We need to leave the fossil fuels in the ground

We are faced with a global problem which has to be addressed globally.

The problem arose from our insatiable appetite for energy obtained from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) which follows an exponential growth and which for the last 50 years averaged an annual growth of 2.4%; burning of fossil fuels results in carbon dioxide emissions which have a steady annual growth of 1.8% which means that emissions have been doubling every 39 years. The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in an increase in temperature. It is estimated that it is reasonably safe to experience an increase in temperature of 1.5 degrees centigrade but a 2.2% increase is risky. With the present long-term trend of 1.8% annual growth in carbon dioxide, it seems to overshoot the 1.5 degrees target between 2030 - 2040. We are presently in the Anthropocene - the era in which we are big and powerful compared to our fragile planet, and in which we suddenly need to go about life in completely different way if we do not want things to go terribly wrong. The drastic measures we have to take globally and immediately to address the environmental crisis are described in a later part of the review.

Other serious environmental consequences we are experiencing include: a massive decline in biodiversity; the acidification of oceans due to increased levels of carbon dioxide which reduces the ability of sea life to produce shells and skeletons with a potential collapse of marine life and; the worrying fact of billions of tonnes of plastic floating in the oceans.

There is also a carbon footprint in Agriculture and food. In this regard the average farm animal converts just 10% of the calories it eats into meat and dairy foods; the conversion rate is better when you don't kill the animal but instead take its eggs and milk. Gram for gram, soya beans has more of almost every essential nutrient than beef or lamb. But when you feed one to a cow or sheep, you get about one tenth of the weight back in meat.

The single most important change will be an amazingly simple dietary shift towards less consumption of meat and dairy products, with particular focus on reducing beef and lamb.

What has to be done?

In his review of "There Is No Planet B" by Mike Berners-Leeby, Serghiou Const states...

We urgently need a working global agreement to leave the fossil fuel in the ground. Piecemeal action by individuals, companies and countries would not cut carbon dioxide emissions on their own because of rebound effects (rebound effects describe the unfortunate tendency of saving in one place, only to get counteracted by adjustments elsewhere in the system). The easiest place to put the breaks is at the point of extraction. Extracting and burning fossil fuel has to become too expensive, illegal or both.

Massive increase in renewables and all particularly of solar energy because other renewables such as wind and hydroelectric are and will remain of minor significance. Nuclear fission energy is contested because of the very long half-life of the relevant radioactive material while nuclear fusion may not be available in the near future.

We need to manage other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrogen oxide through less animal production, especially ruminant animals (e.g cows and sheep) and judicious use of fertilizers.

Shifting our diet from animal and dairy products, particularly red meat.

Finally, we have to develop methods to take carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere.

[ Featured/header image "Planet Norway" by AndersSteenNilsen is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 ]

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