What environmental stewardship could look like in 2050

Below is an excerpt from the earlier post: “eMission Control – Focus: The past, present and future.”

“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.

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17[1]“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.

Two point seven per-capita metric tons of carbon, eh? I must admit that such a notion has piqued my interest. (Keeping in mind and assuming a target year of 2050, this would give people 37 years of preparation time to achieve the requirement).

Given what I know today about the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere – 400 parts per million as of this year, and given the reductions needed to meet per-capita carbon targets and given the projected increase in population, I can’t help envisioning some stringent regulations being in place.

Take energy production, for example. The burning of fossil fuels to generate energy no doubt results in air pollution and CO2 being introduced into the atmosphere. So, I could definitely understand how a moratorium on coal burning, for example, could be in effect.

In the area of transportation, driving could be limited to certain designated times, say, in cities on Mondays through Thursdays. I mean, it’s conceivable. Also, a far greater reliance on personal mobility (walking and biking) and emissions-free automated transportation with far less dependence on oil resulting in way less oil consumption doesn’t seem out of the question.

Taxation

As I see things, less waste directly corresponds with less carbon emissions. How so?

Previously I wrote of traffic delays resulting in wasted fuel to the tune of 2.9 billion gallons in 2012. With more people present the potential for increased delay is there.

To counteract this, there could be increased taxation on both fuel and internal-combustion-engine-equipped motor vehicles (at the time of purchase). Quite possible is a tax on the number of vehicle miles driven, which, if I understand correctly, the state of Oregon has just recently passed legislation authorizing.

On the home front

Lawn care and outdoor grilling could be regulated as well, limited to certain days of the week and times of the day or evening. Outdoor grilling could also be regulated in terms of times allowed per given period of time. Meanwhile, fireplace and stove wood-burning could be outlawed completely. In its place, could be natural gas fireplace inserts and stoves. The idea is similar in principle to television viewers upgrading TVs and reception from analog to digital.

This could all be by government edict and strictly enforced if necessary. It could be a completely different dynamic than what we’re used to today.

To me, that which I have described above is akin to having to have a driver’s license in order to be able to drive a car.

Industry’s part

Ever hear of cap-and-trade and carbon sequestration and storage? Even those practices could become the rule rather than the exception.

In the case of the former, the cap-and-trade model allows one gross polluter who hasn’t put in place a provision or provisions to cut pollution from their operation to buy credits from another who has put in place provisions to cut pollution from their operations. The gross polluter lacking the pollution-mitigation provisions, the one behind the curve, so to speak, receiving the credit or credits (whatever the case may be) by virtue of this, gets a pass or pardon for a specified period, until such time that they themselves are able to implement sufficient control measures to bring said operation into compliance. My understanding is that action taken to reduce on-site pollution follows a prescribed course or protocol until such time that the polluting concern is able to bring emissions to acceptable levels in order to be in compliance. If I understand the approach, eventually all violators would become compliant. That’s the idea, anyway. Please, someone let me know if I have this or any parts of this wrong.

As for the sequestration and storage idea, what this involves is finding a viable way for those concerns releasing carbon pollution into the atmosphere to capture and store said carbon as a means to prevent its atmospheric release. If not this, then perhaps the possibility may exist to find some other use for the carbon produced.

There is another idea: Gross polluters whose pollution is a result of certain employed operational processes, in order to then be compliant, may consider phasing out the specific type of operational process that pollutes substituting in its place, an alternative process that is cleaner. Then again, a polluter could diversify making use of different strategies to achieve an overall reduction from said operational processes.

No one knows for sure what the future has in store. I do see there being two choices, though: play it safe by getting a jumpstart on “possible” eventualities such as the above by planning and preparing for the future beginning now or carry on business as usual.

Something to think about.

Image above: NASA

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