Humanity will fail on the environment
Debate Rounds (5)
I want an opponent arguing that humans will take appropriate action to save the environment.
First round is for acceptance only.
If you believe that global warming does not exist, is not caused by humans, or is not a bad thing, please do not accept this debate;. Same goes with other environmental issues. I don't want to argue about whether or not we are destroying the planet but whether we will fix it.
During the early 1990s, scientists set a goal stating that we should keep global temperatures from surpassing 2C above pre-industrial levels. Will it happen?
The evidence says no. The IPCC met in 2007 and stated that we can avoid the 2 degree limit, but emission cuts will have to begin immediately. It has been eight years and emissions have only risen. The IPCC met again in 2013 and said we can still avoid the limit, but emission cuts have to be even more drastic. Now it's 2015 and they're still rising. Maintaining this limit now requires unprecedented worldwide effort, and there is no sign that. Here I have a graph of CO2 emissions from 1965 to 2010:
The energy demand is going up due to an increasing population, decreasing poverty and hunger levels, and more reliance on electricity from technological advancements, and these demands are being met by fossil fuels, not clean energy. This counters all the clean energy efforts.
I think I've said enough about global warming (and ocean acidification, since the cause is nearly exactly the same) for one round's worth. Let's focus on another environmental issue: deforestation.
Humans have destroyed a whopping 50% of the world's natural rainforests. Do not be fooled by the statement "There are more trees now than there were at any previous point in recorded history"; that only holds true in the United States.
Worldwide, we have some quite scary facts. Some scientists estimate that ALL of the world's natural rainforests will be gone by 2050. To give you perspective, every six months an area the size of Florida is destroyed. Since these forests produce most of the oxygen we breathe, this is going to cause some awful consequences for us.
(The source said rainforests will be gone in 40 years, and 40 years after the statement was made is around 2050)
Deforestation is bad, so will we take the appropriate action to stop it? Let's look at what's happening so far in Brazil, at this graph:
Deforestation rates there are going down, which is good. But that's only in Brazil. What about worldwide? They're going down worldwide. But the "gone by 2050" estimate accounts for the decrease in deforestation. In fact, if previous levels would have been kept, the rainforests would already be gone, so it looks like we should be saying "Those rates better darn well have gone down." rather than "Oh they're going down, yippie!"
Gallup poll did a survey about issues that worry Americans. "quality of the environment" and "climate change" were rated as third and second least concerning issues; only "racial relations" ranked lower. How are we going to save the environment when 50% of us think it is not an issue at all?
The internet contains arguments for and against our topic of discussion so there is no point stating websites as proof. What is truly important is that government, although unable to reach their goal, are taking steps and actions towards saving the planet. What do you think this says about humanity?
Many organizations and groups are popping up all over the world to save the environment. Because of the lack of unity between them, the efforts seem negligible, but once all of these organizations unify to save the environment the results will be significant enough to restore faith in humanity.
Overpopulation is a huge problem as you stated but as it increases so does the demand for a cleaner environments. Faucet companies and designing their products to reduce water consumption. Water recycling saves hundreds of tonnes of water periodically and so on. Although deforestation is still a growing problem, it wont be before long that governments will place bans of laws on the amount of deforestation. In the near future the amount of emphasis on saving the environment will grow exponentially as people realize the seriousness of the problem.
Just recently, the Berkeley Labs have made major advancements in artificial photosynthesis. This research mainly aims to reduce the carbon emissions and convert it into useful chemical products. To be clear this research is not meant to replace trees but rather to aid their workload. We know that with the decline of trees there is only so much the trees can handle. This technology is to help tree population grow by handling the amount of carbon emissions.
What most people forget is that treating one environmental problem can have a chain reaction in solving other problems. reducing deforestation reduces carbon content in the atmosphere. Reduced carbon leads to an improving stratosphere and that will lead to the regeneration of the ozone layer.
50% of people may not think of global warming as an issue but in a few years 50 will turn 60 and in another few years 60 will turn to 80% as the people will FEEL the effects of climate change and will begin to grow concerned. Those who realize the gravity of this issue have already began to find solutions. Hence it is only a matter of time before humans will save the environment.
The only major "wake-up call" that may happen any time soon is when arctic ice minimum reaches zero, which is basically any year now. Even then, the fossil fuel industry will benefit from having easier access to arctic oil, and today's young people (which includes me) and future generations really cannot afford us to drill one more drop of arctic oil. We are already seeing how much easier it is to drill for arctic oil with the melting ice caps.
Your first link shows that carbon emissions are going down in many countries, especially the developed countries. But these efforts are not holding worldwide (world emissions are going up, not down), and even if they were, emissions would have to be reducing much faster to stay under the 2C limit. And remember, when carbon emissions end, the temperature will continue to rise from positive feedback, and it will take centuries before it goes back down to pre-industrial levels, because that CO2 stays in the atmosphere with nowhere else to go.
The artificial photosynthesis news looks good to me. I obviously don't want humanity to fail on the environment, so I would like to hear that artificial photosynthesis can reasonably replace fossil fuels and limit climate change to safe levels, even if it means I lose this debate. Do you know how easy it will be for this to catch on? Right now our economy is very fossil-fuel based, which is why it is difficult to just switch to renewables in a flash.
It looks like you are saying (in general) that things are going to turn around REAL soon. Haven't we been saying this for at least 25 years? And the longer we wait, the more drastic, complex, and unrealistic our actions will have to be. Many are already calling game over on the 2C limit, and that's really not a game we want to lose.
hparikh forfeited this round.
Let's see what we must do to keep under the 2C goal, which some scientists say is already too much warming to handle.
The IPCC said that we have AT MOST 469 billion tons (metric) of carbon left to burn for a 2/3 chance to stay under 2C.
Right now, carbon emissions are at 34 billion tons per year, and if these rates remain constant (they aren't; emissions increase by about 2% every year) we will use up this budget in 469,000,000,000/34,000,000,000 = 14 years. Not from today, but from around 2012, so we will use it all by 2026 with constant emissions.
If we draw a graph showing emissions from 2015 until year X and emissions remain constant, we get a rectangle. If emissions go down at a steady rate until X and hit zero that year, we get a right triangle. A right triangle with the same base and height as a rectangle has half the area of the rectangle.
Thus instead of waiting nine years (2024) and abruptly stopping all emissions, we can wait 9*2 = 18 years, while steadily decreasing emissions by 1/18 of 2015 levels along the way, which is about 5.6%. There's zero evidence indicating that either scenario will happen or ANY scenario will occur to stop us from using up our budget. The efforts from society so far have bulged us off the business-as-usual scenario, but they will only delay our use up of our carbon budget by a few years or so, unless far more people agree on acting on GW.
My best hope is that we will find a way to decrease emission to not only zero but actually negative emissions; we must pull carbon out of the atmosphere until the concentration of CO2 in the air hits 350 ppm (parts per million), which is what many call the safe level (right now we're at 400 ppm)
Artificial photosynthesis (as you mentioned) uses CO2 to work and might help us with negative emissions. The questions here are 1) Will a significant portion of us actually use this technology soon enough? and 2) Will this pull enough CO2 out of the atmosphere to make a significant difference? Right now they're saying that artificial photosynthesis is too expensive to compete with fossil fuels. But the same once held with solar panels. But we don't have a significant portion of our energy coming from solar panels either.
Now let's look at deforestation. As you stated, stopping deforestation and starting reforestation would have a chain reaction to global warming. Current deforestation accounts for 12-17% of annual greenhouse emissions, so if all deforestation ended today, that is how much emissions will go down.
In 2012, Brazil relaxed its rules on deforestation of the largest rainforest in the world. The graph I showed you in round 2 with deforestation rates going down only goes to 2011, but the rates went up 28% from 2012 to 2013 mostly due to their relaxed laws. Here is a link showing more details (and it's also in my sources):
Brazil has also refused to sign a UN Pact to end deforestation by 2030 because it would go against their laws. They've reduced their deforestation a lot in the past, but it looks like the rates will grow now. The Brazilian Environmental Minister said, "Unfortunately, we were not consulted. But I think that it's impossible to think that you can have a global forest initiative without Brazil on board. It doesn't make sense."
There is a tiny bit of good news here: three states of Brazil DID sign the pact, and all three of them lie within the Amazon rain forest area. I also know Peru signed it, but I cannot tell you the news about which other countries signed it because I cannot find anywhere on the internet with a list of the countries. I hope that Madagascar signed it because the deforestation there is bad.
So you can rest assured that humanity is taking action to tackle the issue of global warming. Coming next to deforestation, many universities are dedicating their environmentalist and geologists to this problem. The permaculture research institute has come up with a strawjet. It is a machine which recycles the agricultural waste and converts them into building materials and fuels. so cutting trees for building materials is off the list.
Vertical farming is so far the best approach to reducing deforestation. by doing so the land required for farms will be less and there wont be any need to cut down any trees for space.
All of these plans are proof that humanity will not fail the environment. It will take time to implement them on a world stage but they have already begun to receive the recognition they need.
The article shown under this paragraph talks about the pledges you mentioned. The IEA is urging the United States and other big polluters to improve their pledges. If they do not, we won't make the 2C target (duh) and temperatures will go up to 2.6C by 2100, and as high as 4.3C in parts of the northern hemisphere. There is no guarantee that humanity can adapt to a 4C world. I love the simple quote "A 4C warmer world can, and must be, avoided." from the world bank president.
From this information it looks like it would be smart to move to the southern hemisphere, but the majority of Earth's land lies in the northern hemisphere.
I'm not sure how much vertical farming will bring down carbon emissions. There won't be as many forests and wildlife to destroy, but if the demands for controlled lighting and climate are met by fossil fuels, that will add to greenhouse emissions.
About the issue of supplementary light, using solar panels to generate the extra light in a skyscraper would require 20 times more area than what the skyscraper takes up, at least according to Dr. Caplow. I would recommend that the ceilings on each story be entirely covered with mirrors to reflect the light, but I haven't found that suggestion anywhere and I have no evidence on whether or not it would work.
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