We have to stop conning ourselves. Climate change is already here, and it will only get worse. The effects today are obvious, from increased intensity and frequency of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones to unprecedented forest fires, from glaciers melting at unseen rates to extreme heatwaves. And it will only get worse.
Just because it will get worse, and much, much worse, does not mean today’s climate is acceptable. Its not, and we cannot just try and stop making it worse- we also need to make it better. On this page, you will learn not only why today’s climate is unacceptable, but why zero emissions, no matter how quick, is not enough to stop it getting worse
The climate today- the facts
The CO2 level in the atmosphere is like a bathtub- it builds up and up. Even if you switch the taps off, the level doesn't suddenly decrease- it remains at the high level. Even if we stop emitting, reach zero emissions, there will still be unacceptable amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. The effects won't stop being bad just because we reach zero emissions- we have already locked in climate change, and reaching zero emissions will do nothing to stop the climate change already locked in. It will, however, help us avoid it getting even more catastrophically worse.
However, just like if a bath was overflowing with water, we have ways to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere. Unlike a bathtub, we don't have a plughole, but rather thousands of straws to suck out the water. Of course, its hard to do, but this isn't a bath we have a choice whether we live in or not. This is a bath that millions of people will continue to suffer and die if we don't suck out the water.
Put simply, zero emissions still means the statuss quo, unstable climate, as shown in the video, continues. And in fact, due to tipping points, it might still get worse...
The earth is not a passive observer in the global warming process. As the earth warms, the earth reacts, and it may react in ways that make the climate crisis worse. These are tipping points, points that, once we pass, the earth will contribute to global warming as well, even if we then bring emissions down to zero. These include
Forest fires- as trees burn, they release CO2. As the earth warms, more trees burn, so more CO2, so more warming ad infinity
Other wildfires- just like the above, but for undergrowth, peatbogs etc
Ice melt- as glaciers and arctic ice melts, the earth becomes less reflective. This means the earth absorbs more of the sun's heat, so warms up
Permafrost melt- under the Arctic ice, huge and unknown amounts of methane is stored. As the permafrost (perminantly frozen ground) above it melts, this methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, is released into the atmosphere, with catastrophic climate impacts
We do not know when we will hit these tipping points- we may have already! But what they mean is that we cannot just rely on us not making it worse (zero emissions) for it not to get worse, as we may already have hit some of these points. the only way we can be assured of not making it catastrophically worse is if we remove enough CO2 to bring the climate back to a state we know is safe. We cannot take the risk of hitting these points- we must use removals to pull ourselves back to safety and away from the abyss. Because we don;'t know where the abyss lies, nor how bad it may be. So we must err on the side of caution
It is clear the climate today is unacceptable, and if we reach zero emissions, the climate would not get any better. In fact, as tipping points show, there is a strong chance it may get a whole lot worse even after we reach zero emissions.
Therefore, we must not just not make it worse, but better. We must not simply reach zero emissions, although we must do, and fast, but we also must remove the CO2 that has built up in our atmosphere. That is restoration.