The impacts of climate change are increasingly clear and now. In California, it's increased frequency and severity of wildfires. Elsewhere it's polar vortex, hurricanes, or tornadoes. Tomorrow night (02.01.2019) I'm attending a presentation I helped arrange in Redding titled "Wildfires and Climate Change: The Connections and the Solutions for a Sustainable Future." If you're in Redding, please join me in attending. If you're elsewhere, join me in taking action. This event is sponsored by Citizen's Climate Lobby, a great place to get started.
What Is Newsworthy About This Topic?
On November 23, 2018, the U.S. government released Volume II of the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA). Volume II addresses Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, now and throughout this century. Volume I, released in 2017. assessed the science of climate change and variability.
NCA4 was drafted by 13 federal departments and agencies, and presents stark warnings of the consequences we and our descendants will face if we choose to allow man-made (anthropogenic) global warming (AGW) to continue. The report predicts that if we do not take bold action, the damage will will reduce the size of the U. S. economy as much as 10 percent by 2100.
The report is published at the following URL: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov. It was created by the following agencies: U.S. Global Change Research Program (chair); the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (technical lead agency); the Departments of: Commerce, State, Interior, Transportation, , Health and Human Services, Defense, Agriculture, Energy; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a not-for-profit affiliation of leading scientists across the country, summarized the report as follows:
“Climate change is already here.”
“As climate change worsens, risks to our economy, infrastructure, health and well-being, and ecosystems will grow significantly.”
“Urgent action is needed to lower heat-trapping emissions and invest in making our economy and our communities more prepared to withstand climate impacts.”
“Climate change is already imposing economic costs.”
Human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases are the dominant cause of global warming over the last century. Annual average temperatures across the contiguous US have risen by 1.8°F since the beginning of the 20th century.
Medial sea level along US coasts has increased about 9 inches since the early 20th century.
And in California’s North State, we are intimately familiar with this impact: “Warmer, drier conditions have contributed to an increase in wildfire activity in the western US and Alaska over the past several decades.” Near Redding, the Carr Fire in July and August destroyed over 1100 structures and killed eight people; and even more tragically, the Camp Fire in Butte County has destroyed over 14,000 structures, including nearly the entire town pf Paradise; killed 84 people and left 563 missing; and burned over 153,000 acres.
It’s not possible to say that global warming *directly caused* either of these fires, nor any other fires, nor hurricanes, nor specific droughts, etc. But a warmer climate means that “extreme events have already become more frequent, intense, widespread, or of longer duration….” (NCA4 Vol II Report-In-Brief, p. 57).
A “short” 196-page summary of the 1,656-page report is at:
Numerous reputable institutions have reviewed and summarized the report, including:
What Does The Science Say?
Overwhelmingly, scientists agree that Earth’s climate is warming more rapidly than at any point in the last several hundred thousand years, and that human activity is causing the warming.
In 2004, Dr. Naomi Oreskes reviewed 928 climate abstracts published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change.” Of all the papers, 75% either explicitly or implicitly accepted the consensus view that “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy.” “25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. And none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.”
In 2013, an international team led by Dr. John Cook of George Mason University published a paper based on their detailed examination of 11,944 climate abstracts in the peer-reviewed scientific literature from 1991–2011 containing the phrases global climate change' or 'global warming'. Their paper, “Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature,” is published at the Institute of Physics website. The results: among the abstracts that expressed a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.
The companion volume to this report, NCA4 Volume I, is the single most definitive overview of the science of global warming.
What Can We Do As Citizens?
It’s tempting to feel like the magnitude of the problem is so large, our individual actions can’t possibly help. But if none of us act, we’re sure to remain on the current trajectory. Here are some things each of us can do as individuals.
Stay informed, and challenge the information we consume for its authenticity.
Get engaged: Let your elected representatives know that you support a transition to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. Visiting or calling them in district is more effective than meeting them in Washington DC or Sacramento. Or engage with a group, such as Citizen’s Climate Lobby.
As your appliances reach end of life, replace natural gas or propane appliances with electric appliances, and power them with renewable energy (see next bullet).
Install a solar system at your house large enough to offset your annual energy usage.
Replace your gasoline car with an electric car. This is not yet as easy as the other steps, because the choices are limited and for a couple more years, electric cars are and will be more expensive. But all the major vehicle manufacturers have announced plans for significant electric vehicles as nations around the world are already further ahead in the transition than the US. General Motors, for instance, has adopted as its new motto “Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion.” To get there, they have announced that they will introduce at least 20 new electric vehicles by 2023.
What Can We Do As Businesses?
Much of what we can do as business owners and leaders is the same as for individuals, but given the importance of small business to the national and regional economy, our voices are amplified. In particular, consider joining Business Climate Leaders, a not-for-profit organization that engages with members of Congress, primarily in-district, to explain to them the material risks and opportunities for your business from climate change, and encourage them to take meaningful action.
Vector Green Power is working to directly reduce greenhouse gases by installing solar systems. We also help educate and advocate through membership in the California Solar and Storage Association, Climate Reality Project, Citizens Climate Lobby, and Business Climate Leaders. We also enroll each of our commercial and residential customers in the Solar Rights Alliance (SRA), and ask our customers to speak to political and community leaders about the importance of the solar industry. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about any of these organization or helping.