"The most incredible spring heat wave in U.S. and Canadian recorded history is finally drawing to a close today, after a ten-day stretch of unprecedented record-smashing intensity. Since record keeping began in the late 1800s, there have never been so many spring temperature records broken, and by such a large margin.”
That was the beginning of a blog by Jeff Masters, a Michigan-based scientist who writes on a daily basis about climate-relates issues on WunderBlog, part of the Weather Underground network.
A huge margin! The record heat wave Masters noted is not some statistical trick whereby a pattern is discerned amid the “noise.” Rather, these record-breaking extremes—although pleasant in winter for just about anyone confronted with freezing temperatures for months on end—are in fact most alarming. After all what do record heat spells mean for agriculture, water supplies, summer temperatures, for survival of local plants and animals that do not have time to adapt?
The drumbeat of Mother Nature's warnings continue—despite all our wishes. The facts are screaming at us. A “business as usual” attitude will kill us. Instead, what’s needed is a discussion along the following lines:
What must be done?
The generally accepted goal is to replace 80 percent of fossil energy with "zero emissions" energy, just to keep the temperature at the weird levels they are now. Because carbon stays in the atmosphere for hundreds—even thousands—of years, the dues from all the damage will be paid by many generations.
What’s one way to replace 80 percent of fossil-based energy?
“We could build 194,900 wind turbines, each having 2 megawatts of capacity, a typical size.” (From “Replacing Coal With Clean Energy—Let Me Count the Ways.”)
How do we know that all the scientists who say they’re concerned about global warming aren’t just indulging in off-the-wall, over-the-top, crazy talk?
Google these facts, if you will:
• World War II cost the U.S. about $3.5 trillion in today’s dollars (roughly the same amount we will have spent for the war in Iraq).
• A 2 MW wind turbine costs about $3.5 million.
• So we could build 1 million wind turbines for the price of what it cost us to fight WWII. In short, we could increase our production even fivefold for the same cost.
In other words, we could match the 80-percent reduction targets for 20 percent of the cost of WWII. And, as a bonus, that would prevent 30,000 U.S. citizens from dying prematurely every year from coal based pollution.
(We don’t have to pursue wind technology exclusively, and could opt for a mix of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc..)
So, the good news: switching energy sources is not beyond us. We simply must demand enough prevention before it is too late. We dither at our peril.
Worth it? The loss of life and costs of climate change will be far greater than the cost of any war.
A recent analysis by leading oceanographers pegs the cost of ocean impacts alone to be $2 trillion per year. in an analysis by foremost oceanographers. Even if the oceanographers are "off" by a factor of 10, it is worth it!
These ocean changes resulting from emissions are only a part of a host of other costly changes, such as impacts on agriculture, heat waves, droughts, floods, storms, disease, dislocation of populations, extinctions. Basically, the entire biosphere is at risk (even leaving out "tipping points.") Many of these changes have already “arrived” and are likely to be worse as the carbon dioxide continues to grow at about 2-3 percent per year.
Some say we can just adjust—change the kind of grapes we plant, mine the Arctic, or move island populations, etc. There is a lot of talk these days about “adaptation” to global warming, or “mitigation.” In every case I have read it costs tons of money for the scale necessary to achieve. (Think the Army Corps of Engineers working to fix 10,000 New Orleans.)
And, I fear, it will be far, far beyond our human capacity to counteract the changes. How are we going to "fix" the oceans? Or reverse a drought? (Wishing is not a policy. We have got to do this for the future children of the world.)
Shall we wait to convince everyone that the danger is real? Big mistake. Senator James Inhofe (reminds me of “Wormtongue” in the Lord of the Rings) likes to quote the Bible to defend “business as usual,” washing his (and your) hands of any responsibility. Some theologian! Leaving it all up to the good Lord, as if we had nothing to do with the mess.
It's a good thing we didn't listen to his likes when the problems of the ozone hole and acid rain (we caused these) were corrected—with the help of good science, hard work and good policy.
Inhofe is omitting the fact that, in the Bible, we humans are instructed to be good stewards of the gift of Creation. Indifference is neither sensible nor pious.
Our fate, similar to what befell Sodom and Gomorrah, can be checked only by those who care enough about our beautiful blue planet and about the victims of our delay. (Take a look at this short video, “What a Wonderful World,” With David Attenborough.)
We CAN do something. Only we can. Here are a few ideas:
• Drive a hybrid.
• Go solar (if you have a south facing roof).
• Sign petitions (for example, “One Million Climate Jobs”).
• Vote for political candidates (whether Republican, Democrat or independent) who are most committed to clean energy.
• Blog about it!