Here is the problem: Greenhouse gases trap heat, causing the average surface temperature of the earth to go up. The more greenhouse gases there are, the more the temperature rises. And once greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, they stay there for a very long time. About 20% of the carbon dioxide emitted today will still be there in 10,000 years.
There is no way we can keep adding CO2 to the atmosphere and expect the world not to get hotter. The hotter it gets, the harder it will be for humans to survive.
Prior to the industrial revolution (about 1850) the earth’s carbon cycle was roughly in balance, meaning plants and other things absorbed about as much CO2 as was emitted.
But then we started burning fossil fuels. These fuels are made from carbon that’s stored underground, thanks to plants that died eons ago and got compressed over millions of years into oil, coal, or natural gas. When we burn them, we emit stored carbon and add to the total amount in the atmosphere.
Science tells us we are close to a “tipping point,” or a point of no return when no matter how much we reduce emissions the earth’s temperature will continue to rise.
The solution? The answer is not very complicated. We must maintain a lifestyle people will accept while doing everything humanly possible to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. If we do this and still fail, we can pat ourselves on the back even if it has a bad sunburn.
Ed Gruchalla, Citizens Local Energy Action Network, Fargo/Moorhead