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Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009 11:56 pm

Springfield joins global action for climate change

Glaciers that provide drinking water for hundreds of millions of people are disappearing more rapidly than originally predicted. According to the United Nations, 325 million people are already affected by drought, disease, floods, loss of livestock, decline of fish stock and loss of agricultural productivity. Ninety-eight per cent of the people who will be most affected by rising sea levels live in the world’s poorest countries, those least responsible for increased carbon emissions (created primarily by the burning of fossil fuels).

According to a September, 2009, report by the United Nations Environment Program, climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the most ambitious climate pledges are fulfilled. This is a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Significant global temperature rise is likely even if developed countries enact every climate policy they have proposed to date.

With the approach of the December 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark (referred to by some as Hopenhagen), individuals are urged to advocate to national leaders for policies to decrease carbon emissions so that atmospheric carbon dioxide will be at or below 350 parts per million, a figure that the eminent climatologist James Hansen and other scientists say is the maximum compatible with human life on Earth. Currently the number is 389 ppm, with a 2 ppm increase each year. Although Earth will probably do much better without human bungling, many of us would like to leave a healthy planet and the continuation of our species.

Many concur that the current treaty’s plans are far too weak to decrease carbon emissions to an acceptable level. This week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned, “once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement, in some future period, can undo that choice.”

Wide-ranging and vocal support is needed so that world leaders realize the public urgency for more dramatic policies, including those that put a high price on carbon emissions while ensuring that poor countries have an opportunity for development. That is why on Saturday, Oct. 24, the International Day of Climate Action, Springfield will host two of the 3,714 actions planned to take place in 162 countries across the planet.

From 10 a.m. to noon, Jubilee Farm will present a Powerpoint on global climate change and action from a faith perspective, in addition to activities for children. Registration is required at 787-6927.

And from 11 a.m. to noon, the locally sponsored 350.org event will include a bike ride in addition to a rally at the Old State Capitol Mall. Rally speakers include Prof. Stefano Longo from the UIS environmental studies program, and action steps will be available. For more information, contact Wes at 502-2836 or http://sites.google.com/site/springfield350/

We’ve seen some amazing changes right here in coal country: dramatic reductions in carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions by our local utility company, promotion of renewable energy such as wind and solar resources, and increased efforts in energy conservation by businesses and households. None of this progress happened without the support of individuals who called for something new. However important they have been, for our children’s future, we need to ramp up these efforts as well as advocacy for national policies that have global consequences. For all our human foibles, we can continue to embrace changes necessary to support a world where all life is respected because it is given the ability to exist.

Diane Lopez Hughes is an environmental activist and member of Pax Christi Springfield.
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