Monday, September 25 , 2017, 9:31 pm | Fair 63º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: Let’s Get Our Heads Out of the Sand on Climate Change Effects

I’ve never been pulled over for DWLNPR, but listening to the world’s problems on National Public Radio can be downright dangerous. If I’m heading down Highway 101 to visit my granddaughter (and her parents) in Los Angeles, I listen and anguish until I feel my heart rate rising. Then I switch to an oldies station and sing away life’s troubles.

Recently I drove south past the Rincon, glancing sidelong at surfers lollygagging on their boards and California brown pelicans gliding a mere hairline above the water. At the same time, NPR discussed the catastrophic glacial melt in the Antarctic that has now been pronounced inevitable.

One eventual result could be a sea level rise of 16 feet. The Los Angeles Times, reporting on the same findings, declared that “some parts of the Pacific Coast Highway will be underwater." That will be inconvenient for us, to be sure, though not really on a scale with island nation refugees. Some island nations already are demanding land or other reparations from the world’s biggest CO2 producing countries.

Here’s what I consider the best and worst parts of this “news.” The worst is that the United States, as the world’s leader and exporter of democracy, should already have solutions in place, since We the People are in charge of our own destiny. Yet we’re dismally laggard in making the necessary changes. Scientists have been predicting and measuring climate change effects on icebergs and sea level for over 40 years, and the actual melting is surpassing the estimates of the pessimists.

The best part about the current estimates is the range of time in which this is expected to occur. The lower level is 200 years, though some scientists say this lower figure is based on a linear model that could prove too optimistic. The upper end is 800 years.

What is the difference between the two? The range uses different assumptions to account for unknown science and unknown politics. That is, in that 600-year spread lies the hope that we will get our collective act together.

In my view, the only way to stave off the inevitable is to stop pretending it’s the environmentalists’ problem or agenda. We need to understand that it’s all of our daily actions, including purchases, energy use and votes to take responsible collective action.

Tidepools in a rising sea, Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island. (Karen Telleen-Lawton / Noozhawk photo)

Research and innovation may be able to point the way to technological advancements in step with current and future climate change to keep at bay its worst effects. But only if they are funded.

The glacier NPR segment ended as I swung over the Camarillo grade into the vast concrete swath of L.A. Having left the ocean breeze behind, I switched to oldies to cool my mind. “Mister Sandman” by The Chordettes boosted my spirits; I couldn’t help but sing behind the wheel.

It may be that at my age I can ignore climate change by such “feel good” measures as driving a Prius, using cloth bags and switching stations when I feel overwhelmed. But my grandmother status changes my vision. My grandkids and their yet-unnamed cohort and descendants will bear the brunt of our decisions. As any kid knows, that’s not fair.

It’s time to get our collective heads out of the sand.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor ( and a freelance writer ( Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >