0927 GMT February 20, 2020
There are plenty of reasons to despair in the US these days — mass shootings at public events and schools (from elementary schools to universities), plastics polluting oceans and killing whales and seabirds, communities that lack safe drinking water and increasingly common catastrophic weather events.
The list is long and discouraging. But on Earth Day 2019 (April 22), let’s address climate change as the greatest existential threat to the planet and civilization today. This is not my opinion. It’s a scientific fact, register-herald.com wrote.
People can choose to ignore facts, but that does not negate them. The earth is not flat. The earth is more than four billion years old. Polar ice packs and mountain glaciers are melting. Rising ocean levels have already displaced human populations from low lying oceanic island nations.
Addressing and solving these concerns is far beyond my pay grade, but climate change is within my purview. I learned of its inevitability in college back in the early 1970s. At that time, I encountered the term ‘greenhouse effect’.
Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels would someday warm the planet. That day has arrived.
Over the last 50 years we have learned that climate change is about far more than ‘global warming’. And we have come to understand that ocean currents and temperatures also influence global climate.
Climate change now connotes more frequent extreme weather and its consequences — bigger storms, hotter summers, warmer oceans, colder winters, longer droughts, more frequent floods, more powerful hurricanes ...
So, what can ordinary citizens do?
1. Listen to scientists. In the 1960s, they got us to and from the moon. Biologists and medical researchers cracked the genetic code, eradicated diseases, and discovered the promise of stem cells. Environmental scientists spawned the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Environmental Protection Act. Computer scientists transformed the world with computers and the Internet. This just scratches the surface, but it’s safe to say science has made the world a much better, safer place.
2. Ignore politicians, entertainment and sports celebrities, and other demagogues who spew opinions and beliefs to enrich themselves.
3. Educate yourself. Smithsonian, Scientific American, Discover, and Natural History are just a few popular magazines that tackle all aspects of modern science.
4. Everyone can live a smarter, more earth-friendly life. Transition away from all forms of plastic. Carry your own fabric bags to the grocery store, and eschew plastic bags. Recycle plastics, paper, glass, and metal, even if it comes at a small cost. Use less water, especially if you rely on a well. Take shorter showers. Reduce the use of chemicals and water on lawns.
* Scott Shalaway is a certified wildlife biologist who makes his living as a nature writer.