CAB Editorals

COMMENTARY: Climate Column: An introduction

By Climate Advocates of Bennington Mar 18, 2024

The climate is on everyone’s mind. The changes that we are experiencing are both perplexing and scary. Where has the snow gone? Why did we have two 500 year floods in 10 years? Why have we moved from a planting hardiness zone of 3 to a 5b? And why do we have so much wind? What does all this mean and what can we do about it?

This is the first in a series of columns to address the climate crisis. During the next few months there will be articles by some of southern Vermont’s smartest people. The goal of the series is to inform about the changing climate, what must be done and what you can do. We will discuss what is already underway. We will point to future innovations and possible breakthroughs. We will think about the future if we don’t take action and take it very soon.

People react to the changing climate in different ways. Some worry about possible eventual outcomes, such as a catastrophic disaster that could destroy civilization. Others do their best to take action they believe will contribute to solving the problems.

To some of us the problems of climate change seems so big and so complicated that it is difficult to understand it, let alone work out actions one can take. We retreat and hope that the scientists, the experts, or the EPA will take care of it.

One of the axioms of environmental study is: You can’t do just one thing because all things are interconnected. We have an environmental system that has evolved through many millennium to be finely balanced. But the balance has been deeply disturbed in the last two centuries by a rapid change in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The additional carbon dioxide is created by emissions from burning fossil fuels, primarily oil, gas, and coal. This change has occurred in the last 150 years which is extremely rapid in the context of geological time.

The use of fossil fuel energy to power the great industrial revolution brought about amazing, astonishing benefits. Almost everything about how we live has been enhanced by fossil fuel energy. But the explosion in the burning of fossil fuels has polluted air and water and is detrimental to the health and well being of humans. The additional carbon dioxide also unbalanced earths ecosystems. Specifically it changed the chemical composition of earths atmosphere and that produces warming of the earth itself

In 1960 atmospheric carbon was measured at just under 300 parts per million (PPM). This measurement looks at how many molecules of carbon dioxide are in a specific volume as compared to all other molecules. Scientist thought that 350ppm was a “safe” level of carbon dioxide. At this level the temperature of the earth would be stable and healthy for the ecosystems earth supports and also for humans.

We are now at 422ppm. This number means that we can expect earth’s temperature to rise and indeed it is doing so. Is this the disaster that I feared in the second paragraph? Not necessarily.

This present trajectory will move us to about 2.5 C of warming.This level has already created issues of adapting to the new climate. But we must act very vigorously and very soon in order to stay in a safe zone.

These columns will discuss the problems and potentials that are possible. They will point to what is already being done and what must be done to avoid the worst outcomes. Some of the columns will discuss ideas about what individuals, family, businesses, small groups can do to reduce fossil fuel emission.

Together we really can make a difference.

For more information on the Climate Advocates of Bennington, visit Opinions expressed by columnists do not necessary reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.