Commentary by Christine Westland
I am now a senior, but looking at photos of my grandfather as a young boy I am startled to realize how different his day-to-day life was from mine, just 100 years ago.
Earth’s population was about 1.8 billion, and the Industrial Age was young. Earth’s population is now almost 8 billion, and we have gobbled up most naturally existing liquid oil, but continue to dig for every last drop. Blind to healthier options, we continue to overuse fossil fuels. We are clear cutting forests, blowing up mountains, digging huge holes, leaving behind toxic sludge, dumping garbage into the ocean and depleting soil with industrial agriculture.
In 1970 scientists began taking core samples in deep ice, analyzing pockets of air trapped over time. They found that the CO2 content in the atmosphere had remained relatively constant for millennia, averaging 250 ppm. In 1956, NOAA scientists in Hawaii and 100 other sites worldwide began daily atmospheric studies, revealing rapid escalation of CO2, now at 400 ppm and rising. Our burning ever more fossil fuels for over 200 years has created a greenhouse effect causing temperature rise. What the oceans and vegetation cannot absorb remains trapped in our atmosphere for decades, causing unusual weather patterns.
An August U.N. draft report states, “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
The unprecedented rate of heat increase from burning fossil fuels in such a short speck of geologic time must be taken seriously. We must aggressively transition to sustainable energy sources for future survival. Eight billion people relying on the dirtiest, most expensive fossil fuels is a fatal error. We have lost sight of what the earth provides: energy and heat from the sun; and oceans, trees and vegetation, which absorb CO2, regulate weather patterns and provide rich soil for healthy food. Our resources deserve respect and protection. At this point our choices must be wise, so vote this November as if your life depended on it, because it does.
Originally published in The Northern Light