Addiction is a terrible thing. It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions. Our society is in the grip of a dangerous greenhouse gas habit.
Coal and oil paved the way for the developed world’s industrial progress. Fast-developing countries are now taking the same path in search of equal living standards. Meanwhile, in the least developed countries, even less sustainable energy sources, such as charcoal, remain the only available option for the poor.
Our dependence on carbon-based energy has caused a significant build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the final nail in the coffin of global warming skeptics. We know that climate change is happening, and we know that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that we emit are the cause.
We don’t just burn carbon in the form of fossil fuels. Throughout the tropics, valuable forests are being felled for timber and making paper, for pasture and arable land and, increasingly, for plantations to supply a growing demand for biofuels. This further manifestation of our greenhouse gas habit is not only releasing vast amounts of CO2, it is destroying a valuable resource for absorbing atmospheric CO2, further contributing to climate change.
The environmental, economic and political implications of global warming are profound. Ecosystems – from mountain to ocean, from the Poles to the tropics – are undergoing rapid change. Low-lying cities face inundation,