climate patterns of the last 11,000 years. This level was passed in 1988. And since then in ever increasing ways the climate has started to change, causing more and stronger floods, droughts and more destructive hurricanes. And of course: expanding oceans, melting Greenland and Antarctic ice and increasing ocean, land and air temperatures.

For discussion purposes the line between the Black and Yellow band represents now (2014) and the current level of CO2 is about 400ppm. You can use the Climate Stick from the Yellow through the Red to represent the future and the Green and the Black represent the past.

The Yellow

The Yellow represents the estimated amount of 565 Gigatons of additional CO2 that can be placed in the atmosphere before causing the surface temperature to increase by 3.6°F. At this temperature much of agriculture will be disrupted by changes in the climate and the minimum need for food to feed the 7-9 Billion people on the planet will not be met. As we move forward in time more people will have a harder time getting the food they need to sustain themselves. Some scientists believe that we have 15 years before major food shortages occur; others think that 30 to 40 years is left before the 3.6°F limit is reached. The Yellow represents both the additional CO2 that can be added before major disruptions of the food growing capacity occur, and at the same time it represents 25% of the total amount of fossil fuel that the fossil fuel industry has on its books to burn by 2050.

The Red

The large oil and coal companies and the petro/fossil fuel states such as Saudi Arabian, Russia, USA and Venezuela have $28 Trillion worth of carbon in the ground that they intend to burn by 2050. Only $7 Trillion of that can be burned without the temperature exceeding a 3.6°F increase. The Red section is three times as large as the Yellow section.

So what

Noted scientists and activists, like James Hansen, Bill McKibben and others have written books, hundreds of articles and made thousands of presentations. They are so fearful of the future their grandchildren will inherit that they have been arrested multiple times at the White House to bring attention to the climate crises. What will you do now to help eliminate the BURNING OF CARBON FOR ENERGY?

How the Climate Stick Came to Be

By late April 2014 I had given 50 to 60 presentations on climate change. I had developed or borrowed close to seventy slides that illustrated the science, economics and politics of the “climate crisis.” I was invited to give a presentation to a student group at a church in Essexville, Michigan on April 27th, 2014. As I prepared for the presentation, I decided to simplify certain slides by representing several concepts and values on a 2″ x 2″ piece of lumber that was 5 feet long. The information was written with black marker in sections marked off with green tape. The presentation was given and those present seemed to like the “climate stick.”

The next week as I prepared for a presentation at the Bay County Commission (BCC) on 5/13/2014, I revised the data on the original climate stick and decided to use color and a full 2″ x 4″ piece of wood six feet in length. As I was making these changes, it occurred to me that smaller versions of the colored climate stick could be used in informal situations to make discussion about climate change more understanding and vivid. I made several smaller versions about 18” long (with my nephew B.J. Race doing the painting) and took three climate sticks to the Lone Tree Council meeting on May 2, 2014. After my presentation, one of the members made a donation to obtain one of the climate sticks.

I took the six foot long, color climate stick to the BCC meeting on May 13th, 2014. After about a six minute presentation that was videotaped by a community access TV station, several commissioners asked questions and the taped session was about 8 minutes long. When I put the video on my Facebook page I received many positive comments and five or six people shared it with others.

As I used the shorter version of the stick at several events leading up to our May 17, 2014 350 Picture event, it seemed just a little too long – so I drilled a hole in one end and hung it with a cord around my neck to keep my hands free. I used the six foot version at the May 17, 2014 event and more than twenty people made it a point to tell me how effective the Climate Stick was. Several of them said that they would like a smaller version for their own use in discussion with friends. As I thought about making it shorter the idea of making if a pendant to wear around the neck came into my mind and I asked a clay artist to see if he could make a pendant using the colors of the Climate Stick. We produced four different sizes and the 2” long version was the preference of 90% of the women who made up the rolling “focus group”. Using clay was a time consuming effort. I had to look for a way to mass produce the Climate Stick so that it was economically feasible to provide them to many people. The pendant in its mass produced form is a variation on the tags which are used for security and identification on more expensive clothing and jewelry items.

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