The Earth Is Burning In Our Hands. Don’t Let It.

 

Climate Change co2 levels | Time is Running Out | The Flounce

 

“If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat trapping gases. Time is running out.“-WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud

 

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In April this year, mankind broke barriers in climate change never before surpassed in human history. Did we plant more trees, recycle more, push back against the grim onslaught on our world as we know it?

 

Nothing so cheerful. For the first time in possibly millions of years, the monthly average CO2 level in April in the Northern Hemisphere surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm), reported the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Whilst CO2 levels have topped 400 ppm before, this is the first time that the monthly average has done the same.

 

What do these fancy words mean? “Parts per million” refers to the ratio of carbon dioxide molecules to other molecules in the atmosphere; 400 ppm means that in every litre of dry air, 4/10th or 400 mL is made up of CO2.

 

Take this for context — global CO2 levels were at about 275 ppm from the beginning of human civilization until the 18th century, when rapid industrialization began our deadly burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal. Carbon and oxygen had several grotesque meet cutes, and have never parted since. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2013 average CO2 values stood at 396.48 ppm, which represents a 44% increase from 1750.

 

And the growth rate just keeps increasing. For the past decade (2004-2013), the average annual ppm increase was 2.1 ppm per year. In the prior decade (1994-2003), the figure was 1.9 ppm per year. 2012-2013 saw a sharpening of the trend, with values increasing by about 3 ppm. April 2013-2014 has seen an increase of 2.95 ppm.

 

To be blunt, CO2 levels are skyrocketing far faster than anything previously observed. Estimated CO2 levels for the next decade will put us in territory that we have not broached in 3.6 million years.

 

Why Should We Care About CO2?

Greehouse Effect | Climate Change co2 levels | The Flounce

 

The greenhouse effect is simple: A cocktail of greenhouse gases — including water vapor, CO2, methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and nitrous oxide — act as a thermal blanket for the earth. When working as they should, they trap enough of escaping heat to maintain the earth at a life-sustaining temperature averaging 15 degrees celsius. But human activities have disrupted this process. Among other things, the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation release great quantities of carbon dioxide: a long-lived gas that remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, longer in the oceans, and is a main factor in forcing climate change.

 

Climate Change co2 levels | The Earth is Burning in Our Hands | The Flounce

 

The resultant warming of the earth has bleak connotations for the safety and health of our planet. Temperatures have risen by 1 degree celsius since the 1850-70 average of 13.6ºC. Does it sound very little? How about when I mention Super Typhoon Haiyan and rising sea levels that will put other coastal populations in danger, extreme weather events such as the 2010 Russian heat wave and 2011 Texas heat wave, research that suggests that severe US and UK winters in 2013/14 may also be caused by rising global temperatures, droughts and melting glaciers that threaten water supplies or that rising acidity in oceans caused by absorbed CO2 are putting shelled animals in serious riskWill you scoff and skepticize and call me out on hyperbole?

 

Because, GOOD. It is hyperbole. The whole situation is hyperbole, is roiling drama that belongs on our screens and books; and not in our homes and countries, in the heat and cold that we suffer, or in lives lost and cities disappeared.

 

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagaarde, says this:

“The science is sobering – the global temperature in 2012 was among the hottest since records began in 1880. Make no mistake: without concerted action, the very future of our planet is in peril.

 

So. When you see an article that begins like this: “For the first time in millions of years, monthly average CO² levels in April in the Northern Hemisphere surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm)…” don’t think to yourself, Oh, another climate change article. Skip. Because if we were frightened enough for ourselves and our children and their children as well? There’d be no damn articles.

 

You’ve read the articles, you’ve seen the posters, you’ve been advised and challenged and exhorted a hundred times. I don’t have to repeat the steps you can take to help address the greatest problem facing the continued existence of mankind on earth. This is new technology we should know about. Considering alternative means of transport is important- refer to this. Think about and research legislation and nation-wide implementation, and also about small community efforts. On a personal level, do thisthis and let your kids read this. To borrow a cliché that rings with truth, it’s never too early to start.

 

What I want to convey is this: the awareness is there, the knowledge is at your fingertips, the steps are undemanding — so where’s your urgency? I know plenty of people – well-educated and informed people – who nevertheless find themselves woefully unstirred. If I were Shakespeare, I’d write a clarion call — from this day to the end of the world! — but now I’m getting carried away. I only have simple words. Simple images. When I close my eyes and picture in my head the places I love, the people I love, each memory so distinct and cherished, I cannot help but want to protect it all.

 

The earth is burning in our hands, it’s slipping through our fingers. Don’t let the ball drop on our watch.

 

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At The Flounce, we don’t want to pontificate theory from a soapbox, we want to do. Social responsibility is at the heart of who we are.

 

Please share the message. For every Facebook share of the article or tweet linking to this post, we will plant a tree with Trees of the Future.

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Elizabeth Liew
Everything worth knowing about her is in the words already. The rest are just the details. She was born in Singapore, lives and studies fashion design in Florence, Italy and dabbles in art and food. She writes for women and to celebrate women- our stories, our achievements, our passions, our diversity, our beauty, our bodies, and the freedom to be our truest selves. If you want to know anything else, please ask! And come be twitter buds @elizabethliewxe (or just click the icon above, duh) and elizabethliewxe on pinterest.
  • Lex

    YAY TREES!

    • lizliew

      I KNOW! 😀

  • http://hollymaysay.blogspot.ca/ hollymaysay

    Biggest sources of GHG: Electricity, transportation, industry.
    Where I live we use hydroelectric which is nice but long term it has to be solar. Not everyone has hydroelectric, another interesting source is wind/tidal but people seem to hate the eyesore windmills in Canada so I’m going with solar.
    Bottom line: Government needs to implement policies to do R&D, tax incentives for solar and start placing solar in their infrastructure (we have solar parking meters woowww).
    People need to stop driving. This obviously don’t work all the time but we need to get trains and mass transportation in place. In Vancouver we have a street (Broadway) that is so busy if we built a train it would surpass ridership of any other train we already have. Why aren’t we building it? Money/Politics. Electric cars are good too but when your electricity comes from coal… the planet is still not happy.
    Industry will only change if it is cheaper or if they are forced. So again, it all comes down to the government. Which is horribly cynical but the way I see it.

    We are a consumption generation, we need all of our consumption to be renewable to survive.

    • lizliew

      Governments and industries are not going to do enough unless we demand it. We are a consumption generation, so we better make sure our consumption is informed and responsible.

      I completely agree about the driving. In Florence, I get around on feet and bicycle and I don’t even miss a car at all. Sometimes it’s difficult when you want to get to places in the country that are unconnected by regular bus or train routes. But that’s incredibly rare, and when it happens, I think car sharing is a good solution.

    • lizliew

      Bicycles are cool. Like bowties.

  • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

    “Where’s your urgency?” that’s what I’d like to know. I don’t understand the sandbagging that’s happening all over the place. Where I work, do you know that business don’t have to recycle? In my building in particular they only are mandated to recycling tin and aluminum, not even plastic! So it’s left up to the people and no one I know cares.

    We’re going to be the movie Wall-E! That’s kind of a joke but kind of not.

    • lizliew

      It’s a question that begs asking. Facing the realities of climate change, why aren’t we reacting with the appropriate worry, fear, desire to get informed, and most importantly, action?

      • http://www.theflounce.com AlexisO

        Here’s my take on it: Recycling needs to be mandated by law/the government. I am against ‘more government’ but in this case I think it’s necessary.

        Here’s an example: my garbage company also provides recycling pickup every other week, they make it so incredibly easy – plastic up to #7, glass, paper and cardboard and you don’t even have to sort it in separate bins! Yet, there are only a handful of people on my street that recycle. The only caveat is that you buy the bins from the county for $10 each. (Or you buy them from a hardware store/big box store)

        Every other Wednesday when I drive by these people’s houses and don’t see the blue bins outside I get so pissed off and disappointed. I mean, there really is no excuse for that. I’ve mulled over sending out anonymous letters to everyone about recycling and the importance of doing, it’s just going to cost me a lot of postage!

        It’s that passive “meh” about taking the extra steps to put something in a different bin that leads me to believe that we’re doomed.

        • lizliew

          I like that Europe is pretty advanced in that area. I live in the city, so we don’t really have garbage disposal services. There’s this lovely rubbish collection point (lol) near my apartment where everything’s divided into “glass, paper, organic, etc” with a lone pod for “Others”. So everyone just divvies up their trash on their own first, and then carries it to the collection point.

          I like what WrongAsRain said about how the process is so gradual that people aren’t compelled to develop a sense of urgency about it. We humans are frequently daft buggers- sometimes it takes a lot of shakes to get us all shook up. Definitely send those letters.

          • WrongAsRain

            When I lived in Europe, we even had a recycling box for “art supplies.” Basically, any item in your house that could be re-used by an artist–this could include wires or metal for sculptures, or paper and magazines for collages.

            There was a specific year when one artist was building sculptures from cigarette boxes and there was as special little container where you could put your cigarette boxes/cartons for this artist next to the recycling bins. I supplied him with a lot of material in 1999.

            Yes, you had to haul everything down the street by yourself, and separate stuff into bags, and it was a hassle, but it was the most efficient and art-friendly recycling system I’ve ever had.

            Wish it were like that here.

  • WrongAsRain

    Vonnegut wrote a book over 30 years ago that took place in the near future after an unnamed catastrophic event, in which we used plastic as currency. People mined for little bits of plastic sporks and melted bottles in garbage dumps as if they were gold. I think the real reason we don’t realize we’re heading toward that Soylent Green society (well, minus the humans in our food) is due to the fact that we’re expecting this one single large catastrophe, instead of looking at the effect of all the little catastrophes in the long term.

    • lizliew

      I haven’t read the book, but it certainly sounds like a valid metaphor for how we worship all our non-renewable toys that will last forever, and ever, and ever. Like you said, we inch so slowly toward the edge that every stage of our destruction seems like ‘how the world is’.

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