A sudden clap of thunder startled me last night. I was sitting next to an open patio door enjoying a summer evening when BOOM was quickly followed by torrential rain.
Occasional summer showers do happen in California’s high mountains. But thunder in August in Silicon Valley? Nope, that’s not normal. Neither are shorter, cooler summers, interrupted by short bursts of intense heat, and thunderstorms.
Is this the new normal?
My neighbors just returned from two weeks in Tuscany. They reported the Italians could not explain the unusual heat and humidity.
We’ve all seen the pictures and heard the reports of the shrinking ice caps at our north and south poles.
I don’t think we can deny the obvious any more. Global climate change is here. It’s now, and we humans have more than a little to do with it.
The United Nations will issue a report in the next few weeks that blames climate change on our addiction to fossil fuels and le boeuf grille (aka steak on the BBQ). There‘s some truth to this but the problem is so much bigger and more complex than just our addiction to fast cars and Red Robin hamburgers.
Mankind is the Problem
In 2012, 7 billion humans exhaled about 1,169,000,000,000,000.000 liters of CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s up from a mere 33,400,000,000,000.000 in the year 1 AD.
The CO2 exhaled by humans is the baseline measurement – the minimum amount of CO2 that exists in the atmosphere. To measure the real impact of mankind on the atmosphere, we must add to the baseline the effect of every “improvement” mankind has made to his/her quality of life during the same period.
Man has always been a carnivore. What changed during several millenniums was that man stopped hunting and became dependent on domesticated animals for food. We learned how to grow, rather, than gather grains to supplement our diet. The food supply has had to grow proportionately to the growth in population
An unhappy by-product of domestication of food supplies has been rapid and continuing deforestation across the planet. Every tree that is consumed to generate farm land, grazing land or timber for building purposes reduces the planet’s ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it back into water vapor.
Mankind cannot survive without water. But the total fresh water supply, globally, is decreasing – in part because warmer temperatures are causing glacial erosion alongside a steady reduction of atmospheric water vapor.
The continuing global population explosion plus accelerated cycles of drought and flooding are expected to create more competition for water in coming decades. There are some scientists, military and intelligence officials who believe that water will become more valuable than oil before the middle of this century.
Climate Change is a Fact
Climate change is a global crisis today. Every passing year places further stress on the planet.
The United States must “its part” to reduce the use of fossil fuels and promote a better global distribution of wealth and population. But the United States is home to only 5% of the world’s population.
Americans acknowledge that our lifestyle and appetites have contributed significantly to pollution – especially during the last century. The US economy is 25% of the global total but scientists estimate the USA emits 30% of the world’s pollution. We’ve begun to “make amends” by reducing our “carbon footprint” some 30% in the last decade. That reduction is the result of better technology, government policy and individual responsibility.
The American goal for the next decade should be a further reduction of 50%!
Reducing American Waste Not Enough
But that won’t do any good if the USA does not take elevate combating climate change into a global imperative. When a Chinese factory emits coal ash from its smoke stack the ash is carried to the west coast of the United States by atmospheric wind currents in 5 to 8 days. The net result is that the total amount of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere remains the same or continues to increase, despite all the efforts of American business and consumers.
The more polluted the atmosphere becomes, the more severe the changes in the global climate will become. It is not out of the realm of the possible that – within a century or two – pollution will thin the atmosphere to such an extent that it will threaten first the world’s food supply and finally the existence of mankind, itself!
The United States has a moral, scientific and economic duty to provide climate change thought leadership and innovation. The USA must lead by example. Individually and collectively we must demonstrate that a thriving middle class can find a balance between economic development and saving the planet!
The time is now!
The opportunity is scientific, economic, environmental, and diplomatic!
The results of failure too great to imagine!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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