Our view: Cli­mate change, Hur­ri­cane Michael and you

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS | OPINION -

Just two days af­ter a United Na­tions re­port de­manded ur­gency in the fight against cli­mate change, a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane slammed into the Flor­ida Pan­han­dle on Wed­nes­day. Did global warm­ing “cause” Hur­ri­cane Michael? No. Is the storm's rapid in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion over un­usu­ally warm wa­ters in the Gulf of Mex­ico en­tirely con­sis­tent with pre­dic­tions of stronger, sog­gier storms? Ab­so­lutely. The U.N. In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change warned that a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to sharply re­duce the harsh­est con­se­quences of global warm­ing — ex­treme weather, food short­ages, wa­ter scarcity and sea level rise — is clos­ing fast. But is the sit­u­a­tion hope­less? Cer­tainly na­tions that spew the most heat­trap­ping green­house gases — par­tic­u­larly China and the United States, the two lead­ing emit­ters — must act more ag­gres­sively to switch away from fos­sil fu­els, and do it soon. That in­cludes the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which greets the cri­sis with in­dif­fer­ence or out­right hos­til­ity. In the mean­time, there are plenty of things in­di­vid­u­als can do: ❚ Start with how you get to work. Walk­ing or bik­ing burns only body fat. Pub­lic trans­porta­tion and car pool­ing save en­ergy. If those aren't vi­able choices, up­grad­ing to a new car is ben­e­fi­cial, given vastly im­proved en­gine ef­fi­cien­cies and the avail­abil­ity of hy­brid and elec­tric al­ter­na­tives. ❚ Con­duct an en­ergy audit of your home, which can cut fuel costs. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment of­fers sug­ges­tions through its En­ergy Star pro­gram, and a lo­cal util­ity might even pro­vide free au­dit­ing ser­vices. Ev­ery light switch, ceil­ing fan or air con­di­tioner turned off re­duces car­bon in the at­mos­phere. ❚ Cut back on red meat. As tree­hug­ging as that sounds, it can truly make a dif­fer­ence. It takes 16 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of beef, a real in­ef­fi­ciency. And a lead­ing source of meth­ane, a po­tent green­house gas, is — yes — bovine emis­sions. ❚ Vote. Be­yond life­style, there's ac­tivism. Non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions sprin­kled across the coun­try can use vol­un­teers and do­na­tions in the cru­sade to save the planet. Re­tire­ment in­vest­ments can be tai­lored for cli­mate-sen­si­tive in­dus­tries. “Its re­ally im­por­tant that peo­ple un­der­stand that we have choices, and our choices mat­ter,” says John Rogers, a se­nior en­ergy an­a­lyst with the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists. One choice is pro­mot­ing the best so­lu­tions. The Ed­i­to­rial Board has long en­dorsed an idea em­braced by the U.N. re­port — plac­ing a price on car­bon, the heat-trap­ping gas re­lent­lessly ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in the at­mos­phere. Tax­ing fos­sil fu­els where they emit car­bon diox­ide, at the re­fin­ery or min­ing op­er­a­tion or port, is a pow­er­ful eco­nomic in­cen­tive to re­duce green­house gases. To mit­i­gate the im­pact, pro­ceeds from the car­bon tax can be re­bated to con­sumers. The great­est lever­age Amer­i­cans have for pro­mot­ing this and other re­sponses to the dire con­se­quences out­lined in the U.N. re­port is at the bal­lot box. The midterm elec­tions are less than four weeks away. The League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers pro­vides an ex­cel­lent guide for how in­cum­bents vote on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, and the GiveGreen PAC of­fers tar­gets for cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. This week's dou­ble whammy of the U.N. re­port and the Flor­ida hur­ri­cane needn't be a recipe for de­spair and paral­y­sis. Cit­i­zens have more power than they think to al­ter Earth's fate.

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