By Harold Hedelman
If you could snatch a child from the path of a speeding car, would you?
Of course you would. But why then, with the train wreck of climate change– that we are hugely responsible for– happening in front of our eyes, are most of us are doing nothing? Titillated for a while by “An Inconvenient Truth,” we seem to have, conveniently, forgotten its point. But Al Gore hasn’t.
In late August, at a 3-day Climate Reality Project conference near SFO, he inspired and trained 1,000 passionate ‘climate leaders’ from 58 countries and 47 states to stir the pot. In my opinion, it’s a witch’s brew: both major political parties are afraid of big oil’s power.
But an impending train wreck is too important to leave only to cynical politicians; it would be just wrong to do so. The imminent crime scene’s facts are simple: Burning fossil fuels (and other human activities) are creating growing globe-swaddling blankets of greenhouse gases. These are causing steadily increasing global temperatures. The extra energy this puts into the planet’s climate system causes increasingly frequent and extreme weather events– rains, floods, fires, and droughts. These disasters cause immense human suffering, destroy valuable infrastructure, and wreak environmental havoc on our lives and our watersheds.
Indeed, the implications for other species are dire: the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that 40%-70% of species could be rendered extinct if warming exceeds 3.5 degrees Celsius, a scenario that is increasingly possible. Other experts predict that steady increases in CO2 emissions and the resulting increasing acidification of the ocean will cause most of the world’s fisheries to experience a total bottom-up collapse.
It will get far worse: even if we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, it will take hundreds of years for nature’s carbon cycle to reduce the fossil fuel CO2 by 50%, and thousands of years to reduce it to 20%.
While the strategy of the fossil fuel industry remains to pretend it’s just a theory, there is no longer credible scientific doubt: We’re causing this. Every national academy of science of every major country in the world confirms anthropogenic global warming. And while the rich will suffer, the consequences of our excess will afflict poor nations to far greater degree: With less to protect themselves to start with, they will have even less left with which to recover. The economic impacts are incomprehensibly large.
We CAN avoid this train wreck; what is lacking is the will to do so. To lead the world out of the mess we’ve engineered, first we have to want to. Generating that intention is the goal of the Climate Reality Project, and our strategy is simple: talk to people. None of us may ever have the chance to save a child from a terrible accident. But each of us should accept the responsibility of helping America wake up to the reality of climate change and its consequences. Get involved! Insist that politicians act. Get your friends and family involved! Contact the Climate Reality Project if you would like a climate leader to help. Spread the word! It’s reality!
Pushing governments to act is just half the battle. There are also many ways each of us can make a difference: carpool, drive and fly less, eat less meat, consume less energy, live a simpler life, engage in watershed friendly activities like installing rain barrels and protecting creeks. Just about anything that’s good for your watershed will help. Try it, you’ll like it! (And so will the planet!)
Harold Hedelman will be giving a Climate Change Reality Project presentation at the El Sobrante Library on October 3rd at 7pm. For more information, contact SPAWNERS.