Global warming has become a serious concern in the past few decades. On November 5, Mt. A hosted a talk on this topic. The talk, presented by Andrew H. Macdougall, was called “How to Stop Global Warming: Earth’s Carbon Cycle and the Necessity of Net-Zero Emissions.” The talk was a comprehensive overview about the issue and what exactly needs to be done to resolve it.
The world is hotter than it has ever been before in human history. This increase in temperature can not be ignored. Global warming is a serious issue that risks causing a multitude of problems for society. The increased temperature risks reduce crop yield, particularly in places near the equator. Canadians, much further north of the equator, will likely not be as affected by this.
However, global warming has also been steadily increasing the number and severity of natural disasters, a trend which can be seen in the data recorded by Munich Re, a global insurance company. An example of such extreme weather is the record-breaking heat wave that happened this summer. Macdougall said that there is also a real risk that, by the end of the century, some areas will regularly reach temperatures so hot that humans will not physically be able to survive.
According to Dr. Macdougall, the key issue is carbon dioxide. Although other gases such as methane can cause some warming effects, methane only lasts in the atmosphere for a decade. However, Carbon dioxide is much more permanent. Climate models show that even if carbon emissions were completely stopped tomorrow, the level of warming would only drop 30% by the year 12,000 CE. Whatever level of warming that occurs is effectively the amount that will remain. This only occurs if carbon emissions are zero. Although there are new technologies that allow for carbon to be removed from the atmosphere, they are new and require a large amount of energy. Therefore, according to Macdougall, in order to truly stop global warming, the only option is to have net-zero emissions.
Messages about global warming are everywhere, and there are many articles about how to reduce one’s own carbon footprint. Macdougall’s research and data showed that only the complete suspension of carbon emissions will stabilize the climate. However, renewable energy sources are more capable and cheaper than ever before. The prices of solar panels have dropped by 99% since 1976 and currently produce the cheapest form of energy. The amount and efficiency of electric cars is on the rise. The technology to go completely without fossil fuels is coming.
Global warming is a problem that affects everyone. However, Dr. Macdougall says that it is also a problem that no one person can solve. Going vegan, for example, does help with methane emissions, but Macdougall explained that the effect of a single person and all of their descendants doing so is made null and void by the emissions of a truck. It is everyone’s problem and it is everyone’s responsibility to fix it. Society needs to change in order to be preserved. So, while it is good to reduce your own emissions, Macdougall made it clear that in order to truly stop global warming, the oil and gas based foundation of industry needs to be torn down.