I couldn't agree more about some of your point Charles, but not all.
The first step is to be honest with ourselves. It may not be practical but "reduce emissions" still means one thing and one thing only, emitting less. One cannot do that by emitting more and paying someone else to plant a tree. There is no grey area there. On this I think we agree.
Certainly there is a continuum along which we all have to travel. We have to choose the continuum we participate in. If it starts at today and ends up in 2050 with 30% or even 60% reductions in emissions we are hosed. Nothing less that 80% perhaps even 100% reductions are acceptable. Accepting any kind of grey area here is self defeating. The planet will continue to absorb abuse until it creates conditions that bring the abuse to an end. That process is well under way. I'm not sure we agree on this....
We have been aware of the threat since at least James Hansen's speech to Congress in 1988. Since then have our emissions reduced, have they reduced since Kyoto, have they reduced over any 5 year period you care to look at in the last 20 years? The numbers are stark, black and white.
* 391 ppm in 2009?
* 387 ppm in 2008
* 384 ppm in 2007
* 382 ppm in 2006
* 280 ppm at beginning of industrial revolution
* James Hansen at NASA reckons 350ppm is the maximum safe limit!
* The US emits 5 times more Co2 per capita than China and has, up until very recently, been the largest emitter for over a century.
To solve a problem one must find a solution, not pretend that you have. When the numbers start going down we are solving the problem. Binary. I think it is hard to disagree with the numbers.
The sooner we agree that what is needed are massive changes in the way we live our lives the sooner we can progress down a meaningful path to change. Anything less is just kidding ourselves that a slightly modified business as usual solution will do. Don't do it and suffer catastrophic climate change, do it and maybe we will be able to head off the worst effects of our lackadaisical behaviour. This also seems quite binary to me.
But most of us are addicted to comfort and convenience, unwilling to take anything but small steps while we fervently hope that someone, some genius, some government, will fix the problem for us so that we can continue to live the way we do right now. This is fantasy. Some of us realize this some of us don't. However, accept it or not, none of us is perfect, we all can do more.
Behaviour change is required. Eliminating some behaviours is necessary. While this may not be practical tomorrow but we each have to find a way to make it so....soon.
Written in November 2008