On My Climate Soapbox

I remember 2 years ago when I first became involved with my local environmental action committee. I joined because I am very worried about climate change and waste and wanted to contribute to the solution rather increasing the size of the problem.

What I have learned over this time period is that these issues are complex and varied. Everything is interconnected so one issue does not stay isolated in a box that we can open, fix, and shut. It is easy to get overwhelmed, claim defeat, and ignore all of it. But my conscience won't let me go there and I am hoping you feel the same way. So, even if we are small fish in a big pond, we can make a difference.

There are many factors that affect our future existance on planet Earth. Earth is a tiny object floating in a huge universe. We have some but minimal influence on what happens in the universe, even within our galaxy.

We have no control over these types of events, however we can all contribute to reducing the causes of climate change, which is changing earth as we know it. People create the greenhouse gases that trap heat in our atmosphere and cause warming. Two of the major greenhouse emissions that scientists track are carbon dioxide and methane. Current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming almost 12000 years ago. Carbon dioxide from human activity is increasing more than 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age (Gilbert N. Plass, First published: May 1956). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2153-3490.1956.tb01206.

Earth's climate has naturally changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these natural climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives (from NASA).

For millennia, our carbon dioxide emissions have not exceeded 300 parts per million.

Note: Parts per million is defined as; a weight to weight ratio used to describe concentrations. Parts per million (ppm) is the number of units of mass of a contaminant per million units of total mass. It is often used to describe concentrations of contaminants in air.

Our current level is over 400 parts per million (NASA, https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence, Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record). Satellite technology allows climate scientists to study our planet and its climate in detail.

The result of greenhouse gas emissions have been manifested in droughts and fires and increasing average temperatures. If this continues continue to persist in multiple areas of the world, crops will not be viable. Our ability to grow food has already been impacted. Some regions of the world are dealing with extreme flooding while others experience drought conditions. We continue to import and export food. The transportation costs are enormous and the nutritonal value is diminished.

It is important to develop renewable energy resources, not only because fossil fuels are contributing to climate change but also because any natural resource, like oil and clean water, will eventually be depleted.

Scientific proof is extensive and compelling as bulleted below :(e.g., https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-are-some-signs-climate-change-1?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products. https://www.edf.org/climate/how-climate-change-plunders-planet.

  1. Global temperatures are rising.

  2. Ocean temperatures are rising and oceans are becoming more acidic.

  3. Ice Sheets are shrinking, e.g., sea ice in the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole is melting faster.

  4. Glaciers are diminishing.

  5. Snow fall and snow pack are diminishing.

  6. Sea Level is rising.

  7. Extreme events are increasing, including flooding, hurricanes, fires, droughts.

  8. Species diversity and species habitats are declining.

  9. Permafrost is melting.

Human activities such as those below are responsible for most of these changes.

1. Deforestation - large hardwood trees are used for construction, furniture and paper goods. We are cutting our forests faster than we can rebuild them. Destroying trees results in increases to greenhouse gases and erosion, among other things.

2. Contamination of our streams, creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, and oceans- polluted runoff from land masses is entering our water bodies. This includes disposable materials, many of which are toxic or hazardous. Plastics and microplastics are in our water and our bodies. Erosion and species displacement from construction has reduced public and open space and has contributed to contamination of our natural water sources.

3. Landscaping - use of pesticides and insecticides and too much lawn, which provides no habitat for life.

4. Chemical, industrial, and hazardous waste and dumping.

6. Energy Usage - fossil fuels

7. Agricultural Practices and transport, are, ironically, contributing substantially to climate change and are also being affected by climate change. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_and_agriculture.

Think about ways you can work with nature instead of against it. Enjoy the beauty and wonder of our parks, beaches, and landscapes without polluting or harming them. While taking a walk collect trash you see on the roads or trails and dispose of it properly. Rethink your own yard space, no matter how big or small, reducing the amount of lawn. Look into native pollinator plants for your garden. Experiment with composting, even on a small scale. Buy only seasonal local food. Participate in the circular economy. On your walks observe any foliage and trees. Trees are so important to our well-being. (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/how-a-circular-economy-could-save-the-world-feature. )

Some of you reading this may resist believing in climate change. The only argument I have heard is that this is just another cyclical event the earth has experienced in it's existance. Unfortunately this is not the case. We have scientific measurements that prove otherwise. If you don't agree with these arguments, I am interested in hearing your reasons. Keep in mind also that there were catastophic but natural climate events that killed life on earth (those amazing dinosaurs).

Fun facts:

Not so fun facts:

  • 2.5 acres of deforestation produces approximately 500 tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalent which equals driving a car 700,000 miles.

  • North Americans produce about 28 tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalents per yer. It is estimated this needs to be reduced to 10 tons per year. The average global production is 7 tons a year.

For more information about Carbon Dioxide Equivalency and the carbon footprint of everything, see Mike Berners-Lee, How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, Greystone Books, 2011.

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