Step outside – climate change is here

Smoke nearly blocks out the sun last week during the Wragg fire near Lake Berryessa.
Smoke nearly blocks out the sun last week during the Wragg fire near Lake Berryessa. rbenton@sacbee.com

Five brush fires raged in a single day this week along the American River Parkway. The Wragg fire at Lake Berryessa flared anew. Temperatures soared to triple digits and beyond in Sacramento, sizzling even for this ordinarily hot city, even as the southern end of the state braced for freak monsoons.

If global warming doesn’t feel like a threat by now, it ought to. Last week, 16 leading scientists joined the former lead climate scientist for NASA in warning that glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland could melt 10 times faster than anyone thought.

James Hansen, one of the first predictors of climate change – “alarmist and also right,” as Slate called him – reported that the goal we had all been told was safe, limiting global warming to a 2-degree Celsius temperature increase, actually won’t begin to control the damage.

In as little as 50 years, according to the study published last Thursday in the open-access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, sea levels may rise 10 feet or more, inundating the world’s coastal cities. That would submerge Miami Beach, Boston’s Back Bay, the Port of Long Beach, the entire New Orleans delta, and the La Guardia, John F. Kennedy, Newark, and San Diego airports. North and south Sacramento would be swamped; so would much of San Francisco.

And that’s not counting the continued rise in extreme weather and violent superstorms.

Californians mostly grasp the problem. A statewide survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 62 percent of us believe the effects of climate change have started, and about 4 in 5 see it as a “serious” or “very serious” problem (mostly the latter).

But getting it isn’t the same as doing something about it. So what more, collectively and individually, can we do here?

Well, drive less. Or, if you must drive, drive something more fuel-efficient. Or consume less red meat and dairy. Methane is even more destructive in some ways than carbon dioxide.

Or, more broadly, support President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would cap power plant emissions. Most of the impact would be in other states, where utilities still rely on coal-fired plants for power, but California needs company in ratcheting down emissions.

Or weigh in on California’s bills – Senate Bill 32 and SB 350 – which will double down on more local efforts.

Climate change has occurred in slow motion, which has allowed too many of us to deny it. But step outside. It’s everywhere.