Driving Global Warming

What would Jesus drive?

Continued from page 1

And what has the SUV to do with all of this? Well, it is mostly a machine for burning gasoline. Say you switched from a normal car to a big sport "ute" and drove it for one year. The extra energy you use would be the equivalent of leaving the door to the fridge open for six years, or your bathroom light on for three decades. Twenty percent of America's carbon dioxide emissions come from automobiles.

Even as we've begun to improve efficiency in factories and power plants, our cars and trucks have grown bigger and more wasteful: average fuel efficiency actually declined in the 1990s, even as engineers came up with one technology after another that could have saved gas. That's a big reason why Americans now produce 12 percent more CO2, the main global warming gas, than they did when Bill Clinton took office.

If you drive an SUV, then you're "driving" global warming, even more than the rest of us.


In Bangladesh people spent three months of 1998 living in the thigh-deep water that covered two-thirds of the nation. The inundation came because the Bay of Bengal was some inches higher than normal (as climate changes, sea level rises because warm water takes up more space). That high water blocked the drainage of the normal summer floods, turning the nation into a vast lake. No one can say exactly how much higher that water was because of our recent fondness for semi-military transport in the suburbs. Maybe an inch, who knows?


But the connection is clear. If you care about the people in this world living closest to the margins, then you need to do everything in your power to slow the rate at which the planet warms, for they are the most vulnerable. I was naked and you did not clothe me. I was hungry and you drowned me with your Ford Explorer.

Here's more: Coral reefs the world over are dying as warmer sea water bleaches them to death--by some estimates, this whole amazing ecosystem, this whole lovely corner of God's brain, may be extinct by mid-century. In the far north, scientists recently found that polar bears were 20 percent scrawnier than they'd been just a few years before. As pack ice disappears, they can't hunt the seals that form the basis of their diet.

And on and on--according to many experts, the extinction spasm caused by climate change and other environmental degradation in this century will equal or surpass those caused by crashing asteroids in geological times. But this time it's us doing the crashing.

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Bill McKibben
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