Numbers game

Climate change is one of those concepts that, sometime, it’s hard to wrap your head around. How do you start to think about the impact of the little thing you do, like recycling or composting, have on the big picture? If you walk instead of drive today, how do you think about the carbon emissions that you are saving?  You might feel like it’s a little warmer outside than the average, but how can you really visualize this?

With cold hard numbers, that’s how.

Over at trillionthtonne.org, they’ve created a running clock showing the amount of carbon dioxide, in tonnes, that has been cumulatively released into the environment. And the numbers aren’t pretty.

It explains,

“If we are to limit global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions to less than 2°C, widely regarded as necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, we need to limit total cumulative emissions to less (possibly much less) than 1,000,000,000, 000 tonnes of carbon. The trillionth tonne could be released in less than 40 years time, or, if we take the measures necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, it could never be released. The fate of this tonne of carbon sums up the climate challenge

The awe-striking part of this visualization is the realization that legislators and environmentalists always talk about the future, but what no one is really addressing is the past. For the past two hundred and fifty years, carbon dioxide has been poisoning our atmosphere. The calculator predicts that in March of 2045, the 1 trillionth tonne will be reached unless an immediate crub on pollution is set somewhere around 2 percent.

That’s incredible. And daunting. So what can you do?

“But to solve the problem in the long term, we need to reduce net emissions to almost zero. You can’t do this on your own, no matter how heroic a consumer you are. So the most important thing you can do is make sure your government recognizes the importance of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions in climate policy. Not all measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term will necessarily help reduce cumulative carbon dioxide emissions overall.”

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