Despite a global recession, high oil prices, a growing awareness of the seriousness of carbon emissions, those reusable grocery bags you bought, and constant scolding from Grist et al., the world managed to put out a record amount of greenhouse gases last year.
The International Energy Agency estimates that burning fossil fuels added 30 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2010. That makes it tough stay below a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F), which scientists say is the threshold for making everything go seriously cockeyed. It might even mean we see temperature rises of 4 degrees C by 2100, at which point our best bet is probably to evolve into something with inch-thick skin that breathes smog.
But as grim as it sounds, nothing is f*cked, Dude — at least, not completely, not yet. With “bold, decisive, and urgent action” we could still turn things around, IEA economist Fatih Birol says. But that needs to be large-scale action by governments, not just switching your light bulbs to LEDs. What can the average Joe do? Put the pressure on, says John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace U.K.:
This news should shock the world. Yet even now politicians in each of the great powers are eyeing up extraordinary and risky ways to extract the world's last remaining reserves of fossil fuels – even from under the melting ice of the Arctic. You don't put out a fire with gasoline. It will now be up to us to stop them.
There’s a round of talks for the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled next week in Bonn, Germany, so we’ll see whether this lights a fire under anyone. I wouldn’t hold my breath, except for the fact that it’s looking like it might be a good idea to get some practice.