This article is about the greenhouse gases that human civilization are still pumping into the Earth’s atmosphere at rates that keep pushing concentrations ever higher. It’s about carbon dioxide and other gases that are heating the planet and disrupting whole communities of people and even more, whole species of wildlife.
In the 1990s, national governments held a monumental Earth Summit and home-country ratifications of an agreement to stabilize carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere before levels got dangerous. Even the United States is a signatory of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with ratification in the US Senate in October 1992.
Back in June 1992 when the Earth Summit was held, the atmosphere was 367 parts per million CO2 and rising an average of 1.5 ppm per year. World clocks are now about to chime 2020, and the atmosphere is 409 ppm CO2 and rising an average of 2.4 ppm per year.
To the national governments of the world, it’s time for people to ask, “Where’s the stabilization?”
Sadly, the most reliable sign of what’s going on—the atmosphere itself—does not point to stabilization ahead. It just isn’t going to happen without deliberate, widescale implementation of rapid transition strategies to move from an unsustainable hydrocarbon economy to good, green jobs and energy that keeps our air and water clean.
It’s time for people to ask energy policy makers, “Where’s the transition for stabilization, for the public good and for flourishing future?” It’s time to raise these urgent questions with national governments, policy makers and energy companies. It’s time to raise the level of our conversations above the usual climate chatter—the repetitive talk with nice-sounding words like reduce, mitigate and adapt.
It’s 2019 and time to get real by grounding climate conversations, plans and commitments with numbers that scale and connect with atmospheric that are freely available for all to see.
Scientists have learned and communicated how the Earth system sustains diverse and intelligent life in the biosphere, and which human activities are interfering. They know that securing a flourishing future cannot be achieved by continued use of fossil fuel. It is not something we will achieve by expanding infrastructure for fossil fuel extraction, transport and use. And scientists keep reminding us of the urgency. Now is the time for all peoples and leaders grounded in the solid knowledge of environmental change to kickstart local transitions and a global transformation. Now is the time to push for policy after policy—and action after action—that achieves a turnaround toward long-term sustainability. It’s time for people to come together in small and large groups, in public and private places, to multiply and multiply our focus and efforts to stabilize the rising, life-destabilizing gases in the atmosphere.
We, the human citizens of the planet, are facing a climate crisis and an unprecedented climate emergency. It’s not just because climates are changing planet wide, or because impacts keep cascading and worsening through the biosphere, or because human activities are the primary cause. No. It’s a crisis and emergency because the institutions and habits of humankind still lack a commitment to end the destabilization of the life-sustaining biosphere by any date or at any point in the future. Humanity and the planet are veering toward a future that strips away the freedom of families to flourish across generations. We are veering toward a catastrophic bust.
But rapid stabilization can be achieved at the atmospheric, planetary level when enough of us combine our voices and influence to push hard to stabilize. It’s going to take a lot of working with people we don’t know, and working on issues we aren’t familiar with. But all the other slow, half-measure alternatives lead to a bust.