Flickr photo of Planet Earth by Kevin Dooley

Ask An Atheist: What can be done about climate change?

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By Jim Downard

What can be done about climate change?

That’s a biggie. Though it was a bumpy road, most of the planet has cottoned on to the fact that reliance on fossil fuels has undesirable effects long term, but the dawdling that took place over the last 20 years (including the dissembling and evasion of fossil fuel industry backed climate change skeptics, and the dimwit politicians who credulously accepted their claims) means that a worrisome level of carbon dioxide growth is going to be kicking in over the next few decades, pretty much unstoppable.

The upside is the increasing role markets play in adapting to the change, and here governmental nudges can help (from the mandatory improvements in car fleet gas mileage to credit incentives for alternative energy, such as solar or wind).  Big fossil growth player China has started to move now because the inability for even millionaires in their new black Buicks to physically breathe in Shanghai or Beijing shows the folly of their over-reliance on “easy” to do coal fired plants.

Fortunately, industrial wannabes can bypass the clunky pollution phase and go cleaner from the start (provided they factor in the full costs of their efforts, not flush it downstream to their neighbors as has been the practice in the past), while dropping per capita energy use by newer more efficient products has a collective effect.  When I traded in my old 2000 Olds Alero for a 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid (and later for an even better 2013 model), I not only cut my fuel usage almost in half (average 25 mpg compared to 45 mpg on the hybrid) I got a way better car, safer (from more airbags to a back up camera I’d never want to do without now) with a capacity to drive nonstop to Portland on a single tank of gas (and its only 13.5 gallons).

So welcome to the 21st Century.  It’s not necessarily a bad place, just different.  It’s up to all of us to make it a better one, safer and less violent.  With that we’re into issues of politics and religion, and those challenges will remain however much carbon dioxide registers on the meter.

I’m a cockeyed optimist (heck, we weathered the 20th Century, with some of the nastiest menaces, Fascism and global Communism, that people can ever face).  I suspect the future will be even more efficient, gaining performance and even panache along the way (a modern crossover can accelerate as well as some 1970s muscle cars), and by that means our species will be working through the transition to sustainable energy.

Individuals and niches will undergo many a local tragedy, from family farms that have to be abandoned because rainfall patterns have changed, to Pacific island countries that shrink or disappear altogether from even a modest sea level rise.  Some may homestead new farms in Greenland, and others can send angry letters to Sen. Inhofe to get some of his energy industry buddies to pony up repair efforts (that flood surge barrier across the Verrazano Narrows to keep the New York subways from getting moistened annually will not be cheap, just ask London or the Netherlands, who have had to build similar setups already).

I’d avoid buying Florida real estate, though.


About Jim Downard

Jim Downard is a Spokane native (with a sojourn in Southern California back in the early 1960s) who was raised in a secular family, so says had no personal faith to lose.

He's always been a history and science buff (getting a bachelor's in the former area at what was then Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s).

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