As hope rises that we can see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be reminded that we have another challenge to deal with as soon as possible. As with the pandemic, changes in human behavior will be key to making progress.
It is getting hotter every year. Ice caps are melting, permafrost is thawing, extreme weather events are more frequent, wildfires are more persistent, intense and destructive. Human health is at risk, and we have wasted the last 4 years with regressive policies driven by climate change deniers. (See figure 1)
We in Del Mar should have heeded the early warnings generated by resident Dave Keeling who began measuring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere in 1958. The “Keeling Curve” is the record of how rapidly we are generating carbon dioxide that traps heat in our atmosphere and, along with other gases like methane and refrigerants, cause the greenhouse effect. (See figure 2)
Because greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, persist in the atmosphere for many years, we are running out of time to take effective action. Expert panels of climate scientists, including local representatives from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, caution that we are nearing the tipping point when changing human activity will be too late to slow global warming. This is the climate change reality: act now, or we will leave a badly damaged earth to our children and grandchildren.
There is hope. The County of San Diego adopted a goal of zero carbon consumption by 2035 in January, after years of poorly crafted Climate Action Plans. General Motors announced that they will only build electric vehicles by 2035. New building codes are being adopted across California that will eliminate natural gas use. Del Mar residents will soon have the option of 100% clean electricity supplied by the Clean Energy Alliance.
The ultimate challenge is how will you change your behavior to reduce your carbon footprint? Let’s have a discussion of what we in Del Mar can do to help avoid a global catastrophe. As we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, we all need to listen to the science and take appropriate action. It will not be easy, but it should be less stressful than wearing a mask and being socially isolated for over a year. We can do this!