Averting irreversible global warming

Posted on June 20, 2024 by Sonoma Sun

Dear Editor,

I must take issue with Caitlin Cornwall’s article stating that “progress IS happening” regarding climate change. There is scientific consensus that we need to reduce parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm) to avert irreversible global warming. According to a June 6,2024 report on CBS News “Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are surging ’faster than ever’ to beyond anything humans ever experienced, officials say.” As of June 8, the weekly average CO2 level reported at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory was 427.02 ppm. If per capita emissions are declining, as Caitlin claimed, that is because population is increasing at a high rate. The number that drives global warming, with all of its extreme impacts, is the aggregate atmospheric 427.02 ppm and “surging”, not ppm per person. The only meaningful definition of progress regarding CO2 emissions is a decline in aggregate atmospheric ppm

I recognize the challenge of staying motivated in the face of daunting reality. I am an environmental attorney dedicated to working on climate.  To make real progress, we need fundamental, systemic change in our use of natural resources at the personal and socio-economic level.  I was the lead attorney on the case that overturned the Sonoma County Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2017. The court agreed that the CAP was inadequate because it failed to account for the thousands of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle miles traveled in the export of goods from Sonoma County (wines and other produce, technical equipment) and from long distance air and on road travel to the County by wine country tourists. The full range of CO2 impacts from activity in the County also includes lost sequestration from the thousands of acres of trees cut down for vineyard development. The activities producing these impacts are ongoing and increasing. County and City elected officials have chosen to ignore the clear implications of the court’s ruling. 

In order to place reasonable limits on the economic momentum behind this global warming intensive activity, we need to first call attention to its true impacts. I see Caitlin’s effort to focus on partial progress in some areas, while overall emissions are surging, as undermining the sense of urgency necessary for the systemic change we need.

 We need fundamental change at every level, personal, corporate and institutional. Our wine country/tourist economy is not sustainable at its current level.  The U.S. military is the world’s largest institutional generator of greenhouse gas emissions.

Jerry Bernhaut

One thought on “Averting irreversible global warming

  1. I agree with systemic change. To write that adapting to these systemic transformations will be difficult is a vast understatement. The alternative is increased suffering, mass migrations, droughts (already happening), water shortages (already happening), wars (already happening), etc.

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