Severe, pervasive, and irreversible. Those are three words you definitely do not want to hear said in relation to global warming. But that’s how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) characterizes what’s coming if we don’t clean up our act. The good news is that things are changing. Even if some don’t want them to.
First the tough love: The IPCC just released its latest Synthesis Report, a document that wraps up current climate data with a bow, and it does not mince words. Unless worldwide carbon emissions fall to zero by 2100, humanity will walk straight into what could charitably be termed deep doo-doo. And that’s no fringe opinion. Ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is very real and deadly serious.
Yet despite the virtually unanimous scientific certainty that civilization is heading for a climate cliff, some among us are still stuck in denial and remain all in favor of burning more coal, building more pipelines, and shutting down the EPA’s new carbon emissions regulations among other things. Others say even if there is a problem it’s hardly worth what it would cost to solve.
The IPCC report disagrees. It says that fixing our impending atmospheric apocalypse is not only doable, it wouldn’t significantly affect global economic growth. To mangle Robert Frost, two roads are diverging in an overheating wood, and a few folks don’t want us taking the one less traveled by. Except we already are, and it’s already working.
Wind power and solar energy, for example, accounted for 44% of all new electricity generating capacity built between 2011 and 2013.1 Renewable energy consumption in the U.S. grew 6% from 2009 to 20102 while coal production dropped more than 7% from 2011 to 2012.3 Solar power will be as cheap or cheaper than current average electricity rates in 47 states by 2016.4 New automobile standards are cutting carbon pollution from new cars in half by 2025.5
So where’s the economic disaster? Because the naysayers have been naysaying for years that we’ll kill our economy if we foolishly take steps to reign in climate change.
Yet we are. And economic harm is nowhere in sight. Instead, the unemployment rate just fell to 5.8%6 and we’re adding over 200,000 jobs per month.7 Corporate profits set a record in 2013,8 and the dollar is up 11% against the Euro in just the last six months alone.9 The fearsome deficit is at its lowest level since 2008,10 the annual inflation rate is a piddly 1.4%,11 and both the Dow Jones and the S&P Index hit record highs the day I wrote this.12
Obviously, economic cause and effect calculations are more complicated than this, but the point remains: Despite the resistance, we’re transitioning to a carbon-free economy anyway, and it hasn’t hurt. That’s no surprise. The Union of Concerned Scientists says using renewables for just 25% of our energy needs would yield $288 billion in economic benefits and create three times more jobs than producing an equivalent amount of power from fossil fuels.13
On other words, there are no real problems created by switching to clean energy. But we’ll have plenty if we don’t. We must fix this thing called climate change, and we can prosper doing it. The next time somebody tries to tell you differently, tell them to save their hot air for a planet that needs it.
About the Inkslinger
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds.
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!