Earth Day is a tradition of bringing environmental concerns in to our consciousness. While we no longer accept air pollution as ‘prosperity’ or use leaded gasoline like we did 44 years ago when Earth Day began, there is still plenty of room for improvement. As a collective society, we still have not completely accepted our role in climate change nor have we made serious efforts to improve our behavior.
Thinking about the current dependencies we have on fossil fuels is astounding. In one quick example; we step in to a car which (likely) burns oil and gas, many components of the car are made from plastics which are derived from oil, the street we drive on is oil based, the tires are oil based, the food we are going to pick up at the store is encased in plastic and goes in a plastic bag and we pay for the stuff with, you guessed it plastic.
While eliminating fossil fuels from our everyday lives might seem impossible, we need to make more significant iterative steps towards changing. The greenhouse effect has been well understood since the late 1800’s and any peer reviewed science article will tell you that pulling resources out of the earth and burning them is not a long term sustainable practice. Our planet and our atmosphere are not limitless so we need to stop treating them like an infinite toilet bowl. Thanks to my good friend Tim for letting me paraphrase and plagiarize much of the detail below.
Recent reports by the world’s best scientists stress that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and people’s livelihoods. The observed impacts are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest – nobody is untouched. More intense and frequent weather events such as flooding, drought and fire have occurred and will become worse. Unchecked carbon emissions put at risk agriculture, global security, human health, water resources and the economy. The reports also conclude that there are opportunities to respond to these risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage if we wait much longer to implement policies to deal with them.
I have three requests of you.
First – If you don’t know about climate change or are unsure about it I hope that you would take 30 minutes to read the first two documents below (the third is bonus material). The papers in the following URLs are derived from the best climate scientists we have in the world and all are rooted in peer reviewed science.
- The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change – This 20 page report is one of the best, easy to read summaries, that I have seen. It is written by the American Association for the Advancement of Science who is the group behind Science magazine and one of the world’s largest non-governmental science organizations.
- A Discussion on Climate Change: Evidence and Causes – This summary paper is from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council is designed to summarize the science of climate change for general audience consumption – it too is excellent.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report – this is a detailed report (warning it’s long) with lots of “in the weeds science” on climate change and the risks associated with it.
- I found that the Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Summary for Policymakers and the Mitigation of Climate Change is more than enough “in the weeds” science needed to understand that we need to act now.
Some people have the general opinion that climate change is a “naturally occurring event”, a “hoax”, something conjured up by “alarmists”, is a “conspiracy” or something similar. If you know someone like this encourage them with an open heart and mind to watch the PBS Frontline report “Climate of Doubt” and/or read the peer-reviewed Drexel University study on the climate change countermovement.
Second – Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. House of Representative on a quarterly basis and let them know you’d like to see congressional action, now, to address climate change. Climate change has been made to be a political issue – it is not. Thermometers don’t care if you are Republican or Democrat. Climate change is a moral, economic, and national security issue and Congress should be implementing policies on how to solve it. Waiting has not and will not help anybody.
Third – Please speak to friends and family about this very important topic and/or forward this link to them. The great news is that we have the technology to meet the challenge. However, we have a short window to invoke policies that will allow the greatness of the United States to be innovative and be a world leader in staving off the greatest risks of human caused climate change.
Finally, I used to think that climate change was something I was concerned about for my kids as they got older – this was false thinking. For 29 years in a row global temperatures have been above the 20th century average and 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred in in the 21st century. Climate change risks the lives of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, the planet we have been entrusted to care for by God, our economy, our own families health, and our kids/grandkids future(s). We have the solutions to avoid the risks and damage. Please join me in having respectful conversations with those you know and with our elected officials about climate change.