Goldilocks and big bad climate change

Jul 22, 2017

Like Goldilocks, living things on Earth have survived in the limited range of climate conditions that have allowed them to succeed.  Not too hot and not to cold. In regard to climate change around the world, the news we received last month was both good and very, very bad.

Sadly, the bad news is also historic. It is the global drama cliffhanger with life on the planet held in the balance.  Though it hasn't happened yet, the Larsen C section of the West Antarctic ice sheet is expected to fall off of Antarctica and become one of the largest icebergs in recorded history. At 1,930 square miles, it’s size has been compared to the state of Delaware. Nearly 950,00 people live in Delaware.

It is believed that the ice shelf was developed over thousands of years. Slowly, layers of snow froze and compacted. In recent years the area of ice around the Antarctic actually grew to record levels during winter months between 2012 and 2014. At the same time, temperatures since 1950 on the Antarctic Peninsula, where the Larsen shelf is located have increased by 4.5 degrees, about twice the rate globally.  The loss of Larsen-C will have significant negative impact on our planet.

For thousands of years, our polar caps have been the planet's air conditioners. They have influenced climate in three major ways. Their cold mass creates cold air and cold water. The combination of high temperatures in the equatorial regions and the polar ice caps create the range in temperatures and moisture that has made our planet just right for life forms to succeed.

Another impact is the albedo effect. Polar ice caps and mountain glaciers reflect sunlight providing a measure of cooling. Losing a mass almost the size of Delaware will decrease the limited amount of area on Earth that has provided this cooling feature for centuries.

The melting of the ice sheets each summer influences ocean currents. Some scientists worry that large increases in fresh water will change and possibly stall ocean currents.  Stalled ocean currents would make warm areas of the world much warmer and cold areas much colder.

Another piece of really bad environmental news concerns the increased loss in arctic regions of permafrost. Recently in Siberia, several craters have been found in areas where permafrost has become frost free. It is believed that the craters are the result of explosions of methane. Scientists have long known that permafrost has kept carbon emissions out of the atmosphere. Increased fires in Siberia and Canada have released tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. As permafrost melts, methane has also released into the atmosphere. Methane traps 30 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2. The increase to global temperatures could be .5° C or .9° F.

The good news

When it comes to good news for the environment, July has been a great month for the electric cars. Elon Musk announced that the first 30 Tesla 3 cars would be delivered by the end of the month. By December, Tesla plans on delivering 20,000 of the Tesla 3 cars to help meet the demand of 300,000 customers who placed $1,000 deposits.

Also this month, Swedish automaker Volvo announced that every car made by the Chinese-owned company would have an electric motor. In India, the Department of Energy announced that the country will only allow the sales of electric cars by 2030. France also announced this month that the country will no longer allow the sale of gas and diesel fueled cars by 2040.

In other positive environmental news, the Washington state legislature extended and modified it's legislation providing incentives for the manufacture and installation of solar energy systems through 2021. Customers will receive credits. Section 1 of  SB-5939 states, " The legislature finds and declares that 11 stimulating local investment in distributed renewable energy 12 generation is an important part of a state energy strategy, helping 13 to increase energy independence from fossil fuels, promote economic 14 development, hedge against the effects of climate change, and attain 15 environmental benefits." Section 2, paragraph 5 sets a target of 115 megawatts of solar power to be installed by 2021 when the bill will be reviewed for renewal.

Locally there are now hundreds of new environmentally savvy activists organized with purpose, plans, and enthusiasm. The Climate Reality Project Leadership Training event concluded at the end of June. About 800 people attended from around the nation and around the world. About half were from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. The diverse background of attendees included a significant number of high school and college age students.  These climate leaders will now team together to make presentations, contact elected officials, and participate in hands-on activities that promote a fossil fuel free energy economy and support environmental sustainable practices. Many will help promote An Inconvenient Sequel, the documentary produced by Al Gore will update the Academy Award winning Inconvenient Truth movie from 2006. The film will be shown at the Alderwood Mall on August 3 and is scheduled to play for at least a week.

WSU Extension is offering 18 hours of training to become a "Waste Warrior." Classes will be held at McCollum Park on three consecutive Saturdays starting July 22.  The WSU Extension has also developed the Sustainable Community Stewards program. With funding from the Snohomish County Public Works Department, the program trains volunteers to work on established environmentally sustainable projects in our community.

The program provides 40 hours of training in biodiversity, solid waste and recycling, forests, and soils and agriculture. After training, volunteers are asked to participate for 40 hours on local projects. Projects include distributing and installing energy efficient kits in homes and apartments.  Volunteers can also participate in community festivals providing information on composting and other environmentally friendly practices. For information on WSU Extension programs contact Stephanie Leeper at s.leeper@wsu.edu or call her at 425-357-6027.

 

If the environment is Goldilocks, then concerned citizens must play the role of the Three Bears to protect Mother Earth from the damages from inhabitants who are either to naïve or too stubborn to know how much effort it will take to save our planet.

Please do your part before it is too late.

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