What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

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Friday, 8 August 2008

Mitigate, adapt, or both?

One of the lecturers, Peter Harper, at my last module for my MSc stressed the importance of developing carbon capture and storage as a last ditch effort to mitigate anthropogenic climate change. Others discussed the looming need for planetary engineering proposals and a willingness to consider implementation of such schemes. This is scary stuff and is predicated on an understanding that the changes required to get our emissions levels down enough are so huge as to be seen as impossible in the consumerist cultures of the developed world and the increasingly consumerist developing world. And now one of the chief scientists in the UK has said we need to prepare for a 4ºC rise in global temperature in an article in the Guardian. He also recommends pursuing CCS more aggressively.

I recently heard a podcast entitled "METHANE BURPS AND TELE-EVERYTHING" over on Radio EcoShock of an interview with David M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist from NASA Langley Research Center, who stated we could see temperature increases of 12º to 14ºC by 2100 if the positive feedback loops currently kicking in, not included in the last IPCC reports, aren't brought to a halt. This would mean sea level rises of 75 to 80 meters which would submerge the current living area of 2.4 billion people. He states that we need to replace 80% the fossil carbon based energy we use with algae, halophytes, and cyanobacteria sourced biofuels grown on unused land, he calls it deserts and wasteland, with sea water. This would need to be accompanied by massive increases in conservation and huge deployment of drill geothermal, wind and solar capacity. All of these approaches have the capacity to far exceed the fossil carbon we are currently using. Dr. Bushnell thinks if we decide to do it we could have this capacity in 20 -25 years.

While all this sounds encouraging, I'm concerned about treating deserts as wasteland, this still means having the will, both personal and political, to proceed with these sustainability projects, both the conversion to renewable forms of energy, Al Gore reckons we could do it in 10 years, and carbon capture and storage. We need to leave oil, gas and coal in the ground starting now. Are you willing to do what is necessary on the home front? Is your representative in government willing to do what is necessary on the political front? What stands in the way?

It is time to remove the barriers to this sort of progress and make the change happen.

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