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Columbia Missourian

GUEST COMMENTARY: The genius of energy conservation and clean energy adoption

By Johann N. Bruhn
August 26, 2013 | 5:30 p.m. CDT

Hemingway wrote that all he had to do was write one true sentence, the truest sentence he knew, to unleash his writing genius. I have two. Human-caused climate change is the greatest threat that humanity faces. And, every personal action that we take as individuals, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, makes a difference (by definition), especially as multiplied by the actions of the collective hundreds of millions of us (about 7 billion in fact, planetwide).

At this point in time, we simply must, and we can, both mitigate climate change even as we do our best to adapt to it. Mitigate it by embracing solar, wind, geothermal and other climate-friendly energy sources and by conserving energy in oh so many ways that don’t impinge on our standard of living while even improving our public health. Turn off the lights when we’re not in the room; lower the hot water thermostat by a few degrees; raise the home thermostat by a few degrees; dress lighter or warmer depending on the season; drive a little less, walk or bike a little more; think of some other way to contribute — actions that don’t make much difference individually make a huge difference collectively. You aren’t alone, and you’ll feel really good about contributing to the solution. Realize that others are responding to the same urgent need, and it amounts to a movement. Give alternative energy sources a level playing field, and gosh, suddenly, they’re actually affordable. One barrier to adopting alternative energy sources has been energy storage (battery) capacity.  A friend of mine in Southern California who specializes in this technology was pulled off of this research effort decades ago on the cusp of success, only to be recently re-instated as a project leader. Come on, fellow Missourians. What more do we need to be shown?  This is really a no-brainer. What are the qualities of your children’s and grandchildren’s lives worth to you? Think broadly and deeply about capitalist greed, its impersonal ambitions and how to redirect the honest need to promote jobs growth toward a sustainable future that favors a thriving human component. All that’s required is willpower and democratic grass-roots insistence. Are you up to it?

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Denial must be denied, and responsibility must be accepted.  As reported by Justin Gillis in The New York Times on Aug. 20, a current draft report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group of international scientists awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, concludes that our little planet is indeed warming, and that human influence is almost certainly the principal cause. Do you want to bet your children's and grandchildren's lives against this?  You don’t have to, if you embrace energy conservation and public investment in truly clean energy.   According to Gillis’ report, depending on how effectively we respond to the need to reduce human emissions of greenhouse gases, sea levels may rise as little as 8 inches (with aggressive proactive effort) or as much as 21-plus inches (at current levels of denial). Under the same range of scenarios, global air temperatures may also rise between 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. A global temperature hike of 5 degrees Fahrenheit would translate to a higher increase over land than sea, resulting in a wide range of environmental crises, from food production failures to extraordinary storms, fires and disruptions in water supply. Aren’t we already beginning to see this? Isn’t it already time to take serious action?

Johann N. Bruhn, Ph.D., is a of Columbia resident. He has studied forest ecology and forest health professionally for more than 40 years. He can be contacted at bruhnjn@gmail.com.