Climate Challenge 2007: The Move to Action
I know that I haven't posted in awhile, but I've been very busy trying to figure out how to best use my energy this year to work on this climate mess that we've gotten ourselves into. So, here's the update...
By now we all know (well everyone reading this blog and any newspaper) that the glaciers are melting at a much faster pace than previously anticipated by climate scientists as recently as 2001. We also can say with considerable certainty that it's our fault. By "our" I mean all humans who burn fossil fuels in order to live our lives. Those of us living in the US are most to blame since we collectively burn the most. (Actually people living in Kuwait emit the most CO2 per capita, but there are far fewer people in Kuwait so they are not blamed as often as those of us living in the US and Europe who are huge energy hogs.)
The bottom line is that there is a huge global climate crisis on the horizon. There are uncertainties about the pace of climate change and specific regional effects. But, there are now very sophisticated models that are making very accurate predictions.
Thus, currently I am asking myself, how can I best use my skills, time and energy to help join the growing number of individuals, businesses, governments and NGO's in addressing this challenge. Though I have not yet come to a final answer I will tell you where I am on this journey and give you a few tools to join me if you're interested.
I started this blog less than a year ago to educate myself on the issue of climate change. Frankly, at the time, I did not believe that we were truly facing such a dramatic crisis in the near future. I expected to find that what I had seen and read had been overstated, otherwise why weren't "the powers that be" addressing it? Unfortunately what I have learned is that what I had seen or read in the popular press is, if mentioning it at all, understating the challenge ahead.
In the past several months, many of you have joined me in transitioning to a "greener" lifestyle. You are using much less energy in your homes, driving less, recycling, eating organic and local food, eating less meat, using fewer chemicals and plastics, and on and on. From what you have told me, many of you are enjoying this greener lifestyle. You're healthier, saving money, and gaining the power that knowledge brings from understanding the impact of your ecological footprint on other humans, animals and ecosystems throughout the world. You feel that your lives are coming more into balance with your values, and you feel good about being a part of the solution.
All of these efforts are very important and must continue even at the individual level if we are to have any chance to preserve a home for our kids. But, I would like to be a part of the broader reaching action that is going on in boardrooms and halls of government in countries across the globe. In short, as a global community, it is now time to take action to mitigate and assist humans in adapting to climate change if future generations are going to have a chance for survival.
Action has begun. Here are some examples of action that is going on all over the globe: environmental groups and Evangelical Christian groups have agreed to disagree on the origin of life on Earth, but to join together to work towards solutions to climate change, and organizations such as GE, Wal-Mart, Duke Energy, BP, Austin Energy, Google and thousands of small start-up ventures are determining and lobbying for solutions to meeting our energy, product, and information needs while measuring their environmental costs and finding technolgies to mitigate greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. European governments are leading the way towards placing a cost on carbon emissions, encouraging energy conservation, and providing incentives for broader scale use of renewable energy technologies. Local US governments are coming up with renewable portfolio goals, carbon tax structures, and ways to make their communities more sustainable.
All of this is good news. But, it is not yet enough. We are still emitting extremely excessive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and our energy demands are continuing to increase. We are getting the vast majority of our home and business energy needs met by burning coal and natural gas, and our transportation energy needs met by burning domestic and imported oil. The entire structure of the energy system that meets the needs of all of our daily lives must change. This will be very difficult to do. However, I still have much hope because all of the technology and understanding that we need to do this exists. The difficulty lies in how the economic structure of this transition is incentivized. Our citizens, governments, and businesses must support the economic incentives (and disincentives, aka taxes) that will be required to make this transition profitable for moves in the right direction. In the next 9-10 years, this can still be done.
So, for my part, I have enrolled in a multidisciplinary graduate course at the University of Michigan on Climate Change: The Move to Action. I will learn as much as I can in the next four months on practically determining, applying and selling to the masses the changes that must take place in the coming decade or two to update the global energy system. I have learned a lot already in class and in lectures given by heads of multinational corporations, small private utilities, students and climate scientists. I will continue to keep the heat, lighting and appliance use down in my house, only get gas for the car every 4-6 weeks, eat organic and local, recycle, and enjoy going green. Now, the next step is to support bills in Congress (and in city goverments) that tax and cap greenhouse gas emissions, and provide economic incentives for renewable energy, public transportation and electric cars. When I have learned all that I can by the end of April, I will update you on which direction I will take and use this knowledge. We can get depressed by how difficult these changes will be, alas change is uncomfortable to many people. Or, we can choose to be hopeful and to enjoy the largest challenge we may ever have the opportunity to address. I choose hope, and action... will you join me?