On the front page of the September 21 Roanoke Times we find in the lead headline 'It's our one and only hope,' that message delivered by Greta Thunberg and thousands of other protesting teenagers.
The Wikipedia page, “List of countries by greenhouse gas emissions per capita”, shows the United States at 19.9 metric tons per capita annually. To grasp this number is daunting. A few minor calculations however make it plain that those 19.9 metric tons means each of us in the U.S. individually produce a huge 840 pounds of greenhouse gases weekly — resulting directly or indirectly from our normal activities (transportation, air conditioning, heating, housing, purchasing products, etc.). As surprising as this number is, it begs the question of how nations elsewhere perform.
Taking a look at eight modern and economically successful nations (Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Denmark, Austria, United Kingdom, France, Sweden), their greenhouse gases per week averaged 380 pounds per person, 2.3 times less than the U.S. A sample of four modest low-greenhouse-gas nations (Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Vietnam) employed a mere 130 pounds, 6.6 times less than the U.S. All three categories (the U.S., economically developed nations and modest nations) are sufficiently advanced to provide long female life expectancies, respectively 81.6, 84 and 80 years.
As to reducing per capita greenhouse gases: Since the 1990s, the U.S. reduced them at a rate of 0.76% annually. The developed nations averaged 1.1% with Sweden being the fastest at 2%. Even if the U.S. were to reduce them at a 2% rate, the math shows it would take more than 40 years to arrive at the advanced-nations level (2.3 times lower than the U.S.).
With climate change, we face a formidable, relentless and continually strengthening adversary. To rely on slow old-school rates of change with a fast moving adversary guarantees a loss. To choose to become a modest nation would result in a colossal contraction of capital. To put forth a huge amount of capital, smarts and action to preserve the planet and economy appears to be the imperative, the only remaining choice.