Sometimes it seems there's a new report every day. I don't know about you, but it's hard to keep up. Especially if you feel compelled to go beyond the headlines, check a few facts, and see what the opposition is coming up with to diss the findings.
There's one thing that helps me put it into perspective--and perspective is what keeps me from feeling it's all spiraling out of control. I try to make connections. Try to take it from the abstract to the specific. From the global to where I live. Here, give it a try and follow the thread...
Global assessment update from the IPCC-we really are in for it
Just last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its summary assessment on climate change impacts--this following its February report on the physical evidence for human-caused climate change, and preceding its coming report on solutions. Evidence is clearly mounting that what we're seeing happening is real, is anthropogenic in nature, and will challenge us beyond our ability to adapt--especially in the more vulnerable areas of the globe. The IPCC points to "severe impacts" even under moderate warming scenarios.
Just a quick reading of the report, or this summary compiled by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, has to get you wondering how to possibly deal with a problem of this magnitude. Eileen Claussen, President of the aforenamed organization put it on the line in a statement issued after the IPCC assessment:
"This week began with a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court and ended with the release of the IPCC's 4th Assessment on climate change impacts. Following the Supreme Court's decision, it's clear that EPA has the authority – and should -- regulate CO2, and the IPCC report delivered the strongest statement to date on the consequences of climate change. Taken together with increasing calls from CEOs, states, and the public, the message is loud and clear: Read our lips - We need mandatory climate policy in the United States."
So, what's the point of all this in my example? First of all, we really are in for it. And secondly, can we follow a thread from this global bucket of concerns to something we can relate to here at home?
U.S. PIRG--the National picture, and State action
For me, at least, there is an answer, and it's found in yet another report. This time, it focuses on the U.S. and comes to us in the form of this month's release of The Carbon Boom: State and National Trends in Carbon Dioxide Emissions Since 1990, by the U.S. PIRG Educational Fund. It zeros in on fossil fuel consumption data from the Department of Energy from 1990 to 2004, citing the still rising levels of carbon dioxide pollution nation wide, and the roles of the electric power and transportation sectors in this increase.
So where's the good news? It turns out that at a state level, we're seeing signs that the trend could somehow reverse. Governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington announced the Western Climate Action Initiative. Nine eastern states have adopted California's clean cars program, and eight have signed on to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to cap and reduce emissions. And C02 emissions for the period actually decreased in two northeast states, one being Massachusetts. Clearly there's a tremendous amount of work to do, but seeing any success is cause for a bit of optimism.
The New England Outlook
Now, let's follow the thread a bit further, and expose ourselves to another dose of reality: a report from the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment and the Union of Concerned Scientists. This one brings it home for those of us living in an area already used to change--of the "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes" variety--but certainly not the kind forecast here.
The study, titled Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast looks at two scenarios, one in which we take a path towards lower emissions and the other where we remain on our "highly fossil fuel-intensive economic growth" path. The thing that gets me is that the die is already cast, and "Under either emissions scenario, the Northeast of the future will be a tangibly different place." Too bad...I kind of like it the way it is.
But it sounds as if we do have some choice in the matter. Here, help me pick...
A. End of century temperature rises of 5 to 7.5 degrees F in winter and 3 to 7 degrees F in summer?
B. Or, winters warmer by 8 to 12 degrees F and summers by 6 to 14 degrees?
A. An average of only 30 days over 90 degrees F (vs. 10 to 15 days historically)?
B. Or, as many as 60 days over 90 degrees each summer?
I'll stop here, but you can continue playing the game by reading the report. Suffice it to say that I'm appreciative of the heads up, and pretty darned hopeful we will rally to do something about it.
Boston--the cities take charge
Like other city mayors who see the need to take matters into their own hands at a local level, Boston's Thomas Menino recognizes that global warming "calls our attention to the future of the world that our children will inherit...and if we don't take action now, we could face severe consequences." This is part of his motivation behind a just announced program to increase the efficiencies and reduce emissions in the city. Under his new plan, city vehicle fleets and government buildings would steeply reduce GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. A dedicated task force will also address incentives to business and residents in the private sector to join in the effort.
Thankfully, leaders at the city level get it, and real change is taking shape.
Where does the thread go next?
The logical next step is that the thread extends towards you. Grab it and see what a difference it can make. If you develop the passion for change, you'll find yourself unable to walk the halls without finding something to pick up and direct towards the recycle bin. Or leave a room without flicking the light switch off.
You'll find yoursef thinking about how to minimize your driving. Consolidate errands. And get your business to think and act green. You'll join a community climate group. Or write your city, state, and national representatives. Maybe you'll even read a report!
No matter what you do do, just start. And know that when your eConsciousness connects with others the result can be very, very powerful.