If nothing is done to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2017, climate change will wreak havoc on the planet, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
When carbon dioxide, along with other greenhouse gases, is released into the atmosphere in massive amounts (by the burning of fossil fuels), it stays there for about a century and has a warming effect, where heat and light from the sun are trapped in the atmosphere. This results in higher global temperatures and more extreme weather. Last year alone, humans dumped more than 30 Gt (over 30,000,000,000 metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Scientists estimate that to keep climate change from becoming irreversible and devastating, global warming cannot go above 2C (35.6F). In other words, greenhouse gas emissions cannot go above 450 parts per million (ppm). Currently, they’re at 390 ppm and rising. At our current rate of consumption, we will reach our “carbon budget” by 2017, at which point irreversible change will occur.
Climate change deniers will say that this is wildly inflated or a liberal conspiracy to destroy mankind, or something. However, the IEA’s report is one of the most conservative estimates. Even our most optimistic report is frightening.
As scientists, activists and sane lawmakers have been saying for quite some time now, the world HAS to get serious about combatting climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, was adopted in 1997, put into effect in 2005, and expires next year. Many member nations, including Russia, Japan and the UK, have indicated they don’t plan on adopting a successor to Kyoto until 2018 or 2020. Worse yet, not only did the amount of greenhouse gas emissions increase in 2010, the United States and China, the top two greenhouse gas emitters on the planet, do not have aggressive policies to reduce their emissions.
Yes, China has invested billions of dollars into green technology. However, most of their power still comes from fossil fuels. And with the current makeup of the United States House of Representatives, any action to combat climate change will be smacked down by a crowd that distrusts science and embraces ignorance to get elected.
We HAVE to reduce our emissions. A cap-and-trade program HAS to be adopted in the United States. Our dependence on “dirty” fossil fuels NEEDS to be replaced by dependence on safer nuclear, solar, wind turbine, geothermal and hydroelectric power. Research into fusion power NEEDS to be revisited. We MUST change our excessive way of life. Climate change is real. It’s happening. Weather has been more extreme in recent years and almost all scientists in a variety of fields agree that emissions MUST be reduced. Government and business should partner together to spark a technological revolution that will forever change the world.
“What we are looking at is not an international environmental agreement – what we are looking at is nothing other than the biggest industrial and energy revolution that has ever been seen.”
– Christiana Figueres, UN climate chief