The article in the url below demonstrates how far we have to go before we can even begin to think about achieving sustainability. In spite of all the warning signals, we refuse to even begin taking the steps necessary to preserve the planet:
"For now, however, we're still moving in the opposite direction: Carbon dioxide emissions from the use of coal, oil and natural gas increased 1.4 percent globally in 2017 after holding steady for the previous three years, the International Energy Agency reported on Thursday. That's the equivalent of adding 170 million new cars to the road worldwide."
In particular, there are five drivers of increased carbon emissions identified by the article, each of which would be difficult to surmount (given human nature and the rapidly expanding middle class worldwide); together, they represent a formidable challenge. First, is the growth in Asia:
"Roughly two-thirds of last year's emissions increase came from Asia, where fast-growing countries like China, India and Indonesia continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels as they lift themselves out of poverty."
Second, is the insufficient growth of renewable energy:
"Last year's 'unprecedented' growth in renewables, the I.E.A. said, satisfied only about one-quarter of the increase in global energy demand as the world's economy boomed. Fossil fuels supplied the rest."
Third, is the resilience of coal:
"… coal use rebounded slightly in 2017, rising by 1 percent, driven in part by an increase in coal-fired power in Southeast Asia. A particularly hot summer in China also led the country to run its existing coal plants more often to power air conditioning."
Fourth, is growing affluence and the purchases we make that reflect it, in particular cars:
"Demand for oil rose 1.6 percent last year, much faster than the average annual pace over the previous decade. As oil prices have declined, more people in the United States and Europe are buying larger S.U.V.s, pushing up transportation emissions further."
Fifth, is the insufficient gains in energy efficiency:
"In 2017, the energy intensity of the global economy — a measure of efficiency — improved by just 1.7 percent, a slower pace than in each of the previous three years. The agency noted that many countries appear to be easing up on government policies to improve energy efficiency."
A second article on the same day and the same page of The New York Times reminds us that carbon is only one of the many toxic materials we pump into the environment at an unsustainable rate:
"In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children's toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons' worth, researchers said. … [The so-called garbage patch] is four to 16 times bigger than previously thought, occupying an area roughly four times the size of California and comprising an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish."
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Behind the Increase in Gas Emissions Last Year
By Brad Plumer
March 23, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final