The case against despair on climate change

Human society is on a path to self-immolation. But don’t give in to despair.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is out with an interim report, and the predictions are terrifying. If current trends continue, average global atmospheric temperatures will increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) on a 10-year averaged basis by roughly 2040. What’s more, the latest science has generally found that even 1.5 degrees is going to be worse than previously thought, with high risk of murderous heat waves, flooding, drought, and sea level rise that threatens tens of millions of people around the world — and as Gavin Schmidt writes, the sheer arithmetic of keeping warming that low is virtually impossible.

Many are reacting to this report with despondency. Climate science denier Donald Trump is president, after all, and he just got another anti-climate policy guy on the Supreme Court. It is pretty hard to imagine world politics shifting to become even slightly sensible on the biggest problem facing human civilization.

However, despair is not warranted. Saving humanity from our own mistakes is not impossible.

The Republican Party and its brand of ultra-conservatism is obviously an impediment, saturated as it is with foaming science deniers throughout the entire party leadership and bureaucratic apparatus that is in charge of the world’s most powerful nation.

This style of loopy extreme right-wing politics has spread throughout much of the Anglosphere, especially where there are large fossil fuel interests. Canada, with its enormous tar sands export sector, has dragged its feet for years, and recent plans to institute a carbon tax have inspired a Trump-style right-wing backlash. Meanwhile, the right-wing coalition running Australia — which has been deeply infected by American-style conservatism — is even worse. The Liberal Party (conservative in an Australian context) has repealed the country’s carbon tax, abandoned emissions targets, and refused to stop using coal. Emissions from there are rising strongly as a result.

However, it’s bizarrely also true that under Trump, U.S. emissions have been falling moderately, and renewable investment has been chugging along, reaching a peak in the second quarter of 2018 not seen since the stimulus-driven highs of 2011. As this Rhodium Group report explains, this is largely in spite of Trump’s pro-coal policy agenda, driven by pre-existing energy price trends and remaining fragments of Obama-era policy. Wind and especially solar have become so cheap that they are continuing to displace coal from the energy market — though by 2025, they are projected to start to displace legacy nuclear, which will be bad for emissions.

This is an important point: In favorable locations, renewable energy is now able to stand without subsidies. The technology is largely where it needs to be, and it’s getting better all the time. Deployment will be a huge pain in the neck, to be sure, but that poses no insurmountable problem. As a corollary, it means that America itself is not the biggest immediate problem on climate. American conservatism is. The U.S. is …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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