, Newburyport, MA

October 2, 2013

What to do to combat effects of climate change

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Anyone who paid attention to the recent leak of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 report could not help but be shocked and disturbed. Among other findings, the report indicates that sea levels will rise between 21 inches and 36 inches by the end of this century. Given that life expectancies are increasing dramatically, this means that many people being born in the area served by The Daily News will live to see a time when most of Plum Island and the Parker River Wildlife Refuge will be completely under water, along with all the other coastal communities and enclaves we love and take for granted.

Although powerful political forces on the Right deny the reality behind climate change, 95-plus percent of all climate scientists agree that it’s happening and it’s a self-inflicted wound. Every day that we burn more carbon than the atmosphere can absorb is a day when we make matters worse. Those who dismiss climate change as a concoction of “socialists” like Al Gore are like those who claim that lung cancer has nothing to do with cigarettes. As Chico once said to Groucho, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own lying eyes?!”

Let’s just assume that Newburyport and its surrounding communities can get past this smoke screen of ignorance and denial and decide that all the scientists are onto something. What should we do now to combat the effects of climate change and prepare for a better future? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Protect Plum Island and other low-lying areas

2. Teach climate change dynamics and systems thinking to children beginning in elementary school.

3. Provide incentives to reduce carbon usage, e.g., households cutting their carbon footprints and recycling wastes ought to get rewarded with tax rebates.

4. Eliminate carbon-based wastes, e.g., plastic bags for shopping and plastic water bottles.

5. Establish an alternative and a zero carbon research center in northern Essex County to educate the populace regarding all of the personal and community innovations that are available that reduce carbon emissions, e.g., turning plastic into oil.

6. Dramatically increase the use of public and mass transportation to get around, especially to reduce traffic levels between here and Boston.

7. Put bike lanes throughout the area to encourage non-internal combustion transportation.

8. Recycle the majority of material from the dismantling of any residential or commercial property. Encourage the renovation and use of existing homes and buildings rather than new ones.

9. Seek advice regarding appropriate and sustainable economic and industrial development, e.g., waste to energy for light manufacturing.

10. Grow your own food and shop for local produce. Transportation of food is a significant contributor to carbon emissions

These are just a very few of the steps that we could and should be taking if we were serious about climate change.

Without intending to, the industrial era has created a problem that may take many centuries to resolve.

On the other hand, unforeseen and unexpected technological breakthroughs could reverse the damage much more quickly than I anticipate. Nature is benign.

If we stop introducing wobble into its cycles of behavior, they’ll restore themselves. If we don’t, we are all going to be, literally, in the soup.

Michael Sales