Control climate change; save the world. Continue to burn fossil fuels; destroy the earth. These are phrases heard frequently. I have used them in some form or other on a number of occasions. They don't make any sense.
Our world, planet earth, has been around for 4.5 billion years. It was formed out of cosmic dust, gases and energy in a process we marginally understand and that we can only marvel at.
Over the intervening eons, continents have shifted thousands of miles and oceans have risen to cover mountains and deserts before retreating again.
The world has been exposed to ice covering much of the land mass and has seen tropical conditions at the poles.
Volcanoes, earthquakes and asteroid strikes have displayed forces on a scale that is only conceivable in a cosmic sense.
Throughout all of the history of the world, save for the most recent infinitesimally small sliver of time, humans have not been around to impact, or even witness, the massive transformations that have taken place in, on and above the earth.
The forces of nature and the laws of physics, either fully understood or yet to be unraveled, have brought the earth to the state we know today. Humans are merely late-arriving interested spectators.
That may be changing. There are now more than seven billion people on the planet, each one striving to take enough resources from the natural systems to provide food, shelter and sustenance.
We have collectively begun to make changes that previously would have been undetectable in the global sense.
Over the past 200 years, we have seen tremendous changes in the impact of humans on the world as we know it.
This progress has resulted largely from harnessing the combustion of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas.
The by-product of this combustion, primarily carbon dioxide, is now accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans at a rate that rivals or exceeds anything seen in the geologic record over the past 800,000 years.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide can be a game changer. Levels are rising year after year and global temperature increases are tracking the same trajectory.
We are able to, and we are changing the world's environment. Does this mean we are about to destroy the world? Not at all.