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Hazard/My Turn: Answer this call to action

Bruce Tease made many good points in his My Turn, published Sept 30, titled “Resisting the urge to leap: No simple answer to climate change.”

I would like to introduce the “Precautionary Principle” into the discussion of addressing climate change and make the argument that now is the time to act! The Precautionary Principle is commonplace in Europe, and embedded in the law of the European Union.

According to Wikipedia, the Precautionary Principal states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, and there is no scientific consensus on the topic, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.

The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.

Tease correctly asserts that ocean pollution and the death of marine algae, which take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and produce oxygen, have the potential of being a greater risk to increasing climate change than the burning fossil fuels.

Invoking the Precautionary Principle, I would like to propose that we need to “do it all” — both reduce ocean pollution and reduce the burning fossil fuels. The risk of reaching the tipping point where we have runaway global warming and climate change is too large to focus on only one aspect of the problem.

For me, some of the most frightening causes of runaway climate change are:

∎ increased temperatures that cause losing arctic sea ice;

∎ the melting of permafrost so that methane, a gas 20 times as powerful as carbon dioxide, is released;

∎ warming oceans that cause methyl hydrates on the cold ocean floor to rise up to the surface and release the methane into the atmosphere;

∎ or that the warming oceans, which will temporarily increase the uptake of carbon dioxide by algae, if hot enough, will eventually kill the algae, which Tease points out, take carbon dioxide out of the air, and emit 40 percent of our oxygen.

Now I will add Tease’s concern that pollution due to discharge of waste and storm water runoff to my list of the “most important things we can do.” In fact, he asserts that ocean pollution will kill off algae long before the Earth’s increased temperatures will adversely affect them.

Fortunately, there are a lot of things we can do with “no regrets.” In other words, even if these things do not stop climate change, the benefits gained in and of themselves make them the sensible things to do!

For example, we can enjoy reduced utility bills by reducing the energy we use to heat, cool and light our homes without sacrificing comfort.

Similarly we can save money at that gas pump and still own a car that gets us around. We can also create businesses and jobs that reduce or produce energy that have the least environmental impact and enable us to stop bulldozing mountains or ripping up tundra, and these new ways will help us avoid price shocks when fossil fuel supplies become scarce.

While we invest in our homes, vehicles, renewable energy technologies and prepare for our personal comfort, we are also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We also need to embrace green infrastructure and new farming techniques and explore other ways that we can repair the Earth.

Although we live in a perilous time, we also live in a time of incredible opportunity! Opportunity to learn more deeply about the world around us and explore how we can improve our quality of life and create good paying jobs that resolve the climate change crisis, rather than contribute to it.

If you are interested in learning more about the effects of ocean pollution on algae, and how to slow ocean pollution, go to the website that Bruce Tease pointed to in his My Turn. (www.global-greenhouse-warning.com).

If you are interested in getting a deeper understanding of how we use and produce energy today, and want to discuss a road map to address the climate crisis, please join Greening Greenfield and St. James Episcopal Church on Wednesday, Nov 20, at 7 p.m, at their Parish Hall at 8 Church St., to watch “Switch,” a film that takes us on a world tour, and join us in discussing a way forward.

Let’s not sit back and wait for someone else to lay out the road map for us. We already know enough to start investing today in “no regrets” opportunities and transform our world into a better, just and more prosperous place.

We need to keep learning. Our journey is just beginning.

Nancy Hazard is the former director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) and a member of Greening Greenfield. She can be reached at nhazard@WorldSustain.net.

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