6 Reasons to Be Optimistic About Solving Climate Change
One of the best tools we have as climate communicators is optimism. To build support for solutions, it’s important to demonstrate that we have the resources to address this challenge, and that there is still time to protect the planet if we take action now. A recent article in New York Magazine helps explain why our optimism is warranted, and shows us how far we’ve come in only a few short years. Here are six pieces of good news that tell us the game is far from over:
1) We have the political and technological means to put together the first-ever global agreement to cut carbon emissions.
2) Wind and solar power have become cost-competitive with fossil fuels faster than anyone imagined.
3) As clean energy use becomes more widespread, we are also finding ways to use less energy overall.
4) In 2014, our economy grew as carbon emissions declined for the first time in history.
5) China’s coal consumption and production fell last year, and they are expected to reach peak emissions as early as 2025.
6) Solar power is allowing developing nations to grow their economies without relying on fossil fuels.
The author of the article points out that, while many Americans are still skeptical about climate change and resistance to climate solutions, this is an anomaly. The vast majority of global citizens are very concerned about climate change (if they’re aware of it) and support strong action to address it. But we need to be vigilant to ensure that our anti-climate-solutions presidential candidates and members of Congress don’t undermine the progress we’ve made.
The author also warns against thinking of the climate fight as something to be “won” or “lost,” which can lead to frustration and despair. Will the Paris climate talks be enough to solve the challenge? On their own, maybe not – but that’s not their purpose. The goal of the convention is to form commitments that can be strengthened as we move inevitably toward a low-carbon economy. Those of us who are working towards a positive, clean-energy future should feel not only proud of the work we do, but confident that we’ll succeed.
By Jonathan Chait, contributor to New York Magazine
This is the year humans finally got serious about saving themselves from themselves.
Here on planet Earth, things could be going better. The rise in atmospheric temperatures from greenhouse gases poses the most dire threat to humanity, measured on a scale of potential suffering, since Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany launched near-simultaneous wars of conquest. And the problem has turned out to be much harder to solve. It’s not the money. The cost of transitioning away from fossil fuels, measured as a share of the economy, may amount to a fraction of the cost of defeating the Axis powers. Rather, it is the politics that have proved so fiendish. Fighting a war is relatively straightforward: You spend all the money you can to build a giant military and send it off to do battle. Climate change is a problem that politics is almost designed not to solve. Its costs lie mostly in the distant future, whereas politics is built to respond to immediate conditions. (And of the wonders the internet has brought us, a lengthening of mental time horizons is not among them.) Its solution requires coordination not of a handful of allies but of scores of countries with wildly disparate economies and political structures. There has not yet been a galvanizing Pearl Harbor moment, when the urgency of action becomes instantly clear and isolationists melt away. Instead, it breeds counterproductive mental reactions: denial, fatalism, and depression.
This fall, as world leaders prepare to gather in Paris for the United Nations climate-change conference in December and bureaucrats bureaucratize, onlookers could be excused for treating the whole affair with weariness. As early as the 19th century, scientists had observed that the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere trapped heat that would otherwise have escaped into outer space. It took until 1997 for the U.N. to draw up a rough deal, in Kyoto, Japan, designed to arrest what was by then obviously a crisis. The agreement failed on the international stage, which didn’t stop the Republicans in the U.S. Senate, who hoped to use the treaty as fodder for attack ads, from bringing the moribund issue up for a vote — where it failed again, 95-0.