The Heat Is On
New Community Project resources for turning down the heat on global climate change
Severe flooding; heat waves in Europe, East Africa and here at home; uncommonly heavy rain storms and snowfalls in many areas of the world; diminishing snow pack from the Himalaya to the Sierra Nevada; escalating glacial melt in the polar regions; a longer forest fire season and more frequent fires—clear on-the-ground evidence for a rapidly warming world.
These reports from the field are backed up by a recent NOAA report saying that all ten key indicators of long-term warming are pointing in the same direction—toward an unmistakably changing global climate.
And those in the know are saying this is just the beginning. What's next? The distinct possibility of widespread hunger, as crop production declines in many areas and food-exporting countries restrict or curtail exports; possible extinction of half of all species by 2100; the permanent thaw of the northern ice caps, perhaps leading to a stalled Gulf Stream (Old Europe becomes Cold Europe); sea level rise of 15-20 inches within 50 years and the potential for a full meter by 2100, displacing 10 percent of the earth's population; and the probability of wars—even nuclear war—if temperatures rise 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit. Reason for the conflict? Famine, as food and water become scarce and countries do what they must to feed their people.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to emit nearly 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually—nearly 20 tons per person or 16 percent of the global total, and is responsible for one-third of accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere since 1850.
Who's going to get us out of this fix?
Government? Remember: “It's the economy, stupid.” Significant global warming legislation—meaning getting us to the Kyoto goal of 80 percent below our 1990 levels of CO2 by 2050 (and we're currently 20 percent above 1990 levels)—will always take a back seat to economic growth, corporate profits and job creation. No matter if the future of the planet—and long-term prosperity—hang in the balance, it's all about the next election.
Businesses going green? Not good enough. Even if we green our economy, it will remain grossly over-consumptive (see references below). We cannot continue to live like we live and deal with global warming and resource limitations at the same time. We can still prosper—have full and enjoyable lives—but if our fulfillment means constantly having more or new or better-than, we are doomed to resource depletion, runaway global warming and greater disparities between rich and poor.
It means more than changing our light bulbs—it means changing our lifestyles. The food we eat, the way we get around, the size of our home and the stuff in it—we need a downward revolution: less, lower, lighter, local. Redefining prosperity as living better, not having more.
It means more than personal virtue—it means public voices, letting our families and friends and schools and workplaces and government know what's at stake.
It means more than being disgusted with the slow pace of change—it means running ahead of the crowd, not afraid to head in a different direction or to be thought of as a radical. Find a part of this movement that compels you and invest yourself in it—save the rainforest, plant a garden, swear off bottled water, give up red meat, get out of your car…. The choice—and the future—is in your hands.
It means more than being angry at the institutions that let it get this far—it means expressing that anger by divesting in consumptive corporations, calling on church and school groups to get engaged, pushing community leaders to integrate sustainability into their planning (creating bike lanes, allowing clothes lines, supporting mass transit, etc.), challenging Congress to lead or get out of the way, redefining the American Dream away from me/more/now and toward us/enough/tomorrow.
It means living like this is the only chance we have to preserve life as we know it on Earth—because it is.
Let's get started! NCP's Climate Action Plan —decarbonize yourself and move out from there!
2012 as warmest year on record in Lower 48
Climate and conflict: Climate Wars by Dyer, 2010; green business not good enough; species extinction: Universities of Leeds & York study, 2007; 10 indicators: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration study of 48 countries; Russia's recent ban on grain exports; US carbon emissions; Gulf Stream stalling; sea level rise; American pika threatened by warming; climate change impacts on Africa; carbon footprint of all nations; Walmart's greenwashing and focus on growth.