Climate Change by the Numbers: 3 Figures to Think About

“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” will make you think twice about ignoring the earth’s temperature and CO2 emissions. It’s an article I invite everyone who will be alive tomorrow to read.

Bill McKibben just wrote “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” with math that will make you think twice about ignoring the world’s temperature and CO2 emissions. It’s an article I invite everyone who will be alive tomorrow to read.

Never mind the scary picture above used in Rolling Stones for this article, it’s a bit dramatic, even though this is some serious stuff to think about. I find it important to not let doom and gloom overshadow hope, but it is important to be aware of challenges facing us.

3 numbers summarizing this challenge from the article:

  • Celsius – What the world (2009 G8 Summit, the Major Economies Forum, and the Copenhagen Conference) has agreed is the limit of warming we want to (can?) live with. Where we are now: .8° Celsius
  • 565 Gigatons – Our Carbon Budget over the next 40 years. 565 Gigatons is the amount of CO2 that humans can pump into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.
  • 2,795 Gigatons  – The known amount of CO2 potential in the ground–5 times larger than our Carbon Budget. Fossil fuel companies are planning on burning all 2,765 Gigatons with business as usual, in fact making investments based on the potential return of $20 Trillion, despite what it will do to our ability to live on this planet.

What implications do these numbers have for you–in your life, in your work, at home, and in your community?

For me, I see a hotter future, though I’m not sure how it will get hotter than today’s projected high of 104°F, and more extreme weather events. What will we need to do in our community to adapt to this? What will it look like to live in a hotter future with more extreme weather events? What is the economic, social, and environmental impact of extreme weather events (think floods of 2011 and the drought of 2012)?

With as difficult as it is to predict the future, I do know two things, one is that we need to rise to face this challenge head on and stop pretending it will go away on its own, and two, doing so will take an investment today for our future. It will cost us more right now, but for good cause, it is insuring against the risks of doing nothing. Investments, by their very nature take time, energy, and resources today, to make for a better tomorrow.

The fee and dividend plan referenced by Bill McKibben is a system that minimizes the hardship on everyone, while increasing efficiencies and decreasing reliance on fossil fuels so we can stay within our carbon budget.

This will take political will, a decision we as a country have to make for our future. This makes it absolutely necessary to invest in energy and resource efficiency; imperative that we generate our energy with clean, renewable sources. This isn’t hard stuff, even now, organizations are making changes every day to become more efficient and to generate renewable energy. All it takes is a decision, a conscious choice, to make this investment now.

After thinking about the implications that this new earth has in my life, I’d to keep our planet similar to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability, that we will be leaving if we continue on our current path. I’m willing to invest now in my future. Are you?

More blog posts