The alarming coronavirus epidemic now sickening tens of thousands in China and around the world is a reminder of the consequences of disturbing nature. The epidemic is thought to have emerged from bats, possibly when people explored caves looking for food or when bats out hunting insects spread their viruses to livestock. As Stanford-ValleyCare infectious disease expert Jake Scott pointed out recently, the current deadly epidemic is the third coronavirus impact to emerge from human interactions with the animal world.
Disease is not the only consequence of disturbing nature. Burning fossil fuels over the past century and more, we have steadily boosted the concentration of greenhouse gases, warming Earth’s atmosphere and changing its dynamics. To name only one of the accumulating effects, we are experiencing major droughts, which dry grasslands and kill forests, leading to disastrous wildfires that endanger human lives and alter the very landscapes where we live.
Now, a team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has developed a program to help California achieve its goal of attaining carbon neutrality by 2045, meaning as much carbon dioxide would be sequestered underground as is being emitted. Cost is estimated at well below 1% of the state’s GDP.
If adopted, and if successful, the program will set an example for other states and nations to follow. It will represent a major political as well as a technical move toward correcting past missteps. We urge the governor and the legislature to move ahead with the program.