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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Global Warming, Terrorism & Inconvenient Truths

In late September 2015 your blog host had the privilege to receive the benefit of three days of training in Miami sponsored by the Climate Reality Project, of which former Vice-President Al Gore is the Chairman.  The training created another core grouping of those who would earn the title of Climate Reality Leader.

The purpose of the Climate Reality Project is to raise awareness of the effects and consequences of climate change occasioned by the phenomenon of global warming.  The purpose is also to educate ordinary citizens as to what we can do to stem the tide, mitigate the processes and reverse the destructive momentum.

The training effectively empowers Climate Reality Leaders to present a slide show which updates information initially brought to light in Al Gore’s 2006 Academy Award winning (2007) documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.  In making the film, Mr. Gore was the subject of an Intergovernmental Panel on climate change of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

The fact is that the global climate has begun to warm appreciably, especially over the past 150 years coinciding with the onset of the Industrial Revolution.  While it may be true that the sun heats the earth, it is also true that carbon heats man.  Hence, the term “carbon man” enters the vernacular.  Coal had been the preferred fossil fuel, prior to oil, and its use is widely still prevalent at the nation’s large electricity generating power plants.  The phenomenon of fossil fuel burning on such a mass scale (coal burning in combination with oil) is what scientists attribute to the concept of global warming.

Scientists are in near unanimous agreement (97%) that climate change is the result of carbon-based fossil fuel emissions as a by-product of energy production mainly from oil, coal and naturally gas.  The film makes the powerful case that stewardship of the environment is not merely a convenience but, rather, a moral issue.

The statistics are sobering.  The US comprises less than 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes about 25% of the world’s energy.  Each and every ordinary American citizen uses about 3 gallons of oil per day, twice as much as people in other industrialized nations.  America is a throw away society, with dismal recycling rates, producing roughly twice as much garbage as Europe.  Until most recently, perhaps, the political parties have seemed content to put the idea of economic growth on one side of the spectrum and environmental protection on the other, as if the two are somehow mutually exclusive.

But the wild card today remains oil.  The US consumes approximately 21 million barrels of oil per day, about 65% imported.  It is not an exaggeration then to say that US dependence on imported oil is a greater threat to national security than any threat from terrorism, real or perceived.  Perhaps at no time since the pre-Civil War South’s economic dependence on slavery can it again be said that the US reliance on oil is so acute as to constitute a life or death economic dependency.  The need is so alarming, so encompassing, and so pervasive, that any moral issue that may come up along the way, including human rights and/or the environment, can also be dismissed as secondary.  Which begs the question: Once the problem of terrorism is theoretically dispensed with, are we then “free” to heat the planet into oblivion?

The slide show presentation challenges audiences to ask themselves three basic yet provocative questions.  First, must we change?  Second, can we change?  And third, will we change?  As President Obama has stated, “We’re the first generation to feel the effects of climate change … and the last generation who will be able to do anything about it.”  As leaders get set to gather next week in Paris, France to attend the long awaited gathering on climate change, the stakes for our way of life --- including the survival of our planet as we know it --- can hardly seem greater.

-Michael D’Angelo