The World's On Fire, Part 4: Who's Leading The Race To Reduce CO2 Emissions And Save Our Planet?

The World's On Fire, Part 4: Who's Leading The Race To Reduce CO2 Emissions And Save Our Planet? - Mask Your Beliefs
Congratulations! You made it all the way to the end of this twisty, turny tale. We began by pointing out the obvious—that the world’s on fire—to reviewing how the heck we got to such a dire place. So what’s left? The only question that really matters: Is it too late to save ourselves? And who can we trust to lead us out of this mess of our own making?

Trust The Experts. They Were right About, Well, Pretty Much Everything Regarding Climate Change. 

On May 9, 1989 Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified before a Senate Transportation subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., after his historic history-making testimony in 1988 letting the world that global warming was real, and would get worse if actions were not taken right away.

Of course we know who to trust. The experts. Like world renowned climatologist Charles Keeling, NASA scientist James Hansen, and, who’s that other guy? Won an Academy Award? And a Nobel? Not to mention becoming the most unlikely ladies’ man on earth, except for Newt Gingrich? Oh ya, Big Al.

They weren’t just ahead of their time, they were right about, well, pretty much everything. Except hairstyles (nobody’s perfect…) And if the bulk of humanity had actually listened to them long ago, the threat of global warming would be a scary thing of the past instead of a waking global nightmare. So, what have they been trying to pound into recalcitrant heads for the greater part of the last century? Say it with me people—We have to reduce CO2 emissions. But how do we know that finally listening to their advice won’t simply be too little too late? That their ideas might be ineffective in the face of a calamity that isn’t projected to theoretically happen sometime in the distant future, but is devastating the earth right now? Well, there’s a way to find out. But we’ll have to go to Europe and the UK.

Europe And The UK Have It Going Green. From Electric Cars, To Renewable Energy And Recycling!

Solar panel on home in the Italian Dolomites
Homes in the Italian Dolomites with solar panels

When it comes to making quantitative progress in the fight against global warming, Europe and the UK are kicking our oil dependent butts. They are way ahead of us on every green front: solar, wind, public transportation, and most importantly…caring. That’s right, climate scientists and activists called for needed green transitions decades ago, and Europe eventually listened and took their advice to heart. For instance, renewable energy currently only generates 20% of US electricity, while in Europe it’s nearly double. And EU countries have reduced their collective greenhouse emissions by 24% over the past two decades, while the US hasn’t reduced ours at all. In fact, we’ve actually trended the opposite way, with America’s emissions rising 2% during the same period of time. So what did they do right and we do so very, very wrong?
They Stopped Debating And Began Acting.
If you ask people from the EU what their opinion is about global warming there’s a good chance they will laugh at you. That’s because in Europe, global warming isn’t an opinion. It’s a fact. Which makes an enormous difference when you’re battling a deadly adversary. It’s hard to get people into a fighting mood if they’re not sure if the threat actually exists. It’s almost impossible if they’re being told by trusted leaders (politicians, business, even spiritual) that global warming is a bunch of new age hooey. The same people who have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth that global warming doesn’t exist, oil is good, and moving to cleaner, renewable sources of energy will weaken the fabric of our country and even our moral fiber. Brace yourself before you click on the next link. It’s painful. 

They Embraced Renewable Energy And Never Let Go.
Since the early 2000s, European countries have made it a priority to move from carbon emitting forms of energy to renewables. In the U.S., there has been a similar focus on energy switching. Just not from fossil fuels to clean energy, but from fossil to shale gas.
On the surface, that looked like a good thing, as it reduced America’s energy dependence on foreign sources. And, it eased our use of what was considered to be more toxic types of energy such as crude oil and nuclear. But over time it has done some real damage of its own. And not just to the parts of mother earth that have become more unstable due to deep drilling. 

Perhaps even more important, it muddled American’s understanding of and commitment to what needs to be done in order to save the world, and ultimately ourselves: Achieving a net zero future. Which, according to every credible climate scientist of the last 100 years is our only hope of reversing the extreme heating of the earth’s atmosphere. And reducing the climate catastrophes that are currently plaguing the earth. Which are only going to intensify if we don’t figure this out. But fast.

Amsterdam, Netherlands -The girl rides a bike. Early morning in Amsterdam. Sunny quiet street of an ancient European city of Amsterdam. Artistic image.

Europeans drive half as many miles compared to Americans. Which has drastically reduced the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere on a daily basis from Athens to Helsinki.

They Changed Their Minds And Their Lifestyles.
Once Europeans were convinced that global warming is real, and humanity needed to do something about it, many Europeans began to change. Their daily habits. Their overall lifestyles. And those individual changes made a big difference.

People stopped driving as much and began walking and biking more, as well as increasing their use of public transportation. In the U.S., most everyone owns a car; nearly 9 in 10. In Europe, vehicle ownership is now only at 50%. As a result, Europeans drive half as many miles compared to Americans. Which has drastically reduced the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere on a daily basis from Athens to Helsinki. And when it comes to the bell weather of embracing green transportation—electric vehicle ownership--the EU is leading in that, too. Ten percent of Europeans now drive electric cars, while in the US, we’re at a paltry 2%. But we are leading in one key area—oversized SUV and truck ownership. That’s right, the mammoth, gas guzzling ride is considered not just gauche in Europe, but gross. Wasteful. Selfish. Which, not surprisingly, has given them a big edge in the “who’s going to help save us” competition.

Alternative energy sources to become carbon neutral

The other big changes in European households were electricity use and recycling. It makes sense that people who embraced electric cars and other forms of green transportation are recycling more and using household electricity less. But what’s surprising is how much better they are at these key drivers of CO2 emissions than their counterparts in the US. 

Europeans use a full third less of kilowatts per day than Americans. And when it comes to recycling, the comparison would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. In many EU countries like Belgium and Sweden, only 1% of trash ends up in landfills. In the US it's a whopping 69%! Let me repeat that while your head is spinning. Belgium and Sweden/1%, US/69%. Just to add to that dizzying comparison, countries like Germany and the Netherlands have eliminated their landfill usage completely. 

So, to recap: Europeans and the UK are currently winning the competition in wisdom, courage and fortitude in the worldwide fight against climate change. But we’re Americans! Coming from behind and winning is our thing. Think the Revolutionary War. And dinner that doesn’t take days to create. We’re the friggin’ innovators of the world!! Including in science, technology, creativity, and, well, winning. When we want to get things done, we do it. So, let’s focus on exactly what that is. Stuff we need to do to become the new leader in reducing CO2 emissions and saving the planet.

  1. Stop debating about whether global warming exists. The debate has gone from silly and annoying, to deadly.
  2. Make your next car electric. In the meantime, walk, bike, carpool and take public transportation when you can.
  3. Think green when you upgrade your home’s energy and appliance systems. Turn off lights when not in use, and notch down the heating and air conditioning.
  4. Commit to buying less and recycling more. Challenge yourself every time you consider ordering something online or not taking the time seek-out a recycling bin. Also, support efforts to refine and strengthen your local recycling system. Many are obsolete. And some localities have even been found to be deceptive about the efficacy of their systems.
Yes, the world is on fire. And what’s worse, we’ve been warned that this could happen for decades. By lots of smart and committed people who should have been heeded. But there’s still hope. All we have to do is recognize that what we think, buy and commit to matters. And then do what’s right and what’s needed. In other words, there’s still time for each of us to make a world of difference. Just ask Greta.