October 25, 2014

Climate Change and You

 



PHOTO BY KATIE DALSEMER MESSENGER ©

Climate Change and You

View of the Santa Monica Mountains at sunset. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, “global warming is unequivocal,” so it could affect overall temperature and rainfall totals in Topanga and surrounding communities.

If you worry about climate change and the reluctance of the U.S. government to support stopping global warming, let alone take the lead on the issue, consider taking action yourself through the Santa Monica chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org).

This non-partisan, non-confrontational and effective organization is now working to create the political will—and public policy in the form of a revenue-neutral carbon tax—for a stable climate.

The latest climate talks took place on Dec. 1, 2012, when the wealthy emirate of Doha, Qatar hosted negotiators from nearly 200 countries to debate slowing global warming to help protect the most vulnerable countries from rising seas and other impacts of climate change. They ended, like the others, in stalemate and failure.

The U.S., second only to China in annual CO2 emissions, again could not support a resolution.

According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, “global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” The National Academy of Sciences, along with academies in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, has said, “the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.” Ninety-eight percent of climate scientists agree.

Bill McKibben (http://www.billmckibben.com), the author of a dozen books about the environment, the first being “The End of Nature,” in 1989, is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has reduced the harsh truth about climate change to three numbers:

Two degrees Celsius – the amount, according to international consensus, that we can raise the global average temperature above pre-industrial levels and still have a livable planet. So far, we’ve raised the average temperature just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and we’ve lost a third of the summer sea ice in the Arctic, the oceans are 30% more acidic, and we’re seeing more and more disasters like floods, drought, wildfires, and hurricanes. Some scientists say even two degrees is too much.

565 gigatons – the amount of carbon dioxide humans can put into the atmosphere by 2050 and stay below two degrees Celsius, according to scientists.

But because previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere, even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would still rise about another 0.8 degrees, taking us three-quarters of the way to two degrees Celsius.

2,795 gigatons—the amount of carbon in the coal, oil, and gas reserves of the fossil fuel companies, which they’re currently planning to burn. This is close to five times higher than the amount we can burn and still keep the planet more or less safe for human habitation. We must keep those reserves in the ground if we want to survive.

Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s chief economist, says, “New data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close. When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.” That, says McKibben, would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

Why are obscenely rich fossil fuel companies given government subsidies to continue polluting the planet, rather than asked to pay for the damage they’re doing to our environment?

Can we afford to continue with business as usual, when it means:

• Rising food prices as more frequent and severe droughts cause crop shortages

• More flooding in low-lying coastal areas

• Diminishing water supplies as our freshwater sources dry up

• Greater chance of more devastating wildfires

Economists on both ends of the political spectrum contend that the most effective approach to deal with climate change is a tax on carbon-based fuels that returns the proceeds to the public, either through direct rebates or reductions in other taxes.

A direct tax on carbon would make clean energy a more attractive investment, and billions of dollars in private sector money would shift toward clean technologies like wind, solar, geothermal, and other alternatives.

Recent polling found that nearly two-thirds of Americans would back an international agreement that cut carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050.

For more information: CCL-Laura@Laura-Matthews.com, www.citizensclimatelobby.org.