As far as I can tell from the data environmental scientists have been presenting for the last two decades, we have passed the point of no return, and we have entered a time where much more of the world—and future generations– will be trapped in misery. The term ‘misery’ as I use it here refers to: high infant mortality, low standards of sanitation, malnutrition and famine, inadequate drinking water, widespread diseases, war, and political unrest.
The vast majority of the world’s scientists agree that carbon dioxide is a green house gas that contributes to global warming—gas that comes from cars and factories and, well, gas of the methane variety, from vast herds of cattle farting all day and all night all across the globe.
In 2008 goal for the Obama administration was to cut CO2 by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. We’ve made no progress. In fact, CO2 emissions have risen since 2008. This is bad. And now with Greenland and Antarctica melting precipitously, Jim Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientists suggests we may already be too late. I would agree, though what I believe is neither here nor there.
Scientists tell us that it took 250 years to burn the first half trillion tons of fossil fuel and based on current usage we will burn the next half trillion by 2050. As the artic ice retreats, Big Oil is already making plans to drill and pump. Why do we continue to ignore the evidence? We increase the amount of carbon dioxide we spew into the atmosphere at our own peril.
But not just carbon dioxide. Pollution of all kinds is slowly poisoning us and there are more of us everyday consuming what remains of our dwindling resources. The world’s oceans come to mind. Why are they full of mercury? Why are the last of the wild fish unsafe to eat? Because coal-fired plants spew toxic pollution as they generate electricity. There is no such thing as clean coal. Burning coal releases many tons of mercury into the atmosphere that enters into the water cycle of the planet, and finally, finds its way into your tuna sandwich. I think this fact puts to shame all those nay-sayers—like Sarah Palin and some members of the Tea Party—who claim that humanity is too small and pathetic a creation to have the power to screw up something so big as the environment. This kind of ignorance is deadly, and it almost certainly dooms us if the majority of American believe it.
More bad news: nitrogen run-off threatens to engulf the world’s ecosystems as a result of petroleum based fertilizers and insecticides. . In The Little Green Handbook the authors argue that,“by 2050, the whole globe will be strongly polluted [by nitrogen run-off]. Nitrogen pollution is deadly. It suffocates aquatic animals, it is harmful to humans, and destructive to biodiversity.”
Meanwhile, the acidification of the world’s oceans threatens sea life and widening dead zones are an ominous symptom. Already massive islands of garbage float aimlessly across the Pacific formed by, you guessed it, plastic, another petroleum derivative. The death of coral reef along the continental shelves around the globe continues unabated and represents an ominous symptom. And as Greenland and Antarctica melt into the Southern Ocean and the North Atlantic, rising sea levels threaten low-lying coastal cities and communities. It’s happening. Now. Potable water around the world is getting harder and hard to find for up to 1.5 billion people on the planet. On-going threats of famine stalk developing nations.
Perhaps Mark Lynas’ alarming argument might balance the misinformation that has for years now confused people: he writes his book, Six Degrees (2007) that should the planet warm even only two-degrees above pre-industrial levels, all bets are off for human survival. According to Lynas we may be eating each other sometime around 2050.
I’ll have mine medium-rare, please.
Global warming and climate change are only the melting tips of the icebergs. Industrial civilization cannot survive based upon mythologies of the past and dreams of unrestricted growth for profits, populations or waistlines. We need a vision for a sustainable future and we need it now.