By Jeffrey Meyer
The American public is addicted to carbon products for its energy needs and, despite overwhelming evidence that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is a credible threat to everyone, we lack the will to act. We tend to be quick to place blame for this situation, but perhaps it is time to look in the mirror.
There is finger pointing enough for everyone, from conflicting media reports, paralysis of our political system and corporate greed from the carbon industry. But is it really about them or is it about us, immobilized by a simple lack of effort to check out the facts?
It is true that some of our media just don’t understand the worldwide carbon industry, the eventual cost of its products both environmentally and to our bank accounts. Admittedly this lack of knowledge can create a confused and apathetic public.
As for politicians, it is an uncomfortable reality that their will to act seems more connected to the latest opinion poll than new data from climate scientists. And then there is the carbon industry, those corporations are created to produce profits and that is simply why they exist. This is all reason enough to point at them. Isn’t it?
The media in San Diego seem to counter almost every single news item about global warming with caveats about why it might not be our fault. We complain that they allow a stage for uninformed skeptics and industry lobbyists to sow public doubt about the causes and dangers of global warming.
But wait! A short internet search reveals that 97 percent of climate scientists know that global warming is caused by our consumption of carbon products and they are in agreement that this has disastrous consequences for our planet. Showing a little initiative, almost anyone can ferret out the truth about climate science and global warming. How hard is it to take responsibility for doing a little research?
A similar effort in regard to fracking for natural gas in our San Joaquin Valley shows that each well can take up to a million gallons of water that is unrecoverable because of a mix of about 30 different chemicals that are hidden from public access by state law.
This carcinogenic slop is not supposed to be a problem according to the carbon industry because we are going to pump it back in the ground, below the water table that is critical to this farmland. Yet, it is well known that the valley is crisscrossed with earthquake faults and the risk of extreme pressure on this deep waste water is poorly understood.
The disturbing truth is there are no laws in California concerning fracking. Oil and gas companies are not required to disclose the source and amounts of water used in production, nor disclose how and where that water is disposed. Digging a little deeper, we find that valley farmers, cities in southern California and the carbon industry will be competing for the same water from the California aqueduct. Who has deeper pockets?
In the past few weeks, we all learned that the world atmospheric CO2 level has reached almost 400 parts per million, a level that climate scientists say has not been reached for more than 3 million years. When it did, scientists say the ocean level was 16 to 131 feet higher than today and they are projecting an increase of 1 to 13 feet by the end of this century depending on how fast glaciers melt.
New reports say the average temperature will increase an average of 7.2 degrees F by the year 2100. The last time it was that hot on earth was 14 million years ago.
This week New York City responded with a bold $20 billion proposal to protect its coastline. In San Diego we are still bickering about the causes of climate change.
Climate scientists explain that CO2 is not like other greenhouse gases that dissipate over time. A short internet search shows that it stays around for centuries, creating acidic oceans that destroy reefs and marine life, causes worldwide melting of permafrost releasing billions of tons of methane and CO2, and intensifies terrible storms and drought that bring firestorms to areas like San Diego. Coastal commissions throughout the U.S. are preparing for a rising ocean. So is the military. Again, this information is also widely available.
There really aren’t any excuses for a public failure to act on this problem. Research the arguments. Follow the money.
If a billion dollar corporation is making a huge effort to discredit a few scientists who are allegedly “after grant money for research” then it is pretty obvious you might want to listen to what those scientists are trying to tell you.
So, who should we blame for this crisis?
We are heavily dependent on carbon products for our every day needs, like transportation and maintaining a temperate work and home life. Right now “new renewables” like small hydro, biomass, solar, biofuels, wind and geothermal just aren’t sufficient to cut our use of carbon products and maintain the lifestyle we need. Nuclear power is no longer an option for San Diego. So even if all of us were on board with climate scientists, we just don’t have many options. Whose fault is that?
And that brings me back to our collective failure to understand climate science and our ineffective efforts to act on this problem. The information is out there and there are solutions, but we cannot afford a lethargy of will to deal with climate change. Who to blame? Look in the mirror.
Poway resident Jeffrey Meyer is a retired journalist who now volunteers with SanDiego350.org
bob dorn says
We can ride our bikes. Think about a motorcycle or skooter to replace
the second car. Some are even electric plug-ins. Or try living near your
We should rip out the lawn and replace it with rocks and gravel, cactus
and aloe. A bit more money is required to call up the people who can
replumb your gutters and give you a cistern and a pump. Panels for
the roof is a good idea. Stop taking therapy showers; a masseuse does
a better job, and lord knows they need the work.
We all need to be aware of our roles in cleaning up this mess.
“Or try living near your work.”
Not possible for everyone.
bob dorn says
Still, a lot’s possible. Motorcycle, bike, bus? Car pool?
The point is, survival is going to involve some tough choices, across a number of fronts, and transportation is just one of them. If we can’t get rid of a car, then we should try to pursue other sorts of energy and resource savings. All of us should.
No dispute on that. In my case getting to work other than driving is just not an option and for the time being neither is carpooling, tho that will hopfully change in the future. My wife on the other hand is able to bus to work sinc she works downtown and we live in HIllcrest right on Park Blvd. We bike and walk as much as possible on weekends.
bob dorn says
Damn! My wife and I live in far Hillcrest, east of Park Blvd. Haven’t noticed any goatskulls from my bike.
We’re crafty I tell ya.
Anna Daniels says
I’d like to throw into today’s Starting Line mix the dismissal of a San Diego Catholic school teacher. Why? Teacher Carie Charlesworth is a victim of domestic violence. Her husband is currently in jail, but the diocese, concerned that the man’s threatening behavior will continue upon his release (he had previously turned up on the Trinity School campus) decided that the teacher was too unsafe to be around the children. According to recent report, parents turned out to support the diocese in their decision.
It is beyond pathetic and breathtakingly cruel for the diocese and parents to embrace a solution that abandons Charlesworth and her four kids to an economically insecure future and a you’re on your own attitude regarding the domestic abuse.
The Catholic church is wealthy enough to move Charlesworth and her family to another parish outside of San Diego and line her up with a job. Instead, they offer her their prayers.
Actaully it’s not the teacher herself but her husband once he get’s out of jail as he’s been to the campus before. Regardless, her firing is unacceptable. I work with one of the parents who support her dismissal and her words are “that’s just the way things gotta go sometimes”. She is very smug about it.
Anna Daniels says
That’s the point of my comment Goatskull–the victim should not be further victimized when it’s her husband who is the problem.
No disagreement there.
For all of us living in the U.S., energy Reduction is an absolute must, if we are serious about addressing this issue. We can talk about the Chinese and the Indians all we want, (while our companies are selling products to them), but we take more than our share of resources, pollute more than any one else, and we can also do more to solve the problem than any one else can afford to. This last can be done just by reducing our fossil fuel needs to more reasonable levels, both directly and indirectly. One good source is the Low Carbon Diet book by David Gershon, which helps us quantify our carbon outputs, and thus helps in reducing them. Again, a little research turns up many other sources of information that can help us in this process.
I agree with the author that we all need to be taking more responsibility for climate change. We can do stuff on an individual level – stuff like eating lower on the food chain, replacing water hogging lawns with drought-tolerant plants (yes saving water saves lots of energy that would otherwise be required to pump it), walking, cycling and taking public transit or carpooling more, versus driving everywhere – and lots more stuff. The public transit in San Diego sucks you say? Good point. Well, do something about it! Advocate for a better system. Know who your elected representatives are and contact them. Their contact info is just a google search away. It could be something as simple as an email to them. How hard is that? We need to let our elected representatives know we care about climate change. If we don’t, we can be pretty sure they’re not going to put any policies in place to address climate change – other than perhaps the minimum they’re mandated to by law. And who’s going to pay for that lack of action, in the form of increased wild fires, drought and coastal flooding? Well we are, but even more so, our children!
Big bird says
As a society, our consumption of carbon based fuels and the damage it causes on the planet are terms for war. The northern hemisphere pollution causes Southern Hemisphere drought. As it stands the rules of engagement could in fact be provoked. At some point 1st world will be held accountable. Carbon dioxide traps heat. The more carbon we send into the sky, the hotter it gets.