The problem of global warming is the most serious threat this country - and the world at large - has ever faced. This problem goes beyond petty differences, problems of economy, social issues, even beyond international conflicts and the war on terrorism. We are talking about the survival of multiple species on Earth, including the human race.
Action must be taken now in order to reverse the effects of global climate change, both by direct action and by informing others of the problem and its seriousness. This needs to be accomplished on four levels. First, on the personal/family level; second on the local & regional level; third, on the national political level; and finally, internationally. All four of these levels must occur simultaneously.
The first level - personal & family:
Each of us must make energy saving changes in our lives, and convince our family and friends to do the same, so each of us takes personal responsibility for reducing our own CO2 footprint on the planet. How can we expect others to change, if we don't follow our own advice. We have an opportunity to lead by example. First, we must educate ourselves on the problem, and the steps we, personally, can take to solve it.
Simple steps, like lowering our thermostats in winter, and raising them in summer; replacing regular light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs; using less hot water; insulating your home; turning off (and unplugging) electric devices not in use; walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transportation when possible; buying products that use less packaging material; buy locally grown foods and shop at your local farmer's market; buy organic foods; keeping the air in your automobile's tires inflated and the engine well maintained; and, of course, recycling, can make a significant difference.
We can go even further than that. When we need to replace an appliance - choose one with an energy star label. When it comes time to buy a new car, look at buying a hybrid (or one that runs on alternative fuels, like E85). If it's available in your area, switch to green power, that uses renewable resources like solar and wind to provide electricity to your home - or if you can afford it, install your own solar panels on your home. Whenever you get a chance - plant a tree.
The second level - Local & regional:
We need to take what we do at home out into our community. Take these same energy saving tools to work or school. Not only inform and educate your coworkers about the climate crisis, and the things they can do o help, but encourage change in the workplace or school itself.
Attend city council meeting, and write to the mayor and council members voicing your concerns and encouraging the switch to renewable energy. Work to break down the regulatory barriers that are preventing a wider transition to energy sources like solar, wind and biomass.
Make your voice heard wherever you go. Bring it up in any clubs, groups and organizations you may belong to. If you lead any children's groups (scouts, ymca, etc.) incorporate what you have learned in your activities and lessons. make sure the next generation will carry on with this fight.
On a personal level, we can direct our monetary investments to companies that are environmental friendly and/or into companies, programs and products that are trying to address environmental/climate issues.
The third level - National-political:
Now we get to making big changes. To do this, we all have to become politically active. I don't mean just vote. I'm talking about contacting your state and national representatives (assemblyman, congressman, senator and president) on every issue that relates to the environment and has an effect on climate change. Call them. Do it so much that they will remember your name. This can't be done by just a handful of people, it needs to be done by everyone. You may feel that it takes up too much time, that you don't have the time to spare, but you need to find it if you really want to make a difference. Democracy is not easy.
Keep yourself informed and educated about the issues and bills/resolutions that are being voted on so that you can speak or write intelligently about the subject. When you write or cal, be concise. Convey all the information you need to in a clear, short message. A long rambling email (kind of like this one) would probably be largely ignored. For this to be effective, we must become louder and harder to ignore that the oil and auto lobbies.
We must draw their attention away from the myth and distraction of hydrogen technology, which will not be available, cost-effective or viable for decades, and point out the technology that is available, and cost effective, now: hybrid engines, solar, wind, etc.
We must convince those congressmen and senators who work for us to pass broad, sweeping legislation. The kind that would make a significant difference. For example, have all cars, from all automakers selling in the US, be hybrids by 2011. The technology is already there to put a hybrid in any size vehicle (Toyota has small, and mid-size cars as well as SUVs an Mini-vans that operate with hybrid technology - even if all of them are not currently being sold in the U.S.).
We have to get our politicians to lead the oil industry into redefining itself. To help it move from "The Oil Industry" to "The Energy Industry". Our politicians have to guide them to develop alternatives to oil. We must guide our politicians to lead the oil industry into the future.
The fourth level - International:
This one will be the hardest. Writing to our representatives will not have as strong an effect on the problems occurring in other countries, because the voices of our Congressmen and Senators carry about as much weight on the international stage as our individual voices carry in our own country.
This is the fight we can only begin to win by changing our own country first. America must become a leader in the struggle to reverse global warming, not just a half-hearted follower as we are now. We must get our politicians to recognize the problem and its significant consequences, work to change them, and then put pressure on the rest of the world to do the same.