Is This Something We Just Can't Do?
The latest greenhouse gas numbers are in, just a week before the opening of the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow. It's not a pretty picture.Levels of climate-heating gases in the atmosphere hit record levels in 2020, despite coronavirus-related lockdowns, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization has announced.
The concentration of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, is now 50% higher than before the Industrial Revolution sparked the mass burning of fossil fuels. Methane levels have more than doubled since 1750. All key greenhouse gases (GHG) rose faster in 2020 than the average for the previous decade and this trend has continued in 2021, the WMO report found.
What do these numbers say about us? The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. If, by this point, we can't curb our growing demands for fossil energy how will we meet the Herculean challenge of cutting emissions 50 per cent by 2030, some 8 years distant, and becoming carbon neutral just 20 years later? 26 climate summits. Grand, uplifting promises year after year, nearly three decades of them. Yet here we are.
Until now we've only been betting red on the climate roulette wheel and we're losing badly. Red is mitigation - cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It could be time to start betting black - adaptation. If we can't bring ourselves, collectively, to make major cuts in GHG emissions we can at least prepare ourselves to minimize the consequences. That means new standards for infrastructure, reinforcing whatever can be bolstered, replacing the rest. It means a much better electrical grid across the country. It means building floodways to defend cities against the sort of thing that hit Calgary in 2013. It means replacing our house of straw with a sturdier house of bricks.
Whether it's mitigation and our quarter-century of abject failure or adaptation, time is not on our side. We're going to have to make some tough calls or those decisions will be made for us and we probably won't like that.