Better late than never

October 5, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

This very common phrase gets different responses from folk from the most pessimistic “Its already too late” to “I can’t do anything about it anyway” to the ultra positive “Don’t worry, technology will solve the problem”.  Probably the first is closest to reality as we get more and more TV pictures of  the loss of arctic ice and melting glaciers. Science has claimed that 400 parts of carbon in the atmosphere denotes the most that society can sustain.

No man-made number is sacrosanct and the world has already exceeded that figure.   Nevertheless we are seeing major effects of climate change globally. Drought in many parts of the world has resulted in the loss of thousands of acres of land, while the destruction of homes and lives due to fire has proven to be a major problem in Australia and California.  Wind changes are also basic factors in the massive fires in Canada’s British Columbia and Alberta.  Such changes have affected the pattern of hurricanes that have inflicted heavy loss of life particularly in coastal communities.  Destruction from the impact of Katrina in southern U.S. and Sandy on the American east coast will not soon be forgotten. 

Many engineering projects have been proposed as solutions to curb rising carbon emissions in the atmosphere a major factor in restricting the escape of excess heat into outer space.  Carbon extracted from various industrial processes to be buried in abandoned coal mines far below ground, is another suggested answer.  Some scientists have calculated that the growth of forest trees already accounts for one third of carbon emissions attributed to mankind and it is well understood that oceans absorb half the total CO 2 in the atmosphere each year.  Current practices are resulting in death of coral and  destruction of ocean vegetation.

When leaders of most countries met in Paris (12th Dec. 2018) it was agreed that each should pledge to work toward restricting the rise in global temperature would be limited to two degrees Celsius above levels experienced prior to the industrial revolution.  Several countries have made plans to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels causing carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

It certainly appears that natural processes provide the most promising answers to the many problems. Reducing the level of CO2, i.e. limiting the world’s concentration of emissions, would have the greatest potential to achieve our goal at the least cost and tree crowns accomplish this most effectively. Several leaders have pledged to plant millions of trees over the next few years though it is recognized that young trees cannot contribute to the solution in the short term.  Established trees crowns are needed plus annual rings of wood and root systems. Halting Cutting and burning of old growth trees globally is necessary. 

The most important response lies in public attitude.  Global warming cannot be overcome in the short term regardless of science or politics but the problem is well worth tackling regardless of the time factor.   The goal must be to minimize the impact increasing temperature has for future generations and this is the responsibility of every human on the planet.  A Google search has provided lists of activities for adapting to the changing world.   For those of us in Ontario particularly in the cities the biggest factor is transportation.  The use of a bicycle can reduce this by up to 36% replacing commercial energy consumption with human effort.

One of the biggest changes in society has been the development of renewable sources of energy.  It has been encouraging to see the number of roof top solar panels on private houses and the wind turbines on many farms.  Elimination of fossil fuels is the intent of many countries’ leaders along with the increase of river turbines but for individuals the more promising effort will be reduction of reliance on furnaces and increased home insulation.  Car manufacturing companies are predicting that within a very few years, new cars will be electric and it wont be long before use of gasoline will become a thing of the past.

A valuable lesson to be learned from past calamities is the survival of the world.  Species will be lost but nature is resilient.  Ecosystems will rebound.  The world will not end in 2050 let alone 2030, just Mankind’s perception of it. 

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