eMission control – Focus: The past, present and future

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17[1]To digress a bit here, if there is one item I would have liked to have saved from my entire academic training experience, it would be an extensive report I did as a kid in elementary school. The assignment I agreed to, had to do with producing a compendium of sorts covering the U.S. in which all 50 states were profiled and included were such specifics as state flags, birds and natural resources.

Why this is important to me now is because in many of our 50 United States, of available and often abundant natural resources a number go by another name: fossil fuels.

While in school and engaged in compiling information for that report, I never gave a second thought as to what the significance of “natural resources” was, be these fossil fuels or not. Back then I was not concerned with air pollution either. Oh how times have changed because, for me, in the here and now, not surprisingly the term “fossil fuels” has much, much more meaning as does the term “air pollution.”

When you think about it, “fossil” from “fossil fuels” suggests there is the presence within of once-living matter. “Fuels,” meanwhile, is suggestive of a valuable natural resource in the sense that the substance, in whatever form it may take, as combustible material can be used to produce energy of some type to benefit humankind.

My interest in fossil fuel issues goes hand-in-hand with my interest in the growth in population. The two are interrelated ideas. And growth in world population, estimated by one source to be nine billion by the mid-21st century, the effect this will have on natural resource supply is anyone’s guess. It’s an unknown parameter.

All is under control?

In a Dec. 20, 2012 Time magazine article titled: “Unbreathable: Air Pollution Becomes a Major Global Killer,” author Bryan Walsh wrote:

“According to a new analysis published in the Lancet, more than 3.2 million people suffered premature deaths from air pollution in 2010, the largest number on record. That’s up from 800,000 in 2000. And it’s a regional problem: 65% of those deaths occurred in Asia, where the air is choked by diesel soot from cars and trucks, as well as the smog from power plants and the dust from endless urban construction. In East Asia and China, 1.2 million people died, as well as another 712,000 in South Asia, including India. For the first time ever, air pollution is on the world’s top-10 list of killers, and it’s moving up the ranks faster than any other factor.”

Walsh noted also, compared to other developed nations, the U.S. has had greater success on the air-pollution-mitigation front than it has in dealing with climatological shift.

Contentious ‘climate change’ climate

As for climatological shift or change, is there such a phenomenon? Yes, there is, but is this going on in the world at the moment? This is where views vary.

For those who feel climate change right now is real, there are those who attribute such to human activity while others dismiss that notion completely. Whatever one’s position, though, understand this: debate is ongoing and at times it’s intense and contentious.

Staying with this issue in terms of what future implications could be, renowned architect, founding member of Congress for the New Urbanism and book author Peter Calthorpe in Chapter 1 in “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change” and as presented in “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change: Vision California” at SF.Streetsblog.org includes an illustration. It shows two forms, humanlike in appearance standing before spectators in what looks to be a stadium or arena of some sort, each figure standing atop individual boxes, one with the words “The Year 2005” affixed to it, the other affixed with the words “The Year 2050.”

Meanwhile, emblazoned on the 2005 humanlike figure’s torso is “296 U.S. POPULATION IN MILLIONS” and on the 2050 humanlike figure’s torso is “448 U.S. POPULATION IN MILLIONS.”

The caption below the illustration reads as follows: “If we are to arrest climate change at about 2° Celsius, developed countries must reduce carbon 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. Meanwhile, in the U.S. alone, population is projected to increase 140 million by 2050. That means that by 2050, per capita emissions must be reduced to just 2.7 metric tons per capita. To achieve this each person in 2050 must on average emit only 12 percent of their current rate.”

If I am correctly understanding what’s in italics immediately above, then the 2° Celsius temperature factor represents the threshold or upper limit, above which, if breached, for all intents and purposes this might as well be thought of as the proverbial “point of no return?”

Ridding the air of destructive, deleterious and deplorable pollution, meanwhile, seems the proper and prudent course of action to take at present, regardless.

Image above: NASA

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