For the last three million years natural CO2 levels hovered around 280 parts per million (PPM). But since 1750 they abruptly (in geological time) increased to today’s 390 PPM. Life’s stability on the planet now teeters on a CO2 fulcrum precariously tilting toward demise.
Skeptics can shout all the Cassandra epithets they want about this being another doom and gloom message but facts are facts. Twenty years ago, globally, we pumped about 25 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. Today we pump in 37 billion tons; twenty years from now it may be as high as 50 billion tons. This rate of increase could push CO2 levels to a perilous 400 PPM within ten years causing serious food or water shortages in massive continental areas and sea level rise in highly populated coastal areas displacing hundreds of millions of people causing serious conflicts over resources. Does this alarm anyone?
We’ve known for six decades that CO2 levels influence global temperatures and that burning fossil fuels is the major cause of CO2 increase, yet in six decades we’ve chosen to deny it and avoided converting to clean energy. In fact, we’ve exponentially ramped up fossil fuel energy reliance because “it’s cheap” and the fossil fuel industries cooped governments to bend the rules and finances in their favor. The only reason fossil fuels are cheap is because the fossil fuel industry has not been held legally responsible to pay the true cost of the backend environmental and health damages they cause to society.
In the past six decades government leaders kept handing the problem down to the leaders that followed them until the problem now lies squarely in our laps. A problem so dire that we are staring in the face of the Do-or-Die-Decade with no more wiggle room; no more passing it on to the next generation. The game is over if we as a species want to survive.
World leaders tell us that nations have no choice but to depend on coal to meet the demands of future energy needs. Last year, the United States’ use of power generated by wind and solar increased significantly but power generated by coal increased seven times more. The United States, China, India, and Russia posses 60 percent of the world’s coal, and combined, have 40 percent of the world’s population. What a paradox!
Are humans suicidal? Our choice is to continue burning fossil fuels and perish or stop burning fossil fuels immediately, disrupt economies, but hope to survive the impacts of the 390 PPM we already loaded into the atmosphere. Yes energy needs are important but if most of life as we know it perishes won’t energy needs be a moot point?
In this Do-or-Die paradigm let’s hope the negotiators at COP-16 do not live up to the expected failed negotiations because time has run out for the human species, if we fail this time. We need to put a huge tax (yes, let’s call it what it is) on fossil fuels to level the playing field for green energy technologies and also make them pay for the dirty backend damages that fossil fuels cause to our environment and our health. We need to stop emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere as soon as possible or revenues, profits, and economies will no longer matter.
Come on COP – 16 humanities last chance depends on you!