There is more to the story
All the coverage, debate and contentious legislation keeps obscuring the truth: everyone, from individuals to regulators to businesses, already has the power to stop climate change.
You can start right now.
The true, scientific origin of climate change must be told. It is a story that offers new perspectives and ready actions for all of us.
Here is the story that changes everything
Life doesn’t exist on our planet, life is our planet.
The atmosphere belongs to life: Free oxygen is a chemical rarity, yet photosynthesis creates so much oxygen that it makes up 21% of our atmosphere. All that oxygen affects the chemical composition of everything exposed to air, including the oceans, the soil and the rocks. Over geologic timescales, nearly all the earth’s crust has been affected by oxygen produced by life.
The rocks belong to life: The shells and bones of animals, especially crustaceans, continually mix with sand and debris in the earth’s soils, swamps and on the ocean floors. As they accumulate over millennia, these remnants of living creatures push the layers underneath deeper into the earth, compressing and heating them, and forming new kinds of rocks and minerals. Most of the upper crust, including chalk, limestone, marble, shale and 3000 of the 5000 known minerals co-evolve with life.
The climate belongs to life in three ways, on three time scales: First, on the scale of millions of years, the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gasses created by life affects the weathering of rocks formed by life, equalizing temperature variations and keeping the earth within a few habitable degrees.
Second, on the scale of thousands of years, the amount and variety of plant cover determines the albedo of the planet, reinforcing changes in the climate; while on the same scale, oceanic algae (plankton) sequester most of the earth’s carbon and produce most of its oxygen, directly changing the climate in response to ocean currents, available nutrients and temperature.
Third, on the scale of tens of years, the fast carbon cycle, powered by life, moves carbon into living creatures, through food chains, and back into free carbon again. This cycle connects the oceans, soils and all living creatures to the carbon dioxide in the air, directly influencing the Greenhouse Effect by changing the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The air, the rocks, the climate and living creatures are intimately connected. Carbon forms them, fosters them and keeps them warm through the Greenhouse Effect. This carbon, essential to life and the earth, is green carbon. Green carbon cannot cause climate change because it is the climate, the earth and life. Without it, the earth would be a frozen, lifeless rock.
Fossil carbon causes climate change.
Though the earth’s climate stays balanced on the timescale of millions of years, the earth has existed for billions of years and has changed dramatically in that time—directly in response to life. Just as limestone forms when sand, shells and bones collect, fossil fuel forms when dead organisms collect without completely decomposing.
Over the history of earth, the composition of the atmosphere has changed many times, draining carbon from circulation in stages. Since the atmosphere, the rocks, the climate and life are all connected, the amount of available carbon influences everything else on the planet. Less carbon means less greenhouse gas, cooler temperatures, different atmospheric composition, changing habitats and evolving life.
The agent of disappearing carbon? Life.
Normally, the decomposition of dead organisms frees the carbon stored in their bodies to return to the carbon cycle. If the dead are buried in places devoid of oxygen, however, in swamps or on the floors of shallow seas, normal decomposition breaks down. Without oxygen, ancient anaerobic microbes take over, operating in ancient, inefficient ways. They leave behind much of the carbon and energy in the bodies of the dead, allowing undigested carbon to collect in reservoirs of stored carbon and energy. These reservoirs slowly sink into the earth until mounting heat and pressure change them into coal, oil and natural gas.
This is fossil carbon, the carbon released by fossil fuels. It no longer has a place within the carbon cycle because it formed millions of years ago, drained from the carbon cycle, and the cycle long ago evolved without it. When humanity releases it, fossil carbon only knocks the carbon cycle off balance, acidifying the oceans and intensifying the Greenhouse Effect.
The cycle takes thousands of years to start balancing itself out, and millions of years to reach equilibrium, involving the atmosphere, the rocks, the climate and all life. We have released more than a third of all the fossil carbon stored in the ground in less than a hundred fifty years, to catastrophic consequences.
That’s the bad news. What’s the good news? Our planet is life. Green carbon and fossil carbon differ only in source, not substance. That means:
- Anything powered by fossil carbon can be powered by green carbon.
- We don’t have to give up our lifestyles to stop climate change, we just have to swap carbon sources.
- Every individual has the power to choose between green carbon and fossil carbon.
- When we choose, industry and governments will follow.
Stopping climate change is as simple as perceiving the difference between green carbon and fossil carbon, and choosing between them.
I will lead you through the secrets of carbon, the lives lived in search of understanding, and the fossil carbon revolution that changed our planet and our species. I will tell the story of our vehicles and energy, the small choices that created our dependence on ancient fuel, and the alternatives at our fingertips.
I will show how easy it is to change: both fossil carbon and green carbon are the climate, the earth and life. It’s only a small step from one to the other, a step any of us can make.
I hope you’ll join me.