The Metapolatics of Energy
Do we have the Wisdom to avoid extinction?
The two biggest and most dangerous external world problems currently facing the life forms on Earth are GLOBAL WARMING AND OZONE DEPLETION. Everyone seems to agree on this point. The two are right up there with Over-Population. But what to do runs right into very heavy vested interests, namely fossil fuel consumption, and secondarily, chlorine based products, and runs into our current car loving culture, our current Man as seperate and part from nature, Man as master, earth as slave. We are winning on the last one, chlorine (CFCs), which didn't have a big cultural overtone or support, but still losing on the first (fossil fuel). The pratical external world solution to the CFCs, coupled with a sea change in internal values, an infusion of spirit and wisdom, points the way to the solution to fossil fuels. So once again I conclude by making a stab at reporting some solutions to these problems. (Nothing much original here, just passing along in my own words what many others have said before. The problem is in the doing, not the knowing!)
First, some facts in no particular order. My sources are James George and the World Watch Institute.
The average temp in the lower atmosphere last yr (1994) was 15.32 Celsius. This places 1994 in a tie for the 5th warmest temperature ever recorded (the records go back to 1950). The warmest was in 1991 when Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines. The ten warmest yrs evre recorded have all occured since 1980.
Over the long term (thousands of years) global temperatures track remarkably close to the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. (Based on research on ice in Antarticia). Since the mid-ninteenth century levels of carbon dioxide (as well as other greenhouse gases) have reached concentrations unprecedented in the last 160,000 years! In this century alone the levels have risen by 25%!
The UN projects that if current levels of fossil fuel consumption continue, that the global temperature will reach between 16 and 19 degrees Celsius by 2050. This is extremely rapid by past standards.
Global warming, even at the modest UN prediction levels, will cause some polar ice to melt, raising sea levels by some 6 centimeters per decade and inundating some coastal areas.
Again, even at these modest UN prediction levels of global warming, many local climates will be effected resulting in the fragmentation and destruction of many ecosystems, threatening thousands of species.
Again, even at these modest UN prediction levels of global warming, this clmate change could have major impacts on people. Prime food growing regions would shift, stressing already struggling agriculture, trying to keep up with population explosion.
These UN projections are very uncertain, no one has a good idea what might happen, all we really know is that we are in a situation unprecedented in the known history of the Earth. many scientists thinbk that the warming will accelatre at a much higher rate and have many, unexpected negative effects.
Vice President Al Gore calls the depletion of the Ozone Layer "an immediate, acute emergency threat... the single most important issue facing this country and the earth."
The World Scientists warning includes a statement where the 1600 scientists agree that "Stratospheric ozone depletion threatens us with enhanced ultraviolet radiation at the earth's surface, which can be damaging or leathal to many life forms."
The amount of carbon pumped into the air by fossil fuel burning again remained steady last year (1994) continuing a 6 yr trend. 5.925 BILLION TONS of carbon from fossil fuels!
In 1994 deforestation (intentional burning of our trees, mostly rainforests) is thought to have added another 1.1 - 3.6 BILLION TONS of carbon to the atmosphere.
Almost 25% of carbon emissions come from cars!
Let's look at the history: in 1860 the carbon emissions were estimated to be 93 Million Tons. By 1900 it had jumped to 525 Million Tons. By 1950 it had risen to 1.62 BILLION TONS. Today it is three times that level. A three hundred percent rise in the last 45 yrs. The rise was at 4.6% per yr from 1950 to 1973. The thanks to the oil shocks of the seventies, the incxease lowered to 1.6% from 1973 to 1988. Since then it has remained steady, but many predict it will begin to rise again as the third world starts buring more fuel. In any event, its not going down, and its still at levels 50 times higher (that 5,000%) than the last century.
The earth's oceans and forests can't absorb the current levels of emission, and so there is a steady increase in the amount of carbon remaining in the air. For instance, by the end of 1994 the atmosphere contained 4 BILLION TONS more carbon than 12 months earlier.
Scientists estimate that to stabilize the amount of carbon in the air and avert the risk of climate change, global emissions will have to fall at least 60%. Here arises the stark geopolitics of the carbon dioxide proble. The developed countries emit most of the carbon, the undeveloped countries have most of the people, and growing fast. The undeveloped peoples want to be developed, the end result, more carbon emissions. To quote the World Watch Institute "It thus seems incumbent upon the rich minority to lead the way in demonstrating how modern societies can reduce carbon emissions through the more efficient use of energy and the use of renewable sources."
As mentioned, carbon dioxide isn't the only greenhouse gas creating global warming. Another biggie is METHANE. Its generated in the intestines of termites and animals. The termites are growing too fast, and with them their methane, because they feed on the debris from the tropical forests we are cutting down. Even worse, there are billons of livestock bred by us for consumption. They are big polluters. I love steak, but this is part of the warming problem, so for this reason, I vow to cut down (yes, I know, it'll be good for me too; but still I'll miss it, and I will cut down, not eliminate).
The astronauts in space can see the havic related to global warming: there are now 1000 miles smoke flumes over the amazon from tree burning; great algae blooms are blotching the oceans; coral reefs are dying, turning white; there are dust storms over Africa extending far out into the Atlantic to the Caribbean; deserts now comprise 35% of the Earth's surface; typhoons inundate Bangladesh; red rivers of Madagascar topsoil leech into the Indian Ocean; and dirty brown smog covers most major cities of the world. The beautiful blue marble, is turning a dirty gray.
NOW FINALLY FOR THE RELATIVELY GOOD NEWS: The danger of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbon) declined again in 1994. Total CFC production levels are down 77% from their peak in 1988. The CFCs are known to deplete the ozone layer, leading to even worse global warming and Ultra Violet radiation, leading to more skin cancers and cataracts. So this is good news, encouraging news. The industrial countries have signed treaties where they have agreed to eliminate CFC production by December 31, 1995. The treaty signing started in 1988, strengthened in 1992. Still, the problem continues in the undeveloped countries, who have not agreed. For example, China and India, where CFC consumption is increasing nearly 10% per yr (but its still less than half of the US consumption). Also, a black market in CFC has developed, especially in former USSR countries, and these figures are unreported. Moreover, chlorine monoxide molecules come from use of all chlorine products, not just CFCs, and the treaties only cover CFCs. CFCs only account for half of the production of Chlorine Monoxide production. The ozone depletion is still getting worse at the upper levels of the atmosphere, but its improving on lower levels. Many scientists now hope that it will stabilize by 1998, and if the countries keep their agreements, cureent trands continue, and we stay away from chlorine products, the ozone may be healed by 2050! Hopefully our childrens, children will live to see a day when UV warnings are no longer a daily feature of the weather report.
SOLUTIONS (both outer and inner): Stay on track with CFCs. Enforce the treaties in place. Extend them to the third world. Crack down on black markets. Make chlorine products a social taboo. Your life depends on it.
Follow this same road with fossil fuels. Find alternatives, use them. Bring the problem to the people, make them aware, so that the politicians will fight the vested interests or get booted out. Wake up everybody! Find the facts, think about them. Let's demand that our governments enter into carbon limiting treaties, like with CFCs, and enforce them. Lets demand that they fight carbon, not commies. Carbon in the air is an enemy! Divert the defense bucks to green bucks. Harmonize with our environment, dont poison it. This is a matter of inner attitude change. Love your mother earth. The air is in you, breath is life, you are the air, the air is you. Readjust our values. Clean air is all important. Avoid all coal burning and oil/gas burning. Avoid the products that depend on them, that were made with them. Create alternatives, buy alternatives. It can be done. Look at Japan. Their per capita income is higher than the US, yet the average Japanese puts only 40% as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the average American. Our cultural love affair with the car must end! Love your computer instead! or how about your family and friends? One car per family, share, car pool, walk, bike. Invent a supercar please: 200 miles per gallon (current N. American aver is 30 miles per gallon); or an electric car, or something. Look to alternate sources of electricity: solar power! wind power! "x" power? Lets be creative. Again Values: put nature first, not ourself. We are a part of nature, not its king, its master. Lets nature lead us. Look for balance. Look at history. Avoid extremes, like carbon burning 50 times more than before.