We reached a new high in May (new high numerically, new low for humanity): 414.8 ppm of CO2 was recorded as the average for May at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in May. This is the highest level of CO2 in the atmosphere in human history and for sure over the last 800,000 years or so, according to Antarctic ice sheet data. Despite dire warnings from climate scientists for decades now, we are still keeping on track for the “worst case scenario.” What will be the turning point? When will the majority of people start taking this seriously?
Students often lament that even if they change something in their lives to reduce carbon emissions, it’s nothing compared to all the other people on the planet, all the companies, and all the energy producers. I chastise them for this, noting that if all 7.5 billion humans made efforts to reduce emissions we could make a huge difference and that all the little things you do add up over time. This is true of course, but in a way they are right. What I do is a drop in the bucket. Mostly it makes me feel less guilty about living in the most wasteful country in the world.
We need a cultural shift in personal behavior (like diet, reducing food waste, driving fuel efficient vehicles or not driving at all) and we need a cultural shift in industry. A glimmer of hope on that front: the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) just published a report that many businesses are realizing the threat of climate change to business-as-usual, with some expecting to see effects on their profits within the next five years. It’s the concern for their bottom lines that may finally instigate real change and progress in the fight to lower carbon emissions. Extreme weather disrupting supply chains, crop shortages, and future regulation on greenhouse gas emissions amongst other climate-related issues all could total to trillions of dollars in losses. As I’ve said before, money is a big motivator. I wish we still lived in an era in which a consumer boycott could convince companies to change their practices, tuna boycott of the 1980s. Of course that can’t happen because a few companies own almost everything. Boycotting one company would mean boycotting hundreds of products. Probably unrealistic as a consumer movement. We need something big. Maybe the threat to profits will instigate change on a corporate level. There is only so much cost they can pass on to the consumer, right?