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Biking in Climate Hell

by Bradly Gill | November 29, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.

It has become increasingly obvious to even the most skeptical of the anti-global warming critics that our planet is undergoing a significant climate change caused by the increase in atmospheric temperature.

The current deniers are right up there with the Flat Earth Society.

If the recent past is any indication, an atmospheric temperature increase of another two degrees will be catastrophic. The President called it "Climate Hell."

We have seen droughts that have lowered lake and river levels in our country to record lows, and in other counties climate change has caused tremendous food shortages. Without a doubt we are quickly reaching the point of no return if we don't take immediate action.

The simple scientific facts from temperatures around the world are proof that our atmosphere is warming. Last year was the warmest on the surface of the planet since records were kept, and the last eight years were the hottest ever recorded. We are in a worldwide crisis that will only get worse if we don't take drastic steps to reduce our carbon footprint, which has caused the Earth's atmosphere to heat. Unless we act we'll have "Climate Hell."

In the past five years I owned a scooter, which I rode the three miles to work until it developed engine trouble. This last week, I bought one of the new electric bikes that have just come on the market.

What convinced me was a study from Portland State University and the University of Tennessee. Their study showed that a 15% reduction in personal car use by riding an ebike would amount to a 500-pound cut a year in an individual's carbon footprint. I live exactly three miles from my downtown office, and if keep my car in the garage during working hours, it would reduce my car miles by at least 500 a year. I'm no math genius, but that is definitely at least 15% of my driving.

If I write about what we can do in order to reverse or at least slow down climate change, and all I do is not use straws and take a sack to Walmart for my groceries, when, very easily, I could add the ebike and make a substantial difference, I would be a hypocrite.

So you El Dorado drivers don't run me down out on Calion Road when I'm heading to my office on my new ebike. There is no bike lane, my ebike's maximum speed is 32 MPH and I will be taking up all of the right lane, so just be patient with me... and share the road.

We have just returned from a much needed vacation in New York City, and the biggest change we noted were the hundreds of ebikes, both for rent and another several thousand zipping along in the midst of solid traffic. Actually, most of them were in a bike lane, and there were folks of all ages riding; some in suits and ties.

I figured if all those New Yorkers can brave New York traffic, riding to work in downtown El Dorado would be a piece of cake.

I have the new ebike and bike helmet, and I have been cruising up and down our driveway, and on Monday, I'm riding to work on it.

Of course, there are several other significant ways to at least stabilize the increase in atmospheric temperatures, and it boils down very simply to two major emitters, and one primary carbon reducer. Coal fired plants and automobile exhausts emissions are the primary culprits in the atmospheric warming problem, and trees are the major carbon reducer.

First, let's look at coal fired electrical generating plants. The figures show coal fired plants and automobile exhausts generate the highest amount of pollutants. Congress should immediately create legislation to phase out every coal burning electrical plant in the nation, and put economic pressure on China and India to do the same.

Arkansas has some of the worst plants in the nation, but two of them will close in the future as per a court settlement. If our new governor wants to do more than posture, she should join the push to convert all Arkansas plants to natural gas.

The next big emitter of carbon dioxide, which is the primary cause of atmospheric warming, is the combustion engine. I don't think the solution is going to come easy, but we could incrementally start by using other modes of transportation instead of the family car for some short in town journeys.

I frequently drive by our new high school and marvel at the parking lot. It is packed with cars! I don't know if every student over the age of 16 is parked there, but it sure look as if they are.

Let's just make a wild guess that if 400 of those cars were replaced by an ebike or scooter, it would reduce the carbon footprint by some 200,000 pounds a year, and save $20,000 to $25,000 per year in gasoline cost. Our high school and middle schools should encourage ebikes by putting in rows of bike racks and sidewalks leading into the parking area.

Now let's look at a major carbon reducer. Research from the Arbor Foundation indicates one mature tree will capture 48 pounds of carbon a year. In downtown El Dorado, we have an estimated 1,000 trees, which are capturing 48,000 pounds of carbon a year.

Look at it this way. Over the past ten years, our downtown trees have reduced the carbon in the air by 480,000 pounds. The next time you randomly cut a mature shade tree, take that into account.

There is also a bonus in planting trees, which is a 25% reduction in energy cost to residents or downtown businesses where significant trees are present. It seems to me that with the pluses of trees converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and reducing our energy bills, folks would be standing in line to plant tree. I guess it could be a case of being shortsighted, and ignoring the long term potential. Studies have shown that a single downtown tree is worth $25,000 in benefits to the city.

It has been said, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best time is tomorrow."

It seems, as I found out early in my business career, that, "It's all a matter of dollars," as my first bosses told me. So I guess when climate change becomes so drastic that it is costing the average American a significant amount of money, maybe then we will make the changes necessary to control climate change.

I just hope it won't be too late.

We weren't the first state to get cell phones, we won't be the leaders in riding ebikes, and we won't be the leader in planting trees... but as surely as you glance at your iPhone, someone in your family will one day ride an ebike, and take part in planting trees.

And one day, instead of a blank, treeless El Dorado High School front yard, it will be a lush forest, and the parking lot will be full of ebikes and scooters.

Richard Mason is an author and speaker. He can be reached at [email protected]

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