Magazine Article
Beyond Zero

Today there is an enormous intellectual and cultural gap between those who believe we can do something transformative about global climate change (usually involving new technologies) and those who have resigned themselves to the possibility that we have missed our chance; the techno-optimists versus the end-of- the-world-pessimists. The global effects of contemporary consumption are clear now. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 18th century and the commencement of major anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 37 percent – the highest in the past 650,000 years and probably longer. It is clear today that cities – the vast majority of cities - are increasing their rate of per capita carbon emissions. So, how can anyone be optimist about the prospects for a zero emission society? Goals of beyond zero are carefully bounded. Some major assumptions are made and the boundaries of assessment are carefully drawn. As a result, much of the possibility in reaching these physically challenging goals within tightly bounded areas rests in the details. The arguments that are made are frequently dependent on how one frames the particular scenario. Yet, even accepting the hefty assumptions, there is a growing awareness that all is not well with the concept of beyond zero, not to mention the idea of reaching zero itself.

Title
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsFernandez J
MagazineVolume
Volume18
Date Published12/2008
Abstract

Today there is an enormous intellectual and cultural gap between those who believe we can do something transformative about global climate change (usually involving new technologies) and those who have resigned themselves to the possibility that we have missed our chance; the techno-optimists versus the end-of- the-world-pessimists. The global effects of contemporary consumption are clear now. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 18th century and the commencement of major anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 37 percent – the highest in the past 650,000 years and probably longer. It is clear today that cities – the vast majority of cities - are increasing their rate of per capita carbon emissions. So, how can anyone be optimist about the prospects for a zero emission society? Goals of beyond zero are carefully bounded. Some major assumptions are made and the boundaries of assessment are carefully drawn. As a result, much of the possibility in reaching these physically challenging goals within tightly bounded areas rests in the details. The arguments that are made are frequently dependent on how one frames the particular scenario. Yet, even accepting the hefty assumptions, there is a growing awareness that all is not well with the concept of beyond zero, not to mention the idea of reaching zero itself.