In 1970, we were mired in the mud of the Vietnam war, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had nearly 38,000 nuclear warheads between them, and the global mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 325 parts per million. In 1970, the first Earth Day was held, but people were less concerned about global warming than they were about nuclear winter.
Although the war ended in 1975, according to figures comipled by NASA, the CO2 concentration was up to 331 ppm. The Cold War came to a close in 1989, and CO2 was at 353 ppm. Earth Day paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit CO2 at 356 ppm). In 2000, Earth Day hit the internet (CO2 at 370 ppm). On the 46th anniversary of Earth Day in 2016, the Paris Agreement was signed, and CO2 reached 403 ppm. Today, we’re looking at 412 ppm, an increase of 25% in less than 50 years.
That’s the big picture.
But every big picture is made up of millions of tiny pixels. Perhaps the most remarkable pixels in the fight against climate change are our kids. Sweden’s Greta Thunberg is inspiring students worldwide to become activists for climate solutions. In our own country, Alexandria Villasenor received attention for skipping school and silently protesting outside the United Nations in New York. Last month, thousands of students in the Bay Area walked out of class to join the Global Youth Climate Strike. And right here in Sonoma County, the student council at Credo High School in Rohnert Park passed a “Call to Climate Action” resolution. This is just the beginning of a wave of youthful energy demanding action to save their future.
Climate change disproportionately affects youngsters. Most baby boomers won’t live to see the worst effects of a warming planet, but their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will face trials rivaled only by those the dinosaurs faced 60 million years ago. The 2018 election saw a groundswell of younger people elected to Congress. Now they have introduced radical new ideas like the Green New Deal. Kids can’t get it done on their own, though. It’s going to take a village. More than a village — the whole country.
Each of us can do a little, like replace our incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or invest in solar panels or an electric vehicle. But in concert with millions of others, really great things can be accomplished. For example, HR 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, has been gaining bipartisan support and is making headlines in both red and blue states. This is a meaningful, concrete way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in the first 12 years, which, by the way, is about how long we have to turn the trend around before the runaway greenhouse effect becomes unstoppable.
The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would simultaneously build the economy creating 2.1 million new jobs, improve health and save lives, put money directly into our pockets and start us on a path to keeping Earth habitable for humans.
Earth Day is a time to bring a global focus to the already rampant effects of climate change. Santa Rosa’s 10th annual Earth Day On Stage event will be held April 27 in Old Courthouse Square. For more information, see srcity.org/2139/Earth-Day-OnStage.
Earth Day is really People Day. Let’s make the world safe for humans and other living things. Each of us is a pixel in the big picture, and together we can make it a beautiful picture of a bright future for everyone.
Randy Jones is a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby, Santa Rosa chapter.
You can send a letter to the editor at [email protected]