A present we can’t unwrap

A present we can’t unwrap

In only 150 years or so, we will have burned all fossil fuel on the planet, if carbon emissions keep rising like last year. Over time all ice on Earth will melt and cities like New York will be commited to the sea. Humankind has found other energy sources already, but coal, oil and gas are a gift to those who own them and as long as they can be sold for more than it costs to get them out the ground there is no economic brake for carbon emissions. We need to solve this problem. And for this, we might want to link the climate risk with its cause to incentivize company strategies that have a chance to survive.

Long before it was born, humanity got this incredibly valuable present: fossil fuels. Oil, coal and gas are captured sunlight once collected by tiny algae and huge forests. Over time this fossilized solar energy sunk into Earth’s depth. Not everyone got the same piece of the cake; some regions got more, some less. It took us a while to discover how to use this wealth, but its energy density was unprecedented, so much greater than that of wood. So it fueled our industrial evolution – it was a present that meant prosperity as well as cultural development.

Yet in the meantime it has turned out to cause climate change and we are forced to think how to use solar power directly, without the carbon-detour. If emissions continue to rise linearly by 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon every year, we will have burned everything we found in the second half of the next century. That sounds far away, but it is also an incredible amount of carbon. Once turned into CO2 and blown into the sky, a large part of it stays there for hundreds of years and even millennia. Already now, it causes changes of the Earth system that will last for thousands of years.

Last week a study in Science Advances showed  hat if we do that, burn all the fossil fuels, we melt all the ice of Antarctica. Since Antarctica is the coldest continent on Earth this means we would turn all the ice on the planet into liquid water and hence raise sea level worldwide higher than ever before in the history of humanity – let alone human civilization. That would reshape our coastlines and thereby change the face of our planet. Cities like New York, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Calcutta, Hamburg, Jakarta, Cairo would be committed to the sea.

 

Source: Huffington post

Date: September 2015

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Tags assigned to this article:
climate changeenergy policyfossil fuelswater

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