My father-in-law was the oldest person I ever knew. He died recently at 104. It is a remarkable accomplishment to live for over 100 years. Even more remarkable are the life and lifestyle changes that occurred over his lifetime.
He lived from the time of horses on the streets, through man walking on the moon and nuclear bombs, and into an era where computers drive much of what we do. The world’s population increased four-fold, from 1.7 billion to 7.3 billion during his lifetime.
During his 104 years, over 90 percent of all of the fossil fuel ever dug or pumped from the earth was burned. The incredible achievements of the past century were made possible by this bounty of cheap, dense, readily available energy.
This use of fossil fuels contributed to an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 260 parts per million to over 400, where we are today. The increased carbon dioxide has already resulted in elevation of the average global temperature by one degree Celsius. The effects of these relatively small changes occurring around us are becoming more obvious every day at locations all across the globe.
The next 100 years will see the world population approaching or exceeding 10 billion. We will also see fossil fuels dug, pumped and burned at levels exceeding those of the last century. Carbon dioxide levels will continue to rise, driving further temperature increases. Ice caps will continue to diminish or disappear. Oceans will rise, storms will increase, coastal cities will spend trillions to combat rising water levels, or they may be abandoned entirely.
I admire the accomplishments of a lot of good and smart people over the lifetime of my father-in-law. They are responsible for the technological, scientific and social, advancements in this country that we define as progress. I deplore the environmental cost of these advancements and our current unwillingness to even recognize that the costs are real.
Generations being born today are in an environmental hole that we have dug for them. We must begin to address the problems and implement a new environmental order or the hole will become so deep none of them will live to see 100.