Letter: CO2 levels ‘critical' this Earth Day

פורסם: 23 באפר׳ 2014, 12:40 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 23 באפר׳ 2014, 12:41 ]

By Dear Editor, Posted: 04/22/14

This year’s Earth Day focus should be on the most critical environmental issue facing humanity – CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, humans increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere by 117 parts per million (PPM) by burning fossil fuels. For over 800,000 years before that CO2 levels hovered around 280 PPM. Now because we pump 90 million tons of CO2 up there every 24 hours, CO2 concentrations have risen to an average of 397 PPM and frequently spike into the 400 PPM range. It won’t be long until that will become the average as CO2 continues increasing. The reason CO2 levels are so important is because the more CO2 in the atmosphere the more moisture gets trapped up there heating up the planet causing extreme weather events.

Scientists say that we can’t put much more than another 565 gigatons (million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere without passing the 2 degree Celsius limit that will cause calamitous climate events. Financial analysts calculate over 2,795 gigatons of CO2 contained in readily available oil, gas and coal reserves. That’s five times more CO2 than we can afford to burn and expect to maintain a survivable planet.

Burning fossil fuels has already increased the average global temperature from pre-industrial levels by 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit), taking us almost half way to the 2 degree Celsius boundary, and we are already experiencing sea level rise, extreme storms, floods, mud slides, droughts, dust storms, and wildfires around the planet. And most alarming, 75 percent of the Arctic ice cap melted in the summer of 2012. If we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate, scientists predict we will raise the global average temperature to at least 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) within the next 60 to 80 years. For humanity that will be disastrous.

Out of sheer survival reflex the fossil industry heavily financed a campaign to buy politicians and confuse the public about climate change through think tanks like the Heartland Institute and television and radio shows like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

In spite of that, 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists agree that we can’t allow the global average temperature to increase above 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from the pre-industrial average without causing very serious consequences for humanity. To put that into perspective, it’s like 7 out of 10 doctors telling you that you’d better urgently address a serious health issue. Would you follow the advice of the three doctors who don’t see a problem or the seven doctors that do?

At this time no one seems concerned about CO2 levels. We’re told that we need cheap oil and coal to secure our energy future. Not considered, there is enough carbon just in the Canadian Tar Sands oil deposits to send the global temperature well above the 2 degree limit which is why environmentalists are protesting the Keystone XL Pipe Line. We just can’t afford to burn that much carbon and expect to maintain a livable planet.

A smart energy policy would be to tax all carbon at its source of extraction and distributing that money directly to our tax-paying citizens to cover the increase in price that fossil fuels will incur until we achieve 100 percent clean energy. We also must switch the $90 billion in taxpayer subsidies that the government currently gives to the fossil industry over to researching and developing clean energy that will lead to a livable planet.

The bottom line: If we don’t leave carbon in the ground humans won’t be around!


Environmental communications consultant