Climate Change is Our Responsibility

I’ve been having surprising conversations with people lately related to climate change and I realized that I haven’t really voiced my concerns here. It shocks me that more people are not alarmed by the data being published by scientists. A recent report from the World Bank states the problem very clearly:

“It is clear that we already know a great deal about the threat before us. The science is unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming, and major changes are already being observed: global mean warming is 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels; oceans have warmed by 0.09°C since the 1950s and are acidifying; sea levels rose by about 20 cm since pre-industrial times and are now rising at 3.2 cm per decade; an exceptional number of extreme heat waves occurred in the last decade; major food crop growing areas are increasingly affected by drought.”

“Without further commitments and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world is likely to warm by more than 3°C above the preindustrial climate. Even with the current mitigation commitments and pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20 percent likelihood of exceeding 4°C by 2100. If they are not met, a warming of 4°C could occur as early as the 2060s. Such a warming level and associated sea-level rise of 0.5 to 1 meter, or more, by 2100 would not be the end point: a further warming to levels over 6°C, with several meters of sea-level rise, would likely occur over the following centuries.”

Although there is much uncertainty surrounding what that warming means, there are few scenarios put forth by scientists that do not raise considerable alarm. From the foreword:

The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.”

We have a very short time period to make some serious emissions reductions. We have the ability to make these changes, but there is a lack of popular support and political will. And I expect that the latest round of Doha climate talks that got underway yesterday will bring more disappointment. All of us have a responsibility to think about the impacts of our individual actions and consider environmental issues when we speak to and elect our democratic representatives.

Things YOU can do:

– Walk, bike, carpool or take public transportation. An encouraging fact based on an estimate for the U.S.: “a 10% reduction in personal vehicle miles traveled would reduce aggregate emissions from all individual behavior by roughly 225 billion pounds . . . . This reduction dwarfs the total emissions for many industrial sectors, such as iron and steel, . . . , and petrochemical production.” The Carbon-Neutral Individual by Michael P. Vandenbergh and Anne C. Steinemann
– Drive fuel efficient cars, get frequent tune-ups and maintain your tire pressure, also reduce idling time (your car only needs 30 seconds in the winter). Idling is a huge waste of emissions and often occurs in situations where it would have been safe to turn off the car.

– Reduce home heating and electricity use (see The Suzuki Foundation for tips). For example, better insulate and weatherize your home.
– Use more efficient appliances

– Eat less meat, more local and seasonal produce, and buy sustainable meat and seafood
– Recycle and compost

For more information see:

Climate Change is Simple (a TED talk)
Charts and graphs from NASA
– A long article for those still skeptical: Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments
James Balog’s TED talk on ice loss (go watch Chasing Ice!)

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