What’s a concerned citizen to do beyond just worrying about business and pollution as usual that is leading us to common catastrophe? Suppose you knew that your personal share and entitlement for carbon dioxide emissions was three tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year to hold the amount of carbon dioxide steady in the atmosphere. And you also knew, for example, that that an average gas driven car emitted 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide per year and an electric car would cut that in half even when powered from the current polluting grid, and much much less on a life cycle basis from a future global efficient renewable energy system displacing almost all fossil fuels.
Carbon dioxide life cycle footprint of fossil fuels is much greater than just the combustion. Included in life cycle carbon are substantial methane leaks from natural gas production and pipelines, the energy for drilling, mining, transport, refining, and disposal that are much more significant for fossil fuels and nuclear energy than for renewables. Reducing end use of fossil fuels has a much broader affect on net emissions.
A plan to help get to three tons is not simply to buy electric cars, but also to improve public transportation, bike sharing, installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure and car to home interconnection for millions of EVs to also help provide power into the electric grid, mandate phasing in of electric vehicles whose operating “fuel” cost is equivalent to less than $1.00 per gallon.
Understanding your current average national contribution in tons of carbon per person per year is the basis for understanding and changing not just your personal choices, but your local and national systemic issues necessary for getting to sustainable carbon levels.
An ecological transformation is not a recipe for stringency and poverty. It is a strategy for improved efficiency and massive productive investment over time to create the sustainable global energy, production, agricultural, and forestry system. This is a recipe for a global convergence on sustainable conduct. It is the basis for a plan for social and ecological justice and an end to poverty.
Technologically, a comprehensive and economic series of changes are available to transform the self-destructive industrial present to make economic growth men ecological improvement in the context of a global pursuit of social and ecological justice.
A family of four today as an interim step with a 12 tons of carbon per year entitlement and goal could quickly move from 14.9 tons carbon for car and heating to 7.1 tons with electric vehicle and heat pump even using the current grid. A wide variety of measures can replace the typical U.S.consumption pattern and become part of the ecological transition plan including. car sharing, public transit, telecommuting and living near ,where you work, bike sharing, autonomous electric vehicles for hire.
At bottom, once we look the three tons of carbon challenge in the eye, it’s a straightforward matter to develop a clear plan in steps to get from our polluting and self-destructive present to a sustainable ecological future.
Three numbers matter the most that serve as a personal and collective guide to solutions from the grassroots up. We can have much more power to help change what happens in our neighborhood and our town and state than we do nationally and globally. Yes millions of people in the streets can help move the global leadership. But we have the real chance to participate in developing local plans for our town to take steps to:
• Inventory and understand our greenhouse gas emissions from all aspects including individual and industrial consumption but also from agriculture and from forestry. There are good free software tools now available to conduct an inventory including the Global Protocol for Community Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories. This 170 page report that provide detailed guidance and tools for conducting greenhouse gas emission inventories and developing and verifying plans.
• Develop comprehensive plans to climate change mitigation focused on reaching the 3 tons per person carbon dioxide limit asap and to remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere through soil building and biomass growth to provide global cooling and eventually return the atmosphere to pre-industrial carbon levels below 300 parts per million.
• Have an action plan for implementation of the plan on financial, legislative, technical, legal area. Understand what must be done and what tools do we need to make this happen. For example to retrofit all buildings with PV and efficient appliances and EV changing capability could be facilitated by a combination of revolving loan funds from local revenue bonds providing loans to be repaid from the stream of saving from efficiency and renewable energy products. The measures needed will encompass the political, regulatory, technical, and financial areas.
Three tons of carbon dioxide per person per year as goal and guide is the basis for more than typical climate change mitigation and adaptation plans. It is the basis for community action and beyond to craft a sustainable, prosperous, ecological and just future.
Three tons of carbon per person per year as global target for yourself, your city, your state and beyond is the basis not only for stopping and reversing climate change. It is the means for pursuing ecological economic growth, building locally owned assets in the renewably powered economy and for the pursuit of social and ecological justice manifested in concrete plans and to take action as consumers, workers, business people, investors, neighbors.
Sustainability writ large is the expression of grand co-evolutionary forces that have shaped our planet and the ecosphere. This has created the oxygen atmosphere with just enough carbon dioxide to maintain surface temperature within a range not too hot or too cold. The history of the co-evolution of life and planet Earth has been one of countervailing and healing response to excess that has permitted life to both survive periodic crises and mass extinctions and to respond to changing conditions and once again thrive.
We are in the midst of one of the times of crisis and the potential for a mass extinction event, this time driven not by geologic action like volcanoes, but by human industrial action and conscious human action. Humanity has joined the global process of sustainability that reshapes the nature of Earth on a fundamental and geological scale.
Humanity has the ability and the necessity, to play a healing role in response to industrial excess and toward the development of a sustainable civilization that will endure for geological time scale. If we fail we are almost certain to suffer the consequences of ecological and social crisis for geological scales potential lasting for hundreds of thousands of years as did the global warming of the Eocene.
We need to choose between pursuing a sustainable ecological future or accept descent into ecological chaos. Three tons of carbon dioxide per person per year is a means and a guide for healing and enduring ecological change and building a prosperous and enduring ecological civilization. Choose wisely. Now is the time.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Climate Truth: A Plan for Sustainability’. Courtesy: Counterpunch.org