Repowering America

You expel 20.2 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. You’re not the only one. So does every other person in the United States. That’s approximately 6,218,772,000 tons. That number, in part, explains why the United States is responsible for 30.3% of the global contribution to global warming.

On Oct. 19, the SUNY New Paltz Environmental Task Force brought Dr. Steven Leibo to campus to speak about climate change. He provided a continuation and updated look at Al Gore’s award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Leibo was trained by Gore and a team of scientists for this project. He is a professor of international politics at The Sage Colleges and a commentator on WAMC’s “International Affairs.”

Through the use of a slide show, Leibo showed the inevitable effects of our current environmental habits. Glacial earthquakes have increased fourfold since 1993 and for every meter of sea level increase approximately 100 million people will be displaced.

Leibo was raised in the Maldives, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is slowly seeing its homes sink due to the rising sea levels, resultant of global warming. If our current levels of energy consumption do not yield, some scientists say the Maldives will be completely underwater by 2010.

One of the biggest challenges in trying to affect climate change and fight this invisible monster is getting people involved.

“It is a challenge so new, so different from anything we have faced in the past. It is not a subject people seem capable of easily grasping,” said Leibo. “But also the very real fact that unlike most of the world, the people of the United States were subjected to a very well organized, very well financed professional campaign to confuse us and thus avoid having to do anything about this.”

The talk was old hat for those already familiar with the crisis facing our planet, but it was meant to inform and hopefully open the eyes of some global warming naysayers.

“Global warming deniers will never be satisfied because their claims are politically motivated and not scientifically based. Any serious scientist with expertise in this area recognizes that climate change is real and that its impacts could be devastating to human society and to ecosystems,” said Obach. “The denial machine is funded by corporate powers that have an interest to delaying or preventing action on climate change because some of those measures may threaten their profitability.”

But what is the solution to these overwhelming environmental problems? Leibo says, “Repower America.” Better standards of energy efficiency plus renewable energy sources and a unified national grid will equal 100 percent clean electricity.

“Given the upcoming Copehhagen talks and the legislation in the U.S. Congress being developed right now, [citizens can] make sure that they inform their representatives that this is critical,” said Leibo.

SUNY New Paltz professor and head of the Environmental Task Force, Brian Obach expressed a similar opinion.

“…There are also groups like NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group) and Students for Sustainable Agriculture who are also working on different dimensions of this issue. The main thing is that people need to be involved and politically engaged,” said Obach. “Problems of this scale can only be addressed through policy and legislation. Students can join these groups and write letters and lobby and demonstrate and call their representatives and demand policy changes.”

The Honorable Al Gore, Nobel Laureate and best-selling author, gives the keynote address at Greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference and trade show in Phoenix in mid-November. Gore engaged the audience of nearly 20,000 at Chase Field with updated climate change data from his new book, Our Choice; A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, peppered with humorous anecdotes and one-liners. Because buildings account for nearly 38 percent of the country’s carbon emissions, and this was, after all, a sustainable building conference, Gore was perhaps preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, his message was clear: each of us has a responsibility to make better choices in our lives, he said.

Pierce Lydon

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