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.
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.