The Other I

July 6, 2009

Humbled to near speechlessness

I set out a little over a month ago on a project to learn about the scope, the dangers, and the possible solutions to global warming and climate change.

I have been reduced to near silence by an issue complex, vast, and significant beyond my most wild imaginings.  I’ve been torn between the extremes of hope and despair and back again beyond counting.  The ingenuity, the creativity, the possibilities seem so hopeful.  And then I run smack up against the size of the problem.

The size of the problem:  80% of the world’s total population of 6.9 billion people live in Asia, Latin America, or Africa.  25% of them subsist on an average of $1.25 a day.  That’s more than 20% of all the people in the world.  They are not currently contributing to greenhouse gases by driving cars or turning on refrigerators, TVs or central heating.  And the great majority of people are not consuming energy at the rate of the currently developed world.

It gets worse:  By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase to 9 billion.  That’s an increase of 30%.

So what we have is a developing world seeking to improve living standards, which, as countries like India and China illustrate, means that their energy consumption will increase dramatically.

In less than half a century, not only will the world’s population have increase by 30%, but energy consumption per person will also have increased.

Assuming that the world did not run out of sources of affordable fossil fuels, the pressure such a vast increase in consumption would put on Earth’s environment is immense.  That probably won’t happen, though, because experts say that fossil fuels are getting harder and more expensive to get at.

Except perhaps coal, which is far and away the filthiest of the lot.

Is the problem solvable?  I don’t know.  I am sure that it is within our power to influence the size of the problem posed by fossil fuels.

More later about some of the avenues that might lead us out of this cloud and smoke which we have created for ourselves.

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