OP-ED: Climate change is upon us

 web8 20 21Alasdair ClimateChangeIsUponUs

By Alasdair Coyne

Climate change will worsen over the next 20 years, even if we start now to do all that we can to stall it, according to the Aug. 9 climate report from the United Nations.

The only way that an appropriate response will be developed is for the wealthy nations (at least) to get on a wartime footing. Think World War II — each nation focused on addressing climate change as their top priority, with unprecedented concentrations of workers and scientists and funding allocated to that goal, with our progress on climate mitigation being the most important topic in all the news. The science says that the United States must shrink its carbon footprint by 90%.

As violent weather and fires and droughts worsen continuously, populations are going to demand ever greater climate action from their leaders — even though we have already committed the planet to at least 30 years of worsening climate instability.

Society must transition to a conservation mode. Having a modern middle-class American lifestyle, but powered by the wind, the sun and the tides, is not going to do it.

Most of us cycle way too much stuff through our houses all the time, so much that the rental of storage units remains an ongoing boom business.

The planet cannot sustain large populations that consume and fly too much. (So please vacation closer to home.)

The constant thrust of business and politics for always more growth in the economy as an indication of its health will need to be shifted to a new focus on sustainable steady-state economics. Where is the growing phalanx of politicians who are ready to move us forward?

António Guterres, U.N. secretary general, stated, “This report must sound the death knell for coal and fossil fuels.”

To quote Helen Clarkson, CEO of the Climate Group, representing many hundreds of municipal governments and multinationals — around 50% of the global economy:

“Every decision, every investment, every target needs to have the climate at its core.” Time is up for business as usual.

A few Republican legislators in D.C. are distancing themselves from climate denial. But they insist that one must not hurt the economy, by which they specifically mean the fossilfuel industry, that being the same industry that has, for decades, funded and lobbied against mandatory reductions in the use of the fossil fuels that they pump out of the ground — the same industry whose purposeful actions over recent decades have greatly exacerbated a situation threatening the life-support mechanisms of an entire planet, just to maintain short-term power and profit.

“Not hurting” fossil-fuel producers is not going to get us anywhere useful. Further delay in climate-change mitigation is only going to be even more disruptive to the global economy very soon, and will require still greater resources to address. The costs of climate change grow by the minute.

We have to do so many things, all at the same time — de-carbonizing, stopping methane leaks, reforesting, protecting biodiversity, building a sustainable agriculture, breeding fewer cattle, as well as more recycling, and dealing with plastic and other pollution. We have 30 years.

When you factor in all of the growing social justice and equality movements gathering force today, the totality of change ahead of us begins to look like a revolution — and an evolution — in how we relate to one another and the planet.

From that perspective, it is a very exciting time to be alive. Although I shall not live to see the diminishing of the dire effects of climate change, my children might. I envy them (a little bit) for likely being around to witness, and partake in, the later decades of the 21st century.

Waste not, want not — forever. All life is precious.

— Alasdair Coyne of Upper Ojai is head of Keep Sespe Wild.


Not a subscriber?  choose your subscription plan.