|This year's hurricanes have global warming written all over them: the water is warmer because the atmosphere is warmer, feeding the hurricanes more energy.|
The Biggest Show on Earth
|by Guy Dauncey, BC Sustainable Energy Association|
We are mammals. We are wired to react to immediate threats, not long-term changes. We respond to the suffering eyes of a lost puppy, and to homeless people and pets left to starve in a flooded city. But we feel mentally confused when we hear that global climate change will wipe out a million of Earth's species by 2050, if we don't change our ways.
We have to do something to up the ante. This year's hurricanes have global warming written all over them: the water is warmer because the atmosphere is warmer, feeding the hurricanes more energy. As I write this piece, huge wildfires blaze on the California-Mexico border, just north of Tijuana, and there is torrential flooding in Central America, in the aftermath of tropical storm Stan.
In a recent BBC news report, environmental correspondent Tim Hirsch warned that climate change could lead to the extinction of many animals, including migratory birds. Sea turtles, albatross, waterfowl, and swallows all face extinction. "The fear is that the changes currently underway are simply too rapid for species to evolve new strategies for survival."
Americans will rebuild New Orleans, the city that plays jazz below sea level. But sea levels are rising, as warmer water expands and glaciers melt. The US has committed $62 billion to the relief effort, but it could cost $200 billion to rebuild New Orleans and the other broken communities. When it comes to global climate change, however, the biggest show on Earth, president Bush says, "We can't afford it."
Well, I have news for you, Mr. Bush. It will be far, far cheaper to invest in an orderly transition out of fossil fuels than to stick the present course and suffer the consequences. CGNU, Britain's largest insurance group, has estimated that the cost of climate-related disasters will exceed the entire world's GDP by 2065.
Here in BC, we are losing our interior forest to the pine beetle, since our winters are no longer cold enough to kill the beetle's larvae. The salmon are threatened and so are the ski resorts. BC Hydro will lose the snow-pack it depends on to feed the reservoirs in summer and fall to give us power. The cost of doing nothing will far exceed the cost of taking action.
From November 28 to December 9, the world's nations gather in Montreal for the eleventh session of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to discuss the single, most important issue on our planet: how to reduce our emission of greenhouse gases beyond Kyoto.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, bless his little Hummers, has declared that California will reduce its emissions by 80 percent by 2050. That's good, but it's not enough: if we are to stave of global disaster, we must reduce our emissions 100 percent by 2025.
And the incredible thing is that it will be easy. Here's what's needed:
1. A steady, organized transition to super efficiency in our use of power.
2. A green heat revolution in buildings that accelerates the use of solar hot water, ground-source heat, sewer heat, and biomass cogeneration.
3. A renaissance in walking, cycling, car-sharing, and public transit.
4. The use of electric vehicles for all our local travel needs, at one-tenth the cost of running a future gasoline-powered vehicle.
5. A grand revolution at BC Hydro that ushers in huge expansion in the use of wind, tidal, solar, and other forms of sustainable power.
6. The use of biodiesel and ethanol from forest and agricultural wastes for long-distance vehicle travel, linked to plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies (no need for much hydrogen).
7. Maximum control over most methane emissions from landfills and other sources.
8. The legally binding phase-out of other greenhouse gases (HFCs, PFC, SF6).
9. An acceptance that we're not going to be flying anywhere near as much as we do now.
10. A pocketful of policies, designed to drive the whole thing forward.
Just add personal and political will, overcome the inevitable resistance, and the problem is solved.
|Guy Dauncey is author of the award-winning book Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change. He is editor of EcoNews, and president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (www.bcsea.org). He is attending the United Nations Conference Climate Change Summit in Montreal.|