Sunday, July 1, 2007

1 Meter = 3.2808399 Feet

Al Gore (you remember him, don't you? The man who won the popular vote in 2000 and who leads in New Hampshire when included in presidential preference polls?) has an op-ed piece in Sunday's New York Times.

Yes, it's about climate change and the urgent need for America to assume the leading role in the global shift from a carbon-based economy rather than continue the dance of denial being performed by the current administration.

Here are a few paragraphs that need your attention:

Our home — Earth — is in danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings.

Without realizing the consequences of our actions, we have begun to put so much carbon dioxide into the thin shell of air surrounding our world that we have literally changed the heat balance between Earth and the Sun. If we don’t stop doing this pretty quickly, the average temperature will increase to levels humans have never known and put an end to the favorable climate balance on which our civilization depends.

In the last 150 years, in an accelerating frenzy, we have been removing increasing quantities of carbon from the ground — mainly in the form of coal and oil — and burning it in ways that dump 70 million tons of CO2 every 24 hours into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The concentrations of CO2 — having never risen above 300 parts per million for at least a million years — have been driven from 280 parts per million at the beginning of the coal boom to 383 parts per million this year.

As a direct result, many scientists are now warning that we are moving closer to several “tipping points” that could — within 10 years — make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization.

Just in the last few months, new studies have shown that the north polar ice cap — which helps the planet cool itself — is melting nearly three times faster than the most pessimistic computer models predicted. Unless we take action, summer ice could be completely gone in as little as 35 years. Similarly, at the other end of the planet, near the South Pole, scientists have found new evidence of snow melting in West Antarctica across an area as large as California.

This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue, one that affects the survival of human civilization. It is not a question of left versus right; it is a question of right versus wrong. Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours.

Then, Mr. Gore adds this:

There are some who will try to pervert this precedent and use xenophobia or nativist arguments to say that every country should be held to the same standard. But should countries with one-fifth our gross domestic product — countries that contributed almost nothing in the past to the creation of this crisis — really carry the same load as the United States? Are we so scared of this challenge that we cannot lead?

Our children have a right to hold us to a higher standard when their future — indeed, the future of all human civilization — is hanging in the balance. They deserve better than a government that censors the best scientific evidence and harasses honest scientists who try to warn us about looming catastrophe. They deserve better than politicians who sit on their hands and do nothing to confront the greatest challenge that humankind has ever faced — even as the danger bears down on us.

We should focus instead on the opportunities that are part of this challenge. Certainly, there will be new jobs and new profits as corporations move aggressively to capture the enormous economic opportunities offered by a clean energy future.

But there’s something even more precious to be gained if we do the right thing. The climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge.

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry that included a map that showed coastal elevations in Louisiana. That post was prompted by a Washington Post article about the thawing of the Greenland ice cap and how that process — if it continues unabated — could raise sea levels by over 20 feet.

The map at the top of this post shows the areas of coastal Louisiana that will flood if the oceans rise a total of one meter. Look at that map (you can click on it for a larger view). Think about it in the context of Al Gore's op-ed piece.

Then, answer these two questions:

1) What do candidates for Governor and the Legislature say when you ask them about the state's energy policies and climate change? If citizens ask these questions, candidates will feel obligated to at least formulate an answer. Who knows? They might actually think about the issue. And;

2) What are you doing to reduce your carbon foot print? Have you switched to energy efficient light bulbs? Are you keeping your car tuned so that it at least runs as cleanly as it can (and why don't you buy something smaller and more efficient when it's time to replace what you're driving now?)?

The reason this issue is important to Louisiana is explained in the map at the top (click on it for a larger view).

Climate change is as real as any issue confronting Louisiana. Our political leaders will address it ONLY if you demand that they do so.

1 comment:

robert d said...

Iraq - split it up along sect lines - Shite/Sunni.

This is the only plan that has a chance of working once the US gets out.

Enjoy your day,

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