- - Wednesday, April 20, 2016


There’s more than one way to answer the call of nature, and it isn’t necessary to await the arrival of Earth Day to demonstrate a reverence for the blue-hued orb we call home. Simple acts of conservation, like carrying a handkerchief rather than grabbing a handful of paper napkins in the lunch line, may go further toward keeping a cleaner world than dancing to a live band at an epic Earth Day celebration that leaves the park strewn with burger wrappers. In an age addicted to glitter, imagined glamour and secular piety, the global elites jostle each other for the spotlight. “Green” is also the color of money.

The grandest Earth Day 2016 gathering will unfold at the United Nations in New York on Friday, where President Obama will lead President Xi Jinping of China and leaders of 160 nations to sign the Paris climate change agreement they committed their countries to last December. Nations that dawdle run the risk of being shut out of the argle-bargle in later sessions.

The game plan is to hold global temperatures to no warmer than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which backers say can be accomplished if each nation scales back exhaling carbon dioxide. The greatest burden falls on developed nations, thought to be the primary culprits in greenhouse gas production owing to their industrial prosperity, and they’re expected to pay dearly into the U.N.’s $100 billion Green Climate Fund for redistribution to poorer countries.

The Earth Day Network has exhorted its followers to celebrate the occasion by planting trees — one for every man, woman and child on earth. With 7.4 billion inhabitants, that’s a lot of lumber. But numbers are relative, and even such a big one can appear small by comparison. That’s because the planet already is shaded and cooled by 3 trillion trees, or 400 trees for every person on the globe. Researchers at Yale University say the actual number could be 10 times that amount. If tree planters have a lot of work to do, tree huggers have even more.

“Trash” is an unwelcome thought on Earth Day, and it’s important to remember the wise caution of computer programmers, “garbage in, garbage out.” A study in the journal Nature speculates that portions of the western Antarctic ice sheet might be melting faster than previously thought. The study found that a worst-case forecast shows the melting ice raising the global ocean level by 18 to 34 inches higher than previous predictions by 2100. The surprising results were derived from computer simulations. These are useful tools for forecasting, and until they learn to think like human beings, smart machines can’t be accused of making stuff up. But computer models are only as good as the information someone feeds them, and data can be shaken and stirred to concoct the best results money can buy.

The earth deserves its special day even if it’s made a little smoggier from the tons of carbon dioxide Mr. Obama and his fellow environmentalists produce jetting to New York for their Earth Day climate rites. The rest of the humans can demonstrate earthly love in simpler ways, like turning off the tap when brushing their teeth. There probably won’t be anyone to applaud, but as C.S. Lewis reminded us, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

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