Saturday, May 11, 2013

400 ppm and Growing--DANGER!!!

It's official.  On May 9, 2013, the level of the infamous greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has reached 400 ppm, the highest level in all of human history.  This record-high level has not been reached since at least 2 million years ago, and possibly even 10 million years ago.  Scientists consider this a scary trend since the increase in CO2 levels is still accelerating and if unchecked can bring catastrophic climate change in the not-too-distant future after crossing the "climate tipping point."  And there is no longer any reasonable doubt that this increase is essentially 100% due to human activity.  We are literally cooking the planet, and we will all pay a heavy price for it if we continue to do so.

The climate change deniers are flat-out wrong since it has been a matter of scientific consensus since at least the 1990s. The only serious debate is about how fast it will happen, and when the tipping point will occur. It is not a matter of if, but when. And the less precarious position is to assume it is a real and urgent problem. We absolutely need to reduce CO2 emissions to the point where the CO2 concentration is at or below 350 ppm.  If we don't do it soon, the result can easily become catastrophic and irreversible.

Solving the problem of climate change will also help to solve the other ecological crises we are facing, for they all ultimately have the same root causes, not least of which is our insatiable addiction to dirty energy.  However, there is a right way to solve it, and several wrong ways.

The TSAP endorses the ideas embodied in Steve Stoft's new book Carbonomics, most notably a tax-and-dividend system that would tax carbon (i.e. fossil fuels) at the source, and give all Americans an equal share of the revenue generated from this tax.  The tax rate would be low at first (e.g. $10/ton) but will gradually rise every year.  Yes, prices for many things would undoubtedly rise due to this tax, all else being equal, but the dividend will allow Americans to pay for this increase and possibly even come out ahead. The average American would in fact completely break even, but those who (directly or indirectly) consume less energy than average will effectively pay less, while the energy hogs will effectively pay more, as they should be. Thus it is certainly not a regressive tax, and may even be mildly progressive. This is both the simplest and most equitable way to reduce carbon emissions as well as other forms of pollution, not to mention waste of dwindling non-renewable resources. The real challenge is getting the feds to accept something that won't directly benefit them (in the short term).  Carbonomics also includes other good ideas, such as improving how fuel economy standards are done, and crafting a better verison of the Kyoto treaty.  Another good idea to further the development of alternative energy would be the use of feed-in tariffs for renewable power sources such as solar and wind.

We support ending net deforestation completely, and putting carbon back in the ground through carbon sequestration. One method is known as biochar, a type of charcoal made from plants that remove carbon dioxide from the air, that is subsequently buried. This is also an ancient method of soil fertilization and conservation, originally called terra preta.  It also helps preserve biodiversity. 

We've said this before, and we'll say it again. We need more nuclear power plants as well. Nuclear emits no greenhouse gases directly, and even indirectly it pales in comparison to fossil fuels. Done properly, it is just as green as solar photovoltaic power, produces less radiation than coal power, and is much safer than in the past (and even those dangers were exaggerated). Since nuclear plants take many years to build, we need to get cracking ASAP.  Nuclear power is not a substitute for renewables; it is a necessary complement to them since we still need some sort of continuous power source, not just intermittent power. Our nation's irrational fear of all things nuclear needs to die NOW.  Right now.

But the biggest elephant in the room (make that the elephant in the Volkswagen) is overpopulation.  It does not make for pleasant dinner conversation, but it must be addressed or else all other causes become lost causes in the long run. We absolutely need to have fewer kids, or nature will reduce our population for us, and the latter will NOT be pleasant to say the least. The TSAP believes in voluntarily reducing the total fertility rate (TFR) to 1.5-1.9 children per woman to do so, along with reducing immigration dramatically, but let us be clear that we do NOT support draconian and/or coercive measures of population control (like China has used).  We believe more liberty is the answer, not less.   But the current tax and benefit incentives that perversely reward having more than two children need to be jettisoned at once.  We cannot keep growing and growing, that's for sure (in fact, we need to shrink). And our insatiable addiction to economic growth (despite the fact that growth is now uneconomic) is also part of the problem.  Growth for the sake of growth is clearly one of the most asinine obsessions our nation (and world) has ever had, and it is the ideology of the cancer cell.  Put another way, we need to leave room for nature, lest it not leave room for us.

Bottom line: we need to take the environment much more seriously than we do now.  We ignore it at our own peril. 

No comments:

Post a Comment