It's time to think constructively about global climate change.
This summer, I've caught myself complaining about Marin's overcast mornings. Far better this, I then remind myself, than the heat, drought and firestorms other areas are facing. Like millions world-wide, I' thinking more and more about what might be causing these anomalies. Iike others, I now believe that the signs are too hard to ignore: global climate change is happening and is caused by humans.
Mother Earth is in deep trouble. Respected NASA scientist James Hansen believes: "this is the greatest challenge humans have ever faced." And recently, UC Berkeley's renowned physics professor richard Muller, a longtime climate change skeptic, announced he's now a climate change believer. "And humans are almost entirely the cause," he wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece.
Scientists agree that since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide in the earth's levles have risen eight feet and temperatures, on average, are 1.3 degrees Farenheit higher. According to Bill McKibben's sobering article in August's Rolling Stone, this May was the warmest on record in the Northern Hempishere and it was the 327th consecutive month that the global temperatures exceeded averages seen in the 20th century. In June, more than 3,200 U.S. heat records were broken, forest fires raged in Colorado, dust clouds covered Phoenix, droughts killed crops in the Midwest and hurricanes and torrential rains occured in places where they haven't before.
Is human activity causing this? A fascinating new book, Global Wilderness, by the respected research group Climate Central, clearly points out that that the 4.2-billion-year-old earth has always gone through climate changes — and what we are now undergoing may be no different. As a layperson, I see it in simpler terms: Dinosaurs didn’t drive Corvette V-8s; nor did they build hundreds of coal-fired power plants in developing countries or fly thousands of jetliners through the sky every day. The bottom line is that humans are using lots of carbon-dioxide-producing fuel.
Is there hope? Attendees at environmental conclaves in Kyoto, Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro agree that if the world, somehow, could limit its energy consumption to 565 gigatons of carbon emissions between now and 2050, there would be a less than two-degrees-Fahrenheit rise in global temperature. However, as McKibben’s Rolling Stone article states, energy companies and oil-producing nations have an estimated 2,795 gigatons of carbon-emitting energy at their disposal between now and then. And corporate profits — along with the economies of oil-producing countries — are highly dependent on expending that amount of energy.
The reality is that when places like Sausalito, Greenbrae, Hamilton, the Canal area and Tiburon’s Main Street — as well as many cities in Florida, New York City and thousands of islands around the world — are being inundated by rising tides, none of the humans mentioned above, including myself, will be alive.
That said, at the risk of sounding self-righteous, I would like to mention what I’m doing to move in a positive direction. I recycle, don’t use plastic bags, do drive a hybrid or else ride a bike or take public transportation, use energyefficient bulbs, consume power from Marin Clean Energy and plant a drought-tolerant garden. I do these things with our nine grandchildren in mind and because I want to be part of a possible solution, not an ominous problem. That’s my point of view. What’s yours?