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Lynne Plambeck: Turn the global warming tide

Climate change

Posted: December 16, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
It is a mystery to me why some people continue to deny the evidence of climate change. While climate and temperature variations may occur from year to year, or decade to decade, the frightening rise of CO2 in our atmosphere is simply undeniable.

Carbon dioxide began its steady rise at the birth of the industrial revolution and has continued its accelerated upward march into the current decade. CO2 levels in our atmosphere are now the highest they have ever been in the last 15 million years. (Science Journal, Oct. 8, 2009)

Often called the "greenhouse effect", CO2 emissions trap heat in our atmosphere like a gardener's greenhouse that continues to provide warmth to plants inside its dome even in the middle of winter.

Our earth's atmosphere is like that dome. Scientists have calculated that without reining in our production of greenhouse gases, the only planet we have may become unlivable.

It is not just scientists who are concerned. Most government agencies, from water agencies to coastal cities and even national governments are preparing for the likely impacts of higher temperatures and sea level rise.

National governments have worried about everything from the lowlands in the Netherlands, to how to save Venice, Italy from disappearing under rising tides.

Flooding could cause mass migration in countries such as Bangladesh, where much of the population lives in areas that would be inundated. Who will accept these refugees?

Such issues are also already being considered in the United States.

In California, questions surround how we will protect the Sacramento Delta and our water supply from saltwater intrusion and rising sea levels.

Will the Delta levees fail, flooding homes and prime farmland, and impacting our state water supply?

Will a reduced snowpack permanently reduce water deliveries from the Delta? Are we already experiencing a "new normal" of reduced rainfall?

These questions are addressed in the Department of Water Resources' "2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy Discussion draft" and can be viewed at www.water.ca.gov.

How will rising temperatures affect our ability to grow crops? How will we deal with increased wildfires? How will we reduce the loss of biodiversity?

These are realities being addressed by governments all over the world.

But no one wants to just "adapt" to such unlivable conditions. We want to reduce or eliminate the causes.

In theory, it is all so logical. Just stop cutting down the world's forests and develop a clean energy source that immediately replaces the use of fossil fuels.

Of course, the reality of bringing such changes to fruition creates almost insurmountable obstacles. Jobs, infrastructure and corporate wealth are so inextricably intertwined with the old ways of producing energy from coal and oil that change will be excruciatingly difficult. It will mean huge changes for everyone.

The other choice is a face-off with the four riders of the Apocalypse - hunger, disease, war over resources and death for many. That is not what I want for our children and grandchildren.

Our government must craft an energy policy that will change the paradigm. Will we let China outpace us in solar innovation and production and send needed jobs to the Far East rather than build solar panel factories here?

Denmark, not the U.S., is already the world leader in wind generation. Ireland is experimenting with turbines that will harness the tides off its turbulent coasts to create a new energy source while we are mired in the politics of protecting the oil corporations.

What has happened to our American ingenuity and "can do" spirit? Why would we want to continue to depend on an energy source that mostly sends most of our hard-earned dollars to fund Middle Eastern countries instead of our own, not to mention polluting our air and land?

Whatever you think about the science of global warming, these are common-sense, economic reasons to demand our government take a firm stand to address climate change and use of fossil fuels on every level.

But it's not just about what the government should do.

Each and every one of us must make a firm, individual commitment as well. Our country was founded on such commitments and hard work, so we all can make changes if we so choose.

You know what it will take to reduce energy use from fossil fuels in your family. So no matter what comes out of the international talks in Copenhagen, I urge each of you to take responsibility for reducing global warming.

Reduce your own use of fossil fuels and demand our government take strong action on a national level.

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Environmentally Speaking" appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.

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