When we were in Scotland, we spent a few days on the beautiful Isle of Skye. Met a man there who totally gobsmacked us with his environmental philosophy. (And by the way, he’s not a Scot.) He’s an affluent man who took early retirement from an upper management position with an international corporation. He’s married. Has no children. This is basically what he had to say.
“I don’t care about climate change. Frankly, I think it’s baloney and I absolutely refuse to change a single thing I do. I have earned what I have and I fully intend to use it as I see fit. Why would I install fluorescent bulbs so the guy down the street doesn’t have to? My van gets better mileage than most people’s hybrids. I don’t care a fig about ‘the next generation.’ I don’t care about your grandchildren. I don’t care about those people in India or Bangladesh. Not my problem. I. Don’t. Care. And my bottom line is that it’s all about me. Me. Me. Me. Yes, I really mean it. I’m not budging on this. And by the way, though I’m not American, I’m absolutely a Republican.”
I’m not making this up and I’m not exaggerating. Please read on.
Most of us acknowledge that climate change is real. It’s leaving its calling card all over the planet. There is scientific certainty about some of it, and a measure of muzziness about the rest. Never in the world’s history has there been anything even close to the current combination of elements that threaten our environment. I suppose there may come a day, after the fact, when any scientist who survives can say, “We tried to tell you.” An environmental Pyrrhic victory.
Did a little web surfing today to re-acquaint myself with the data. There’s a boatload of stuff out there. It’s important to identify trusted sources and go with that, I think.
You already know that Al Gore is one of my trusted sources. Be sure to check out the Live Earth concert(s) playing all over the country. If you didn’t already send $61 to a worthwhile cause to disrespect the First Obstructionist’s birthday, this would be one place to consider.
You’re smart people. Chances are you know much more about all of this than I do. So what follows is as much for my own information as yours. (Me. Me. Me.)
Behold: Barbara’s cheat sheet on climate change.
From Al Gore’s web site: WHAT IS GLOBAL WARMING? (All stats from the site are footnoted.)
- Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.
The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.
We’re already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.
- The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
- Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.
- The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
- At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.
If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences:
- Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.
- Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
- The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
- More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.
The Environmental Protection Agency – almost certainly on the First Obstructionist’s hit list but not yet decimated – provides excellent climate change information on its site. Why excellent? Because the EPA provides scientific data, along with accompanying variables that cannot be precisely measured nor predicted. In other words, fair and balanced (ack!).
Global warming/climate change opinion is broad and varied. It is an imprecise science, but evidence exists that global warming exists. And scientists are basically saying, “If y’all wait for absolute certainty, it will be too late.” Not just tree huggers saying this. Scientists with creds.
Cherry-picked from the EPA site:
- Children, the elderly, and the poor are considered to be the most vulnerable to adverse health outcomes. The understanding of the relationships between weather/climate and human health is in its infancy and therefore the health consequences of climate change are poorly understood.
- Climate change may directly affect human health through increases in average temperature. Such increases may lead to more extreme heat waves during the summer while producing less extreme cold spells during the winter. ~ snip ~ Particular segments of the population such as those with heart problems, asthma, the elderly, the very young and the homeless can be especially vulnerable to extreme heat.
- Climate change may increase the risk of some infectious diseases, particularly those diseases that appear in warm areas and are spread by mosquitoes and other insects. These "vector-borne" diseases include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis. Also, algal blooms could occur more frequently as temperatures warm — particularly in areas with polluted waters — in which case diseases (such as cholera) that tend to accompany algal blooms could become more frequent.
- Agriculture in the U.S. and other industrialized countries is expected to be less vulnerable to climate change than agriculture in developing nations, especially in the tropics, where farmers may have a limited ability to adapt.
- Flood magnitudes and frequencies are expected to increase overall, as increasing temperatures intensify the climate's hydrologic cycle and melt snowpacks more rapidly. Flooding can affect water quality, as large volumes of water can transport contaminants into water bodies and also overload storm and wastewater systems.
- Higher temperatures, particularly in the summer, earlier snowmelt, and potential decreases in summer precipitation could increase risk of drought. The frequency and intensity of floods and droughts could increase, even in the same areas.
- Changes in temperature due to climate change could affect our demand for energy. For example, rising air temperatures could increase energy needed for air conditioning. On the other hand, energy needed for space-heating may decrease. The net effects of these changes on energy production, use and utility bills, will vary by region and by season.
- There may also be changes in energy consumed for other climate-sensitive processes, such as pumping water for irrigation in agriculture. Rising temperatures and associated increases in evaporation may increase energy needs for irrigation, particularly in dry regions across the Western U.S.
- Depending on the magnitude of these possible energy consumption changes, it may be necessary to consider changes in energy supply or conservation practices to balance demand.
- National parks and other protected areas are currently susceptible to events influenced by climatic variability, such as drought, wild fires, impaired air quality, and severe storms. Climate change may change the frequency and severity of these kinds of events.
- According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), North America - including the United States -- is projected to warm by about 2-13º F on average by 2100. The large range in warming reflects uncertainties in future emissions, the climate's response to those emissions and the difficulty of projecting future climate change at the regional level. Click here to see regional breakdown.
- Polar regions are expected to experience the greatest rates of warming compared to other world regions. In part, this is because ice has greater reflectivity (also known as albedo) than ocean or land. Melting of highly reflective snow and ice reveals darker land and ocean surfaces, increasing absorption of the sun's heat and further warming the planet, especially in those regions.
- Some nations will likely experience more adverse effects than others, while other nations may benefit. Poorer nations are generally more vulnerable to the consequences of global warming. These nations tend to be more dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as subsistence agriculture, and may lack the resources to buffer themselves against the changes that global warming may bring. (Barbara note: Some of us do care about those people!)
- Our current level of understanding, as summarized in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report, is as follows:
… some extreme events are projected to increase in frequency and/or severity during the 21st century due to changes in the mean and/or variability of climate, so it can be expected that the severity of their impacts will also increase in concert with global warming. Conversely, the frequency and magnitude of extreme low temperature events, such as cold spells, is projected to decrease in the future, with both positive and negative impacts. The impacts of future changes in climate extremes are expected to fall disproportionately on the poor.
- . . . human society and the natural environment are not entirely protected against, nor perfectly adapted to, current climatic variability and extreme weather events. Current economic losses from climatic variations and extremes can be substantial. These losses indicate that society is vulnerable and that adaptation has not been sufficient to offset damages associated with current variations in climatic conditions.
- Human-induced climate change represents a new challenge, and may require adaptation approaches to changes that are potentially larger and faster than past experiences with recorded natural climatic variability.
(Barbara continues:) There are pages and volumes more about all of this, in greater and ever greater detail. Al Gore’s site and the EPA’s are just two among them. It’s a vastly convoluted issue, and what I have presented here is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
I promised myself long ago that I would get smarter about climate change/global warming. And rather like a New Year’s resolution, I set it aside, failing, therefore, to deliver to myself and possibly to my country on this one. You, too? Well, then, I hope this helps jump-start our individual and collective thinking and conversation.
Drip drip drip.