In fact, the same computer modeling that, 20 years ago, accurately predicted today's CO2 levels in our planet's atmosphere says the planet will be as much as nine degrees hotter by 2050 than it is today. That will put at risk the biological systems that make Mother Earth our magnificent teat of nourishment -- coral reefs, watersheds, wetlands, forests, jungles, savannas, glaciers, snow-capped peaks, intricately balanced biodomes and the atmosphere with our weather tethered to it. There are expected to be 9 billion humans depending on a healthy planet by 2050, too.
For solutions, some people are hoping technology -- solar, wind, bio-fuel, nuclear energy -- will get us off the global warming runaway train, while others see huge sacrifices in energy use needed, perhaps up to an 80 percent reduction in electricity use.
The consequences of climate change are real and are happening now: the Arctic ice cap is shrinking so fast that in 2006 it lost 115,000 square miles -- the size of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined. For three million years that ice has been Earth's air conditioning system, yet the impending collapse of polar ice sheets has the Goddard Institute's James Hansen concerned that the resulting rise in sea level may be measured in feet, not inches.
Many people seek simple solutions to big problems of global warming, hoping there are things they can do in their everyday lives to help mitigate the problems. And there are.
The best available evidence suggests we need to reduce our C02 emissions by at least 70 percent by 2050 to stabilize global climate at around a five-degree increase over today's average. If you live in Spokane and replace your four-wheel drive vehicle with a hybrid fuel car, a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of that magnitude could be achieved.
As a sustainability advisor to several groups, including SFCC, I'm asked all the time how people can pitch in. And I find that most people want a good dose of hope.
After addressing transportation, focus on the home, where we use most of our energy. Energy-efficient appliances cut up to 50 percent of total household emissions. A triple-A-rated showerhead cuts up to 12 percent in emissions traced to energy used to heat the water; a solar hot water system could cut up to 30 percent of those emissions. And those energy-efficient light bulbs do work, perhaps to the tune of a 10 percent reduction in household emissions.
At work, an energy audit of your workplace could reduce emissions by up to 30 percent.
After getting our own homes in order, we need to turn toward a bigger target -- putting the brakes on urban sprawl, often enabled by city and county politicos we put in office. We must force all government leaders and business groups to engage in serious regional discussions and real planning and implementation of sustainability measures and global warming mitigation.
These are the real tools in our collective community toolbox.