Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Global Warming or Climate Change? And What To Do About It

Nine years ago, while flipping through the January 1998 Atlantic Monthly magzine, I came across a long, breathtaking article, The Great Climate Flip-flop. The fact that I’ve kept it handy on a shelf in my living room attests to the impact it made on me.

The results for me of reading this article can be summarized as follows:

1. The North Atlantic Current, which is described as a long “salt conveyor” current has kept Europe’s climate mild enough to grown crops and sustain a large population. As icebergs melt and dilute the oceans, the salt conveyor loop could abruptly stop. The author, William H. Calvin, states, “I hope to never see a failure of the northernmost loop of the North Atlantic Current, because the result would be a population crash [in Europe] that would take much of civilization with it, all within a decade.”

2. Because “global warming” will also cause global cooling in some places, I decided it's better to describe the results of spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as “climate change.” Those who doubt that we humans have a significant impact on our earth’s environment seize on such examples as the recent severe snowstorms on the East Coast and chortle, “What global warming?” Describing what is happening as "climate change" is harder to refute.

In addition to our choice of words to describe the ominous changes that are taking place on Mother Earth, what can we do? Here’s two ideas, one old, one new:

1. Reduce your energy needs as much as you can. I solved this problem in the 70’s by choosing to live in a small town, working at home and walking or biking to do my errands. I know I'm fortunate to have had this opportunity, which is not available to everyone.

2. Organize or attend a climate change rally. According to the Spring 2007 YES! Magazine, to date the largest street protest related to climate change has consisted of only 1,000 people. Bill McKibben is organizing Step It Up 2007 rallies in local communities (no commute!) that will be united by a common message: reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. According to the Step It Up 2007 website: This April 14th, tens of thousands of Americans will gather all across the country at meaningful, iconic places to call for action on climate change. We will hike, bike, climb, walk, swim, kayak, canoe, or simply sit or stand with banners of our call to action. So far 700 of these events are scheduled across the country.

My current plan is to work with my friend and environmental ally, Tod Brilliant, and plan something creative (he’s the guy that can help with that) here in our community. While you may not have a Tod to help you, I encourage you to do the same thing.


Weedgardener said...

Why not have a giant compact fluorescent bulb giveaway? Ask for donations or have a fundraiser to supply more bulbs.

Many people simply don't know about them or believe that they cause illness or are difficult to use in a lamp or don't realize how cheap they've become.

"If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars."

What if we replaced all of them. I did it and saved 50% on my electric bill.

I just learned that the Australian government is planning to require a phase-out of incandescent bulbs.

Janie said...

I forwarded the Step Up info to our local environmental center.

Thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...

The term "Climate Change" is preferred by eco-holocaust deniers because people have less of a tendency to infer that it is human in cause. Either term is correct, but "Global Warming" is more specific and accurate. It refers to an increase in average worldwide temperature. A couple of months ago, the fact that last year was the hottest recorded in North America was publicized. This is anecdotal as it does not represent worldwide conditions, and could be a cherry-picked number. Now more data is coming in and it may turn out to be the hottest year worldwide. This is more significant, but could be a one-off. Coupled with many record years, a general trend verified by statistical analysis, and more reliable scientific modeling, the phenomenon becomes harder to deny. But it's always good to scrutinize your statistics.

Healdsburg is a good locale for the lifestyle you mentioned, being compact, walkable, and near agricultural resources. Oh, that we should all be so lucky! Transforming other communities to be as functional will be more challenging. However, the short-term benefits gained by burning fuel seem so essential to most people that I do not forsee large numbers giving up their cars voluntarily.