Itâ€™s safe to say that most Americans arenâ€™t up to speed on global warming. They may be aware of the problem and some - a relative few - may even be taking steps to help out, to cut their carbon footprint. But most are doing nothing, nada, zip. Some politicians, state and federal, are speaking out of course and making some headway legislatively. Many companies, too, are doing at least something such as cutting their own emissions, investing in green technologies and offering products that promise lower emissions. Overall, the green energy industry is growing.
Itâ€™s safe to say that most Americans arenâ€™t up to speed on global warming. They may be aware of the problem and some - a relative few - may even be taking steps to help out, to cut their carbon footprint. But most are doing nothing, nada, zip.
Some politicians, state and federal, are speaking out of course and making some headway legislatively. Many companies, too, are doing at least something such as cutting their own emissions, investing in green technologies and offering products that promise lower emissions. Overall, the green energy industry is growing.
An effort is now underway to bring the nationâ€™s college campuses and other organizations together to begin a national dialogue on global warming. The effort, Focus the Nation, a project of the Green House Network, is to educate, discuss, and generally encourage large numbers of students and members of organizations of all kinds, including churches, to bring the issue to the full attention of the nationâ€™s leaders as well as the people who put them in office.
The event will begin on January 30 and continue through the 31st with 1960â€™s style teach-ins at participating campuses. A teach-in is a day when an entire school turns its attention to a single issue. Faculty, students and staff put aside business as usual, and focus the full weight of campus engagement on one topic, in this case global warming. So far more than 1300 schools and organizations have signed up, but there is no number yet as to how many will actually participate. (Schools may also chose alternative dates.)
The day before, January 30, Focus the Nation will kick off on the Internet. The organizationâ€™s team, directed by Dr. Eban Goodstein, Economics Professor at Lewis and Clark College, will offer a webcast of The 2% Solution, a documentary that shows how we need to cut greenhouse gases by 2 percent each year for the next forty years to hold global warming to the low end of 3-4 degrees F and bring emissions more than 80 percent below current levels by 2050.
In another web event to begin the Focus the Nation dialogue, the nonprofit research organization Architecture 2030 will be hosting another nationwide webcast, called Face It: There is a Solution to Global Warming. Within that webcast Architecture 2030 will unveil two competitions centered about the solution to global warming. For $20,000 in prize money students will be asked to create something (youâ€™ll have to tune in to the webcast to learn what) that will reverberate throughout their campus and society at large.
The solution, incidentally, is to go after coal.
As Dr. James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York put it in October 2007 in testimony to the Iowa Utilities Board, â€The only practical way to prevent CO2 levels from going far into the dangerous range, with disastrous effects for humanity and other inhabitants of the planet, is to phase out use of coal except at power plants where CO2 is captured and sequestered.â€
That is, begin with a moratorium on the construction of new coal powerplants unless carbon capture is installed and, as quickly as possible, close down and phase out plants that donâ€™t or canâ€™t have carbon capture.
Unfortunately - and other testimony from Dr. Hansen makes it clear - a moratorium requires government action and the nationâ€™s leaders - as well as candidates for office in this Presidential election year - donâ€™t have the stomach for action that strong.
Up to now efforts to reduce emissions from coal have been somewhat timid - a switch to renewables and energy-efficiency measures - and greenhouse gases from coal continue to rise in the US, in Europe and in developing nations.
Either energy from coal gets stopped, or its emissions sequestered, or the planet gets warmer and warmer with exact consequences scientists canâ€™t possibly predict.
The nation certainly needs to focus. Focusing on coal would be a good start.
Focus the Nation
October 2007 testimony submitted to the Iowa Utilities Board by Dr. James Hansen