Since Cloverly launched on Earth Day 2 years ago, many things have changed in the fight against climate change. Back then, for example, here’s the question everybody asked us: “What’s a carbon offset?”
Today, on our 2nd birthday, the business world has joined the environmental community and the general public in acknowledging the threat posed by all the carbon dioxide we’ve been pumping into the atmosphere over the past couple of centuries. Companies and consumers alike now recognize carbon offsets as an important tool for reducing the world’s net carbon emissions.
They still may not grasp exactly how offsets work. That’s OK. Offsets are complex instruments. Even some sustainability experts are fuzzy on the details. (For a quick explanation, click here.)
There’s nothing particularly complex, however, about the predicament that carbon offsets address. A human-caused increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is warming the planet. That imposes an immense cost in both money and lives.
Succinctly Stating the Problem
“The last time the atmospheric CO₂ amounts were this high was more than 3 million years ago, when temperature was 2°-3°C (3.6°-5.4°F) higher than during the preindustrial era, and sea level was 15-25 meters (50-80 feet) higher than today.”
Imagine a world with oceans 50 feet higher. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Go to the interactive online map at FloodMap and enter “15” as the elevation (that’s 15 meters; 50 feet equals 15.24 meters).
Then say goodbye to Boston, New Orleans (and all of Louisiana south of Baton Rouge), the southern 3rd of Florida (including Miami and the Keys), much of Houston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, most of New York, and even big swaths of such inland cities as Montreal, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.
Surf’s Up, and Up, and Up
Global sea levels have risen 8-9 inches since 1880. Almost a 3rd of that increase has come since 1995. Rising seas, swollen by glacial melt and hotter global temperatures (because water expands as it warms), have nibbled away at beaches and barrier islands. Miami now commonly experiences street flooding during high tides—so-called sunny day floods.
Climate change also exacerbates weather extremes. Superstorms dump immense amounts of rain, turning cities into deadly lakes. Heat waves bring 100-degree temperatures to Siberia. Wind- and heat-driven wildfire infernos rage across the American West. A deep cold snap crashes the Texas electrical grid and kills dozens of people.
Every decade, NOAA publishes what it calls the US Climate Normals. Normals are based on 30-year averages for temperature, rainfall, and other climate conditions. The new normals, covering 1991 through 2020, will be released in early May.
A sneak peek on the NOAA website reveals an increasingly warm and wet United States. An interactive map shows just 1 of the consequences: a significant shift to the north and to higher elevations for climate-related planting zones.
Gardening problems are, of course, hardly the worst of our worries. We need to use every tool we have to combat this crisis. Carbon offsets can help. They make the planet better, and not just because they reduce, avoid, or sequester carbon emissions. Offsets almost always offer co-benefits as well.
Trees, for example, pull carbon out of the air and sequester (store) it in their wood and roots. Most species keep growing their entire lives, busily decarbonizing the atmosphere year after year. That’s the offset part.
Offsets Come with Bonuses
Planting a tree also cleanses the air of pollutants, protects the soil against erosion, provides habitat for wildlife, and supplies a cool, shady spot for relaxing on a lazy summer’s day. Those are just some of the co-benefits.
Cloverly has come a long way in 2 years. So has the world at large. We are uniting, people of all kinds, from all places and all backgrounds, to meet the greatest collective challenge to the human species.
We have a long way to go. We’ll get there. All of us. Together.
Happy Earth Day. Make a wish. Then let’s all get on with saving the planet.