We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.
We’ve already seen Arctic ice shrinking, more intense storms and heat waves, forest fires, 100-year floods, and acidifying oceans. Of the last three decades, each has been warmer than any since temperature records started being kept.
If we don’t act quickly, our children will likely witness “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” according to a United Nations report, which was released a few days ago (and got less media attention than the latest election polls).
What does all this have to do with simple living? One reason why Betsy and I live a simple life is that we want to minimize our carbon footprint. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll outline 10 ways in which we do this. Most of these actions don’t require a major sacrifice in one’s lifestyle, just a slight re-ordering of priorities, and can result in more personal fulfillment.
For those of you in the Amherst area who doubt the importance of making these changes, stop by the Sunderland library tonight (Nov. 5) at 6:30. Ray Bradley, a climate expert at the University of Massachusetts, will lay out the facts and the challenge confronting us.
Our European friends have already taken up the challenge. They have set a goal of, by 2030, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels. As of 2012, they’ve already reduced them by 12 percent, mostly through shutting down coal plants and investing in energy efficiency and renewable fuels.
I don’t often cite Dick Cheney, but he said that if there was a one in 100 chance of a terrorist attack, the government should take action. Even if you believe that the chances of a climate catastrophe are that minute, it makes sense to change our ways.
According to the U.N. report, the chances of a catastrophe are far greater than had been thought, and the connection between climate change and burning fossil fuels is “unequivocal.” Food systems will become more volatile, health problems will worsen, people will be displaced, and economic growth will slow down (hear that, conservatives?). More armed conflicts will break out and many plant and animal species will become extinct, according to the report.
The bad news is that this forecast may understate the problem, and it may already be too late to reverse the trend.
The good news is that the technology is available to (mostly) make the transition to clean, renewable energy by 2050, and if we do this, there will be only minimal impact on economic growth. We’ll also have cleaner air and fewer wars over oil.
“But what’s the point of changing light bulbs if China is opening up new coal plants?” some say. China is recognizing that unrestrained fossil fuel development causes unacceptable levels of air pollution. And China is more likely to cooperate with other nations if it sees that developed nations are willing to work jointly to slash emissions.
We have the facts and we have the technology. What we lack, so far, is the will.