All this Pollution is Making me to Schvitz!!
by Noam Dolgin
So everyone is talking about Climate Change, Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases, Shifting Climate but what does this all mean. What is really happening and why? What can we do to make a real difference?
The Greenhouse Effect.
If it wasn’t for the Greenhouse effect, the Earth’s average temperature would be 9 degrees Fahrenheit, way too cold to support life as we know it! This life giving layer traps heat that would otherwise be lost to the atmosphere and keeps it in our global system. Not only is the Earth’s greenhouse gas layer not a bad thing, but without it we wouldn’t be here.
But there is a problem. Too many greenhouse gases, leading to an increase in the amount of heat trapped in our atmosphere. More trapped heat means a shift in our climactic balance, leading to global changes in weather.
Many people use the term Global Warming to describe these changes, since on average the world is getting warmer. But the problem is not that simple. The increase in trapped energy is leading to changes in atmospheric wind patterns, melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers, and much more. These major shifts in the fragile balance of our globe are leading to drastic Global Climate Change and bringing us to the brink of Climate Crisis!
The Greenhouse Gases
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
The Carbon Dioxide balance in the atmosphere is a sensitive one. Plants use CO2 for respiration and animals emit in on exhale. The Rabbis teach “Without Trees human life could not exist.” Midrash Sifrei 20:19, this ancient text helps shed light on this eternal balance. However in recent times, this balance has been highly affected by two serious changes to our global system.
First: human agricultural development and more recently urban and suburban sprawl have destroyed large portions of the world’s forests and other plant-rich ecosystems. About one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are gone. Each year, another 16 million hectares disappear. The World Resources Institute estimates that only about 22% of the world's “old growth“ original forest cover remains intact. In fact Israel was the only country in the world with more forest at the end of the 20th Century than at the beginning, thanks to the work of JNF/KKL.
Second: for the last 100 years humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at rates unprecedented in human history. In fact, the average American is responsible for the production of 20 tons of Carbon Dioxide each year. Through the use of fossil fuels for energy production, transportation and industry we have driven the atmospheric carbon dioxide level up 36%. With continued population growth and global development, these levels continue to grow annually at an ever increasing rate.
Working to restore the carbon balance will be the great challenge of this generation. But to start, you need information. What is your carbon footprint? To find out visit www.earthday.net/footprint
Methane exists in the atmosphere at much lower quantities than Carbon Dioxide (0.00017% vs .035%) and is emitted at much lower levels by human activity. However, methane acts as a much stronger greenhouse gas, capturing approximately 21 times as much heat as Carbon Dioxide, making it a major problem in the fight against climate change. While you hear much less about Methane in the media, this problem must also be addressed if we are going to mount a strong campaign against climate change. Methane is produced through two major human activities
First, cows: yes, cows. Cows raised for meat account are a major contributor to climate change. As cows eat, they burp and fart a lot, releasing huge quantities of methane as a by-product of their digestion. It is estimated that 1 lb of beef is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions equal to the amount released by an ordinary car traveling at a speed of 50 miles per hour for 70 miles (approximately 84 minutes of driving). This amount of energy would light a 25 watt Compact Fluorescent Light bulb for 36 days!
Second, garbage and methane released from rotting landfills are another major contributing factor to climate change. 30% of household waste is comprised of compostable food scraps. When this organic waste is sent to landfills it releases methane as it breaks down in the dump. Fortunately, methane can be captured and used as a fuel source itself. Though much still remains to be done, fantastic advancements have been made in this field, including innovative projects throughout Israel.
Working Now Towards a Sustainable Climate Future – R.O.I.
The term ROI has a few meanings:
1) Roi is the Hebrew word for foresight, vision. It connotes an understanding of the right path forward.
2) R.O.I. is also a business acronym, Return On Investment, reminding us that small investments now can pay big dividends in the future.
Like the 3 Rs of waste reduction (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), R.O.I. builds off these two historic meanings to be a tool, spelling out a path to remember, how we can fight climate change.
Reduce, Offset, Improve
Reduce – Each one of us has a personal climate footprint, an amount we contribute to climate change. Whenever possible, reduce your personal energy usage. Turn off lights when you leave a room, drive less, eat less meat, etc.
Offset– No matter how much you try to reduce, you will continue to have a climate footprint. So offset that footprint, by helping others to reduce their carbon an equivalent amount. Visit www.goodenergy,.org.il for examples of how to offset your carbon by helping reduce emissions in Israel.
Improve– “It’s not up to you to finish the task, but neither are you free to abstain from it.” Pirkei Avot. We will not win the fight against climate change overnight, changing patterns of consumption is challenging on personal, social and political levels. Do what you can now and continually look for new ways to reduce your impact. Plus, work with your family, synagogue, school, town, state or nation to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emission in all parts of our lives.