It’ll be steamy.
Looking at predictions for the future, we may have as little as 41 years before the global climate has warmed four degrees Celsius. A temperature rise of this magnitude means a sea level rise of around six feet, and it also may mean that most of the continental United States will be desert. Despite people’s tendency to bury their heads in the sand, the world’s powers are beginning to look at what measures might be taken to avoid this possible future. Vladmir Putin was advised in 2005 to release 600,000 metric tons of sulfur aerosols into the upper atmosphere to act as a giant shade for the earth. While he didn’t do it, it is worrisome that it was considered. Nobody knows for sure what impacts such an action would have, but we should think long and hard before attempting to cool the planet by creating more pollution. Immediate and drastic action is needed, but we’ve been waiting for almost forty years for our government to do something, and we can’t afford to wait any longer. There are two steps we can take towards solving this problem. The first is to cut back on meat consumption, and I do not say this out of any concern for the animals we eat. The land required to grow the crops fed to cows alone is vast, and most of what we feed our livestock could be used to feed humans. If we went vegetarian as a nation, we could get by with one tenth of the farmland we are currently using for livestock. The second thing we need to do is plant trees. While there are many ways to sequester carbon, trees provide us not only with a reliable carbon sink, but also with useful material for building and other purposes. The farmland freed up by eating less meat could then be used for reforestation, and farmers could be paid by trusts or by the government to manage the forests. Once again, I am not interested in forests as habitat for animals or plants at this point. Once a tree gets to a certain size, the amount of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere decreases. This means that we must have a constant cycle of controlled forestry. As soon as a tree is no longer acting as a major carbon sink, it must be felled and used in such a way that the carbon it has turned into wood is not re-released into the atmosphere. This means that a thriving lumber industry is a must. This could create jobs in harvesting, processing, and shipping lumber as well as planting man maintaining constant tree growth. All this can be done right now, without needing the government’s approval or funding – we can change the world. Do you eat meat? Eat less. Do you have land? Plant trees. I don’t want to be living in a desert in 40 years, and I’m willing to bet none of you do either.