The changing climate.

A cheat sheet for the news.
May 24 2006 6:07 AM

The Changing Climate

How worried you should be.

(Continued from Page 1)

Faced with federal fecklessness, state and local governments are taking action: Mayors from 235 cities representing more than 45 million people have agreed to meet Kyoto goals in their cities. A coalition of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states is fine-tuning the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market-based emissions-trading program that will take effect in 2009. And last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California set an ambitious emissions-reduction target for his state, which ranks as the world's 12th-largest source of greenhouse gases on its own. In a recent interview, Schwarzenegger said neither the country nor the world has been "aggressive enough" toward the "self-inflicted wound that man has created through global warming."

Businesses are seeing the light as well. From Wal-Mart to Ford, some of the world's biggest corporations are cutting emissions, pledging to use renewable energy, and making other choices that better serve both customers and the planet. You know things are changing when oil giant BP announces that its new motto is "Beyond Petroleum," and General Motors' splashiest ad campaign contains the phrase "Live Green." General Electric has committed to improving energy efficiency 30 percent by 2012, and DuPont has reduced its greenhouse-gas emissions 72 percent from 1990 levels. That company's CEO, Charles O. Holliday Jr., puts it simply: "DuPont believes that action is warranted, not further debate."

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What can we non-CEO mortals do? We can make small but important changes, some of which are outlined on the Inconvenient Truth Web site—use fluorescent bulbs, drive less and drive a more efficient car, ask the local utility to provide green power. We can offset the impacts of our energy use, or adhere to Kyoto as individuals. But such actions can feel insignificant, and frankly, they aren't enough. It's time to get political. As a citizen-scientist, you must let the lab administrators know that the experiment has spun out of control. Tell them you're willing to change your behavior, and that you expect them to change theirs—before it's too late for us all.

Or at least before Gore decides to make a sequel.

Chip Giller is founder and editor of Grist.org, an online environmental news magazine.

Katharine Wroth is Grist's story editor.

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