Year 3, Month 5, Day 13: Ain’t No Place A Man Can Hide

The Barnstable Patriot discusses the ways climate change is affecting Cape Cod, Massachusetts’ own vacation paradise:

Climate change is costing Cape Codders. It is eating at our shorelines, causing storm surges to overrun our beaches and houses. It is raising the price of our homeowner’s insurance. Our vulnerable sandy habitation, 10 miles wide, is part of a global system of weather that affects us locally, according to four experts who spoke at a climate change forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the Harwich Community Center April 28.

The takeaway message is that while belief in climate change is falling, the reality of it is increasing via accumulated science from real events, according to Dr. Eric Davidson, executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center, which looks at climate science from the Amazon to the Arctic. Davidson warned that hard facts prove the dangers of rising global warming. He said that since the world focused its attention on this issue at Rio de Janeiro in 1992, emissions have been lowered in some nations, but by and large, little has been accomplished.

Unless we mitigate, adapt and change now, Davidson said, there will be increased suffering from heat, violent weather extremes, famine, drought and flooding, all of which, data collected, measured and sifted over time show, will increase exponentially. He added that actuarial information from insurance companies supports the data.

Describing global warming as the “parked car effect,” Davidson said that heat from the sun comes through the window, but in re-radiating back out it becomes trapped, heating up the car. The earth’s atmosphere is the same, trapping rising methane, carbon dioxide and other gases from fossil fuel use in a big puffy blanket of molecules that prevent the heat from getting back through the “car window.” Since Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others have been keeping records, from 1960 to now carbon dioxide has increased from 320 parts per million to 380 parts per million. (The Arab oil embargo of 1973 diminished greenhouse gas emissions briefly by lowering usage.) Davidson says that La Nina and a sun spot cycle actually are cooling the planet somewhat now, but when the solar cycle changes and we enter El Nino, warming will accelerate. Best scenario, the Cape will have a mid-Atlantic-states climate in the future; worst, a climate like South Carolina’s.

This is a generic letter, but one that makes a useful point. I’m going to do a few more on this theme today (May 4) if I get the time.

We often hear that combating climate change will require a “new Manhattan project” or a “new Apollo program.” But both of these analogies are inexact. America’s development of the atomic bomb was kept under wraps until the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — but successful climate technologies must be transparent and accessible to all. While the race to the moon was no secret, there was little ordinary citizens could do beyond sending pennies to NASA — but preparation for global warming’s consequences has to happen in our daily lives, not just in the top echelons of government.

Mounting a robust and enduring response to the burgeoning greenhouse effect is not in itself a goal, like making an explosion or returning safely from the moon. Rather, it is an essential transformation in the way we collectively understand our responsibilities to the environment and to our posterity. If we are to survive and prosper in the coming centuries, our species and our civilization must change our focus to the long term. And, perhaps paradoxically, we’ve got no time to waste.

Warren Senders

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