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Climate Change: Ignorance is NOT Bliss

 |  02/10/12 @ 11:32am

by David Slawson (first written for The Forum, newsletter of Southwest Unitarian Universalist church in North Royalton)   "Bummer! While I was raising my kids, working, saving for their college and my retirement, I didn't pay much attention to climate change. The media made it seem dubious.  Now they say we've reached a critical tipping point, and the planet is going to be a much less hospitable place for my kids and grandkids."    None of us wants to find ourself in this position. Yet with "business-as-usual" and special interests running the show, this is exactly the direction we are heading. At our service a few weeks ago I asked for a show of hands from those who know what "350.org" means. Out of 55 adults, only two raised their hands, and one was my partner, Sylvia. The only way to educate ourselves on the science of climate change is to read books that make the research understandable to the layperson. No TV nightly news channel or other commercial media has the time or motivation.    What I know from my reading is that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is well underway. Its causes, greenhouse gasses like CO2 and methane, are primarily anthropogenic (caused by humans), and are leading us toward dire consequences--for humans and all life on the planet. The highly respected NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, who has done much of the key research, particularly in the area of paleoclimate, tells us in his book, Storms of My Grandchildren, that if we continue our present path until we exhaust conventional fossil fuels and use the even dirtier non-conventional fuels obtained from tar sands and shale fracking, it is sure that we will push climate change to tipping points which will be out of our (meaning our children's and grandchildren's) control, triggering a chain of events that will ultimately make the planet unlivable for humans and most forms of life. The final event will be the loss of water from our planet, as happened with the planet Venus. Called the Venus Syndrome, it is covered in chapter 10 of Hansen's book.    Knowledge of climate science is not Gloom and Doom. It is, in fact, our only hope if we are to change our energy strategy in time. We have the means--conservation, increasing energy efficiency, and use of renewable resources like wind and solar. Yes, it takes will and leadership. Since politicians are following the money (special interests), they do not have our long term interests uppermost in mind. We must change that, and the only way is for us to become educated, spread the word, and get a mass movement going that is more powerful than business-as-usual and special interests. We cannot wait for our political leaders. They will follow us when we are united.    What can we do as a church? We might invite a climate scientist to speak and open it to the community. A book group might choose to read James Hansen's book, Storms of My Grandchildren, and report to the rest of the congregation at a special service.Then we can become ambassadors, hooking up with other churches, spreading the word and bringing hope for our children and grandchildren.    For those who would like to like to learn of the work of climate scientists working in a wide variety of areas, I recommend Climate Change: Picturing the Science, by Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe.

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