Understanding the Interconnectedness Between Carbon, Climate Change and Civilization in Eric Ralston’s “The Carbon Age”

  People can generally perceive the carbon cycle crisis in the frequent occurrence of extreme climate disasters and abnormal changes in temperature. They can also know from the media that the earth’s carbon cycle is being destroyed. But why is carbon that can build life and shape civilization? Now it has become a threat to human society and the earth’s ecology? In “The Carbon Age—Civilization and Destruction,” Eric Rolston explains in detail how the element of carbon is closely intertwined with biological evolution, the earth’s inanimate forces, and human infrastructure, and how it flows through life and industry, playing a role in A variety of characters ranging from the trivial to the extraordinary.
  Before getting into the topic of climate change, Ralston cited classics and classics to try to clarify the mechanism of the earth’s carbon cycle and reveal the basic operation of carbon in nature and non-nature. He started from the creation of atoms in the Big Bang and traced the emergence of carbon from the prehistory of carbon, allowing people to truly feel the global impact of carbon on the earth itself and on all living or non-living things on the earth. Many contents of this book are of popular science significance. The book tirelessly emphasizes the king status of carbon and carbon is the civilian king of all elements. In the process of removing falsehoods and preserving truths from professional literature and scientific debates, it forms a comprehensive summary of scientific literature. .
  Carbon in the universe has had the potential to be an “architect” since its birth, laying the foundation for its role as the chief architect of life on earth. The flow of carbon closely combines biological evolution with the guiding role of the earth. physical force. Life always drives and is driven by geological development. The flow of carbon among living things is intertwined with the inanimate power of nature and the evolution of life. Short-term carbon cycles can last from a fraction of a second to several seconds. Ten years or hundreds of years, while the long-term carbon cycle covers the fields of lithosphere and plate movement, including weathering and sedimentation, and can last for tens of millions of years. The carbon content in the atmosphere cooperates with each other on every geological time scale, usually led by temperature changes, but this is no longer the case after the industrial era. Human industrial activities have changed the climate order more than plate movements and rock Weathering is much faster. Most everything humans make is either made of carbon or is forged from the flames of carbon. Industrial activity reverses photosynthesis, turning oxygen and hard carbon back into carbon dioxide, and human influence erases the boundaries between biological and geological time scales. In a short period of time, humans have gone from being an influential species to being the most powerful driver of Earth’s evolution and geological changes. The degree to which we have impacted this planet is unique in both scope and intensity, with the exception of meteorite impacts. , only humans should be able to increase the geological speed so fast, and industry has become the most important factor affecting the interaction between biology and geology.
  The model in which human knowledge is transformed into inventions and subsequently obtains economic value is a model that stimulates scientific and technological innovation through basic science. Resources, knowledge and tools breed more resources, knowledge and tools, which are difficult to quantify. changed the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. Since carbon accumulation values ​​are often measured on a scale of millions of years, the long-term carbon cycle is always easily overlooked, which in turn accelerates the long-term carbon cycle into a short-term cycle. As the human flame spreads and the hand of the economy instigates, in an era where the industrial candle gets bigger and bigger, we think that the human way of life and sustainability are more important than the survival of most other species. However, there is no such thing as human development in nature. The central tenet of this is that the achievements of human ingenuity have led to scientific and technological leaps, and the impact on the earth is also backfired on humans themselves, gradually heading towards the road of self-destruction, and a new round of carbon reflection is taking place.
  Ignorance of carbon science often hinders efforts to curb climate change, and academic fragmentation directly affects solutions to climate change problems. The Earth’s climate is not a self-stable system. It is always unpredictable. Even if there is no sudden blow, even a few nudges will cause strong non-linear changes, and even enter a period of chaos. Under the influence of man-made radiation effects, volcanic pressure sources and solar energy Under the combined effect of changes, the survival difficulty of ecosystems has greatly increased. If the constraints of the international climate agreement are successful, the Kyoto Protocol will stabilize carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels, but the fact is that emissions have increased by 35% since then.
  The changes caused by global warming have threatened the limits and potential of the development of modern civilization. The earth’s temperature has risen by two degrees Celsius compared with the pre-industrial period. Science has helped us diagnose the high fever on this planet. , and science is the only hope to slow down the accelerating rise in temperature. Science and technology impose unnatural selection on living things, and the continuous influx of carbon into the atmosphere will cause irreparable losses to future generations. Ralston called on legislators to consider these complex moral factors when deciding how to respond to climate change. If we act quickly enough, we can slow our impact on the carbon cycle without sacrificing the flames of industrialization, with proven solutions that can transition civilization to another energy system that won’t wither the planet.
  If there is still hope for fossil fuels, it must be related to the quality of fuel used for a long time. While improving combustion efficiency, in terms of waste gas disposal, carbon capture and storage technology should be used to moderate the carbon industry. Retention, returning the carbon to where we originally found it. Among the suggestions given by the author, thinking about energy conversion is an important topic. A focus on new energy sources and new materials is a more widely accepted development framework that can lead us towards an energy trend away from carbon burning. Carbon is everywhere, and this gift of nature has lifted us from subsistence agriculture to a higher level and should also lead us to a future based on renewable energy. Bioenergy, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, hydrogen energy, and hydro potential energy will provide more and more power in the future. Avant-garde energy research challenges the distinction between natural and unnatural. Since we currently have no way to stop burning carbon, exploring the potential of biofuels, setting limits on carbon burning, and working to change carbon sources is also a feasible path. In the connection between life sciences and computer and information sciences, scientists are trying to focus on how to cultivate carbon fuels for industry instead of mining them. Energy sources are renewable in short-term cycles and can be stored and moved among living things. Industrial development needs to find a way to survive in the biosphere and within the short-term carbon cycle, but until now, this is still difficult. .
  Since the climate dialogue shifted from science to economics, the climate change debate no longer focuses on moral and ethical issues such as intergenerational equity and responsibility distribution, but more on how to build complex adaptability. and a globally consistent economic system, at the heart of which is a discussion of discount rates. The Stern Report proved that low discount rates make us attach more importance to the future, and conversely, high discount rates make the future less important. The question is, should we invest more now to avoid or slow down catastrophic climate change, or should we save money so that future generations will have enough to repair climate damage? In the IPCC simulation scenario, the social cost of carbon is high enough to warrant the development of new technologies to reduce carbon emissions, even higher than the price of paying carbon taxes and purchasing carbon emission permits. That is, the lower the discount rate, the higher the cost of carbon emissions. The higher. However, for-profit companies are very resistant to paying for the residues in the air that are like ashes. They are accustomed to thinking that these things are free like breathing. If they are required to spend money to remove the residue in the chimney, Taking away carbon is as ridiculous as paying to breathe. Economists are accustomed to thinking about the impact of climate change on the economy in terms of the social cost of carbon, and use models to simulate the impact of reducing carbon emissions on future world economic output. Ralston bluntly points out that modeling the potential costs of mitigating climate warming is like predicting how much earning potential a patient with terminal cancer has. Assessing the potential impacts of global warming is a significant undertaking, but we have to recognize its limitations. On the one hand, economic analysis needs to be based on scientists’ predictions of carbon emissions at a certain point in the future, while the scientific work of predicting carbon dioxide concentration depends on economic models; on the other hand, physical and indirect scientific evidence makes people The understanding of geophysics and chemistry can only lock down the carbon emissions to a rough range, but it is impossible to achieve an accurate level. Every forecast by economists is built on the uncertainty of scientific predictions, and they must assess the incidence, severity, and ripple effects of everything that could go wrong. As Harvard University’s Martin Weitzman has argued, global warming is the largest external cost the world has ever had, and estimating its impact may be the largest subjective assessment economists have ever made.
  The issue of climate change under political coercion has to face real problems. At this point, the author hits the mark and reveals more profoundly than previous discussions that climate worries are not limited to scientific and economic problems. In a context where scientific uncertainty cannot be eliminated, the scientific terminology of the climate crisis will inevitably be ambiguous. Things that scientists say are far beyond the scope of danger will become mere possibilities for economists and politicians. The situation and attitude towards data are important reasons for the differences between them. Behind the upper limit of carbon dioxide concentration that scares the scientific community are potentially catastrophic consequences. However, in the face of social and economic development, this upper limit is difficult to attract the attention of economists and governments. If humans maintain current emissions rates, there will be more carbon in the atmosphere than has accumulated in millions of years. There are currently no synthetic technologies available that can remove carbon dioxide from the air or convert it into other useful substances, so for the sake of future generations and sustainable economic development, modern economies must gradually Disengage from activities that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide.
  The fire of human civilization has been burning with a strange cold light from the very beginning. No one can say for sure when this light will dim or extinguish. Redirecting the industrial carbon cycle in the evolution of new things requires various efforts. Despite the effective cooperation and joint efforts of all parties, our city is still brightly lit every night. When we look outward, diligently searching for the bolide that ends civilization in the sky, little do we know that human beings themselves are the meteorites.