How serious are we about climate change?

The Montezuma Quail is one of over 100 species of birds in Texas threatened by climate change. We have Montezuma Quail at the El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens living at the Ranch House.

By Rick LoBello, Board Member

The world has never done anything like this.  

Bill Gates, How to Avoid A Climate Disaster, Alfred A. Knopf, 2021

I wish I could tell you that we and the rest of the world are serious about tackling climate change.  There definitely are a lot of people who are serious about getting involved and taking action, but are there enough of those people to make a difference?   If you are one of our blog followers you may have seen some of the earlier blogs I have posted on climate change.   As a self-described eternal optimist, I remain hopeful that in my lifetime our world will meet the challenge in lowering CO2 emissions.  Last year I was hopeful for Texas when I learned about how Houston adopted a Climate Change Action plan on Earth Day 2020, but then I saw a red flag. A colleague in Houston told me that they only talk about climate change when they can directly connect the concern to one of their animals at the Zoo.  How can any city make a serious impact if there is not community wide support ?  A quick search on YouTube turned up a number of videos on the Houston plan, but most were viewed less than 100 times.   

We all know how climate change can be a hot button issue and how many people don’t even like to say the words for fear of turning off some folks.  Not long ago I talked Dan Ashe who is the former Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and is now the President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  We talked about how some people because they don’t want to offend others are reluctant to talk about climate change for fear of making a political statement.   He then said something to me that I never really thought of, not talking about climate change is a political statement in itself.

According to UNESCO “climate change is a threat multiplier: the impacts of pandemics like COVID-19 are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, as are extreme climate events, biodiversity loss and the water crisis. In fact, the most prominent risks to humanity are climate action failure and extreme weather events, according to the 2021 Global Risk Report.”  

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on December 12, 2015 and the United States is a member.   The goal of the agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.   So how are we doing?   Check out the Greenpeace Report Card.  Progress is being made, but at a very slow pace.

Now that the Zoo is represented on Congresswoman Escobar’s Climate Advisory Committee I have a ton of questions and concerns.   Some of them are as follows.  Over time I hope to share with you and others the answers.

1. What is El Paso’s carbon footprint and is it still growing or declining?

2. What changes need to be made in El Paso if we are going to demonstrate our commitment to the Paris Agreement?

3. Who is going to lead the effort in our City to implement the necessary changes to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement?

4. What can El Pasoan’s do to make sure we have a significant impact in limiting global warming?

5. Who is tracking progress in the US to see how we are moving forward with the Paris Climate Agreement and who is measuring the impact of cities?  

One of the goals of the Zoo is to lead a city-wide effort in helping our community deal with climate change and to become a leader in promoting sustainability in El Paso.  If you would like to be a part of our efforts please contact us.

Montezuma Quail by Alan Schmierer, Wikimedia Creative Commons

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