Our future fate with global warming
Awhile back, I had the pleasure of watching Al Gore speak to an audience at the Daughter’s of the American Revolution about climate change. I was not just excited because it was free to attend, but I wanted to see him speak and here’s what he had to say.
As expected, Gore’s speech started out sharing less than joyful news about our planet. He mentioned a few frightening statistics:
* In 5 years, there is a 75% chance that the polar ice caps will melt. Not only would the polar bears and other cute fury creatures suffer, the normally salty oceans will be diluted with an abundance of fresh water. Fresh water slows the natural flow of ocean currents, which greatly alters weather patterns (i.e. more powerful hurricanes hitting us).
* Surge in climate refugees – As cities are destroyed by tsunamis and hurricanes (like Katrina), people lose their jobs and livelihood, and have to move to new areas that can’t handle a sudden influx of refugees causing an economic and infrastructural drain on resources.
* We can also expect to see more fires in Southern California and Florida, causing damage to homes and compromising personal health. One study mentioned talked about how a 1° rise in temperature brings a 10% increase in lightening strikes.
Gore did have more examples, but you get the point. He went on to say these global warming effects changes our prosperity in terms of our economy, national security and our natural environment for the worse. But then, he did something dramatically different.
Al Gore used this speech to propose that America should embrace a goal of a 100% carbon free nation within 10 years.
At first, I was scared out of my mind. Does this man, with all sorts of connections to top level scientists, know something we don’t? Why 10 years… it seems so bold that it’s almost alarming. In the past, he has expressed our great need to get on the bandwagon and do something right today. But now, he gave a timetable…
He also compared this goal to JFK’s 10 year goal of putting a man on the moon. I immediately thought we could’ve always afforded to lose the race to the moon and still be OK. I shudder to think how badly we would be if we didn’t achieve something on a measurable scale within that time frame. Forget capitalism, forget TV, and forget the comforts of our daily lives – our whole world would change forever. Suddenly, living in a poor African village would seem like nirvana.
An Eco-Driven Economy?
As much as it sounds like fear mongering, this shouldn’t be a call for disbelief or to give up hope, but a call to action with a singular goal – become 100% carbon free nation in 10 years. This means no fossil fuels (well… maybe a little), and an enormous push toward solar, wind and geothermal. This challenge would force our government to embrace a new pathway, all the while giving up things that may seem trivial to global warming.
Given our circumstances, it’s the right thing to do. Besides, it would lessen our dependence on our shrinking supplies of oil, create more domestic jobs and give our economy a brand new direction and a reason to grow.
Gore suggested several proposals that we would need to implement immediately.
Upgrade our power grid – already old, upgrading the US power grid will certainly improve operating efficiencies (more power from less fossil fuels, like coal) and lower costs.
Cap of CO-2 emissions – This is easier said then done. While a straight cap system or a “cap and trade system” may work over time, the government could be more effective by directly funding and building new, cleaner plants, while destroying older ones.
Help switch automakers to making only hybrid plug-ins for all vehicles – Plug-in hybrids can easily double to triple the amount of miles per gallon. This translates to at least a 50% reduction in gas, if not more. And by shifting our electricity to cleaner sources, like solar, wind and geothermal, plugging in our cars into an outlet won’t be ecologically burdensome.
Home Conservation – use less power hungry technologies like LEDs, instead of LCD monitors, plasma TVs or conventional light bulbs, as well as have the government mandate the use of other such innovations across all products we buy.
Eco Tax – Gore also proposed an Eco tax on polluters, which I believe can be less effective. In the past, such taxes are just pushed back to the consumer through higher costs anyway. The energy polluters are not incentivized to stop their polluting.
Government – Eco-friendly government policies are a good step. But we need a massive effort on behalf of the government to pilot programs to actively reduce our dependence on fossil fuels that would need to be put into place now.
The Government Saving Us? Yeah, right!
To achieve such a monumental goal, the government would need to adopt an unrivaled massive effort to build fields and fields of solar, wind and geothermal stations across the Southwest and the Great Plains. Can it be done? Maybe not 100%, but the alternatives look bleak. We may not have the luxury of making a slow, calculated effort, nor will turning our heads and looking the other way do much to stop global warming. Besides, businesses are too small to make a massive and quick change possible. We need action and in a large and impactful way!
Here’s what you can do today to help
While I happy that Barack Obama won since he had an excellent environmental voting record, make sure that Obama and your Congressmen hold to their promises. And if they happen to be off to a slow start, call or email them about the promises they made.
Keep focused on what’s important. There are many issues to decide upon, but if we don’t have an environment, we don’t have an economy, or a war in Iraq, or other issues to debate.
Become your own Eco-warrior. There are plenty of things you can do and sites you can explore to become more ecofriendly, like Earth911, The Green Guide and Treehugger. You can also support political organizations like We Can Solve It (Al Gore), Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council. Get involved and Make it happen!