Fossil Fuel Overdose

European Union High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell just apologized for his choice of words when discussing climate. He recently used the term “Greta Syndrome” when talking about this question. If I understood him correctly, he wanted to say something like “people are very much for climate measures until they are actually asked to pay the bill” with that unfortunate term.

If so, I think that particular medical condition is not only affecting young people. I recently turned 62, and I diagnose myself as a severe case. I think we will pay the bill anyway, and the bill will be much higher if we do nothing. I think that the climate emergency must be stopped at all cost. I think that military assets should be deployed to plant trees and set up large scale desert and ocean renewable projects. China already deployed 60,000 soldiers to plant trees over an area the size of Ireland. I think that gasoline cars should be banned tomorrow. It will always be cheaper than just doing nothing.

I even think the EU should take the drastic and radical step to actually stop all fossil fuel subsidies, as opposed to only promising to do so since 2009.

However, I do not think that Greta Thunberg is responsible for these opinions. I have held those views long before she became a public figure.

I think they are caused by a fossil fuel overdose.

Using fossil fuel as such is not a problem. The benefits to society are large. I know, because I have lived in the short paradise era, the golden age where massive use of fossil fuel enabled people living in developed countries a lifestyle humans could only dream of for most of the 300,000 years of our existence.

The problem starts if they are used too much. Using more than can be absorbed by the natural carbon sinks, to be exact.

It is indeed remarkable that over the last 60 years, the share of CO2 absorbed by carbon sinks was largely constant at 55 percent, while emissions grew by a factor of three. Emissions have been growing, but so have the carbon sink capacities. If all the emissions had gone to the atmosphere, CO2 concentrations would be even much higher already.

And I see a fossil fuel overdose as anything exceeding the carbon sink capacity. Getting below that number should be the first urgent goal to at least avoid increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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