Wolf Lichtenstein responds to a question.
Woodinville residents participated in a global conversation about the truth of the climate crisis on Nov. 21.
For one full day, Climate Reality Leader volunteers held public presentations and conversations about the world’s changing climate.
They went to schools, community centers, workplaces, and the Sammamish Valley’s 21 Acres.
Trained by former Vice President Al Gore, these volunteers educated members of the public about the existential threat facing the planet.
Each year, 24 Hours of Reality aims to take action and share bold solutions to combat the climate crisis.
Sustainability management professional and environmental scientist Wolf Lichtenstein opened the discussion to a crowded room of local residents at 21 Acres.
He emphasized the importance of face-to-face communication in local communities.
“We are apart of 20,000 climate presentations across the globe,” he said.
Lichtenstein said 224 locations around the world hit heat records over the past few years.
Ouargla, Algeria reached 124.3 degrees, which is the all-time hottest temperature measured on the African continent.
“Climate change is a medical emergency,” Lichtenstein said. “It is impacting the health of people across the world.”
People in all areas are being affected by overheating, fires, drought and flooding. Ongoing fires in California have caused lung infections and additional hazards to people with asthma.
In areas of flooding, the risk of water-borne infections is heightened.
“Extreme weather catastrophes over the last 40 years are increasing by frequency of these events,” Lichtenstein said. “We have seen $653 billion in losses from extreme weather.”
Glaciers are breaking apart and melting, contributing to the rise in sea level. He said the North Pole hit the hottest temperature ever when it climbed to 50 degrees last year.
Lichtenstein said wind moves heat around the planet. As wind patterns continue to change, jet streams can disrupt polar vortexes.
Unstable jet streams create shifts in global weather patterns, leading to Arctic warming and displaced cold air.
He said 93% of extra heat goes into the ocean, impacting the water cycle.
As air temperatures increase, more water evaporates into the air. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, which creates more intense rainstorms that result in flooding.
As temperatures rise in other areas, evaporation increases and soils dry out.
When rain does come, much of the water runs off the hard grounds into rivers and streams.
Climate change also affects the food supply. When drought and flooding occur, farmers see less production of main grains.
The cost of foods will continue to increase as extreme weather affects supplies, Lichtenstein said.
He said the world could see one million climate migrants in the coming years, as weather events continue to displace more people.
“When we have extreme weather events, it causes political unrest,” Lichtenstein said. “There is hope in agricultural practices.”
Lichtenstein said there are currently over 110 million tons of manmade global warming pollution caused by trucks, industrial plants, and coal, among other contributors.
Above all, the largest source of pollution is the burning of fossil fuels.
“CO2 is released into the atmosphere faster than it is leaving,” he said.
Lichtenstein showed a list of 16 countries planning a fossil fuel phase-out in upcoming years. The United States is not on that list.
Other countries have already seen success with the use of solar and wind-powered machinery.
He said enough solar reaches the earth every hour to fulfill the world’s energy need for a year.
Lichtenstein said solar power employs more people in electricity generation than oil, coal, and gas combined. T
he Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham recently switched to solar power to save money.
He said the cheaper energy source will save the museum $8,000 to $10,000 per year.
“The only place coal belongs is in the museum,” Lichtenstein said.