Congregants at Bryant AME Church in Los Angeles were surprised recently when Richard Siegel, interim director of the Jewish Communal Service, delivered a startling overview of how global warming is impacting the planet.
And the situation is gaining national attention–climate change bills are reportedly stacking up in Congress and the Senate to bring about tougher fuel economy standards in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Siegel is among 1,000 participants who have signed on for the Climate Project founded by former Vice President Al Gore, whose goal is to educate citizens about the impact of global warming. “Gore’s goal is to train activists to speak across the country to inform and educate citizens about global warming,” said Siegel, who said as a member of the Climate Project, he is committed to presenting information on global warming 10 times a year to community groups.
Siegel said the planet is becoming increasingly warmer due to carbon dioxide, which is changing the climate at unprecedented levels. “Americans are contributing disproportionately to the causes of global warming by our lifestyles,” he said. “It comes from industrialization, the burning of fossil fuels, oil, and coal. Americans are contributing to over 25 percent of the carbon monoxide that goes into the atmosphere even though we are only five percent of the population,” Siegel pointed out.
Pausing, he added, “Carbon dioxide is producing the greenhouse effect which is raising temperatures around the world. The average American is producing 56,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year when the world average by non-Americans is in the order of 10 to 15 thousand pounds per year.”
Siegel said that with the rise of global warming, third world countries will suffer the most. “The poorest, the most disadvantaged, and the most vulnerable populations around the world are already suffering from droughts and floods. They are being displaced from their homes because of rising ocean levels. They are also going to be impacted by increases in diseases.”
Siegel said that scientists, who said that global warming will cause disruptions in agriculture and fishing, are still trying to determine when these changes will severely impact the planet. “The estimates are that by 2050, we could see the situation develop where the water levels of the earth’s oceans would rise by eight feet, which would flood major areas of the world–countries such as India, China, and Indonesia.
Siegel felt that America must take a lead in curtailing the threat of global warming. “America could probably mitigate the damage, because these other populations won’t be able to,” said Siegel.
The speaker pointed to a number of instances that could cut down on global warming. “We have inefficient transportation systems. Everybody has a car in Los Angeles, but it would be far more efficient to take the light rail or have more public transportation available. The level of smokestack industries that are producing carbon monoxide emissions is enormous in our country and there is very little being done to regulate it.”
Siegel said that electricity used in private houses also contributes to global warming. “In order to have electricity, we need to burn gas or coal. Every time we leave our lights on, or every time we use a regular incandescent light, we are contributing to global warming.”
Siegel also suggested that with computer use increasing in every household, it is important for users to turn off computers when they are not in use. “When you buy a new appliance, look for one that is energy efficient,” he suggested.
Recycling paper was another suggestion to stave off global warming. “Recycling paper will save an enormous amount of trees,” said Siegel. “Trees absorb an enormous amount of carbon dioxide. When you cut down trees, you cut down the ability of the earth to absorb the amount of carbon dioxide that the earth is producing, so it is important to minimize the amount of trees we cut down.”
According to Siegel, drastic changes will continue to impact the earth if global warming continues. “The arctic is melting in the North Pole, and polar bears are an endangered species because their habitat is disappearing,” Siegel pointed out. “Scientists are now predicting that within 10 years there will be no ice in the arctic. Drought is forcing third world populations to be displaced from their natural lands, such as populations who are migrating to Darfur where they are getting caught up in ethnic and political struggles. There’s increasing drought in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Darfur. The lakes are drying up, the livestock is dying, and people are being forced to move from their villages for survival.”
Closer to home, Siegel observed, “You have areas of California that used to be prime grape-growing areas but the temperatures are making it too warm for the grapes to grow. Vermont was famous for their maple syrup, but the sap is not running anymore because the winters are not cold enough–they have become too warm.”
Siegel also pointed out that global warming is affecting wildlife. “The warmer it gets, the more bugs and insects we’re going to see and the insects are already killing off wildlife. We will see an invasion of new diseases.”