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Addressing Our Looming Climate Bankruptcy

First, we need to reduce our personal and national carbon emissions. We are making progress: Carbon emissions in the United States are down 7% from 2007 to 2011 as utilities shift from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas, consumers buy more efficient cars, and businesses realize that saving energy saves money. But we can and must do much more, starting with putting a price on carbon and pursuing other societal incentives (such as new fuel efficiency standards) to reduce carbon pollution from all sectors of our economies. California has led the way, with laws that sharply drive down that state’s carbon emissions through 2050, and analyses published in Science showed that the economic costs of those policies will be modest.

Individual actions can also make a difference. You can get ideas to address your own carbon habits and contribute to collective belt-tightening, by visiting The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Beyond that, our cities and communities need to be prepared for the “new normals” we are already experiencing. To that end, many large cities — Chicago, Boston and New York, for example — have developed climate adaptation plans. Get in touch with your municipal officials to find out what they are doing to plan, and how you can help.

And then there’s making your own plans to adapt. Sarene Marshall suggested in a recent post that climate change may require us to adjust the timing of family activities — whether that’s to consider a September vacation instead of one in July, or swapping your lunchtime tennis game for a night-time one under the lights.

As the recent heat and the latest science both make clear, we need to move quickly to adjust our use of carbon. Otherwise, the adjustments we’ll need to make in our lives and our economy to cope with climate bankruptcy will make those needed to prevent it look trivial.

Photo credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via Flickr/Creative Commons

Frank Lowenstein is Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader for The Nature Conservancy.

Evan Girvetz is Senior Scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Climate Change Program.

 

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9:13AM PDT on Aug 27, 2012

I only switch on lights I need, don't leave appliances on standby mode, use solar energy for hot water heater, recycle 90% of my garbage, drive a hybrid car, bring my own containers for takeaways and encourage my staff to do it as well, won't drink bottled water unless absolutely necessary, collect rain for watering plants and use less than the 6 Ringgit (US$2 equivalent) free water given by my state government, do not use pesticides so I don't poison frogs in my garden, run the risk of incurring the wrath of my neighbours because of the noise caused by frogs' mating calls. I don't know what else I can do.

3:29PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

2/3s of the global population live in countries that use unregulated fossil fuels to manufacture; to transport people and goods; plus cooking and heating. There's nothing that I can do about that. I can only do what I as an individual can do through my own actions. It's discouraging of course. Perhaps when we learn the environmental cost in the years to come the almighty dollar won't seem so important. Our politicians need to get their priorities straight. Maybe they could develop the intestinal fortitude that Mahathir Mohamad did when he refused to bring Malaysia into the suffering that the other Asian nations did when they applied the IMF's Freidman Frankeneconomics during the 90s. It was only after his term eneded that Malaysia caved. Ours didn't even put up a fight.

5:07PM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Oh god, here we go again, I know that I will receive a lot of would be hate "mail" for stating this.

Game Over, there is little, is there anything we can do about Global Climate Change (GCC), we might just be able to somewhat stall it's marching us into the sea.

If we all tried real hard, we might be able to mitigate it's impact on our planet and our lives, if just for a while.

If we were to be brutally honest, and to date we have not been, we would realize that we would have to cease all human activity for decades.

With an ever expanding population, dwindling resources, our over-consumption, never ending droughts, our constant state of wars, the greed of a few, disguised as need.

So who is first, after all, we are going have to pare down our numbers and it will mean that a billion or so will have to go...so who's first?

Oh, yea, let it be the other guy. Not me, I am an American! The other guy started it, and his skin is brown, or we always knew they were Muslims.

Excuses, excuses, that is all that will result from this article, all the articles of the past and surely, all those that are yet to come.

Lets us see the measure of your humanity...Who will be first?

11:49AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Excellent, informative article, thanks for posting.

1:36AM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

This article is OK as far as it goes. Yes, we all need to exercise restraint in polluting the air with greenhouse gases. But we need to do a lot more. A lot of it has to be political action and activism. I read in Newsmax where Charles Koch talks about economic freedom and deplores that windmills are being subsidized bye the government. He forgets to mention that the coal and oil industries are far more heavily subsidized. He also forgets to mention the hell that we are creating for everyone, including his offspring, by doing "business as usual".

To get a better idea of what is going on, do look at realclimate.org and beyondzeroemissions.org

9:24PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

I agree with most of what fhas been expressed.

9:16PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Ecological bankruptcy along with climate, pollution and myriad of other environmental "bankruptcies" are on the way and no amount of denial or slight of hand will change it.

4:33PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Australia has just recently gone down the road of putting a "price on carbon". They say only the "big polluters" will pay but it's early days yet.

4:33PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Australia has just recently gone down the road of putting a "price on carbon". They say only the "big polluters" will pay but it's early days yet.

3:21PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Individuals have to lessen their impact on the environment. Ways to do it: If you live in a warm area, do natural air-conditioning of your body by eating more fruit, which thins the blood; and don't use air conditioning. In winter - don't turn on the heat - just dress more warmly. Don't wash clothes/sheets/towels after using them just once or twice. There are people in the world who have no access to washing machines or water. Limit water consumption,. No long hot showers on a daily basic. sponge bathe more. Don't use all kinds of dishes in preparing a meal. Eat, using one bowl filled with fruit or vegetables. Don't cook, unless necessary. Eat more raw foods. Get a water system that purifies tap water and stop buying plastic water bottles in any form. Limit dishwasher use. Only run it when full' or not at all. Don't go to carwashes or wash car regularly. keep it neat inside by discarding litter and using a duster to dust it on the outside regularly. Live in a way to lessen your impact on the planet. Set an example for others. Living in this manner will be good for the planet. save you money, and put more money into your pocket for the natural food you need. Be a conscious consumer. Don't buy, unless you need it.

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