Depressing climate news and call to action

desertDid you see this article in New Scientist magazine? And the map that goes with it? They give a prediction of what the world may look like in the next 50-100 years. We’re talking in my lifetime, the Lower 48 could be so arid they’d only be able to support wind farms, and the entire remaining population of the world would have to move to the Arctic or Antarctic.

It’s a given that the average world temp will rise 2*C before it can possibly start heading back down. The big question is, how much will it rise? Four degrees (the rise this model is predicated upon) is a pretty conservative estimate. I’m not sure how conservative or drastic the interpretation of “what would happen if the temp rises 4*” is; I’ll admit, this looks pretty severe. But just because it’s severe doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this yesterday. I went around in circles from despair to denial to hopelessness to furious determination and back. And where I’ve landed at the moment is this:

  1. I’m praying the predictions are wrong
  2. I am going to take as much action as I can to reduce my carbon emissions. My personal goal is to reduce my household’s carbon output from 12.7 tons per year to 6 tons per year by June, 2010, with additional steps after that.
  3. I’m asking every person in this blog to commit to reducing their own emissions by 10-20% in the coming year. I will be posting my One Stone Carbon Reduction Challenge within one week. This will give you a roadmap to reducing your carbon footprint in a very meaningful way that will let you see results right away. Think of it as Weight Watchers “points” for carbon emissions.

Every single one of us needs to take the strongest actions possible to reduce our personal carbon emissions impacts, starting right now. I’ve been writing this blog for over a year and have consciously taken the editorial stance of Cheerleader. But I’m afraid my inner Drill Sergeant is going to come out now. We do not have ten years to get started. We do not have time for happy, hand-held baby steps.

Yes, we should have started years ago. Yes, we need government regulation. Yes, China and India need to make changes, too. But dammit, we are the richest, most wasteful country in the world and we need to clean up our own personal acts right now.

Here’s your homework for tonight: go figure out your carbon footprint. Try one or more of the following:

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11 Comments

  1. Momster said,

    March 4, 2009 at 1:46 am

    We need to talk!

  2. Leasmom said,

    March 4, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Jesus, thats scary. If only people would listen!

  3. EdgeWise said,

    March 4, 2009 at 11:43 am

    That’s alarming. The only carbon negative activity an individual can do right now is to make or buy biochar and integrate it into your soil. Unfortunately, it is not enough to offset the huge amount required. Check this out: http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/01/georank.html

    Very discouraging.

    • Emily said,

      March 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm

      Creating biochar just to bury it would be less effective than planting more trees. However, if we were to choose energy production that leaves biochar as a result, that might be a better idea than burning fossil fuels.

      The thing that concerns me about that Wired article is it says absolutely nothing about conservation, avoiding waste, and reducing demand. If CAFE standards were raised to 35mpg, where would that carbon savings fall on their chart? What if we cut our driving by 1/4? We can start doing that right now, and without the risks of bioengineering ocean organisms or deploying reflectors into the atmosphere.

      • EdgeWise said,

        March 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

        Growing trees takes a long time and there is a finite limit to how much carbon an acre of forest can store. Also, when trees die they decay and release 90% of the carbon into the atmosphere via CO2 and methane. But if trees are coppiced, the harvested biomass can be used to produce a continual source of bio-char. Or if they are harvested for other purposes and the incidental waste is used as a feedstock for bio-char production (e.g. in forestry or sugar can production).

  4. Joan said,

    March 5, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Please consider giving up meat and dairy. These two industries are poisoning our planet. The amount of food needed to sustain cattle is a tremendous waste of land, water, and fossil fuels, that would feed more people more efficiently if it was used to grow food for human consumption. I’ve heard that the methane produced by cow gas exceeds the pollution produced by cars in this country. The waste from cattle and dairy farms pollutes our soils and waters with antibiotics and toxins like dioxins. In fact, one theory holds that much of the antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria appearing now are due to the antibiotics we are exposed to in our foods, notable dairy.

    Giving up animal products is probably the single most effective thing an individual can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, animal products aren’t healthy for you. Please do some research on the effects of dairy on human health. It’s scary. For the good of the earth and for the good of the health of your family, consider adopting a plant-based diet.

    • Emily said,

      March 5, 2009 at 10:06 am

      *nod* Thanks for the reminder, Joan. A pound of beef or cheese has about the same climate impact as burning a gallon of gasoline – and the jury’s still out on whether grass-fed beef is any better, or even worse, than CAFO beef.

  5. Joan said,

    March 5, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    It takes 16,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef. From http://www.waterfootprint.org

    • Emily said,

      March 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

      Though that figure is probably talking about feedlot beef; grassfed beef is much less water-intensive because no irrigated crops are used.

  6. March 7, 2009 at 7:38 am

    I look forward to your challenge, Emily. Every time I check my footprint I find I’ve dropped some, especially as those “quizzes” take a little more into consideration. (And I discovered this year that 55 F actually was a good temp for sleeping!) It’s frustrating to be a renter because there are things I don’t really have control over, but I’m betting you’ll have some creative ideas for me to try… 🙂

    Now, if I could only get my parents on board… at least they’re going to have to eat more vegetarian meals for health reasons.

  7. Ed Bruske said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Read “The Revenge of Gaia,” it’s even more depressing, but in easy to read book form.


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