Time magazine devoted their entire September 23, 2019 double issue to climate change, only the fifth time in their publishing history to devote an entire issue to a single topic. Interestingly, 30 years ago, they also broke with tradition and named “Endangered Earth” as the Planet of the Year in contrast to their normal Person of the Year. In that January 2, 1989 issue they were sounding the alarm about climate change.
Unfortunately, in the ensuing 30 years, our emissions of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane, have increased dramatically, the projections about a warming planet with crazier, more extreme weather have not only come to pass, but have been shown to be underestimated in many cases. Last year’s special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. Government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II, Impacts, called out the need for immediate actions to reverse the trend of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. We need to take these actions so we can minimize the effects of the global warming that has already occurred and the additional effects that are locked in based on our current greenhouse gas concentrations and the additional effects that continuing greenhouse gas emissions will create.
The Time issue noted that there was no coverage of climate-change skeptics since “there is no serious debate that the effects are real.” “The science on global warming is settled.” That’s not to say there is not room for active discussion, debate, or conversations. However, these discussions need to focus on solutions, both on how best to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and how to accommodate the effects that will happen as a consequence of the climate changes that will occur in the future. There are many areas, including technological, philosophical, ecological, economic, political, psychological, and others, that need to be addressed.
Can our free-market based economy change quickly enough to avoid the worst of the effects or must that change be enforced by strong government programs? Must we include nuclear energy in the mix of carbon-free energy generation or are the costs and risks too high and the time too short? Since the main burden of climate change will be borne by the most disadvantaged people, can the new paradigm be more equitably shared – or should it be? The answers to these questions and many, many more will not be decided by a single group, party, philosophy, government, or corporation. Rather, all parties will need to come to the tables to discuss how best to avoid environmental changes that have the very real potential to make the earth uninhabitable for humans or the continuation of human society.
An important element of these discussions will be educating people about the problems, the causes, the potential solutions, the trade-offs, and other issues that will inform the best course of action. That education will begin at the local level as people with shared values and experiences understand the issues and potential solutions. To that end, Coastal SOCAN (Southern Oregon Climate Action Now) in Brookings hosts monthly speakers who discuss many topics from a climate change perspective.
We also identify local and regional actions that individuals and teams can take to help stave off the worst of the projected effects of climate change. Individual actions could include educating others, helping people modify their behaviors, planting trees, reducing energy use, improving local resilience, creating a collaborative community, among many others.
On Wednesday October 23 at 5:30 at the Chetco Community Library, Coastal SOCAN invites all Curry County residents and visitors to join us for a presentation by Dr. Tom Suchanek as he explores the solutions that are now, or will soon be, available to us to avoid or accommodate the effects of climate change. His talk will begin the discussions that will build a brighter future for all of humanity as we move through the 21st century.
Bill Gorham is a Brookings resident and member of Coastal SOCAN is a local, Brookings-based non-profit that advocates for action against the policies and activities causing global warming and the associated climate changes. Gorham may be reached at 805-377-9336.