Humans have become a geological force and that we might have already gone over tipping points of biosphere stability (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/ , http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/research-programmes/planetary-boundaries.html , http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/ ).
See for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn3_hviRfdU for a summary. On May 10, 2013, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years (http://truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/49007 ).
CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been climbing ever since. The growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations has not just been relentless; it has been accelerating.
While it is clear what needs to be done to steer away from danger, it is also unlikely that the required steps will be taken. In this forum of well-educated people, 47% think that the current path is sustainable. It does seem impossible to get the necessary sense of urgency to implement the radical changes required to move into a sustainable mode of development. The misguided belief that commitments to avoid warming of 2 degrees C can still be realized with incremental adjustments to economic incentives. A carbon tax here, a little emissions trading there and the odd voluntary agreement thrown in for good measure will not be sufficient. Consumer economies are not just overconsuming fossil fuels. We’re overconsuming everything. Industrialized nations are now consuming resources and sinks at the rate of 1.5 planets per year.
Columbia University’s Earth Policy Institute predicts that if China keeps growing by around 8 percent per year, Chinese average per capita consumption will reach current US level by around 2035. But to provide the natural resources for China’s 1.3 billion-plus to consume like America’s 330 million, the Chinese, roughly 20 percent of the world’s population, will consume as much oil as the entire world consumes today.
It is true that we already have the technology for the whole of humanity to live well. The problem is one of ethics and cognitive limitations of human beings. We evolved as tribal animals in an environment of scarcity and inter-tribal competition for resources. We, humans, might just not be able to function as a globally coordinated united people. The concept of a finite World is beyond our comprehension.
I agree that a sense of urgency is necessary and humans are very resourceful. What lies ahead is uncertain. Maybe just a little rougher, but mostly more of the same. When one plays Russian roulette one possible outcome is that the bet is won.
I wish my daughter well. I hope in my heart everything will be alright. However, that is not what the data says. Climate change is already threatening the Earth’s ability to produce food. These effects are expected to worsen as climate change worsens. Estimates vary, but for every 1.8°F increase in global average surface temperature, we can expect about a 10% decline in yields of the world’s major grain crops— corn, soybean, rice and wheat. Climate experts predict that global temperature may rise as much as 5.4°F to 9°F if we continue burning fossil fuels at our current rate. This could lead to 30% to 50% declines in crop production.1 Already, one in seven people, including many living in the U.S., is hungry every day (http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/climate-change/climate-change-and-famine.pdf).
There is little point on arguing how one feels about the future. The important thing is to acknowledge that the current path is, at the least, risky, and that changes are necessary and then take specific measure to change into a more sustainable mode.
This week’s UK newspaper The Guardian is featuring climate change every day http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-change – however whilst laudable the paper is mainly read by the affluent middle class and the sustainability message needs to be understood and brought into the consciousness of the whole population.
China holds the key of the 21st century. Much of the touted drop on CO2 emissions om the US and Euope comes from the fact that slave sweet shops in so called emerging economies (China, India, and other third World countries) have taken over the production of junk. But as the Chinese load the atmosphere with CO2 not only the Chinese population is being poisoned, but the whole World biosphere cycles are compromised (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/pollution-documentary-chinas-government-doesnt-want-see-stuff-watch/).
The vote that counts is the dollars that you expend at the supermarket. China’s junk that is cheaper than the raw materials that it is made off must be boycotted.