Energy drives everything we do. It is therefore important that we pay attention to how it is extracted, produced, delivered. Today, what matters is that we are making a transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewables. But, are we moving fast enough?
Historically, growth in human global emissions of CO2 have averaged 2.5% over the past decade. That may not sound like a large number, but it is a compounding number – like interest on a loan account that is being rolled over and never paid – and that means that the “available room” in the atmosphere to attain a non-catastrophic outcome is quickly diminishing. By way of comparison, human population growth rates hit their peak of 2.1% in the 1960s and are now at around 1.2% per annum, but we’re still on track for over 10 Billion people. It’s time to start paying down our carbon loan to the environment.
As a result, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are approximately 45% above what they were at the start of the industrial revolution (277 ppm then 402 ppm now). To continue the analogy, the debt is now coming due.
If we have no price on CO2 emissions (“carbon”) then this is what we end up with – the atmosphere as the dumping grounds for everyone and every company that burns fossil fuels. What also matters is recognizing our agency, that we are capable of both creating economic (and energy technology) systems that pollute and, equally, of creating an economy and energy solutions that don’t pollute. We have the choice to pay down this debt – and it’s our choice.
But if want this choice to be economically rational, we have to provide a market signal. It could take the form of people boycotting certain products and companies, or divesting from certain industries, or putting standards for building codes and transportation systems in place, or putting a price on carbon (like a fine for polluting). Any and all of those can work, but taking action now, before it is too late, is imperative.