and Robert John Scheelen
Modern civilization, in all its aspects, work, transportation, agriculture, housing etc., is built upon the findings of modern science. Humanity can no longer survive and flourish, with a world population of over seven billion, without the products of science.
Fossil fuels have for the last 200 years been a significant boon to humanity. They have helped make possible great advances in living standards, health, and longevity. They are built into the very fabric of our civilization. We take their use for granted.
We are now realizing the unintended consequence of our escalating use of fossil fuels: climate change, which threatens all our gains and the future of our whole civilization.
Today the very science that underlies our standard of living predicts a clear biophysical threat to our modern society, caused by human-caused climate destabilization. Many people, particularly in U.S. society, however, remain unaware, or are in denial about the threat, and a few make absurd claims of hoaxes to avoid dealing with the reality.
In fact, the effects have clearly begun and will only get worse: widespread droughts; increasing land and ocean temperatures; ocean acidification; earlier springs; more severe storms and mega-storms worldwide (e.g. superstorm Sandy); extensive melting of Artic sea ice, the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps and most mountain glaciers; and more severe and extensive forest fires in arctic boreal forests, in Russia, and in the western U.S. (just look outside!). While individual storms or fires cannot be definitively traced to climate change, the pattern of extreme weather events is clearly in line with the expected consequences of climate change.
The physical manifestations are only one aspect of the problems. Major social dislocations and instability worldwide have begun and will grow; climate refugees will increase; island nations will need to be evacuated and will disappear; fragile nation states will fail and fall into chaos.
We in the Rogue Valley are not immune to the consequences of climate change. Projections for local effects include significantly increasing average summer temperatures, major declines in snowpack and therefore water resources, increased frequency and severity of forest fires and more frequent severe weather events. Indeed, these are already happening.
Given the knowledge science has given us, humanity must rapidly shift away from fossil fuels to use of renewable energy to support the world economy. We must admit the greatest market failure of all: not pricing all the costs of fossil fuel use.
World, national and local efforts to address climate change have so far been insufficient. Greenhouse gases already released (given their residence times in the atmosphere) guarantee us decades of climate change to come. We are currently passing 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere (from well below 300 ppm pre-industrially) and increasing at 3 ppm per year with no signs of slowing.
A variety of strategies are being pursued to accelerate the transition to an economy based on renewable energy. Two major efforts are: divestment from fossil fuel companies and imposition of carbon taxes. The divestment movement recognizes the questionable moral legitimacy of the current actions by fossil fuel companies and pressures them to switch to renewable energy. A carbon tax will provide additional economic impetus for change.
Local groups, as well as better-known national ones, are pursuing these and other strategies to address the fundamental issues involved in reconstructing our society.
We are both members of SOCAN (Southern Oregon Climate Action Now — socan.info), which is working on a broad spectrum of actions both politically and at individual and group levels. We are making a significant effort to promote divestment in local and state organizations. On July 1st the biennial national synod of the United Church of Christ, strongly supported by the congregation of the local Medford Congregational United Church of Christ, passed a resolution to divest from fossil fuel companies, the first denomination nationally to do so.
The local chapter of CCL, (Citizen's Climate Lobby — citizensclimatelobby.org, local contact Susan Bizeau 541-973-6091), which we also support, is educating and advocating for a national carbon tax, probably the most critical strategy of all. Thirty-three nations and 18 sub-national entities, as of 2013, are already taxing carbon and reducing dependence on fossil fuels (including an effective carbon tax across the border in British Columbia).
The great moral challenge of our time is to face climate change and build a renewable energy economy.
We strongly urge all people to support the move to a renewable economy in ways both personal and political. Join us in the local groups working for this.