In last week’s Champion, Kenneth Vasquez points out many genuine roles fulfilled by fossil fuels and ends his letter with “…oil is not going away any time soon.”

However, if we want a livable world for our children and grandchildren, this is exactly what must happen, and it must happen fast.   

Burning fossil fuels releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane, a 30 times stronger greenhouse gas, is also increasing from fracking, rice paddies and cows.

Together, they have helped warm our world by 1.1oC (2oF) in the last 100 years.  Water is actually the most potent greenhouse gas, but depends only on the temperature, and equilibrates with the oceans.   

The bonds in all three of these molecules are energetically excited by infrared radiation at the surface of the earth, and spread their energy throughout our world, making our world warmer.   

About half of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans and plants. Absorption by plants is good, however the carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans has made the oceans 30 percent more acidic, with dire consequences for life in the oceans.   

The discovery of fossil fuels provided humans with unlimited access to millions of years of prehistoric solar energy, which allowed unlimited innovations, seen to this day. 

It allowed human population to increase from 1 billion to almost 8 billion in only 200 years. Now we find ourselves burning more fossil fuels than ever, increasing Earth’s temperature faster than ever.   

A warmer world does many things. It melts ice at the poles, raising sea levels; it melts continental glaciers that supply fresh water to many regions of the world; it changes air currents, resulting in an unstable jet stream, bringing record cold to Texas and record heat to Canada; it puts more energy and water into the atmosphere, making ever more powerful hurricanes that devastate coastal regions; it causes coral reefs to die, along with 25 percent of the ocean’s diversity; and it dries out the land, leading to more severe droughts and more devastating fires. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put forth a primary goal of limiting Earth’s temperature increase to 1.5oC (2.7oF), but it looks like keeping Earth’s temperature increase under 2oC (3.6oF) will be a challenge, because of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere and our lack of action.  Continuing on our current path predicts a world 3-5oC warmer, which would be catastrophic.   

To meet the IPCC goals, we have to cut fossil fuel use 40 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

The dangers of doing nothing are tipping points (melting permafrost and others) that take away our ability to control our own destiny. The challenges are immense and it will be incredibly expensive, but it will more expensive if we lose control of our climate.   

There are reasonable alternatives, solar, wind and others. But we have to implement them immediately on a scale comparable to the fossil fuels we currently burn. We can’t leave any nation behind because this is a global problem. Truly, we are all in this together.  This is not a drill.  This is the real thing.   

Phil Beauchamp 

Chino Hills   

 

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