It’s one of those old songs I never paid much attention to but seem to know all the words to, the kind that get stuck in your head and pop up out of nowhere. Too much too little too late was a number 1 billboard single from Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams in 1978. Great reprise video in 2011 It was on their classic duet album “That’s what friends are for” – also including “You’re all I need to get by” written by Ashford and Simpson.
But wait, this isn’t the arts and entertainment section: I’m on the science and environmental news beat. Yes! I’m talking about carbon budgets, a tool for looking at climate change and greenhouse gas emissions that explains why we need to stop new emissions, not just roll back the increases. If we have a specific goal, like keeping the increase in temperatures under 2 degrees Celsius (which most scientists say is too high and really the goal should be 1.5 degrees), by a certain time in the future (say 2100), then we can use predictive models to show how much additional carbon and other GHGs can be emitted each year.
A carbon budget provides a way to put the focus back on the causes of global warming and provide clear numeric limits to activities that generate GHGs. It is an alternative to looking at the results of our actions through the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases –which is now over 410 ppm while warming is estimated at approximately 1 degree—and which many have argued must stay under 350 ppm to avoid 2 degrees warming. Because global warming is the result of the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere and the changes in the climate from these emissions take years or decades to manifest, arguing about GHG concentrations being too high, is too little too late to make changes.
Budgeting is a simple concept and places the focus back on the emissions themselves. Turning off the spigot instead of arguing about the size of the flood. While policy makers, as usual, argue about the modeling and what the right budget number should be and who gets what share, it is clear there must be some limit. Any way you look at it, we need to reduce our emissions, not just trade them around or level them off. Carbon budgets can help take these complex issues and pare them down to show that there is no room for new emissions—we’ve already borrowed against the future irrevocably changing our planet’s climate and ecosystems. I wish I could say I believed the simple clear truth that we need to reduce emissions would lead to changes – I’m afraid its just too much, too little, too late. However, unlike the couple in the song, I know we (LGBTQQI activists and eco-warriors) will keep trying again and again to make a difference for the future of our earth and all creatures great and small.
Working to stop new oil and gas projects and the pipelines that make them profitable is one of those actions we must persist in—and it doesn’t matter who owns the pipeline or the oil. Last month the Canadian government announced it will buy the Trans Canada pipeline project from kinder morgan. The pipeline would bring unrefined tar sands oil (very carbon intensive, dirty oil) 715 miles from Alberta to Vancouver, British Colombia to be shipped around the world. Pumping more GHGs into the atmosphere and fueling even more global warming and ensuring Canada will NOT meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord. This pipeline has been opposed by many First Nations groups across Canada along with environmental activists and many others in British Columbia both due to worries about oil spills and global warming. The pipeline, port and shipping all create risks of oil spills. On the sea-side alone, from Vancouver Island to the Olympic Peninsula, the fragile web of southern resident orcas and other marine life would be harmed by increases in vessel noise, greenhouse gas emissions and certainly by any oil spills. So the company gets a fat pay out on a failing investment — the $4.5-billion purchase price only buys a leaking 65-year-old pipeline, an aging tanker farm not built to withstand earthquakes, and a port facility along with engineering plans and permits for the high-risk expansion project which will take at least another $7-billion to build (paid for by the taxpayers)– while indigenous people and the climate activists get …..nothing. Really, it is too much!
And speaking of whales, were we speaking of whales? Another whale died in Thailand from ingesting plastic bags last week. The plastic pollution in our oceans (a topic we raised many times in this column for over a decade, see June 2008 issue “Don’t let go”) is out of control. Entanglements from fishing gear, ingestion of plastic bags, straws and bottle caps, its killing birds, turtles, whales and even showing up in plankton! And where does plastic come? oil and gas with about 10% of the US oil supply going to making plastics each year! The May 2018 National Geographic features plastic pollution on the cover and in several articles with their usual amazing photographs… worth a look!
And of course its LGBTQQI pride month— so we need to celebrate our wins and our losses together — within our carbon budget of course! Hope to see some of you out at Trans march, dyke march or just out and about on the streets soon.