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GLOBAL WARMING: NOT A BIG JOKE

Q U I C K S C A N

Check the Facts
Sizzling Summer
What We Can Do

St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, respected the links among all of God’s creation. Following a rebirth experience, Francis, whose feast day is October 4, made a drastic change in his lifestyle, striving for less so that Christ could become more in his life.

No doubt, he would take the warnings about global warming seriously and find additional ways to simplify his life.

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Check the Facts

During an Alaskan vacation last year, I witnessed evidence of shrinking glaciers and other symptoms of global warming: It’s not a joke, as some say.

There were naysayers who didn’t believe Rachel Carson when she warned about the toxic effects of DDT and other poisons in Silent Spring, published in 1962. That classic book is now credited with spurring revolutionary changes in government policy and launching the environmental movement.

Instead of believing in hearsay, check out the facts about global warming from credible sources. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s brochure on global warming (www.epa.gov/globalwarming) reports the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (www.ipcc.ch) and recent scientific literature.

Although many greenhouse gases occur naturally, “Human activities are adding greenhouse gases—pollutants that trap in earth’s heat—to the atmosphere at a faster rate than at any time over the past several thousand years,” explains the EPA. “Burning coal, oil and gas, and cutting down forests are largely responsible.”

IPCC projects an unprecedented rate of climate change “likely to have wide-ranging and mostly adverse impacts on human health, with significant loss of life.” IPCC explains that some potential impacts of global warming include worsened air pollution, damaged crops, depleted water resources and more intense storms.

In addition, “Melting of polar ice and land-based glaciers is expected to contribute to the one-half-foot to three-feet sea-level rise projected by the IPCC for the 21st century.”

Sizzling Summer

This past July, scientists released a startling conclusion about wildfires: “Higher temperatures over 34 years—rather than land-use changes—have led to more blazes,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

“Rising temperatures throughout the West have stoked an increase in large wildfires over the past 34 years as spring comes earlier, mountain snows melt sooner and forests dry to tinder,” researchers stated.

Wildfires aren’t the only problem. This past August, National Geographic published “Super Storms: No End in Sight,” by Thomas Hayden. “Think recent hurricanes were bad? Monster storms could become routine,” writes Hayden. “Because of a tropical climate shift that brought warmer waters and reduced wind shear, the Atlantic has spawned unusual numbers of hurricanes for nine of the past 11 seasons.” How long this cycle will last is uncertain.

In August, many of us were paying over $3 a gallon for gasoline when BP said it was shutting down one of its biggest oilfields in Alaska to replace 16 miles of corroded pipeline.

That doesn’t mean it’s time to haul oil-drilling equipment into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, if anyone can find a stable path where the permafrost hasn’t thawed because of global warming. Rather, it’s time to imitate St. Francis out of concern for the caribou and all of God’s creation.

What We Can Do

“The U.S. presently emits more greenhouse gases per person than any other country,” reports the EPA. Yet our country has not ratified the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol, a commitment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases ratified by 164 countries.

“Frustrated by stalling on the federal level, local leaders are moving forward with innovative energy solutions that cut our dependence on oil, benefit public health and save taxpayer dollars,” reports Sierra Club (www.coolcities.us). “The biggest single step we can take to curb global warming is making our cars, trucks and SUVs go farther on a gallon of gas.”

Churches are becoming increasingly involved in environmental issues. Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) educates churches, including many Catholic parishes, on how to make a dent in global warming while promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation.

During the first week in October, IPL is asking congregations across the country to screen the DVD of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth and distribute materials to viewers. (More information is available at www.theregenerationproject.org/inconvenient.htm.)

Tim Kautza, science and environmental education specialist for the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, says IPL’s focus is “making congregations more energy-efficient, and then having it filter down to the individuals to make changes in their lifestyles and make their lives more energy-efficient,” reports Catholic News Service.

For a list of 10 simple things you can do and how much carbon dioxide (CO2) you will save doing them, go to www.climatecrisis.net.

Global warming is more than an economic issue: It’s a moral issue that we have an obligation to take seriously. Like St. Francis, we need to make drastic changes out of respect for the links among all of God’s creation.—M.J.D.


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