By Patricia Rohrs
Rod Diridon Sr. strayed from his usual focus on public transportation to discuss the sobering subject of climate change and mass extinction at the Rotary Club of Los Altos’ May 28 virtual meeting.
The former Santa Clara County supervisor, a tireless advocate of mass transit for decades, related his latest passion as chairman of the Rotary District 5170 Climate Action Council in a presentation titled “Climate Change: Combating the Sixth Mass Extinction?”
According to Diridon, climate change is the existential challenge facing innumerable species, including humans. The question he posed to Rotarians is whether humans will usher in the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet or look to preserve the Earth for future generations. Diridon said time is running out, and the solution is barely within reach.
After doing a deep dive into science-based data, Diridon offered some alarming assertions:
• The global-warming gases humans put into Earth’s atmosphere have increased four times the average of any period during the past 800,000 years and twice the average of the highest levels during that period.
• The last several years have been the hottest on record.
• If the Earth continues to warm more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, reversing that warming will become impossible. If we do nothing, it is projected we will cross that temperature threshold between 2025 and 2030, unless we drastically reduce gas emissions.
• Most of the increase in heat-trapping gases, especially carbon dioxide, is caused by transportation (38%), industry and generation of electricity by traditional means. The U.S. comprises 4% of the world’s population, yet it creates nearly 30% of these greenhouse gases.
• The results of global warming include melting polar ice, rising sea levels, floods, more severe fires, droughts, depleted wildlife and forests, water shortages, reduced food production, starvation, mass migration, poorer public health and pandemics.
Diridon said people can and should act today to limit future warming of the planet. Suggested actions include transforming the power grid; electrifying everything, particularly transportation; and developing strong policies in the U.S. and other countries.
He also offered specific actions people can take to help:
• Support sustainable electric transportation, whether rail, bus or automobile.
• Bicycle and walk.
• Support sustainable buildings via solar panels, battery power storage, home insulation, elimination of gas and wood burning, and purchase of sustainably generated electricity.
• Be a climate-change ambassador.
“What drives your passion?” Diridon asked Rotarians at the conclusion of his talk. “I think about my four grandbabies and the world they will live in. The solution to the climate crisis is still within our reach, barely. We must start now and never stop.”
For more information on the Rotary Club of Los Altos, visit losaltosrotary.org.