Yes, you read that title right. NO ONE truly believes in climate change science. Especially you. You might THINK that you do. But if you dare take a closer look at the scientific data, I will wager you have a lot more in common with those SUV-driving, oil-loving, Republican climate-skeptics than you realize.
Climate Change Myths
Let’s first start off with the popular myths about climate change. With a quick online search we can find all sorts of tips on how to fight climate change on a personal level. These ideas include making your home more energy efficient, taking fewer shopping trips, using reusable bags, eating more local foods, reducing waste, etc.
Change a light bulb, save the planet!
On the government policy level, there are ideas such as implementing a carbon tax, blocking oil pipelines, investing in renewable energy and mandating energy-efficient vehicles.
Do these ideas sound familiar? Do they sound reasonable in our effort to tackle climate change? You’re right, they are reasonable! And that’s the problem. These ideas can no more tackle climate change than a mouse can tackle a skyscraper. The scientific data on climate change is much more horrifying than what most people realize. If you think you can handle it, keep reading. If not, please feel free to go about your day pretending that it is only the evil Republican politicians who are denying science.
Science deniers . . . and science “believers”
Real climate science actually boils down to two concepts: the Carbon Budget and the Carbon Emissions Equation.
What is the Carbon Budget?
The carbon budget is how much more CO2 can be released into the atmosphere before irreversible damage has been caused to our environment. Drought, famine, dreadful heat waves, oceans rising, widespread flooding, devastating hurricanes, enormous snow storms, etc. (you know the drill). Once this budget is spent, humankind has to quit adding carbon emission to atmosphere. Period. Anything more and we have entered an area of no return.
How close are we to exhausting our carbon budget? According to the IPCC, the world’s leading authority and expert on climate change, we have about four more years before we expend our carbon budget at our current emissions rate for a chance at staying below catastrophic change. If we want to have a 90% chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change (which is arguably a good thing) then our carbon emissions budget is zero.
What is the Carbon Emissions Equation? The carbon emissions equation simply states that the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere is determined by how many people are alive, how many services they use, how much energy the services need and how much CO2 is emitted from generating that energy.
Let’s start with the “easy” part of the equation and talk about renewable energy. In the next 0-4 years, climate science dictates that all fossil fuels use needs to be completely eliminated. So we need to build solar panels and wind turbines as fast as we can! How long before we transition to a completely renewable energy society? According to current estimates, this can be done by the year 2050. If we’re being wildly optimistic. What happens in the thirty years before we get there? Well, the next “easiest” part of the equation will be to limit services.
The general consensus among climate scientists at the IPCC is that carbon emissions will have to be zero. But let’s be optimistic here. Some scientists say that we can emit a little carbon every year due to the natural cycle of carbon absorption (via plants for example).
These scientists say that based on our world’s current population, each individual’s yearly carbon budget is 1015 lbs., or about 2.8 lbs a day (better than nothing right?) Even these optimistic scientists say though that are real carbon budget should be half of that to account for past emissions but again, let’s be generous here and imagine the most luxurious lifestyle possible under climate science. What might we spend our carbon budget on and what should we cut out? Reminder: although these restrictions should have been implemented years ago, the absolute deadline for implementing this carbon budget is in four years according to climate science.
– No More Flying. Since one flight from New York to Paris would use up someone’s entire annual carbon budget by itself (this doesn’t even include hotel stays or other tourist activities), airline travel is a luxury that can be easily eliminated first. Hopefully you don’t know anyone that works in the tourism or travel industry!
– No More Meat: This is another luxury that will need to be eliminated. 4 oz. of beef (a typical burger patty) would cost you 6.61 lbs of carbon (remember that your total carbon budget is 2.8 lbs a day). A cheeseburger costs 13.4 lbs. A cup of milk will cost you 0.72 lbs of carbon. Since vegetables like carrots cost only 0.07 lbs of carbon for half a cup, we fortunately should be able to survive by adopting a strictly vegan diet. Which actually works out, because since refrigerators cost 4.5 lbs. of carbon a day to run, we couldn’t store milk or meat anyway.
– Driving. On average, cars emit 0.81 lbs. of CO2 per mile driven (trains emit 0.32 lbs per mile). If you decided you didn’t need to eat one day, you could drive 3.5 miles instead (or 9 miles by train). But make sure you stay on top of maintenance! It will take between 3 – 28 years of saving 100% of your carbon budget before you can buy a new car. Hopefully you don’t drive to work or know anyone working in the automotive industry!
– Heating: Within about 30 years, we should hopefully be able to replace all natural gas heating systems with renewable energy. Until then, your annual carbon budget allows for (if you don’t plan on eating that year) 7.2 kWh of natural gas, or about two months of heating an average home. Hopefully you live in a place that is warm year round!
– Clothing and other products: T-shirts cost about 22 pounds of carbon to make. iPhones cost 121 pounds. A new furniture set: 2,000 pounds of carbon. Since one factor in the Carbon Emissions Equation includes energy efficiency, the carbon price for these items might drop as we find ways to be more carbon efficient. However, even if we can increase carbon efficiently by 90%, we’ll quickly realize that there simply isn’t much we can buy on a budget of 2.8 lbs of carbon a day. Hopefully you have everything you need already and don’t know anyone working in the retail or manufacturing industry!
Real Tough Choice
Do those sounds like tough choices? Look out your window now, is imagining the roads going empty in the next four years, most of the retail stores closing and everyone being forced to adopt a vegan lifestyle sound exaggerated and inhumane? That’s cute. Those aren’t even the REAL hard choices that climate science demands we make.
What about medical care? Hospitals and medical care require vast amounts of carbon, from supplies to equipment to electricity. Will we decide to take another look at the Carbon Emissions Equation and decide that not only can we not afford the carbon emissions to treat someone with a chronic disease, but it actually might be better for the climate if we simply let more people die and reduce the population?
And what about other countries? Let’s say China declines to participate and continues to operate its coal power plants. Although every diplomatic tactic will naturally be used first, force will need to be used if necessary, including outright war. After all, climate science doesn’t care about nation sovereignty. We all share the same atmosphere and there can be zero tolerance for anyone not abiding by carbon limitations. It is likely that every country in the world will need to submit to one governing body that monitors and regulates every sector of the economy for carbon emissions. Otherwise, any non-compliance could cause irreversible damage to our climate.
On that note, what kind of government is this going to require in the U.S.? The science is indisputable: almost every aspect of our lives needs to be tightly controlled. Cars will largely be banned, most animal products prohibited. Natural gas lines might need to run dry, (until the temperatures drop to a level which the government considers life-threatening). Strictly monitored energy usage until we at least make the switch to renewable energy. In short, democracy simply isn’t going to work. If we can’t even agree on how to make mild trimmings to Social Security in order to preserve it for future generations, imagine how impossible it be to convince the majority of people to sacrifice almost all of our modern comforts for the sake of reducing CO2. A type of totalitarian government would be needed, likely incorporating a group of un-elected and un-touchable climate scientists with immense regulatory and enforcement power. They need to be able to stick to the science and have the authority to shut down entire industries employing millions of people and remain unmoved if and when those millions of people take to the streets in protest.
Now you can see why no one truly believes in climate change science. Even climate scientists themselves, although they themselves are producing these numbers, will never publicly admit that we need to throw civilization back hundreds of years in order to save the planet. Realistically, some of the only available career paths in the near future will be either working in renewable energy or managing a family farm. But don’t just take my word for it. Follow all the links provided in the post above and see what climate science really says.
Just for fun, here is a fictional, although scientifically accurate, interview of the brutal facts on climate change. So do you still believe in the climate change science? If you do, note with no small irony that in order to prevent the world as we know it from ending over the next 30-100 years due to climate change, we’ll need to end the world as we know it within 0-4 years.