If you’re in the mood for a horror or thriller movie, look no further than the latest issue of Rolling Stone (August 2nd, 2012 issue). Look past the post-pubescent, sexed up picture of Justin Bieber on the cover and to an article that everyone should actually read, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Writer Bill McKibben paints a disastrous picture of the planet’s future and who enemy number one is: the fossil fuel industry.
Loads of data and science are presented in the article (in direct contrast to Fox News’ idiotic attempts to smear climate science as a liberal conspiracy, or something). For example, in order to keep the global temperature from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), we cannot spew more than 565 gigatons (565,000,000,000 metric tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere. At our current rate of increase, we’re set to reach that well within the next 20 years. If that doesn’t scare you, this will: Current global coal, oil and gas reserves (fuel we’re planning on burning at some point) is equal to 2,795 gigatons (2,795,000,000,000 metric tons), which is worth about $27 trillion to coal, oil and gas companies . That’s FIVE times the limit for a two-degree increase in global temperatures.
The planet is already becoming warmer, the oceans more acidic and Arctic ice is rapidly melting. As extreme as the weather has become, it’s sobering to realize that we’ve only increased the global temperature by 0.8 degrees Celsius. An 0.8 degree Celsius increase has broken 3,215 heat records across the U.S. this past June and created the conditions for the hottest rainfall in Earth’s history; This past Spring it rained in Mecca, Saudi Arabia….when it was 109 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be argued, as many climate scientists have, that even a two degree Celsius increase limit is too much.
The evidence is overwhelming. We know that climate change is real and that it presents drastic changes to our planet. The question is whether we will do anything to slow down the rate of temperature (and extreme weather) increase. We can change. We have the technology. What we lack is the will to act, as McKibben also points out…
We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.
Record profits by the world’s largest oil companies and cheaper goods are not what building a better future looks like. We have to get beyond the “cheaper = better” equation that has been the staple of industry since the Industrial Revolution. Capitalism itself is not the enemy: corporate greed and complete disregard for everything else is. Investing in and improving the efficiency of renewable energy technologies must become international priorities. As I said in a previous eco-themed post, the traditional concept of the lavish “American life” (bigger, faster, fatter, cheaper, etc.) is clearly and undeniably unsustainable. If we value the planet we live on or even our and our posterity’s future, we have to change.
Read McKibben’s brilliant article here.