Whenever I sit down to write a post about global warming or the environment, I'm filled with a sense of sadness. Sadness because I know most people won't read the article or share it. Sad because I know the industry I work in can't report on it with the attention it deserves because it isn't profitable. Sad because it is the most important issue of our time, and we are simply ignoring it.
Nevertheless, I will continue writing about it on the off chance that someone will read it and do something about it. Or vote for a candidate who will do something about it. Or maybe just read it and absorb the gravity of what is happening to this planet. Because any reaction is better than no reaction.
A truly devastating report was released this week detailing a rapid rise in global CO2 emissions. We are on track to hit 37.1 billion metric tons in of CO2 in 2018, the direct result of burning fossil fuels -- a new record, and the second year in a row of growth after three years of it flatlining.
The Global Carbon Project, a group of 100 scientists from over 50 academic and research institutions, released the figures, prompting an outcry from environmentalists and scientists. Reported the NY Times:
Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles.
The Paris Agreement's stated goal is to limit global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report recently stating that to achieve this goal, we need to slash CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030, and to zero by 2050. The recent data then isn't just bad, it is catastrophic given we are headed in the exact opposite direction.
It would be easy to blame president Trump for much of this given he pulled the US out of The Paris Agreement and refuses to believe climate change is real. But there is plenty of blame to go around. The increase in oil use and rise in emissions is happening all around the world, making the hopes of turning things around in time even slimmer.
The reality is, the entire economic system we live under needs to be radically overhauled. The extractive, oil based energy economy that has fueled spectacular economic growth over the years has essentially cooked the planet, and unless we stop it will become uninhabitable for the human species.
Our obsession with growth at all costs is preventing us from seeing what is right front of our noses. Instead of confronting the problem, we are running away from it, and making it much, much worse.
At the UN climate change summit in Poland this week, environmentalist presenter David Attenborough told the audience in no uncertain terms that we are facing the imminent collapse of civilization.
"Time is running out," he said. "They want you, the decision-makers, to act now. Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of civilizations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.”
And if those decision makers do not act, we must elect new ones and force them to make changes before it is too late.