It is increasingly obvious to even the most skeptical of the anti-global warming critics that our planet is undergoing a significant climate change caused by the increase in atmospheric temperature.
The current deniers are right up there with the Flat Earth Society. If the recent past is any indication, an atmospheric temperature increase of another two degrees will be catastrophic. "We're on a highway to climate hell," said U.N. Secretary- General Antonio Guterres at the recent COP27 climate change summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
We have seen droughts that have lowered lake and river levels, and in other countries climate change has caused tremendous food shortages. We are quickly reaching the point of no return if we don't take immediate action.
The scientific facts from temperatures around the world are proof that our atmosphere is warming. Last year was the warmest on the surface of the planet since records have been kept, and the last eight years were the hottest ever recorded. We are in a worldwide crisis that will only get worse if we don't take drastic steps to reduce our carbon footprint, which has caused the atmosphere to heat.
In the past five years I owned a scooter, which I rode the three miles to work, until it developed engine trouble. This last week, I bought one of the new electric bikes that have just come on the market.
What convinced me was a study from Portland State University and the University of Tennessee. Their study showed that with a 15 percent reduction in personal car use by riding an ebike, it would amount to a 500-pound cut a year in an individual's carbon footprint. If I keep my car in the garage during working hours, it would reduce my mileage by at least 500 a year. I'm no math genius, but that is clearly at least 15 percent of my driving.
If all I do is not use straws and take a sack to Walmart for my groceries, then merely add the ebike to make a difference, I would be a hypocrite. So El Dorado drivers: Don't run me down on Calion Road when I'm heading to my office. There is no bike lane, my maximum speed is 32 miles per hour, and I will be taking up all of the right lane, so just be patient, and share the road.
We recently returned from a vacation in New York City, and the biggest change we noted were the hundreds of ebikes zipping along in the midst of solid traffic. Most of them were in bike lanes, and there were folks of all ages riding, some in suits and ties. I figured if all those New Yorkers can brave New York traffic, riding to work in downtown El Dorado would be a piece of cake.
There are several other ways to at least stabilize the increase in atmospheric temperatures. Coal-fired plants and automobile exhaust emissions are the primary culprits in the atmospheric warming problem, and trees are the major carbon reducers.
Figures show coal-fired plants and automobile exhausts generate the highest amount of pollutants. Congress should immediately create legislation to phase out every coal-burning electrical plant in the nation, and put economic pressure on China and India to do the same.
Arkansas has some of the worst plants in the country, but two of them will close in the future as per a court settlement. If our new governor wants to do more than posture, she should join the push to convert all Arkansas plants to natural gas.
The next big emitter of carbon dioxide is the combustion engine. I don't think the solution is going to come easy, but we could incrementally start by using other modes of transportation instead of the family car for some short journeys.
I frequently drive by our new high school and marvel at the parking lot. It is packed with cars! I don't know if every student over the age of 16 is parking there, but it sure looks as if they are. Let's just make a wild guess that if 400 of those cars were replaced by an ebike or scooter, that would reduce the carbon footprint by some 200,000 pounds a year, and save $20,000 to $25,000 per year in gasoline cost. Our schools should encourage ebikes by putting in rows of bike racks and sidewalks leading into the parking area.
Research from the Arbor Day Foundation indicates one mature tree will capture 48 pounds of carbon a year. In downtown El Dorado we have an estimated 1,000 trees, which are capturing 48,000 pounds of carbon a year. Over the past 10 years, our downtown trees have reduced the carbon in the air by 480,000 pounds. The next time you randomly cut a mature shade tree, take that into account.
A bonus in planting trees is 25 percent reduction in energy costs to residents or downtown businesses. With the pluses of trees converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and reducing our energy bills, you'd think that folks would be standing in line to plant trees. It could be a case of being shortsighted, and ignoring the long-term potential. Studies have shown that a single downtown tree is worth $25,000 in benefits to the city. It's said that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second-best time is tomorrow.
I found out early in my business career that a program I proposed was "all a matter of dollars," as my first bosses told me. So when climate change becomes so drastic that it is costing the average American a significant amount of money, maybe then we will make the changes necessary to control climate change. I hope it won't be too late.
We weren't the first state to get cell phones, we won't be the leaders in riding ebikes, and we won't be the leader in planting trees. But as surely as you glance at your iPhone, someone in your family will one day ride an ebike, and take part in planting trees.
And one day instead of a blank, treeless El Dorado High School front yard, it will be a lush forest, and the parking lot will be full of ebikes and scooters.
Email Richard Mason at [email protected]