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Climate change is gaining increased attention

Global warming is real. The change in climate it causes has been observed, measured and scientifically verified. There is no faith involved here, only a need for greater acceptance of what is true.

Following a second heat wave felt in Europe this summer, that mass of hot air settled in over Greenland. On July 31st, with temperatures there 10 degrees above normal, more surface ice melted in one day (11 billion tons) than the median daily melt of the last 40 years. Summer Arctic sea ice has shown similar reductions and is predicted to disappear by 2040.

We are becoming numb by record heat measured against months, years, or decades. The same is true for increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Instead of continuing a downward trend, parts per million of CO2 actually increased in 2017.

The newer reality

Despite ridicule of science from Washington, D.C., more people are considering the stakes of losing control over their “historical climate.” It’s not just an ideological mindset or a feel good adoption of environmental thinking. Slipping into climate change brings events that we cannot prevent or control, causing damage that will be disruptive and expensive for us to minimize or repair. And the plants and animals of the environment? They can’t vote and don’t have money to invest in their future.

Sea level rise will threaten coastal communities the world over, and for many, subsistence farming will become impossible. This will cause a first wave of climate migrants. Storms have already become more powerful, expensive, and deadly. Wildfire frequency is up, along with the acreage burned per incident. The real estate business is already compromised because home insurance cannot always be obtained, sometimes at any price.

Scientists warn that the world’s climate may accelerate its decay from what we’ve come to depend on if too much carbon remains in the atmosphere at a critical point by the year 2030. This excess carbon would bring global warming that will keep melting the ice caps and unfreeze millions of square miles of permafrost. That will release previously trapped methane along with carbon dioxide from below ground and will accelerate global warming. Results of testing in the Siberian Arctic published in the journal Nature forecast massive amounts of both greenhouse gases by 2100, but precise timetables are difficult because the rate and ultimate melted depth by then is unknown. Other scientists are clear that methane in the short term is 80 times the global warmer that CO2 is.

What to do?

Science and politics are becoming more like oil and water. Climate science and economics (as practiced by governments) don’t mix very well, either. Satirist cartoonist Walt Kelly’s comic strip character Pogo the Alligator had a pithy quote that fits:  “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Relative to the provision and use of fossil fuels, there are many who want to stay in the business of securing them and many others who know of no other alternative but to pay for and burn them. Tax subsidies are intended for businesses that need help in becoming competitive, but billions still flow to U.S. fossil fuel corporations that are among the largest and most profitable on earth.

They exert massive influence on government representatives, officials, and policy on a variety of matters. They buy influence through campaign contributions, PACs, Super PACs and public placement advertising. They are not start-ups on a shoestring. In 2011, refined petroleum products were the largest export from the U.S. in dollar value. Against this bulwark of protection for the status quo, citizens often feel powerless. But unless suppression efforts succeed, voters can elect representatives for office that are immune to the siren song of campaign cash.

In an editorial by the New York Times on August 1st, the situation was captured nicely by the following statement:

“There are solutions, there are well-researched strategies, there are innumerable organizations and people anxious to rescue the Earth. Yet at every turn, they run up against destructive industries and callous politicians prepared to resort to any means to continue despoiling the planet.”

No one can say whether the recently introduced Green New Deal will be adopted by the U.S. government, or whether it will be successful. But as a child of parents who lived through the 1930s Depression and were marked throughout their lives with worry over its repeat — I know that there is enough in the Green New Deal and other initiatives that could help us. We could get protection from climate change, similar to the security that New Deal gave millions in very troubled times. The difference? The Depression was temporary.

Think globally, act locally

I believe in defense against climate change and I live in a carbonless zero net energy home powered by solar PV and a geothermal heat pump. The FRC campus is over 90% geo, and there are many other locations, too. Here’s one from back East.

Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana stopped burning 36,000 tons of coal a year to provide for their 5.5 million square feet of conditioned space. They save $2 million in annual operating costs and have eliminated emissions by using geothermal heat pumps supplied by underground heat exchangers. There are no hot rocks or underground steam involved, and this approach is repeatable, everywhere.

It makes sense that the younger generation is agitated over the foot dragging of our political leaders. They will suffer the results of climate change, both economic and health-wise for decades. They know it would cost less to adopt policies right now to minimize carbon than to pay for the consequences later. A lack of action today is compounded as worse outcomes later.

An investor looks at compound growth through three mathematical factors:  the amount invested, the rate of return obtainable, and the time remaining to make the investment pay off. Avoiding climate disaster is no different than investment math. Doing nothing now will make it a lot tougher in the future.

Let’s get carbon under control for our own survival and that of our descendents!

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