Climate change is one of those issues that only affects certain people. Lauren Campbell, the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Conservation Director, knows exactly which people.
“If you eat, you breathe, or you drink water,” Campbell said, “you need to be concerned about climate change.” She has the facts and knows the science to back it up, too.
On Wednesday, May 29, Campbell spoke at the Waikapu Community Center. Her presentation was coordinated by the non-profit group Organizing for Action (OFA), which is engaged in a nationwide effort to promote the discussion of climate change. The organization encouraged attendees to write and tweet representatives about the issue. Before Campbell’s talk, statements from Representative Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Brian Schatz were read, expressing a dedication to addressing climate change (Senator Mazie Hirono and Representative Colleen Hanabusa did not comment, and nobody mentioned the delegation’s recent support of a Farm Bill amendment that would continue taxpayer funded protections for the environmentally unwise Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar).
Campbell’s presentation was a thorough overview of climate change, from the Earth’s natural climate cycles to why current changes are so dangerous. She even forecast what would happen to the world if current trends continued. It was all disconcerting, to say the least.
Greenhouse gasses help to insulate the planet but can also warm global temperatures. We humans have been releasing unprecedented amounts since the Industrial Revolution. Thus, more heat energy from the sun remains in the Earth’s system and less is radiated back into the solar system, causing a change in climate and weather patterns.
While today’s climate change deniers are right in saying that the planet’s climate goes through natural cycles, models show that the current rate of change is unprecedented. Models predict a change of two to six degrees Celsius in the next century—a much more drastic change than the five degrees Celsius per 5,000 years rate the Earth has exhibited in the last two million years.
The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—which correlates with temperature—is also unprecedented. This May it reached 400 parts per million, far more than the 170-300 ppm levels the Earth has maintained over the last 800,000 years.
These changes will not be without consequence, Campbell said. They will most likely result in eroded shorelines, longer droughts followed by flash flooding, intensified storms, crop damage, ocean acidification, a decline in ecosystem biodiversity, rising sea levels and coral reef damage.
What’s more, our imported food supply will decline, our water sources will become less reliable, we’ll be more prone to more dangerous hurricanes and, on top of everything else, will have to pay a premium for local fish. Forget that beachfront property, because beaches won’t exist anymore. Snorkeling in the shallows may become as exciting as snorkeling at your local pool.
But we can still change our course and mitigate some of the worst outcomes. Get informed and share your knowledge, Campbell encouraged us. But first, “walk the walk.”
“Examine your lifestyle,” she said. “Start with one thing and go from there… Every individual makes a difference.”
Hope Busto-Keyes, another OFA Hawaii co-State Leader, added “We need to change the conversation so the conversation stops looking at deniers to look at the facts. It’s really to change that conversation from that negative to ‘OK, this is a problem. And now what are the approaches that we can take that are meaningful and make a difference?’”