Global Warming Tipping Point
In my look back at 2006, I wrote that it was during last year that we reached a tipping point regarding global warming and alternative energy. This is becoming more clear with each passing week.
During the first week of 2007 it was unseasonably warm across most of the U.S. The media coverage of this warm spell was consistently presented within the context of global warming. Practically everyone I spoke to about the warm weather used the phrase global warming. It is now at the top of mind of tens of millions of Americans such that they take unseasonably warm weather in winter and say it is global warming. While most people like mild winter weather, there is a palpable sense of alarm many people are feeling. Someone actually said to me that if this was winter, how hot was summer going to be?
Last week it was announced that a coalition has been formed to establish firm limits on carbon dioxide emissions. Ten years ago, even five years ago this coalition would be composed completely of various environmental groups. Now, in 2007 here are some of the names that make up this coalition: Alcoa, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, General Electric, Lehman Brothers and Pacific Gas & Electric. Of course there is also the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute. That is change. That shows the tipping point has been reached.
The legislative goals of this coalition are to create mandatory approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, set a price for emission of greenhouse gases and to create incentives for countries around the world to participate. Now I must say that most of the levels discussed seem to be incremental and less than what is required. For example one of the goals is to have greenhouse gas emissions be 90 to 100% of current levels within 10 years. While this points to the stopping of annual growth of emissions, there is already so much damage done to our planet that the goal should be more aggressive. However, 5 years ago, companies such as the ones listed above refused to acknowledge that there was a global warming problem and if they did, they certainly didn’t relate it to their own corporate activities. This is a major signpost on the way to saving ourselves.
Another story this week caught my eye. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the main international scientific body that assesses causes of climate change is about to release a report that says that it is more than 90% likely that global warming since 1950 has been driven mainly by the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. They further went on to say that more warming and rising sea levels are on the way. In their last report, in 2001, the panel had reported their conclusion that there was a 66 to 90% chance that human actions were driving the most recent warming. The smartest minds on climate change now put the certitude that we are responsible for climate change at over 90%. To me that ends the debate.
What is very upsetting about this report is that it suggests that unless the use of nonpolluting alternative fuels can be utilized on a great scale we are in trouble The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million in the centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution. The current carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is currently 380 parts per million. Climate experts say that a tremendous swing to non-polluting alternative sources of energy needs to happen and soon to avoid levels of 450 or 550 parts per million. Think about it. We currently are about 35% higher in atmospheric carbon dioxide than we were in 1600 and look at the changes we see and feel. What happens if we let the levels go up to 75 or 100% higher than those of the Renaissance?
This tipping point could have not come much later. We are now in the realm of species survival long term. I submit to you that just about every week for the remainder of the year there will be some story in the media about alternative energy, climate change and what we can do to help.
I have already said this several times here, but it is worth saying again: conservation technologies and the creation or alternative and renewable energy sources is the greatest financial opportunity in the history of humanity. It was gratifying to see in the paper that Ted Turner, a true visionary (and someone I had the great good fortune to work for and with in the early days of cable) has bought a major interest in an alternative energy company, basically saying the same thing, that alternative energy is not only the great financial opportunity of today, but may we be the greatest in history. Good company to be in.