This May Require Sacrifice

To use an analogy: Your roof has a slow leak. You can’t detect the leak from inside the house, because the water is just soaking into the structural supports and causing them to rot. Fixing the leak is going to cost money, and you don’t have extra money, so you’ll have to give up something to get the leak fixed. Not fixing the leak means, someday, the roof will collapse. You or your family may be injured or killed, and your home will become unlivable.

You may approach with this problem in several ways:

1) You could deny there is a problem and ignore it

2) You could acknowledge the problem and hope it goes away or that the roof holds up long enough that it becomes someone else’s problem (like your children or grand children).

3) You could choose to make some sacrifices to address the problem before it becomes a catastrophe.

Clearly, only choice #3 is a solution. Ignoring a problem is not a solution and kicking the can down the road is just going to make things worse for future generations.

This is my analogy for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Every time I read about a proposal to address AGW or climate change, I hear someone complain that it might slow the economy, make us less competitive in world markets, increase unemployment, etc. Before I address those points, because I don’t believe those things will necessarily happen, I want to return to my analogy for a second. If we do need to make sacrifices to save our home and protect the future of our children and grand children, that’s what we must do. This isn’t a game we’re playing where we can rewrite the rules. If we continue as we are, our world is going to change for the worse and things could get pretty ugly. The only thing that is unclear about the science is exactly what is going to happen and when. We’ve already had a taste of the future, with extreme droughts in some places, flooding in others, tropical diseases moving northward, catastrophic wind events, etc. Do we really need a detailed map to see that where we’re heading is not where we want to be?

Getting back to the claims of economic gloom: Our society will always need energy, whether we get it from fossil fuels or directly from the sun. If jobs go away in the fossil fuel extraction industry, there will be new jobs in the renewable energy sector. Renewable energy is the future. Every country on the planet knows that. The country that innovates and produces the best renewable energy technology is going to be an economic winner, so it pays to be a leader in renewable energy development.

Furthermore, the biggest drain to our current economy is health care. A leading cause of lung problems and cancer is dirty industry. One of the dirtiest, and most dangerous industries is the fossil fuel industry. By moving away from polluting technologies and towards cleaner technologies, we will reduce our health care costs and lessen the drag on our economy.

Moving to clean energy is a win-win in the long term. There may be sacrifices we’ll have to make in the short term, but we can’t keep kicking the can down the road. The sooner we get serious about our carbon dioxide emissions and other environment pollution, the better off we’ll be in the not-too-distant future.

I don’t ask anyone to do anything I haven’t already done. I lead by example and I understand that not everyone can do what I do. All I ask is that people advocate for progressive government policy and think about how they can reduce their energy consumption and dependence on non-renewable energy. Combining trips to the store, eating local food, driving a more fuel efficient vehicle or riding a bicycle are all things the average person can do. If everyone does what they can, it will make a difference to our future and the future of our planet.

Forward on Climate Rally in DC

solar panelsThe Forward on Climate rally was yesterday in Washington DC. Somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 people attended. I would say it was a grand success. The best coverage of the rally that I’ve found is here.

I know there are lots of reasonable people who believe that the Keystone XL pipeline is going to help with our economic prosperity. I can even understand their reasoning. However, I firmly believe that the benefits do not outweigh the long term costs. Today we got confirmation that the tar sands tailings ponds are leaking toxins into the ground water. The Canadian government had denied that any chemicals were leaking from the ponds, but zero leakage seemed unlikely to me.

I’ve spoken before about the externalized costs of fossil fuels. Here are a couple of articles that go into more detail on that subject, and provide sources for further research.

I also got some very bad news on the state of the arctic sea ice, this week. It looks like the arctic will be ice free in the summer by 2020. That doesn’t bode well for the gulf stream, which is already slowing down. That seemingly insignificant fact could have catastrophic implications for the east coast of the United States. The slowing of the gulf stream will add to sea level rise here, on the east coast. It could mean as much as a meter of extra sea level rise, over and above the global sea level rise. That could spell disaster for many coastal communities near my home.

I warned you, a couple of posts back, that there would be more doom and gloom. I’m afraid the news from this past week is even more dire than I had anticipated. I sure hope Obama decides to scrap the Keystone XL pipeline. We don’t need more pollution or more CO2. Jobs are no good to us, if our food supply is devastated by drought, or the Mississippi river dries up, or our rivers die from toxic pollutants. Our children deserve a healthy planet. Our economy is already being severely burdened by the cost of health care, and skyrocketing food prices. We can’t survive in a toxic environment.

Just say “No” to Keystone XL. Forward on Climate!