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Wednesday
Aug012018

Climate Change ~ I Chose Option 2 and So Should You

I’ve become involved in an energy program in my wife’s church that will increase the energy efficiency of the building, to include changes to lighting, heating, insulation, and the installation of solar panels. Two people came to the church to conduct a survey of the building. They walked through the building asking questions and taking notes. They climbed up on the roof. They turned on their laptop to give us the lowdown on the benefits of solar panels. It was all very interesting and encouraging.

Towards the end of our time together I had a conversation with the person responsible for upgrades to the building. She told me that as a climate change scientist she had made several visits to the arctic and that at one point a number of years passed before returning. When she finally did return she was shocked by the changes in the environment due to climate changes. As a result of the shock, she decided to form a company to help people counter climate change by improving their energy usage.

She said something that moved me to respond, “Yeah, when I see a small child I think to myself that that child might see the end of human civilization.” She responded without missing a beat, “Oh, it’s not might.”

She was dead serious and I confessed that I said “might” because I didn’t want to sound alarmist and crazy, but that in fact I believed human civilization was coming to an end due to climate change and that I was only slightly agnostic about the extinction of our species, along with the millions of other species we will be taking with us. She agreed, again without hesitation and with frightening seriousness. I almost asked her that if she believed things were going to collapse and our very survival was a risk, why she does what she does. I stopped myself, because I thought I knew what she would say.

 If you believe it is too late and the collapse is coming, and especially if you believe the extinction is inevitable, you can do one of two things:

Option 1: You can say there’s nothing you can do to prevent the tragedy, so you’re going to live your life as if the end weren’t coming. You’ll fly here and there. You’ll heat your home with fossil fuels and as warm as you want. You’ll drive a gas consuming polluting car and maybe a big one at that. You’ll invest your money where you can make the most profit, even if it’s in fossil fuels. You’ll eat steak. You’ll use plastic bags to carry your groceries and use your plastic straw only once before throwing it away. You’ll continue to vote Republican (in the US). You’ll do whatever you damn well please because it doesn’t matter anyway. And you certainly won’t waste good money on special light bulbs and solar panels.

Option 2: You can conclude that even if there is nothing you can do to prevent the inevitable collapse, your helplessness and the inevitability does not relieve you of the moral and ethical obligation to live as if your choices and behavior can change the future for the better. Of course it goes without saying, if you chose Option 2, you have to avoid as best you can all those things in Option 1, including voting for Republican Party candidates.

I’ve opted for Option 2, which does not in any way make me a hero. It’s just the choice I’ve made, even though I believe there is little to no hope. And to that end, my wife and I have bought an all-electric car, we rarely use the central heating in our house (each room can be warmed separately), we’ve been replacing the lightbulbs, we’ve made sure the house is properly insulated, we mostly eat vegetarian (though I do eat fish and poultry and the very occasional hamburger in the summer), we’re looking into installing solar panels (when we can afford it), etc.

Unfortunately, not believing climate change is real—like a rock is real, like the round earth is real, like gravity is real—doesn’t make it go away. Disbelieve all you want. Your foot will still hurt if you drop a rock on it. You still have to fly around the earth to get to the other side, not under it. You’re still stuck to the planet. While we can disagree if the sunset is beautiful or not, whether or not the Beatles was the best band ever (obviously it was!), we certainly should not be disagreeing on whether or not the earth is round (here’s a heads-up, NASA checked, it is), and whether the earth is hotting up.

Be clear about one thing. You do not install solar panels to save the planet. The planet will do just fine without us, probably better. Earth can host life for another 1.75 billion years. After we’re gone, and, again, having taken millions of innocent species with us, the earth will recover and numerous forms of life will emerge and thrive. No, the solar panels are an attempt to save ourselves.

If you think I actually am a crazy alarmist always bitching about my glass being empty, I would suggest you’re not keeping up. The human species is facing its greatest existential crisis, ever. Just three very real, real like the rock and the round earth, hints to get you started:

Watch the Methane (CH4)

You think CO2 is bad. CO2 is nothing compared to CH4 now bubbling out of the Arctic oceans and spewing from the permafrost. CH4 traps up to 100 times more heat than CO2 in a five year period and 72 times more heat in a 20 year period. The good news is that CH4 decays into CO2 within a decade or two. However, while it’s in the atmosphere it warms the planet on steroids for that decade or two. Of course, CH4 begets CH4 in a positive feedback loop. As this particular climate steroid heats the planet scientist talk of a Methane Tomb Bomb and a 50-gigaton (that’s 50 billion ton) “burb” of methane from the thawing Arctic permafrost as highly possible at any time. And remember, CH4 is constantly being released into the atmosphere. So don’t take too much comfort in that decade thing, if you know what I mean.

Watch the WBT

WBT stands for “wet bulb” temperature, a measurement of the deadly combination of heat and humidity. Once WBT reaches 35C the air is so hot and humid the human body cannot cool itself by sweating. Even healthy people die within six hours. Your body won’t really care if you believe in climate change or not. It will still die. By the way, we are already nearing a WBT of 35C in many parts of the world. Since air conditioning feeds climate warming, don’t put your hopes there. It’s another one of those nasty climate change positive feedback loops.

Watch the Coastlines

The maps included with this blog give an indication of what the earth will look like after climate change. The earth’s coastlines will change dramatically as the sea level rises due to the melting ice sheets and glaciers. As I write, Iceland and Greenland are melting. Bad news for New York, London, Shanghai, to name but three huge coastal cities. It's estimated that over 634 million people live in coastal areas that are at risk of rising sea levels. This number represents one-tenth of the global population—at present! As the sea levels rise and coastal cities fail to cope, a lot of people are going to migrate inland. Raise your hand if you think that will happen peacefully.

I could go on, but those three very real and well-argued expected changes should get you started. My advice: chose Option 2. After all, maybe I’m wrong about the future. If I am, you might help save civilization and the species (and I’m sure the millions of species on the planet will be very grateful). If I’m right, well, perhaps you can postpone the inevitable for a little while, but if not, you can still feel really good about yourself. However, if you have children and grandchildren, you have no excuse. Option 2 is really your only choice if you want to be both honest with yourself and sleep at night.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger

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