Trusting the science of global warming

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115151880732449.jpg’, ”, ‘Former Vice President Al Gore’s new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is drumming up support for the science of global warming.’);

Our life experiences have given us faith in the scientific process to identify health problems and develop solutions. During our childhoods, the scourge of polio was removed from our lives thanks to the discovery of a vaccine to prevent it. Our daughter survived meningitis as a young child thanks to the discovery of sulfa drugs. Friends are alive today leading productive lives because lithium manages their bipolar condition to keep them from sinking into self-destructive depression.

So, when some of the world’s leading scientific organizations reach consensus that burning fossil fuels and cutting down the world’s forests are undermining the health of our planet and human welfare, we give serious consideration to their findings and recommended solutions.

Climate change models for Illinois suggest an increase in the frequency of intense storms, coupled with an increase in droughts, are likely to reduce agricultural output and adversely affect existing ecosystems. Experience indicates our oaks will be at risk as they are shallow-rooted and severely stressed by drought.

Recently, the owner of a local tree-trimming and removal service asked us why he is seeing so many dead oaks. On one property he removed 30 dead trees from a stand of 100; all but one was an oak. Another client reported he had lost an average of 15 oaks a year for the past few years. A recent editorial in the Dixon newspaper sounded an alarm about the presence of oak wilt in the community, and called for an assessment of its extent and consideration of appropriate action.

We called a local certified arborist, Lant Huntley, to examine a cluster of three oaks on our property showing signs of stress. He did not think they were suffering from oak wilt, but for an accurate diagnosis he suggested we take samples and send them to a lab for analysis. Aware of an increase in tree deaths, Huntley hopes to develop innoculants and experiment to determine whether it is possible to immunize trees to selected diseases.

The new documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, featuring Al Gore, is an attempt to raise public awareness regarding the planetary threat of global warming, its implications for human welfare and the need for appropriate action—now. Sir David King, the Chief Scientific Adviser for the U.K., considers global warming the world’s biggest threat requiring immediate, sustained action.

Several reports suggest we have about 15 years to take action to avoid the more serious consequences of global warming. The fastest, surest, least costly response is to conserve energy and use it efficiently. This response makes sense on its own merits, even if the human contribution to global warming proves less significant than now projected.

Unfortunately, the public continues to consume energy at an unsustainable rate, and our economic and political elite place far too little emphasis on conservation and efficiency. We need a rapid, permanent change in our use of energy. A few years ago, California citizens quickly cut their energy consumption nearly 15 percent in weeks in response to an energy crisis and government leadership. Conservation and efficiency should be the backbone of our energy reforms.

This year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, Aug. 12-13 at Ogle County Fairgrounds, will have many workshops focused on conservation and efficiency. Following are examples:

Bob Lieberman of the Illinois Commerce Commission and Hans Detweiler of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will address the future of efficiency and renewables in Illinois;

Joe Schacter of the Environmental Law and Policy Center will explain how Illinois can derive health and economic benefits by cleaning up our cars; and

Dan Persky, adviser to Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, will describe how the Green Government Coordinating Council is “greening” Illinois.

An exciting new approach to using the German “Passive-Haus” model will be the subject of two presentations. Vic Zaderej, Marko Spiegel and Rick McCanse, who are building such a house near Oregon, will explain how a person can heat a home with a hair dryer. Keynote speaker Bernd Steinmuller of Germany will detail how Europeans are saving energy through housing construction and why these techniques are appropriate for the Midwest.

Major sponsors for this year’s Energy Fair include The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and ComEd, An Exelon Company.

From the June 28-July 4, 2006, issue

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