Monday numbers: Some sobering truths for Climate Week

By: - September 23, 2019 6:00 am

Photo: Lisa Sorg

By 2050, when the youngest people in the crowd at Halifax Mall will begin the prime of their lives, the Earth’s climate could enter a new chapter, as well, one unprecedented in human history.

If we continue on our business-as-usual trajectory of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, the toddlers riding on their parents’ shoulders and the teens entering their senior year of high school will inherit a planet beset by rising seas, withering heat, wild weather swings, mass animal, bird and plant extinctions, and potentially billions of environmental refugees displaced by forces of a human made disaster.

This future is neither acceptable nor inevitable, proclaimed the millions of protesters in hundreds of cities worldwide who held a climate strike on Sept. 20. Uganda, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Sweden, the US — and Halifax Mall in Raleigh: They protested the malfeasance of global leaders who are doing too little — or nothing — to thwart the worst effects of climate change. 

President Trump is among the world’s worst climate offenders. His administration has repealed, or proposed to repeal, crucial rules that limited methane — a potent greenhouse gas 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Under his leadership, the EPA weakened pollution controls on new and expanding power plants, proposed weakening fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks, as well as 20 more rollbacks on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

In Raleigh, just feet from the hub of state government, itself leaden and largely ineffective, high schoolers hoisted signs: “There is no Planet B,” “Our Gen Will Pay,” “Act As if Our House Is On Fire.”

The air was redolent of burning sage as members of the Saponi nation spoke of hope: “We believe that when we gather inside that sacred circle, no matter how small or how big, and we have love, harmony, and balance in our heart, then anything in the entire universe is possible in that space.”

An entire week of action is underway: Go to for details.

Photo: Lisa Sorg

United States

1 — US rank in cumulative CO2 emissions, 1850-2013

2 — US rank among all nations in CO2 emissions, 2017

30% — Estimated decrease in CO2 emissions in 2030 over 2005 levels if the Obama-era Clean Power Plan were to remain in effect

9% — Estimated decrease with the Trump administration’s rollback of the CPP

2.09 billion — Tons of CO2 emitted by transportation sector, 2017

0.8%  Increase in transportation-related CO2 over 2016, lead by an uptick in jet and diesel fuel

North Carolina

11   Tons of CO2 per person, 2016

165 million — Gross tons of greenhouse gases emitted, 2017*

116 million — Net tons of GHG emitted, after accounting for carbon sinks, 2017

24% —  Decrease in net tons, 2005-present

155 million — Estimated gross tons of GHG emitted, 2030

107 million — Estimated net tons, 2030

7% — Decrease in net tons, 2017-2030

*Converted from gross metric tons, includes methane
Sources: US Energy Information Administration, NC Greenhouse Gas Inventory,
World Resources Institute

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.