The severe, unprecedented weather associated with increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is more concerning every passing year. The recent record heat in the US Northwest made headline news for several days. Temperatures in Portland, Oregon, reached 116oF, higher than other cities in the US have ever reached, except Phoenix and Las Vegas. The average temperature for June in Portland is 73oF. From June 15-20 this year, seven different states in the western US experienced record temperatures. According to NOAA’s climate.gov website, over 20% of the country is experiencing the worst two drought categories.
With extreme heat conditions, many people need to seek cool shelter, usually an air-conditioned building. Air conditioning requires a great deal of energy, likely supplied by the fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Geothermal pumps are alternative options for cooling and heating. These pumps require electricity, which can be supplied from renewables, and use significantly less energy (up to 70% less). Geothermal systems utilize the earth’s constant moderate temperatures in the ground and do not pollute the environment. The upfront costs are offset over several years, after which geothermal systems provide lower-cost energy.
The earth’s natural balances have been disrupted, consequences of factors such as more people and modern lifestyles consuming higher amounts of energy and goods, overly extracting natural resources, and creating massive waste. The current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 416 ppm. Ten years ago, it was 391; atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 48% in 171 years due to human activities.
Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be a high priority globally by governments, industries, businesses, communities, and individuals. When genuine concern and compassion combine with gifts of ingenuity and determination, serious problems can be solved. From the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference in 2002: to reconcile with creation, “we must examine our lives and acknowledge how we have harmed God’s creation through our actions and our failure to act. We need to experience conversion or change of heart.”
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work