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Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Foot Print; Global Warming is Effecting Oceans; Ice Caps Continue Melting

Aired September 23, 2006 - 09:30:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: On this special edition of GLOBAL CHALLENGES, with guest host Daryl Hannah, the heat is on. Our world is warming, many say, at an alarming rate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're producing many, many, many times more Carbons than the Earth can reabsorb.


ANNOUNCER: We will look at things each of us can do to help out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the ways to save energy is to air dry your laundry.


ANNOUNCER: The change in the weather is already effecting marine life and scientists are sounding the alarm.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ocean's in trouble. The ocean's in trouble, so are we.



DARYL HANNAH, GLOBAL CHALLENGES GUEST ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Daryl Hannah and I'm the guest host of this special edition of GLOBAL CHALLENGES, coming to you from California's beautiful Monterrey Bay. The subject of today's show is one I think is of the utmost urgency and importance, global warming, or climate change. It's a phenomena that's been getting more and more attention, in large part because of recent unusual weather patterns, but also because efforts to curb Carbon Dioxide emissions are becoming more mainstream.

CNN's Sean Calebs has this overview.


SEAN CALEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This big fellow's spinning frame could be a barometer of the effects of global warming. This is Churchhille, Manitoba, where polar bears venture out on frozen Hudson Bay to load up on a healthy diet of seal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of time that bears in western Hudson Bay can spend on sea ice is critical for their survival.

CALEBS: But that window is narrowing, and some scientists believe it's because of a slow, steady rise in temperature. Simply put, global warming. This area is freezing later in the winter, thawing more quickly in the summer.

Nick Lunn (ph) has spent more than 20 years studying polar bears for the Canadian Wildlife Service.

NICK LUNN, POLAR BEAR EXPERT: We are seeing coming ashore in poorer and poorer condition. The ice is breaking up earlier and earlier.

CALEBS: His research shows, as a whole, the polar bears weigh 15 percent less than they did two decades ago.

There is little dispute that the Earth's surface temperature is rising.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at the ten hottest years ever measured, they have all occurred in the last 14 years.

CALEBS: Among those sounding the alarm the loudest, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who has a documentary out on global warming, called "An Inconvenient Truth."

GORE: Global warming is real. We human beings are responsible for the vast majority of it. The results are bad, headed toward catastrophic. We need to fix it. It is not too late.

CALEBS: Over the past 50 years warming has been fueled by man's appetite to burn through fossil fuels, oil, coal, natural gas. Emissions like Carbon Dioxide and Methane create what are labeled greenhouse gases and are blamed for heating the Earth's atmosphere. Much like the effect of a greenhouse, the buildup of gases keeps heat from radiating from the Earth.

But there are critics who wonder if humans have anything to do with the global rise in temperatures, and those who say there is no reason to believe the world is heading for disaster.

Richard Lindsen (ph) is a scientist at MIT. He doesn't put much stock in concerns over global warming.

RICHARD LINDSEN, MIT: People seem to have a good reason to understand that forecasting weather is inaccurate beyond two, three days. Why one should believe that a forecast 40 years ahead, or 100 years ahead, will be better, is not clear to me.

CALEBS: But, if you want proof the heat is on, look no further than the world's glaciers. They are melting, some scientists say, at an alarming rate. As the ice gives way, the seas rise. The rising tide is eating away coastlines, or in some cases, like the Tuvalu (ph) Islands, threatening to devour the entire chain.

A rise in ocean levels is expected to alter precipitation and that could have dramatic effects, such as expanding deserts. And critics believe global warming is playing havoc with the weather, creating more and more violent storms, like Hurricane Katrina, the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history.

(on camera): While New Orleans and U.S. Gulf Coast states continue to clean up more than a year after Katrina, an organization called Global Green has an ambitious plan to rebuild thousands of home in this city and reduce the drain on electricity, a tangible way, the group says, to show that every day people can make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we talk about solutions to global warming, people begin to glaze over and not really understand what they can do.

CALEBS (voice-over): Global Green, with celebrity judge Brad Pitt, recently announced winners of a contest to rebuild New Orleans with state of the art, affordable, sustainable technologies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we just continue with coal power the way we are now, we are going to have a situation where many of the coast lines of our nation are going to be under water, Florida, New Orleans is in jeopardy, some parts of the California coast line, New York City. We're talking about if we don't turn the tide in the next ten to 15 years, we're going to see a lot of our coast and cities begin to get under water.

CALEBS: It's not just the United States. Water is nibbling away at coastal regions everywhere.

Alternatives like hybrid vehicles are touted as a way to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. A few years ago they were little more than novelties. Today the U.S. has the largest appetite in the world for hybrid cars.

Renewable energy, such as solar power, is on the rise too. And Japan is leading the way, responsible for half of the production of the world's solar panels.

Many scientists say they have seen the cause and effect, and argue they don't need a crystal ball to determine global action is needed, and quickly, to combat a worldwide dilemma.



HANNAH: For many of us buying a hybrid, building a green home or making a documentary aren't viable options. So what are a few simple things that people can do at home to lighten their Carbon foot print? Let's take a look.


HANNAH: Well, I do a weekly sustainable video blog on different solution based options and I've been doing one on how to Carbon neutral yourself and I'm going out there asking people what they know about their Carbon debt or their Carbon foot print.

Have you ever heard of a Carbon foot print?










HANNAH: Have you heard of Carbon neutral.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Carbon copy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not heard of Carbon Neutron.

HANNAH: Carbon neutral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carbon neutral? What's Carbon neutral?


HANNAH: Nobody seemed to know what any of it was. I mean, I really expected to get, sort of, you know, half people not knowing and half the people actually having some kind of an idea, but really it was 99 percent of the people didn't have any idea what a Carbon debt was or a Carbon footprint or how to offset it or become Carbon neutral.

A Carbon footprint and a Carbon debt are essentially the same thing. It's just a different phrase for the same thing, just like global warming and climate change are the same thing. It is how much Carbon you are responsible for putting into the atmosphere.


HANNAH: Do you know how you can offset your Carbon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conserve fuel, ride my support bike instead of my big truck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, take a bus, or something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use energy efficient appliances in your home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop using gas and walk.



HANNAH: This is basically my power. So here is an example of two different meters. This one is going forward, because I have a cabin that is not yet solar powered and it is very slowly crawling forward, and you can see that. And this the other meter, which is very quickly going backwards because it's on solar power and that's my house.

One of the ways to save energy is to air dry your laundry. So whenever the weather's good it smells fresher, and it works really well. Of course, using a full load, rather than just a partial load in your laundry machine really helps.

Another good way to offset your Carbon is to air dry your dishes. People have misconception that leaving your computer on saves energy, so you really want to shut down your computer. When you're not using it, shut it down. Good night.

Forty percent of your electricity bill comes from electrical appliances that are turned off, but left plugged in. So you want to turn off these power strips and computers, things like that, because when you're not using them, they still are drawing power unless these strips are turned off.

There's always more that you can do, like change your light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, which use a fraction of the energy. One of the things that I do is I run my cars on bio-diesel, which causes new greenhouse gases. I try to get mine from sustainably produced and harvested companies.

So, this is a friend of mine's car. My car is getting all spruced up, but I'm going to lend him some bio-fuel. So here we go.

Oh, it's already full. Oh my god. Sorry, that's a disaster. There are other ways to lower your Carbon foot print if you don't have a bio- diesel car, or a diesel car really is all you really need. Obviously you can get a hybrid. It will get better gas mileage. There's a lot of vehicles on the road that are actually flex fuel vehicles, which run on Ethanol.

If you want to completely neutralize all of the Carbon that you put out into the atmosphere, you can go online and find a Carbon calculator to estimate about how many tons of Carbon you are responsible for and then go to one of numerous different organizations that off set your Carbon, or that make you Carbon neutral. And some will plant trees, because trees are a great way to consume Carbon. They are basically Carbon banks. Or you can buy regenerative energy, like solar power or wind power energy, and neutralize your Carbon emissions that way.

Time for a short break. When we come back, we will talk with a highly respected Canadian television host, who is a leader in the global environmental movement. Stay with us.


HANNAH: Welcome back. Award winning environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki has been the host of the CBC television series "The Nature of Things" for 27 years. Here's his perspective on global warming.


HANNAH: What's your definition of a Carbon foot print?

DR. DAVID SUZUKI, "THE NATURE OF THINGS": Each of us, in the way that we live, from, you know, breathing out -- we're breathing Carbon Dioxide out -- all of the energy that goes into making our clothing and our cars, when we drive them, is producing Carbon Dioxide, that is a part of what's accumulating in the atmosphere. So every one of us has a foot print. That is, we have an impact on the earth. Well, it turns out that we are producing many, many, many times more Carbon than the Earth can reabsorb. So we've got to now reduce that, and that means we've got to look at how we use energy, and what kind of energy, and begin to find ways of reducing the foot print.

HANNAH: A lot of people believe that global warming is a myth, or there has been some promotion that global warming is a myth. What is your take on that?

SUZUKI: I don't know what you mean by a lot of people. If you look at the scientific community, overwhelmingly there's no question that scientists are very concerned and they have been calling for action. The reality is we've already added more than 30 percent more Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere than there was 150 years ago. Nothing we can do to remove that. We've set the experiment in motion. The questions is, can we stabilize that.

HANNAH: People seem to have a disconnect between what the issue of global warming is and how it actually effects their life.

SUZUKI: The issue is understood that there is something happening, but in terms of the depth of knowing what is the cause of it, there's a very shallow understanding. And I think part of the problem is people hear about global warming, oh, what's it going to do. And they get afraid. It's so big and they feel so helpless that they basically don't want to know anything more about it. It's too scary. And so I think we have a real challenge now.

We have to confront the reality that this is going on, but then empower people with the knowledge there is a lot that we can do. Why don't you give up your car one day a week? You know car pool with someone else, take a bus, take your bike, or whatever. That simple act, if a lot of us are doing it, has enormous repercussions.

HANNAH: So, what will happen if we don't do anything?

SUZUKI: Well, if we don't do anything, of course, nature will kick back in ways we can't anticipate. Things like these extreme hurricanes. We're going to have more drought, more flood, all of that stuff will happen and we will have to try to live with it and adapt.

HANNAH: Are you hopeful or does this make you pessimistic?

SUZUKI: I have hope and I have hope because I have seen what human beings are capable of doing. The collective impact of all of us is huge. So, I believe that that means we each have to do our part and have the hope that others will add to that and that that will add up.



HANNAH: The effects of global warming are not easily seen, but scientists and marine biologists have been sounding the alarm bells for a long time. Here's why.


HANNAH (voice-over): Water, there are more places to swim on Earth than there are to walk. About 70 percent of the Earth is covered with water, 97 percent of it is ocean. Sylvia Earl (ph) is a renowned marine biologist and ocean explorer.

SYLVIA EARL, MARINE BIOLOGIST: It doesn't matter where on the planet we are, we are dependent on the ocean, with every breath we take, every drop of water we drink, we are connected to the ocean.

HANNAH: Earl has spent more than 6,000 hours below the ocean surface. To her, the interconnection of all living things is apparent.

EARL: As a kid I never imagined that mere human beings could influence the mighty ocean, or the weather, let alone big broad things like the climate or the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, but in very fundamental ways that's what we are doing.

One of the greatest impacts on the ocean, and thus on the whole world, including ourselves, is the warming trend. The pace is picking up as a consequence of the so-called greenhouse gases. Most importantly Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere that is causing the planet to inexorably get warmer. It's gotten to the point now where there is a slow increase in the acidity of the ocean, caused by excess Carbon Dioxide.

HANNAH: The excess acid in the ocean can be devastating for coral reefs and other organisms that help produce the air that we breath.

EARL: The action of these photosynthetic organisms, whether on the land or mostly in the sea, they do the heavy lifting when it comes to creating a hospitable planet for the likes of us. If we harm the ocean, we are really jeopardizing our own future.

HANNAH: And the closer scientists examine the ocean, the more harm they find. Researchers at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station have documented tangible evidence of warming waters and changes.

Chuck Baxter is a professor emeritus at Stanford in northern California.

CHUCK BAXTER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: In the early 1980s I began to see things, you know, that began to look a little more like southern California than the normal things that you see here.

HANNAH (on camera): You mean creatures that were --

BAXTER: Creatures that were abundant down in southern California and rare up here began to be more abundant up here.

HANNAH: So you had a sneaking suspicion that the water --

BAXTER: So, sneaking suspicions that, you know, because this was the early days of all the talk about global warming.

HANNAH (voice-over): In the 1990s Baxter persuaded two of his graduate students to revisit a 1931 study done by Willis Hewitt (ph), a previous graduate student at Stanford. Hewitt spent two years studying a strip of tide pool one yard wide, by 100 yards long. He made detailed notes on everything that lived within that area. The goal of the 1990s study was to see what had changed since Hewitt's day.

BAXTER: By putting, you know, the quadrants exactly over the ones that he did, because a made a map to go along with this, made it possible, you know, to just absolutely replicate that part of it.

HANNAH (on camera): What were you hoping to prove when you ventured into this study to replicate the 1930 one?

BAXTER: Certainly one would hope to prove nothing was happening, because that would be the, sort of, nicest condition.

HANNAH (voice-over): That wasn't the case. In 70 years time the water temperature had changed nearly an entire degree centigrade, disrupting the web of life.

BAXTER: The whole community had changed dramatically, biased towards southern forms doing better, but, you know, this reverberated through the structure of the whole inter-tidal community.

HANNAH: The study, which was published in the journal "Science," concluded that climate change is already effecting living things.

HANNAH: Wow, look at the color of that one.


HANNAH: Oh my gosh.


EARL: -- go take your kids to some place wild. Take them to some place where you see the natural world and realize how we are connected to it. We have this great message. The ocean is in trouble. The ocean is in trouble, so are we.


HANNAH: Well that wraps it up for this edition of GLOBAL CHALLENGES. We hope you've seen that with relatively simple actions, you too can save the future of our planet. To find out more about how you can become Carbon neutral, check out my video blog at I'm Daryl Hannah. Thanks for joining us.



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