Crimes of emissions


The California Carr wildfire was caused by a flat tire

As of Monday morning, seven people have died from the Carr California wildfire started on July 23. Blaming a flat tire, is of course, an inaccurate statement. Trump’s response was not surprising, he blamed California for causing wildfires by diverting water to the Pacific Ocean and ordered California to “tree clear to stop fire spreading!” Clearly, the wrong person is in the pilot seat!

The direct causes are severe droughts and high temperatures from the massive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere. The real cause is human greed and corruption using the most beautiful planet as a sewer. None of the reports of the Carr wildfire mentions climate or the insane behavior of the GOP administration increasing, in every possible way, the threat of extinction.

We are running out of time

Looking at Earth from a distance, we see oceans, ice caps, forests, deserts, and other interconnected ecosystems. Climate scientists measure GHG emissions in the atmosphere using satellites, and the level for July was 407.79 parts per million. To return to a safe level we need to remove a massive amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. A better metric would be the number of months left, before it is too late.

More than 80 percent of man-made GHG emissions come from carbon dioxide. Reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere must be our top priority. Burning fossil fuels for electricity and transportation produce 60 percent of CO2 emissions. Today, we have great emission-free alternatives, but lack of urgency and other distractions get in the way.

Negative emissions

Carbon farming with biochar increases the soil organic carbon, the no-till alternative. Protecting our remaining forests from arson, illegal logging, clearcutting for wood pellets, and Rep. Bruce Westerman’s dreams of giving US Forest Service unrestricted power to harvest National Forests, are essential to remove and store GHG emissions. A recent study shows 84 percent of all fires in the last 10 years were man-made. The same actions that might have caused a small, easily extinguished fire decades ago are now creating dangerous infernos due to draughts and severe weather.

Tailpipe emissions

More than 25 percent of CO2 emissions come from burning gasoline and diesel for transportation. People have many choices, when and where to go and how to get there. The Toyota Prius opened the door to hybrids and electric plug-in vehicles. The Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, and Tesla are emission-free, electric vehicles. In Germany from buses to trucks, heavy haulers, are going electric.

Distributed power generation

Central power generation was the only way to provide electric service with bulk power plants. This is no longer a resilient solution. Cyber attacks on the grid, fossil fuel emissions, methane emissions from bacterial decomposition at the bottom of dams used for hydro-generation, and lack of water to cool nuclear reactors make grid power obsolete. Offshore wind and right-sized solar systems with battery storage, located near the load, are the best way to provide electric power.

Crime and punishment

Volkswagen was found guilty of lying to car owners and selling diesel cars exceeding EPA emissions in 2016. VW was ordered to pay $21 billion and take the dirty cars off the road.

The Department of the Interior hid information on the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to sell mining and drilling leases. The Environmental Protection Agency under the current administration has revoked countless regulations allowing greater emissions. Trump, Zinke, and Pruitt should pay for these crimes.

Let’s join other nations

The 2000 Earth Charter says, “We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”

As temporary space travelers, we must honor the Charter and protect Gaia, Mother Earth, our common home.

Dr. Luis Contreras