“If you ask a scientist how much more CO2 do you think we should add to the atmosphere, the answer is going to be none.”
Ken Caldeira, the now famously injured party in the SuperFreakonomics fiasco, says:
I believe the correct CO2 emission target is zero….
Every carbon dioxide emission adds to climate damage and increasing risk of catastrophic consequences. There is no safe level of emission.
It is a clarifying moment perhaps. I’d like to think this is a teachable moment brought to us by the irresponsibility of Levitt and Dubner. I’d like to think it is a moment where our artificial greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) take a big step toward becoming a social outcast akin to smoking, and that we may recognize these emissions are an unforgivable liability being passed to our children and grandchildren.
As we know any amount of smoking is bad for our health, a carcinogen – so it is that any amount of GHG emissions are bad for the health of our climate and the civilization as we know it, delivering catastophe.
It is time we all take a closer look at our lives – individually and as a society. How do our daily actions needlessly imperil our planet? How does the extravagance of our travel and entertainment, our business and household activities? How do we take concrete steps, incremental and wide ranging steps to reduce our carbon footprint?
Yes, like it has taken government action to banish smoking from work and public places, so to our government will need to lead in transforming our world economy to one based on clean energy. And as Bill McKibben notes in Revkin’s article, we need to hit a “wartime footing”.
But as I see it, the most important step may be the awakening in so many that no additional GHG emissions are acceptable. NONE ARE ACCEPTABLE. Many are now recognizing the self-destruction in our actions, transforming how we see our lives and how we live. As we must stop smoking to live a healthy life and so too we must stop emitting GHGs.
As our grandparents and parents frugality was bred from Depression and WWII era scarcities, our lives today now demand we be frugal with our GHG emissions.
Our emissions are the single biggest liability we are passing on to our children and grandchildren – a liability unlike mere monetary debt which can be “restructured”. Our emissions liability is one that will be unforgiving and ruthless, utterly destroying the quality of life for generations to come. Our careless emissions today are sealing a hellish fate for our babies.
A new ethic of frugality toward emissions must take hold.
Zero is the number.