General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

How can we help alleviate the onset of climate change?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30391points) May 12th, 2014

Two respected scientific journals will publish evidence that the West Antarctic ice sheet is in irreversible collapse. (Aricle) This event was predicted in 1978 by glaciologist Dr. John. H. Mercer.

The expected sea level rise in this century will displace 3,700,000 people in the US alone. The total displaced in coastal regions will be much higher worldwide.

Sea level rise is but one effect of climate change. Drought and more severe storms are also expected and are already occurring. The planet’s climate is in flux.

The Earth will most certainly survive. Human society may not.

What are some steps we individuals can take now to help alleviate the crisis?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

30 Answers

Blondesjon's avatar

It’s too late now to do anything. That time has passed.

You would greater success trying to truly land a bunch of miners on an asteroid that is about to collide with the Earth.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Blondesjon I reject knee-jerk cynicism. It is unhelpful.

This question does not ask if we can reverse climate change.

This question asks what we might do daily to help alleviate the worst.

johnpowell's avatar

Drive less. Use less electricity unless it comes from green sources. Try to buy foods locally since less fuel is used for transport.

I don’t even have kids and I think the “It is to late” argument is bullshit. I have heard about climate change for the last twenty years. Maybe if people had taken the warnings seriously we wouldn’t be where we are now. At some point sacrifices will have to be made. My mom and dad weren’t willing to make them but I am and if you care about your kids you should too.

And in the crazy awesome economy in the 90’s Al Gore was the only person that gave a shit. You could have dented the economy a bit back then and it would have been fine.

Edit:: and for fun..

Mimishu1995's avatar

I want to add a bit to @johnpowell‘s great list: don’t use air conditioners too much, and if possible, give them up.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The Environmental Protection Agency has an easily understood page listing the top carbon emitters here.

Basically, it boils down to reducing the use of fossil fuels.

It seems that we have to remember everything we do throughout the day uses fossil fuels in some way. The hot water for my shower this morning was heated in an electric water heater which got its power from an electrical generating plant that is fueled by diesel. My computer I’m looking at right now gets its power from the same source.

The state of Hawaii has programs in place to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We are tapping into the resources we have naturally. Some electricity on the island I live on is produced at a geo-thermal plant getting its fuel from our volcano’s heat. We have some wind turbines, and many homes are putting up photo-voltaic systems.

The Guardian ran an excellent article listing the 90 companies responsible for ⅔ of all carbon emissions. We can start by shopping elsewhere for the goods they produce, while simultaneously writing decision makers to change the way these companies do business.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Response moderated
Response moderated
Response moderated
longgone's avatar

I’ve come to believe that something horrible will have to happen before any government deigns to take action.

As to what we, as individuals, can do…well, keep a low carbon footprint. We should all know how, by now. But again, I guess we’re waiting for the first tragedy before allowing for the possibility that all those scientists might be trustworthy. Until then, we’re trusting studies funded by the big power companies. Because…follow the money, see?

@Dan_Lyons Would you please point out which part of @whitenoise‘s post could reasonably be called “a form of reductio ad absurdum”? According to this it doesn’t seem to be what you are implying.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We need some way to make it painfully expensive to use fossil fuels. Oil needs to become so precious it will only be used for lubrication and in the manufacture of plastics.

We can do our part but the reality is it will makea small difference.
I burn wood for heat. That saves about 700 gallons of fuel oil per year. (I am bit lazy and still use about 250 gallons per year by letting my oil furnace take over when I travel.) 700 gallons is a huge amount of saving. But I have the tools, the wood, and the space to do it. I also save $2600 per year (Oil is $3.79/gal) by doing so.

I worked on a project funded by NYSERDA that used a genetically modified crop to produce the heat equivalent of 800–1000 gallons of oil per acre after harvesting and processing. Unfortunately until heating oil gets to be above $4.80 per gallon there is no economic reward for using it. So most people around here continue to burn oil.
If / when oil hits $5.50 per gallon more people will switch )
A similar argument can be made for coal and natural gas.

Here’s a thought. Let’s publish the how much Greenhouse gas,GHG, were produced to make each product. It can be a small label with data similar to the Nutrition Facts label on food. We can then decide to not make a purchase if we see the GHG are high. Do we really need to buy all those cheap chinese Christmas decorations every year? What happened to the ones from last year? Don’t buy stuff you really don’t need.

The software to do this already exists and by 2016 all WalMart product are supposed to have a version of an RFID chip installed. Why not devote a few extra bytes to the environmental impact?
This will never fly. Wally World would not like that because you might decide not to buy something.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
whitenoise's avatar


I like your idea on labels. It should be accompanied, though, by some kind of enforcement thru price.

The problem is that free markets will mostly not take into account the amount of resources left. (Like oil, water, breathable air, land mass, farmable land.)

Prices will only go up, when scarcity kicks in. By then we will be way too late to switch.

I fear we need governments to take their responsibility here and go for the common good, since game theory demonstrates that if we leave it all to individuals and their individual incentives, to compete over limited resources, sub-optimization is inevitable.

This is the base for Government I feel: a Social Contract between us to appoint one entity that makes sure it takes care of our common (and therefore all of our individual) interests better then we would do as a bunch of mere individuals.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@whitenoise I agree with you. We will continue to use oil until the well runs dry. We had better be thinking of the replacement before it does. Until the top dog’s salary and bonus at Mobil (for example) is based solely on production and delivery of the next generation fuel, I don’t see any big change in the works. He still gets his $100’s of millions right up until the day the stock crashes – and by then he is on his yacht in Bermuda..
If oil were to jump suddenly to $8.00 per gallon there would be incentive to change. the only way I see that happening is through taxes or war.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Cruiser's avatar

First we need to educate ourselves on the reality of what the real impact is to our planet when we use and abuse fossil fuels we have. Clean and green alternatives do cost more but also more often create a larger carbon footprint than using fossil fuels for transportation and electricity. This is where ordinary people can make a huge difference in making better and simple choices of driving less, carpooling and unplugging electronics and appliances when not in use.

IMO our leaders in government and our communities could do a much better job of getting the right and truthful message across that is not corrupted by idiots like Al Gore or big corporate interests. There is so much misinformation out there that it is no wonder people can’t wrap their heads around the importance and significance of this issue.

Second my vote is to raise the cost of using fossil fuels and energy to the point where people will respect and think twice about using these valuable resources. Amazingly I would vote for this to be accomplished by a huge tax on fossil fuels and electricity and use that tax to fund research and higher education so we can groom smart kids to innovate solutions to better the future of this planet and it’s people.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Cruiser I’m with you brother. Oil is too cheap and easy to abuse now.
If we raised the price of gasoline instantly from the current $4.00 per gallon to $8.00 per gallon people would immediately start carpooling or not taking extra trips or lave the gas guzzler in the driveway and walk, or bicycle or drive a small car or…. How much of a difference would this be to the consumer? Not as much as you think. The average American uses 500 gallons of gasoline per year. Going to $8 would cost them an extra $2000 per year. So… I am willing to give a refund of $2000 or tax credit for the same amount to anyone earning less than $100k per year and phase it out completely for people earning more than $250,000 . The higher price would not cost low earners anything. But, it would make them think about it every time they filled up and would actually give them a big bonus for being more careful.
Why would this never happen? Because the top dogs at Mobil (again for example) would lose sales and bonuses. The DOE estimated an increase to $8.00 would reduce total US gasoline consumption by 8% to 12%! And it could happen with the stroke of a pen!
I’m not going to h0ld my breath.

CWOTUS's avatar

Not being a student of glaciology or geology, I have only one question after reading a brief synopsis of the article from the Boston Globe, which seems to summarize what others have said.

In the summary it says that the glacier system has gone into “irreversible decline” because of the geology of the area where it is formed and the fact that warmer ocean water has been able to flow around part of the glacier because of recent melting of the toe of the glacier where it runs (in geological terms of “running”) into the sea.

Assuming that the facts of the geology of the substrata and the arrangement and flow of the ice are as presented in the summary… How in the world was the ice sheet ever able to form in the first place? If the glacier can’t possibly exist in the future, how was it ever formed in the past?

I’m still a skeptic.

Cruiser's avatar

Hands off the panic button….If there is a global climate change effect on our polar caps I sure am not seeing it

stanleybmanly's avatar

We are beyond the onset of the all but certain effects of global warming, and the weather extremes are HERE and growing in intensity for all to experience. There is no reversing the trends in global warming without stepping on powerful economic toes, and nowhere is the resistance to “changing our ways” more intransigent than in those most responsible for spewing out poisons. As denial of global warming acquires ever more credence as an indicator for cognitive impairment, the debate shifts to the equally ridiculous notion that 7 billion people are in no way responsible as a factor in causation. There is no other issue in my mind that better demonstrates the cynical collapse of the United States when it comes to world leadership. The situation is an absolute indictment of the educational failure of ours as a society.

whitenoise's avatar

Ins’t the ice on Antarctica land based, not sea ice?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Cruiser It’s not possible to be precisely sure from your link, but judging by the web address, I’d say it’s measuring sea ice in the Arctic and not the land-based ice in the Antarctic. The glaciologists who authored the two separate studies to be published soon and the satellite imagery gathered over decades by NASA have a lot of weight behind them. There’s more weight there, I’d say, than you’re going to be able to refute by linking one graph.

Cruiser's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I don’t see a big difference whether it is land or ice as I cannot imagine how one could be affected and other not. Ice is ice and I am sure climate change cannot discriminate one ice over the other.

CWOTUS's avatar

@Cruiser, although I’m a total “climate change” skeptic (aside from the fact that I recognize that climate is always variable on this planet), there is a difference in effect from the melting of ocean pack ice (Arctic) and Antarctic and other glacial ice (such as Greenland’s ice cover). In terms of sea level, if Arctic ice melts there is no net increase in sea level; that ice was already floating on the ocean and displaced its mass in sea water, so there would be no net rise in ocean level.

However, with a continent-sized mile-thick ice pack on Antarctica, that ice, melted, would run into the ocean and would result in 1) a net increase in ocean level by increasing the volume that much, and 2) increased evaporation into the atmosphere from the expected increase of shallow-water seas. And water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas – much more so than carbon dioxide, in fact.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Cruiser Sea ice does not change sea levels when it melts just like ice cubes in your glass do not change the level of the liquid as they melt. Land ice adds to the amount of water in the oceans and raises the levels as it melts.

Cruiser's avatar

@CWOTUS And why I posted that graph. If you notice the blue line shows the extreme fluctuation in the amount of ice in the winter versus the summer. HUGE difference in the amount of ice in winter versus summer and over time that variation has remained static. No statistically measureable difference over time. The same amount freezes and melts and refreezes so no need to panic and no trend to support any panic or hand waving. All I see is do gooders wanting us to believe a problem exists to push an agenda they have investment in and I am not buying.

CWOTUS's avatar

You’re missing the point, @Cruiser. There is certainly seasonal variation in the ocean ice around Antarctica; no one would dispute that. But for the most part that’s the same effect as Arctic ice: water that freezes and melts, causing no net sea level change.

The Antarctic continent is around 5.4 million square miles. According to Wikipedia, about 98% of the continent is covered by an ice sheet that’s approximately 1.2 miles deep. So we’re talking roughly 5 million cubic miles of ice. Even though liquid water is denser than ice, that’s still at least 4 million cubic miles of potential liquid water that for now is not causing any effect on sea level, since it’s landlocked. (Ditto for high-latitude glaciers and the Greenland ice pack – ice that has zero effect on sea level, since it’s more or less stationary on land.)

When that ice melts, it’s going to cause an effect on sea level far, far beyond seasonal melt-and-refreeze scenarios. And I do say “when”, because no matter what anyone does, no matter what we all do, at some time in the future of the planet, the continent of Antarctica will once again move into a more temperate zone and that ice will melt.

Cruiser's avatar

@CWOTUS When that ice melts, it’s going to cause an effect on sea level far, far beyond seasonal melt-and-refreeze scenarios. And I do say “when”, because no matter what anyone does, no matter what we all do, at some time in the future of the planet, the continent of Antarctica will once again move into a more temperate zone and that ice will melt.

What makes you so sure of this happening?

CWOTUS's avatar

Tectonic plate movement. Antarctica apparently used to be a temperate area, and it will be again someday.

Some of the words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address are appropriate here: ”... the world will little notice, nor long remember what we say here…”. And outside of those of us living on the planet, the world won’t care much what we do, either.

wingsonroots's avatar

Two evils that need to be tackled head-on: Excess energy consumption and Deforestation. What I think we could do:
1. Consume only the necessary to reduce burden on depleting natural resources (this includes taking less no. of flights, using public transport, etc.)
2. Reduce wastage (of food, water, electricity, etc.)
3. Switch to energy efficient technologies
4. Consume local
5. Help green the surroundings by planting more trees (carbon sequestration)
6. Teach others about efficient use of resources
7. Support movements that are genuinely green (e.g. stopping deforestation in the Amazon)
This I think is the least individuals can do to prolong the life of Earthians ..we don’t know how to change the irreversible, we can only “do what we can with what we have where we are”.. while we hope for a mega technological miracle.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther