Film inspires residents to thwart global warming
Silent - yet staggered. They aspire to do more after seeing too much.
Snow packs melting.
After watching a new documentary about how global warming could destroy the environment in California, approximately 60 Danville residents decided to work collectively and form a movement to help save the planet.
"It was a big turnout, and they were amazed," said John Chapman, a Danville resident who helped organize the film's screening. "It was a starter."
The residents gathered at Kristin Yanker-Hansen's Danville home and viewed the world premier of "Global Warming - Real People - Real Impact."
"The whole Earth will be hotter than average," said Yanker-Hansen.
"We have got to do something," said Chapman. "We are trying to find tangible things that we can do."
Additionally, 69 other communities across the state showcased the film in homes, including Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The 15-minute documentary, created by the Union of Concerned Scientists, highlights the effects of global warming in California. Scientists, engineers and agricultural professionals discuss how the changes in climate have exacerbated wildfires, damaged crops in Northern California, and melted snow packs in the Sierra Nevada, which supplies one-third of the state's water supply.
"Global warming is the greatest environmental threat," Jason Mark said in the documentary. He is the California director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent nonprofit alliance of more than 100,000 scientists and others who want to build a cleaner, healthier environment and safer world.
Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A warmer planet may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife and humans.
"Global warming affects different areas in different ways," said Richard Hansen, a Danville mechanical engineer and Kristen Yanker's husband. He added that global warming would make different areas of the world either wetter, dryer, colder or hotter.
Many fear that the broiling summer days in July were signs of a hotter climate on the horizon.
"It's certainly an indicator," said Amy Lynd Luers, a climate scientist for the Global Environmental Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Berkeley. "It's consistent with what we expect with global warming."
Moreover, as the earth warms, the snow melts. Snow not only provides a source of water but serves as a shield from an overabundance of sunlight. The snow reflects the sun's rays, kicking the heat back upward, Luers said, which is disrupted when the ice melts too much.
The Basics: The Impact of Greenhouse Gases
The greenhouse effect is the rise in the temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere - such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane - trap energy from the sun, according to the EPA Web site. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth would not be warm enough for humans to live.
Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere behave much like the glass panes in a greenhouse. Sunlight enters the Earth's atmosphere, passing through the blanket of greenhouse gases. As it reaches the Earth's surface, land, water and biosphere absorb the sunlight's energy.
Once absorbed, this energy is sent back into the atmosphere. Some of the energy passes back into space, but much of it remains trapped in the atmosphere by the greenhouse gases, causing the planet to heat up. But if the greenhouse effect becomes stronger, it could make the Earth warmer than usual.
Global Warming and Its Discontents
The Earth's surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree in the past century, with accelerated warming during the past two decades, according to research by the National Academy of Sciences, a society of scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research.
Some people believe global warming is a natural, cyclical phenomenon and/or not caused by human activities.
Bob Carter, a geologist and environmental scientist, and an adjunct research professor at Australia's James Cook University, said he does not believe global warming is a threat.
"There's abundant geological evidence, and it comes especially from cores beneath the ocean sea bed and cores through the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, that in the past climate has varied on a very wide number of scales," said Carter, in November on the radio show Counterpoint.
Others believe human activities have altered chemical composition through the buildup of greenhouse gases - primarily carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The heat-trapping property of these gases is undisputed although uncertainties exist as to exactly how the planet's climate responds to them, the EPA noted.
Yanker-Hansen said many people have been reluctant to take an active stand against global warming because they do not like change.
"What it means is that our whole infrastructure has to change," said Yanker-Hansen. "Are you willing to give up yor car? Are you willing to stop buying plastic? All of these are things we have to look at."
The Current Crusade against Global Warming
This group of Danville residents plans to collectively work to prevent the planet's warming, said Chapman.
"If we fail to work toward the reduction of global warming emissions, we will face potentially crippling changes that will affect the community," he said.
They are talking about forming an investment group that researches alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, said Yanker-Hansen.
Chapman also mentioned forming committees to deal with global warming issues and work toward policy change at the state and federal levels. In addition, residents plan to create outreach groups to present the documentary to service clubs and women's groups.
"What can we do in California?" asked Chapman.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently supported a solar roof program aimed at putting 1 million panels on California homes and businesses through the Public Utilities Commission, according to state reports.
In addition, he has supported the passage of Assembly Bill 32, which would require industries to report how much greenhouse gases they emit and to place caps on emissions starting in 2012.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) is the bill's chief sponsor. The bill aims to reduce global warming pollution by 145 million tons by 2020 or 25 percent below forecasted emissions.
Also, former Vice President Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," another documentary about global warming dangers, has received national attention.
In June, President Bush acknowledged that the United States is the world's largest emitter of manmade greenhouse gases, at 20 percent, and recognized our responsibility to implement clean energy technologies.
Danville Couple Shares Strategies to Stop the Warming
The Hansens have spent their lives cultivating a medley of plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables and using solar energy to power their Danville home. Originally from the New York City Metropolitan Area, the couple feels they found a peaceful sanctuary when they moved to California.
"We found paradise, especially for gardeners," said Yanker-Hansen, a professional garden designer.
The Hansens said their parents conserved energy and money during the Great Depression, and their families' perspective about saving resources influenced their current lifestyle.
"We were raised that way," she said.
The couple shared tips about an environmentally conscious lifestyle:
* Build or purchase a home under trees that are 30 feet or taller to shield excessive light and heat. The Hansens bought their home with Siberian elm trees protecting the west side from heat. Yanker-Hansen suggested planting deciduous trees around a home, which protects it from the western rays during the hot summer and allows the sunlight through to warm the house during the winter.
* Close blinds to help keep the house cool. The temperature is highest at 3 p.m. in the summer, she said.
* Plant or place shrubs or trees to cover the roof. This also helps shade homes from the sun.
* Conserve power and use alternative energy.
* Hang laundry outside rather than using a dryer.
The Hansens have solar panels on top of their garage. The panels collect energy from the sunlight, which transfers to a grid that converts solar power into electricity, said Richard Hansen.
He said the energy that is not used goes back to PG&E. He receives credit for giving a surplus of energy back to the company.
Getting solar panels is doable, he said, adding that he purchased his system for $18,000.
Hansen - a solar energy consultant - gave advice about getting solar energy for a home:
* A homeowner must get a building permit to install solar panels. The cost of getting a permit is based on the value of work done putting solar plates on a residence. In Danville, building permits for solar panels average $850, according to the Sierra Club. But Town Attorney Rob Ewing said this is not a flat rate, and his staff is currently finding out how the Sierra Club came up with that figure. Hansen said that figure is inflated and should not be a concern for potential users.
* Hansen recommended hiring a licensed contractor to help install a solar panel system.
* Once the panels are installed, the homeowner must call the town's building inspector to make sure they adhere to building codes.
Everyone must find ways to save energy and stop emitting harmful gases into the atmosphere, he said.
"The question is what man can do to reduce the warming," Hansen said.
This group of concerned Danville residents plans to find out how to help - and to take action.