It’s not much of a secret that our planet is messed up. We’re facing a long list of problems, and most of them are caused by by one simple thing: the burning of fossil fuels.
The most urgent problem is climate change, caused by our out of control addiction to fossil fuels. When we burn fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas, we emit all this extra carbon dioxide, CO2, into the atmosphere, which messes up the balance of the atmosphere.
Scientists that dedicate their entire lives to studying this, have made it clear: to avert the worst effects of climate change, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere need to be at 350 parts per million (ppm). Right now we are at 391ppm. If we keep burning at the rate we are now, we will be at 500ppm by 2050. This would make earth a completely different planet, uninhabitable for most species. We can’t let that happen.
Half of the electricity in the U.S. comes from coal-burning power plants, which emit 2.5 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. No other source in the U.S. emits that much. Coal pollutes the air and water when it’s mined, transported and burned, causing illnesses like asthma. Coal is dirty, plain and simple.(1)
Automobiles are the second largest producer of CO2, releasing 1.5 billion tons annually. Oceans and forests absorb some of the CO2, but they can’t absorb it all. The CO2 we emit now stays in the atmosphere for over a hundred years, threatening not only our generation, but the next too.
Video games, t-shirts and to-go cups all require fossil fuels to make, transport, and get from the shelf to you. Our landfills are overcrowded and yet we keep buying more stuff. The U.S. makes up 5% of the world’s population, but uses 30% of the world’s resources and creates 30% of its waste. Gross. (3)
Every four seconds, a football field of tropical rainforest is cut down. 80% of the world’s original forests are now gone. About? of global CO2 emissions are from cutting down the forests. Healthy trees are natural carbon “sinks,” they absorb carbon from the atmosphere. When trees are cut down they actually emit carbon into the atmosphere.
Unless a farm is organic, forests were leveled to provide land for cows to graze, corn was grown with mega fertilizers and diesel powered tractors, and refrigerated trucks drove hundreds of miles to get the meat to the restaurant. The meat industry alone is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation put together. (4)
In the last 40 years, the global population increased 86 percent. There are now nearly 7 billion people on the planet! Many of us use more energy than ever before. It’s really no surprise that in those same 40 years, worldwide emissions from fossil fuels increased 107%. By 2040, the population could reach 9 billion or more. What will the planet look like then?
We tolerate the pollution of our water and air, and threats to our health all for our addiction to fossil fuels. But, we’re profiting from it, right? Well, some of us are. A few people from the oil and gas companies profit big time while the rest of us have to deal with the consequences.
For more information check out these references:
- (3) http://www.mindfully.org/Sustainability/Americans-Consume-24percent.htm
- (4)Bryan Walsh, “Meat, Making Global Warming Worse.” September 10, 2008. Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0%2C8599%2C1839995%2C00.html