Once again: We keep talking about Climate Change and that we need to get our greenhouse gas emissions down, but we don’t. “Half of all emissions produced from fossil fuels have come in the last 30 years.” (David Wallace Wells) That is, ever since we knew Climate Change was a major problem we’ve acted in the worse possible way to put off this disaster.
One of the issues that the Climate Change crisis highlights is our species’ inability to maintain a high level of alert on a long-term crisis. Large predators making their way towards us, that we get; Climate Change, not so much. To help address this critical shortcoming in our critical faculties, we should create a Climate Change monitoring process that would continually be seen by everyone. Everyone needs to ‘see’ Climate Change so that we are forever mindful of this existential threat.
Every vehicle on the road has a fuel (or battery) gauge that lets you know how much further you can go. You don’t have to look at the gauge every moment but your lack of attention to this issue could result in running out of juice in some very inconvenient places.
Humanity is in danger of losing our attention to the most important part of Climate Change—our emissions curve.
‘You did not act in time’: Greta Thunberg’s full speech to MPs “People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished. But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I’m sorry, but it’s still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at.” (April 23, 2019) The Guardian (more on Climate Change in our area]
So, what is this emissions curve and how would we put it in our face so that whatever we’re doing or not doing to address Climate Change, we’d be able to see if life on Earth is running out of time?
For a quick look at the emissions curve, you can go here: Graphic: The relentless rise of carbon dioxide, by NASA Global Climate Change. Or, you can get a more up-to-date reading by going to the NASA Global Climate Change web page where today’s (May 2, 2019) atmospheric concentration of CO2 is 410ppm. To put this figure in perspective, according to Climate Central, “The last time CO2 levels were this high, trees grew near the South Pole and sea levels were 50 to 65 feet higher than today.”
CO2 Concentrations Rising Past 400 Parts Per Million As May begins, we are nearing the annual peak atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) — the greenhouse gas that contributes most to human-caused climate change. CO2 does vary seasonally, peaking in May as the Northern Hemisphere’s plants blossom and breathe in more CO2 during the summer. Still, the year-to-year increase in CO2 is unmistakable. When this year’s peak is announced (see here for daily updates), it will be the highest level in at least two million years. The last time CO2 levels were this high, trees grew near the South Pole and sea levels were 50 to 65 feet higher than today. (May 1, 2019) Climate Central [more on Climate Changein our area]
We must have a universal and continual way to report on increases or decreases of greenhouse gas emissions so we can monitor the effects without deluding ourselves. But, because of lag time in our climate system and many other factors we aren’t going to see a quid pro quo relationship between things we do now and its eventual results—unless a major volcano goes off or we set off a series of nuclear bombs. It’s complicated information that must be boiled down to something very easy for every media to place prominently, and relevant to our actual predicament, not our current perception of it.
Of course, we'd like to see a very robust form of monitoring so that we can get a very precise model of how our efforts to address Climate Change are going. But this kind of detail is not going to attract much attention from the public--though with hyperlinks anyone can drill down deeply into any of the particulars. I'm thinking of an info-box on a media that displays our greenhouse gas emissions so we can monitor our progress. But even this can be delusional because if we are destroying forests, we are taking away carbon sinks even if we are reducing fossil fuel emissions, increasing renewable energy, and increasing energy efficiency. All the numbers have to add up to planetary health.
Again, it's complicated. We need to make a sort of Climate Change gauge simple and that is difficult. We will need trusted folks simplifying the method so that we aren’t fooled by those pushing some kind of agenda. We are apt to be deceived by peer pressure and adulation when we are actually not moving the needle in the right direction. We need something we can trust the way we used to trust our senses--which we now know are finely tuned by evolution to be honed on the kind of reality our species evolved on—not the quickly warming planet we now live on.
We have a much better understanding of the ways our senses can be fooled, and we have ways to correct our senses so that our model of reality is more correct. Now we need to know if we are going to get through the Climate Change Bottleneck, where our past environmental abuses get cooked on a warming planet. That is going to take everything we’ve got, probably including machine-learning artificial intelligence that can think in ways we cannot overcome what seems to be insurmountable challenges—like how to capture carbon quickly enough and at a sufficient scale to bring down greenhouse gas concentrations around the world.
We’re getting close. Soon, NASA is going to get really good at knowing Earth’s carbon cycle in detail.
OCO-3 Ready to Extend NASA's Study of Carbon When the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3, OCO-3, heads to the International Space Station, it will bring a new view - literally - to studies of Earth's carbon cycle. From its perch on the space station, OCO-3 will observe near-global measurements of carbon dioxide on land and sea, from just after sunrise to just before sunset. That makes it far more versatile and powerful than its predecessor, OCO-2. "OCO-2 revisits areas on Earth at roughly the same time of day due to its sun-synchronous orbit," said Matt Bennett, OCO-3's project systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "OCO-3 will expand the time period of that coverage and observe the presence of carbon dioxide at varying times of day." (April 30, 2019) NASA Global Climate Change [more on Climate Change in our area]
The point I’m getting at is this: Scientists are getting better at monitoring greenhouse gas emissions with great precision. Providing this detail to the public on a continual basis would strip away the political fog surrounding Climate Change and give everyone a way to note our collective progress—or lack thereof—towards solutions. Imagine if every media posted this trusted, objective information continually.
I’m sure if a meteor were zooming in on us, media around the world would give continual updates of this natural missile’s progress and humanity’s efforts to avoid this kind of disaster.
Climate Change is also a phenomenon coming at us relentlessly and quickly. We all need to see it so we can work together to avoid it.