“We’re almost out of time.” A few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning people about climate change. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) would require “rapid, dramatic changes in how governments, industries and societies function.”
By RL Miller
Doesn’t global warming mostly affect the polar bears? Well, no. Global warming affects people. Sea level rise is the most clear cut consequence of climate change, but many more impacts — some of which are better understood than others — will begin to make themselves felt. To bring this home, scientists have “high confidence” that 1.5°C of warming would result in a greater number of severe heat waves on land. In addition, climate change is making California’s droughts worse. Southern California’s wildfire season used to be limited to the Santa Ana wind season of October until the first rains of November; now wildfire season seems to start October 1 and end September 30. Climate activists talk about people on the frontlines of impact — those who are affected most. While you might think that “frontline communities” refers only to the people in coastal communities such as Florida and the Arctic — and, yes, Malibu — the term also refers to everyone in California living in or near a wildfire corridor. That’s Topanga, among many other places.
“The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.” RL Miller
And whether or not the hills burn this year or the next year, the actuaries who write insurance policies are calculating the increased risk of wildfires. Premiums will go up, policies will be non-renewed or dropped, and homeowners will have to resort to the FAIR plan. It’s already happening in Northern California neighborhoods damaged by the October 2017 fires.
The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.
In short: yes, global warming does affect people. Every week or two it seems there’s a new report on a different aspect of life climate change will mess up. Barley shortages mean less beer and higher beer prices. Fewer insects limit agriculture. Shorter winters mean tick-infested deer and trees killed by bark beetles.
What can one person do? Global warming is such a, well, global problem. Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth suggested personal choices to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Plant a tree. Go vegan, or at least eat less meat. Fly less. Change a lightbulb, change the world. Yet carbon emissions continue to rise.
Science-oriented people look at the climate problem and imagine scientific solutions that generally fall into two categories: storing carbon and altering the planet’s chemistry. The technology for the first, commonly known as CCS (carbon capture and storage) is in its infancy; it’s expensive. The second involves the stuff of science fiction: giant mirrors in space reflecting the sun’s rays away from the atmosphere, equally giant hoses sucking the carbon and vacuuming it into space, vast deposits of iron filings into the ocean to changing the chemical composition of seawater.
Although climate change begins as a scientific problem, it becomes obvious to most people the solution is mired in politics. Solar and wind energy poll like Mom and Apple Pie, but their progress is being blocked for political reasons. Specifically, the Republican Party in the United States generally denies the scientific reality, while politicians of all stripes are not sufficiently visionary to make the drastic changes demanded by the science. One solution to climate change is to get political: vote deniers out. I’ve founded Climate Hawks Vote, an organization building grassroots political power for the climate movement, that aims to do just that.
This global problem requires more than voting every two years, and it requires a sudden drastic change. So it needs everyone to speak out with the talent they have. Artists: make art about climate change. Musicians: write and sing songs that will move the feet and the heart. Architects and contractors: design and build more dense housing closer to public transit. Actuaries: calculate the risks of an ever warming world. Run for office. Tell people who are running for office to do more — and ask them to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, declining campaign contribution money from the fossil fuel industry. To change everything, we need everyone.
Most of all, the climate problem requires hope to solve it. Although it’s easy to ridicule the mindset of Denial on the Right, those on the Left are just as prone to despair. There’s plenty of reason to find despair in the IPCC report, but also reasons to hope.
Here are the top three things to do to fight global warming locally:
- Drive an electric vehicle or otherwise reduce the carbon footprint of your commute to zero.
- Get politically involved with an organization such as Climate Hawks Vote; vote on November 6, but stay involved after the election.
- Every morning, find a reason to hope.
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