If you watched cable news at all this weekend, you probably heard a lot about Donald Trump’s bad week and how it was a turning point in the presidential campaign. But you probably didn’t hear anything about another big turning point, one that demonstrates how little time we really have left to stop climate change.
Last week, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography announced that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has stayed above 400 parts per million throughout the entire year up to this point. We’ve crossed the 400 parts per million (or PPM) threshold before — sometimes for weeks at a time, sometimes for months — but the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere usually dips at the beginning of autumn, something that just hasn’t happened this year. As a result, scientists now think that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will stay above 400 parts per million permanently. That’s right — permanently, as in forever, at least in human terms. This is, to paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden, a big “effing” deal.
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The last time there was this much carbon in the atmosphere, human beings didn’t even exist, at least not in our current form. And just for some perspective, 400 parts per million is already about 50 parts per million more than what most scientists consider “safe” levels of CO2 concentration.
So yeah, things don’t look good at all for planet Earth.
Couple this with vanishing Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels and the fact that 2016 has already been the hottest year on record, and things look even worse.
As if it wasn’t already obvious before, it should be now: We are rapidly running out of time to stop climate change.
We’re already in the danger zone, and every single day we keep pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere just pushes us closer towards total climate devastation.
The situation may even be worse than most people realize.
For example, James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, now argues that the 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels threshold — that most international institutions say is the baseline of how much warming we can take — is “nonsense” and “a prescription for disaster.” Hansen now argues that we need to lower the limit of “acceptable” warming by a whole degree to 1 degree Celsius — a number we’re already eight-tenths of the way to reaching globally, and that we passed years ago in the Arctic.
So that’s the situation we’re in. It’s very obviously a dire one. Which raises the question: What do we do about it?
With global climate change rapidly reaching the point of massive worldwide destruction of the environment that sustains our lives, how do we stop it in its tracks and maybe, just maybe, reverse some of the damage we’ve already done?
Well, first we keep the carbon in the ground by ending all subsidies and imposing a worldwide carbon tax on the production, emission and use of all greenhouse gasses.
Then we do what we should have done decades of years ago — we leave fossil fuels behind once and for all.
This is more possible now than at any time in our history. As the Department of Energy recently concluded, the cost of the five leading clean energy technologies has fallen between 40 and 94 percent since 2008 alone.
As dark and gloomy as the situation is, we have an opportunity here to create a much better future that is very well within our grasp. Let’s get to work before it’s too late.