Happy Earth Day: Need to Move Toward Climate Hope?

By now most of us have seen heartening examples of wild animals roaming streets de-populated by the Coronavirus: hairy goats in Wales, Nubian ibexes in Israel, a puma in Santiago! Even San Francisco gets a coyote.

I spent part of my Earth Day out walking on the point whose picture is this blog’s masthead, thinking how nice it must be for our resident orcas right now to be getting a break from the horde of boats usually hounding them.

But the Coronavirus–God willing–is temporary, and while it’s nice seeing these glimpses of Mother Nature getting some time to herself, we all know this strange time won’t make a dent in the overall horror of our self-inflicted climate changes. Which is why I also spent my Earth Day on a Zoom session with a friend of mine, a member of Citizens Climate Lobby.

CCL is a rare political animal. They focus on BIPARTISAN efforts to reduce our carbon output before it’s too late. As CCL’s website says,

 

“In order to generate the political will necessary for passage of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act we train and support volunteers to build relationships with elected officials, the media and their local community.”

My friend is one such trained volunteer. And she spent an hour introducing me and another friend to an amazing climate-change model designed by scientists from MIT. Sharing her screen, she showed us two graphs.

Top left, a series of colored lines represented a different energy source: Oil & Gas, Renewable, Coal, etc. Top right, two ominously up-trending lines–one black, one blue–showed our future: an increase in 4 degrees Celsius (7 Fahrenheit) by 2021 if we don’t alter our course. The black line represented our current trajectory. Just in case those numbers didn’t click, a photo of her (and my former) hometown of Tacoma appeared–its commercial tideflats entirely underwater.

Nooooo…. (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

But that blue line? That represented possibility. The object of the simulation is to bend that blue line down, to an increase of only TWO degrees–the goal of the Paris Climate Accords. (Or even lower, if possible–hey, it’s a simulation!)

So my friend pointed us to a dozen or so categories listed beneath the graphs: Energy Sources. Transportation. Etc. Each category had a few sub-categories, like “Oil and Gas,” and each sub-category had a little slider, currently set at the global status quo.

Move the slider toward “Highly Taxed” and–hey, look at that blue line bend!

What else can we try? More hydropower? Hmm…not as big an effect.

And it’s hard to love a dam anyway.

Hey, I know–what about moving the slider on Deforestation? Wow.

You get the idea. After half an hour of playing with sliders, not only had we seen a way to reduce the world’s warming by two full Celsius degrees, we’d also begun some serious conversations about the pros and cons of certain energy sources, technologies and policies.

Like planting more of these?

Is it a pipe dream to think that all the world’s major governments would work together like the three of us Zooming on Earth Day? Of course.

But is it a pipe dream to think of extending the invitation of this kind of climate-simulation training to every high school and college kid in the educated world? Is it a pipe dream to imagine the kinds of dialogue and political energy that might arise from such involvement? 

I don’t think so. Which is why I’m inviting ANY OF YOU WHO HAVE EITHER A PERSONAL OR AN EDUCATIONAL INTEREST IN PURSUING THIS CLIMATE SIMULATION EXERCISE to get in touch with me via email. I’m not trained in the climate simulator, and it’s too sophisticated for people to use it meaningfully on their own without training. But if you send me an email explaining briefly why you or your organization would like a training, I will put you in touch with my friend, and you can have your own private Earth Day.

Deal? Gretchen.wing@gmail.com , for the best Earth Day gift I can offer. (Or just get in touch with Citizens Climate Lobby directly.)

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