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Close to Home: Looking at the Earth in a new way

On Dec. 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 mission gave us a stark image of our planet Earth rising over a barren moonscape. This amazing picture captured our imagination, and we begin to fully realize that the only home we will ever have is this fragile and precious 'spaceship Earth.'

This consciousness was given full expression with the celebration of the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

Since that time, we have learned that our actions can profoundly affect the Earth we live on and its intricate climate system. Burning fossil fuels increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leading to extreme weather, the spread of human and crop diseases and the inexorable rise of sea level.

And these changes are not something that may happen in the distant future. Insurance companies are already showing increasing losses due to climate change. In Syria, the worst drought in a century caused farmers and herders to leave their land and move into crowded cities. The social unrest ultimately led to a terrible civil war with masses of refugees flocking to Europe. Alarming new newspaper headlines appear nearly every day:

'Super typhoon leaves behind massive flooding in Philippines'

'Waiting for the rains, Zambia grapples with climate change'

'Greenland ice sheet shatters records with early melt'

'Scientists nearly double sea level rise projections for 2100'

'High tides cause persistent flooding in South Florida'

California has had vicious wildfires, and we've been told we had better get used to having less water due to our diminishing snowpack.

But there is hope. In Paris on Dec. 12, an international agreement was crafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which calls for keeping world temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

It's on the record: virtually all nations on Earth agree we have a serious problem. On Earth Day, April 22, some 175 countries signed this agreement.

Now comes the hard part: World leaders must turn words into deeds. Despite all our efforts so far, greenhouse gases in our atmosphere have not gone down. In fact, they are increasing at a faster rate every year.

We must act soon, and we must act boldly. We already have the technology we need. Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources are becoming more affordable every year. Our job now is to vastly increase the use of renewable energy and discourage further burning of fossil fuel.

An idea that is gaining traction in the U.S. and Canada is a carbon fee and dividend which would impose a fee on the extraction of all oil, coal and natural gas at the source. To offset increased cost to consumers, this fee would be returned to each household in the form of a monthly dividend check. In this way, market forces, not government regulation, would move us to adopt new energy sources. A study by Regional Economic Models, Inc. has shown that such a fee would actually improve the economy by stimulating significant growth of 'Main Street' and renewable energy jobs.

To get a carbon fee and dividend law passed, we must get Congress on board. Happily, since the carbon fee and dividend is revenue neutral, it is finding bipartisan support. To find out more, look up Citizens' Climate Lobby on the net. Then find your congressman's phone number and give a quick call to say that you would like to see such legislation passed.

Citizens' Climate Lobby is organizing in every congressional district to pass such legislation. Contact the local Santa Rosa chapter at santarosa@ citizensclimatelobby.org.

Dave Warrender is a volunteer for Citizens' Climate Lobby. He lives in Sebastopol.

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