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FEATURE

Never-Give-Up Fighting Spirit: Lessons From a Grandchild





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Is there any real hope of cutting global carbon emissions?  Such negative questions and attitudes are increasing. How refreshing, on cold, windy Thanksgiving Plus One Day, which we spend with our children and grandchildren, when I went outside to shoot baskets with 5-year-old Connor. Connor is very bright, but needs work on his hand-to-eye coordination. I set the basket at a convenient height for him, but his first several shots banged off the backboard off-target. Then he said, very brightly and bravely, “I don’t quit, because I have never-give-up fighting spirit.” It seems his karate lessons are paying off.


Some adults need Connor’s help. A Scientific American article by Michael Lemonick, “Beyond the Tipping Point”, described our 2008 paper “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” Lemonick concluded with the almost-obligatory “fair and balanced” opinion, delivered by Steve Schneider. In response to our conclusion that we must get atmospheric CO2 to peak during the next few decades, and then decline back to 350 ppm or less, Schneider opines “It has no chance in hell. None. Zero. The best we can do is to overshoot, reach 450 or 550 parts per million, then come back as quickly as possible on the back end.”


Everyone knows we are overshooting. The 2009 CO2 global mean is 387 ppm and it is increasing 2 ppm per year. In our “Target” paper we showed that, if coal emissions were phased down linearly to zero in 2030 and emissions from unconventional fossil fuels were prohibited, peak CO2 could be kept at about 425 ppm – or even lower if a rising carbon price made it uneconomic to go after every last drop of oil. But Hillary Clinton recently signed an agreement with Canada for a pipeline to carry tar sands oil to the United States. Australia is massively expanding coal export facilities. Coal-fired power plants are being built worldwide. Unless the public get involved, young people especially, CO2 of 450 ppm or higher may become unavoidable.  Continued...




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