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Time is running out for a climate solution

While much of the media wishes us to believe that praising America is a mortal sin, there is one area where America’s accomplishments really do deserve praise, and this is in the area of reducing greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide) emissions.
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While much of the media wishes us to believe that praising America is a mortal sin, there is one area where America’s accomplishments really do deserve praise, and this is in the area of reducing greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide) emissions. 

American emissions peaked in 2005 at 6.13 billion tonnes, according to Our World in Data, and for the last 14 years have been declining. Only the United Kingdom has managed a higher percentage of emission decline during this period (3.5 per cent), but because the United Kingdom's economy is only a small fraction of the U.S. economy, its total reductions have been far less than America’s.

For Europe, France has done OK, while Germany (which continues to rely on coal) has not and Spain, Italy and Greece have also done well (but, honestly, only by accident because their economies have been so bad).

Increases during this time occurred in the balance of North America (excluding the U.S.), South America, Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. However, the monumental increases occurred in China, and more recently, India.  

China is now 28 per cent of total world-wide emissions (double the U.S.), and more importantly, 60 per cent of the total CO2 emission increases in the last 10 years have been from China. However, in this insane race to disaster, India is working hard to be a big contributor. While its current emission levels are only 25 per cent of China’s emissions, its annual emissions are doubling as compared to China. At present rates, it's possible India will surpass China within seven years, (a very dubious accomplishment to say the least). Of course, whether anyone in India will be able to breathe the air by then remains a real question, but maybe they will have AI doing all the work for them.  

It has been a long-established fact that nations that rapidly increase their energy consumption also see a corresponding increase in life expectancies and standards of living for their citizens. More energy results in more and cleaner water, more food, more opportunity, more income and all the other so-called benefits of an advanced economy. However, for less developed nations to reach a life expectancy and standard of living equivalent to the “Western World,” the production of greenhouse gases will, apparently, have to increase by a minimum of 650 per cent – and this is from a world-wide level that is already far too high, according to the scientists who specialize in these predictions.

In other words, for everyone on this planet to have a standard of living equal to the Canadian standard, we need to do one of the following: find a total new source of non-polluting and inexpensive energy (which likely rules out solar, tidal or geothermal), “bite the bullet” and build huge new hydroelectric capacity world-wide in temperate countries (if such capacity even still exists), dramatically reduce human population numbers (highly unlikely unless word-wide disaster occurs), or risk trying to live on a planet that is unable to sustain human life (again, highly unlikely).

To find a solution and implement it on a global basis, quickly, appears far beyond the abilities of this planet’s leaders and politicians. And time is running out ...

Brian McLeod is a St. Albert resident.





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