OP-ED by Alasdair Coyne: '1,000 days — climate crisis on the line'

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Ojai Valley News photo by Kimberly Rivers

Alasdair Coyne

By Alasdair Coyne   

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of climate scientists, has just released its Sixth Assessment Report, covering what can and must be done to eradicate the burning of the fossil fuels that is causing our beautiful planet to overheat, threatening its previously stable habitability.

    There is still an enormous gap between what governments have already pledged to do and what needs to be done. To stay on track, global heating gases must be reduced by a massive 43% over the next three years. Just think about that for a minute. That’s a deadline of just over 1,000 days. 

Currently, climate-heating emissions are still rising to new record levels, though more slowly than before. First, we must stop that increase, and then reduce that level by nearly half, everywhere, in that 1,000 days.

   Did you hear that in late March, the high temperature in parts of eastern Antarctica registered an astonishing 90 degrees above normal, while above the Arctic Circle a high of 104 degrees was recorded in mid-winter, last December?

   The needed green-energy technologies are there, and they are getting cheaper all the time. In little more than a decade. Both solar and lithium-ion batteries have dropped in price by 85%, wind power by 55%.

   Even California, standing out as a world leader in climate mitigations, must ramp up its decline in global-heating gas emissions from the current 4.5 million metric tons a year to 16.7 million metric tons.

    It is beyond time to be talking about this crisis every day. We generally go about our days thinking about everything but the climate crisis. We are consumed with news about Russia invading Ukraine (as we should be), and about numerous other matters — our favorite sports, the newest delights from Hollywood, what to do next weekend, and the thousands of other thoughts that come to mind.

    How much time do you give each day to considering what needs to be done to keep our planet habitable for your children, and for future generations of all species? Global heating is worsening whether you are thinking about it or not. But we are much better off if we are at least thinking about it. 

   If, as a civilization, we fail to measure up to the climate crisis in these thousand days, rising ocean levels will start to swallow up cities and farmlands across the planet; weather extremes will continue to worsen and devastate; water and food supplies and biodiversity will diminish; and so much more — just because we failed to quit using one of many possible energy sources.

    All the green technology we need is available, but as a species we are still hypnotized by the supposed delights of our unsustainable consumer society, such as flying halfway around the Earth to vacation on a beach. We almost seem to be living in an end-times sci-fi movie. One entire brand of our politicians continues to claim there is no need to stop burning fossil fuels.

    And, yes, for much of this climate crisis, the lobbying power exercised by the fossil-fuel industry is entirely responsible. Money pouring into their coffers beats maintaining a habitable planet. This is truly insane. Were you aware that fossil-fuel representatives have been an integral part of writing and editing the recent IPCC climate report, as with all the previous ones? They’ve kept direct criticism of their industry’s practices out of the IPCC’s studies.

     So now for some better news. Here in the United States, Sen. Joe Manchin recently returned to the bargaining table — of his own volition — to negotiate support for important parts of President Biden’s Build Back Better proposal. No details are available, but the passage this year of that proposal’s climate measures could make all the difference in bringing our nation closer to the needed climate-crisis response.

     You may be familiar with Amory Lovins, a decades-long champion of greater efficiency in our use of energy. His house, at 7,200-feet in elevation in Colorado, uses zero energy, and he is now enjoying his 79th crop of greenhouse bananas there. He estimates that efficiency could save between 65 and 75% of all the energy used by the industrialized nations.

    Germany, Sweden and Denmark, Lovins says, are leading the way for energy-efficient buildings, and Japan is doing so for industry. He references the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (Aceee), which says intelligent efficiency, smart buildings and smart manufacturing are all coming through. “For speed of improvement, though not absolute level since they started so low, China is the undisputed champion.”

    Heat pumps are the obvious future for air-conditioning and heating purposes. They do not burn any kind of energy to generate heat, rather they keep your house temperature where you need it by simply pumping existing heat indoors in  the winter and outdoors in  the summer.

    One Dutch company makes lightweight insulated panels that can be popped onto the front of existing row houses. The company uses a laser scanning tool to take measurements at the house; then, at the factory, a machine cuts out windows and doors to match the old facade exactly. When a truck delivers the panels, they’re attached directly to the old wall. 

   The company also makes insulated panels, with solar panels attached, that can be put over an existing roof. The retrofits are faster than traditional retrofits, in some cases happening in as little as a day, providing further energy and labor savings.

    California is already using this model as it retrofits 50% of our commercial buildings to zero net energy by 2030.

    There is so much that can and must be done. Keep demanding more from our politicians.

Make sure no new fossil-fuel infrastructure is built. Join with others and raise your voices to help us all move forward — we really are all in this together. We are all stewards of Mother Earth. Time is short.

— Alasdair Coyne of Upper Ojai is conservation director of Keep Sespe Wild Committee.


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