Recently, environmental activist, Bill McKibben was arrested in front of the White House for protesting Obama's impending approval of the tar sands pipeline. McKibben and other reputable climate scientists believe that 350 atmospheric carbon parts per million is the threshold limit causing a runaway greenhouse climate effect that will ultimately result in the death of life on Earth.
We have been above that limit for 23 years now and counting. I don't think it irrational to believe that we may well expect our planet by the end of the 21st century to have an average daily atmospheric temperature hot enough to melt lead. Nearly all indicators seem to bear out the dire predictions that we are already in the grip of a runaway greenhouse effect. Even if tomorrow we abandon all carbon-based energy sources and return to pre-industrial levels of energy production e.g. oxcarts, windmills and water wheels we still may not be able to avert catastrophe.
Of course such draconian preindustrial rollbacks aren't going to happen. We can't even get serious non-carbon alternative energy programs into production on any scale. The large energy producers and their lobbyists will see to it that our president and their paid representatives in Congress remain pedal to the metal on the carbon path.
What I think environmentalists and the hopeful petitioners of Obama are not telling us is that they suspect the runaway greenhouse effect game is already up. Every attempt we have made to wean our civilization off the carbon culture through prediction and logic has been no more successful than trying to "reason" a heroin or tobacco junkie off their devastating habit. I'm afraid the sad truth is that we will remain on this path of addiction until all life on the planet is extinguished.
Personally, I will continue to act as if I can do something to curtail humanity's carbon footprint. What's the alternative - party hearty up to the end or fiddle and burn? If there is any way to stop this culture of carbon addiction, it must be attempted - even if the outcome will be disastrous whether we are successful or not.
But don't be sad. As someone recently put it, "... we (aren't) the first or the last life form that Mother Nature got rid of." Millions of years hence life may return. It is only our particular, capitalist, imperialist civilization that is cooked - literally.