After their tours, the Ejected were all dropped—like bombs—in the same realm where they first met. They were haggard, hungry, and horrified. No one talked or could look each other in the eye. They all knew they were responsible for so many ills on Earth. Even if they weren’t directly responsible for certain actions or problems, they knew that they hadn’t done everything in their power to do the right thing for the planet or for the good of humanity.
Seth brought the Ejected together and summarized what everyone had learned on their various tours. “Human activities have already warmed the planet about 1.8 °F since the pre-industrial era, around 1850,”18 he announced. “At the current rate of warming, the Earth’s average temperature will rise another 0.9 °F and reach the maximum livable temperature increase between 2030 and 2052. Limiting the total warming requires drastic changes.”
He looked at each of the Ejected as he explained, “You all have learned different ways to reduce our carbon dioxide equivalents—often called CO2e for short—and we need every strategy implemented in order to have a chance of survival and for you to have a chance of returning to your families. No one will be able to return to Earth until enough emissions are reduced to support you all. Also, because CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries, temperatures will continue to rise,” he continued. “As a result, even with drastic emission cuts, meeting this 2.7 °F goal likely means that the Earth will go over the 2.7 °F threshold for a time before returning to a more livable level for the longer term.19 We need to follow the Paris Climate Change Agreement’s guidelines to the full extent. That’s why we also need some removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, or other technological advancements. In short, net carbon dioxide equivalent emissions need to drop forty-five percent from their 2010 levels by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050. To keep the math simple, and to err on the side of caution, let’s say we need to cut global emissions in half.”
“What does ‘net zero’ mean?” asked the lady with the pearls.
Keith smirked as he recalled how this lady had bragged about her brainy Ph.D. How’s that fancy Ph.D. working for you now? wondered Keith. He couldn’t help it. He loved silently picking on people he found annoying.
“‘Net zero’ means offsetting any remaining CO2e emissions by removing CO2e from the atmosphere,” explained Aziza.
The lady stared blankly as if no explanation had been given. Keith watched this self-proclaimed genius with amusement.
Recognizing that this lady wasn’t tracking, Aziza continued, “Imagine a bathtub with the faucet running. To keep the tub from overflowing, you can either turn off the running water or unplug the drain, right?”
Lady Einstein nodded.
“Turning off the water faucet is like reducing emissions because it’s stopping the emissions at their sources. Opening the drain is like finding carbon sinks—like trees, soil, or oceans—that store the carbon and sort of “drain” them out of the atmosphere.”
The lady nodded at Aziza very slowly, which convinced Keith that she still didn’t get it.
One of the Ejected stood up and began to speak, “The world will go on, but the question is, will people? We are destroying the resources that give us life—the air, water, and land.” This man was thin, but not frail. His voice was quiet, calm, and even and his eyes were warm and wise. Just being in his presence felt like an honor. Everyone waited for him to continue, “I learned on my tour that the fossil fuels that are currently powering most aspects of the world are killing millions of people every year. And they have been for decades. Our collective lack of a reaction doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t mirror the problem that is at hand. I’ve always thought God will take care of us. But it is clear to me that we need to do our part and not stand by idly. We have a crisis on our hands, and we all need to solve this so we can go back to our families.”
A sense of unity swept across the Ejected, and this man’s speech was met with applause.
Another Ejected stood up and declared, “We need to turn the page on greed and apathy and look toward love and light to find generosity and concern, compassion, and commitment to all do our part.”
A loud voice from the back chimed in with, “Community and health!”
“We need to hold hands with our neighbors and find a way to connect with and help each other. We need to put away the blame and judgment because we all use our planet’s resources, and no one is guilt free. We just don’t know everyone’s story, so we must practice restraint in judging others.”
Yet another of the Ejected, who was caught up in the emotion, yelled, “Because we won’t do better until we all do better!”
One by one, the Ejected stepped up and announced how many gigatons of emissions they thought they could reduce and what percentage that would be of the total. It was clear to everyone, without even exchanging words, that there would be winners and losers in people’s jobs for the short term, but that collectively, humans would be the biggest losers if drastic changes weren’t made immediately. The path forward was clear: reduce energy needs and overall consumption of all resources and quickly transition away from fossil fuels to renewables. The big picture wasn’t complicated.
It was a race against time to save humanity. Could these historically selfish, sorry souls actually save their species?