How many degrees of separation are there between a drought in Kansas and the roots of the Arab spring? How many degrees between just hanging on financially and going under if you live near or below the poverty line and an extreme weather event like Hurricane Sandy hits?
The answer to both is few to none.
One more question: How much of a difference does it make when major corporations reduce their carbon emissions? Answer: A tremendous one.
New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman returns to the Middle East, this time to Cairo, where he traces the roots of the Arab spring to droughts and heat waves in places as far away as Kansas and Russia. He tells viewers,
“’Bread’ is the first word in one of the most popular chants of the revolution. I want to know why.”
In Egypt, the word for bread, aish, also means life. Friedman learns that close to 50 percent of Egypt’s wheat supply is imported. In 2010, due to a series of extreme weather events around the world, the production of wheat decreased, and its price doubled in the months before the Egyptian revolution. Youth leader Ahmen Maher tells Friedman,
“If the people can’t find bread, they will make a revolution.”
Digging into the science behind the heat waves, Friedman checks in with climate scientists at Oxford. Professor Myles Allen, tells him that humans caused global warming made Russia’s 2010 heat wave three times more likely than it would have been otherwise.
“There’s a strong link between rising temperatures and the risk of heat waves. So we can make a clear case for the risk of that heat wave which occurred in Russia and other heat waves which occurred around the world, being increased as a result of human influence on climate.”
And, Friedman tells viewers,
“Earth could warm by more than 9 degrees F (5 degrees C) by 2100 if we don’t aggressively reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. At those temperatures, scientists project that yields for some crops could drop by 25%.”
Back in the U.S., MSNBC news anchor Chris Hayes returns to the show and examines the economic impact Hurricane Sandy had on Far Rockaway, a poor neighborhood on the edge of New York City. One family he meets with went for months without power or electricity after Sandy, while another lost their home altogether.
The segment later shows Hayes with his wife and young daughter as they stroll through their own, much wealthier New York City neighborhood. He notes in his voiceover that, unlike the children growing up in Far Rockaway, his daughter has already “…won the lottery. Simply by being born into a family with resources, she is far better insured against what the world has to offer.”
But, he warns,
“The fact that there are families in New York spending winter without heat or power isn’t just outrageous or unfair, it also reveals just how unprepared our cities are for the impacts climate change is already having — never mind the future of things.”
The third story line of “Revolt, Rebuild, and Renew,” focusing on EDF Climate Corps, shows viewers solutions to climate change in action.
EDF Climate Corps, a program created by the Environmental Defense Fund, embeds talented MBA students inside major corporations where they spend a summer analyzing energy waste and efficiency, and then propose solutions.
We watch them tackle the energy use at Texas Southern University, Office Depot, and yes — wait for it — Caesar’s Entertainment in Las Vegas. What we learn is that even an organization as enormous and wasteful as Caesar’s can cut its emissions significantly, without sacrificing the glitz it is known for.
When big corporations take steps to make their businesses more environmentally sustainable, they not only reduce their carbon emissions, they also save money. In fact, according to the “Years” web site,
“The Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps is only 6 years old, but the energy savings the program has helped find are tremendous. Equivalent to avoiding yearly carbon emissions from 260,000 cars and an average savings of $1 million for each participating organization.”
There are ways to halt global warming and stem the flow of extreme weather events that leave people around the world starving, homeless, and fighting for their lives. Now is the perfect time to find the will.