Why Climate Challenges Should Be Seen as Opportunities
Climate solutions are often met with resistance because people mistakenly believe they will be costly or burdensome. It’s more accurate (and more productive), however, to see the climate change fight as a series of opportunities.
For example, the still-unrepaired methane leak in California’s Aliso Canyon is certainly alarming – but as this article in The Conversation points out, the leak is drawing attention to the more serious issue of methane leaks across the industry, and should create an incentive to tackle those emissions on a broader scale. The Obama administration has pledged to address the methane issue, and on Friday introduced new rules designed to cut emissions from public lands in half.
Other climate solutions have the potential to create new jobs or even entire new industries. Stricter laws regarding energy efficiency in buildings have created $20 billion worth of new business, as contractors help retrofit old buildings and consultants help property owners manage the regulatory paperwork. As Christopher Cayten of the consultancy firm CodeGreen Solutions says, “The laws have given us more business, granted, but they’ve also broadened the concept of sustainability beyond big, shiny, brand-new buildings.”
Climate solutions also offer the chance to create a healthier world for ourselves and our families. A groundbreaking report from the Lancet Commission last year called climate change both the “biggest health threat” and the “greatest health opportunity” of the 21st century. Fighting climate change has the invaluable co-benefit of reducing deaths, injuries, and illnesses caused by pollution, vector-borne diseases, and extreme weather.
The more effectively we can position climate solutions as investments in a better future, the better we’ll be able to build support and motivate people to action.
By Daniel Raimi, contributor to The Conversation
This October, a large leak was discovered at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in northwest Los Angeles. The leak is a serious health risk to nearby residents, and because methane – the primary component of natural gas – is a potent greenhouse gas, some have called this leak a “disaster” for climate change.
To be sure, this leak, which is projected to continue for several weeks, is very significant. But because natural gas leaks every day from thousands of locations across the United States, Aliso Canyon’s emissions are actually quite small when measured on a national scale – less than one percent of natural gas’ contribution to national emissions.
Given its relatively modest greenhouse gas impact, research on energy and climate policy tells us that this leak is not by itself a “climate disaster.” Instead, it is more productive to think of Aliso Canyon as an opportunity: while fixing the leak must be a high priority for local, state and federal officials, it should also provide the impetus to tackle the dispersed sources of methane from the oil and natural gas industry that contribute far more to climate change than any single well ever could.
Image credit: Dean Musgrove/Reuters