POINT-COUNTERPOINT: Climate change major concern? YES
Is climate change something to worry about, or is it just a natural cycle that takes place over time?
It's both. But the urgency today is that carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels, is trapping the sun's infrared heat in the atmosphere and oceans and raising the planet's temperature at a much faster rate than anytime in the past.
The Earth is reaching its limit of how much heat it can absorb before climate warming sets in motion global crises related to irreversible changes in the Earth's environmental systems: much hotter weather, more powerful storms and wildfires, rising sea levels and coastal flooding, collapse of fisheries, crop failures, starvation, lack of drinking water, spread of diseases, and species extinction.
According to NASA, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming is accelerating beyond historical norms due to the combustion of fossil fuels. Scientists also agree that Earth's temperature cannot rise above 2 degrees Celsius and CO2 not more than 350 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere to avoid the catastrophic consequences of an overheated planet.
In May, the concentration of CO2 passed 400 ppm one year earlier than was predicted and evidence the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere is steadily quickening climate warming. Thawing permafrost in the Arctic and the release of methane, 20 times more effective in trapping heat than CO2, is also exacerbating global warming. "Climate change is a threat to life on Earth," warns Dr. Erika Podest, a carbon and water cycle research scientist, "and we can no longer afford to be spectators."
The group 350.org urges vigorous action to wean us from our fossil fuel dependency, including divesting from fossil fuel companies, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and financing a national crash program to develop renewable energy technologies. The film "Do The Math" calculates that remaining fossil fuel reserves would produce three times the carbon pollution the Earth is capable of absorbing, suggesting direct actions to dramatize the urgency to "leave the oil in the ground!"
The United Nations Environment Program projects that atmospheric CO2 will double over the next 50 years. If this happens, it is future generations who will have to face the consequences of our inability to act.
"At current rates of CO2 accumulation and methane release," confides Dr. Beth Boyd, a geology professor at Yavapai College, "adaptation is probably our best plan. It's probably too late for effective mitigation."
Dennis DuVall is a peace and justice activist, veteran and 11-year resident of Prescott.