This Earth Day, let’s all really commit to lowering the global temperature | Opinion

It’s time for everyone to put some skin in the game. After all, it’s your future that we’ll be saving

A spiking thermometer against a bright sky and hot sun

(Getty Images/The Arizona Mirror).

By Richard Whiteford

Humans have pumped over a trillion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere since the late 19th century, increasing the average global temperature by 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

For over 6,000 years before the industrial revolution CO2 levels hovered at around 280 parts per million (PPM). The yearly average in 2022 was 420 PPM. That’s a 140 PPM increase.

According to climate scientist, Dr. Jim Hansen, we have already missed our chance to keep the global temperature within the 1.5degree Celsius limit (2.7 degrees F). He says we still have a very slim chance of staying within the 2-degree Celsius limit (4.5 degree F) but only if we drastically cut CO2 emissions immediately.

“Let’s face it, a whole bunch of companies in the world has chosen to say, I’m going to get to net zero by 2050 and yet they don’t have a clue how they’re going to get there,” U.S Climate Change Envoy John Kerry said at the 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos. “And most of them are not on track to get there. I’m not convinced we’re going to get there in time to do what the scientists said, which is avoid the worst consequences of the crisis.”

You may ask, what’s the big deal about a half-degree temperature increase?

Well, 1.5-degree Celsius is having very sick coral reefs, whereas a 2-degree Celsius average temperature will cause coral reefs to disappear.

A half-degree increase could cause 10% of all plant and animal species to face a high risk of extinction. At 4 degrees Celsius or 7.2-degrees Fahrenheit, half of the Amazon rainforest could be lost.

At the COP-26 climate summit in Glasgow, the combined pledges that world governments made would only cut carbon by 7.5% by 2030.

A 30% reduction is needed to stay within the 2-degree limit, and it would take a 45% reduction to stay within the 1.5-degree range. Current pledges put the world temperature on track to reach 3 degrees Celsius (5.5 degrees Fahrenheit) within 80 to 100 years from now.

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According to the International Energy Agency, greenhouse gas emissions have grown by roughly 1 1/2 % per year over the last decade. In 2022 emissions hit another record of 36.8 billion that year.

To stay within the somewhat safe 2-degree Celsius limit, (4.5-degree F) emissions must decline by 7.6% every year between 2020 and 2030.

Instead, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) countries are planning to consume fossil fuels at a 2 % increase annually which by 2030 would more than double the carbon emissions required to stay within the 2-degree limit sending the global temperature into the 4-degree Celsius, or 7.2-degree Fahrenheit range. That range could be catastrophic for human survival.

According to NOAA, from 2017 to 2021 the US had 89 extreme weather events totaling over $742 billion and the loss of 4,557 lives. 2022 had 18 billion-dollar events killing 474 people.

Overall, since 1980 the U.S. sustained 341 climate disaster events exceeding a billion dollars each totaling $2.475 trillion. These figures do not include the cost of extended human suffering.

The Inflation Reduction Act is the largest initiative by any of the G-20 nations to reduce carbon emissions, but it is not nearly enough, and it won’t happen fast enough to save us if the other nations don’t step up their game with massive carbon reductions immediately.

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Should humanity be held hostage by people who cavalierly deny the facts presented above, and categorically deny climate change at the expense of committing everyone to a perilous future?

Last year, BP, ExxonMobil, and Chevron made massive profits while receiving close to a billion dollars in tax subsidies.

Climate Scientist and Evangelical Christian Minister, Katherine Hayhoe put it this way: “A normal human would have had to earn the equivalent of $20 million a year every year since Jesus’ birth to earn as much as Shell Oil did in one year.”

With their money and power, they finance pro-fossil propaganda campaigns and ingratiate politicians with hefty campaign contributions while extracting more fossil fuels that must be left in the ground.

The power of the fossil industry is formidable and so is our capitalist economic system. We are pitted against a real David and Goliath situation. Time is running out, and we are being sold out, so it is incumbent upon us, all of us, to save ourselves.

Complacency empowers the perpetrator, so the only way to save our future is to become non-complacent. This means using all our powers like hitting them in their wallets by boycotting financial institutions that support fossil extraction.

By voting climate-denying politicians out of office. By taking public transportation whenever possible, driving EVs, converting from gas and oil heating and air conditioning systems to heat pumps, converting to solar, wind, or geothermal power; anything you can do as fast as you can to cut CO2 emissions.

A veteran climate journalist and educator, Richard Whiteford writes from  West Chester, Pa.

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.