130 Forecast on climate change appears hazy
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This past Wednesday, a small but excited contingent of Bowdoin students made the trip to Portland for 350.org’s Do The Math tour, an initiative to spur environmental activism.
The debate about anthropogenic climate change can no longer focus on whether or not it is happening; this has been settled for some time now. As journalist and environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote in his July 19 Rolling Stone article, the U.S. “broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records” in June.
Carbon neutrality by 2020: the rallying cry, the crown jewel of Bowdoin's sustainability plan. There are, of course, plenty of other initiatives geared towards "going green," from zero-sort recycling to the Yellow Bike Club. But reigning in an institution's carbon footprint has become the green standard; talk of sustainable campuses does not happen without hearing the phrase. Just ask any high school junior or senior touring around the NESCAC how many times they have heard about carbon neutrality goals.
I feel obligated to address what has been the subject of much discussion as of late: President Obama's so-called "all of the above" energy policy. It is being lauded as a sign of the president's commitment to energy independence, his willingness to cooperate. It is hailed as egalitarian, even patriotic.
The idea of nature, of a pristine wilderness characterized by its separation from man, is a widely accepted notion. We are told—and believe—that to "experience" nature, we must step off of the paved road, away from the comforts of civilization. Some environments are more "natural" than others like, say, New York City, but true nature is inherently separate. Bill McKibben perfectly defines our concept of nature in his book, "The End of Nature," as "the separate and wild province, the world apart from man."
While the official process of setting the federal budget for the fiscal year doesn't begin until October 1, Obama's energy department released its "wish list" earlier this week. Among other things, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and associates are proposing to remove $4 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel companies. At the same time, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would benefit from a 29 percent hike in funding, up to $2.34 billion.
For better or worse, modern-day environmentalism has become an increasingly global movement. There is plenty of logic behind this transition: greenhouse gas emissions from a coal-powered plant in China or South Africa do not just impact local populations, but on people around the world. Population growth in Nigeria or India will increase demand for food commodities and valuable resources worldwide.