First, it was “global warming”, then “climate change”, “global heating”, “climate crisis”. Now Vox proclaims that “Back to normal” puts us back on the path to climate catastrophe. The constant ratcheting up of the terminology makes the media look like fear merchants. What do they have to say?
More than a year after Covid-19 abruptly changed everyone’s routines, the United States is itching to return to “normal,” and some parts of the economy are approaching business as usual. But for the climate, “back to normal” means pollution is rebounding and, worryingly, climate change is accelerating.
Talk about a glass is half empty point of view. People aren’t dying so much, but man they sure are driving to work more!
“We ultimately need cuts that are much larger and sustained longer than the Covid-related shutdowns of 2020,” said Ralph Keeling, a geochemist who measures carbon pollution at Mauna Loa.
Government shutdowns wrecked havoc on the economy and put countless companies out of business. As mortgage and rent protections decrease, lord knows how many will be thrown out on the street. Ralph Keeling can take his much larger and sustained shutdowns and shove them.
While emissions dropped last year, carbon and methane concentrations in the atmosphere just reached their highest-known level in millions of years. The atmospheric concentration of carbon rose to 419 parts per million in June 2021, based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association measurements that have been taken in Hawaii since 1958. This is a level probably not seen since around 4 million years ago — when sea levels were 78 feet higher than they are today.
78 feet is pure scaremongering. According to the NOAA, in 2012, at the request of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, NOAA scientists conducted a review of the research on global sea level rise projections. Their experts concluded that even with lowest possible greenhouse gas emission pathways, global mean sea level would rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meters) above 1992 levels by 2100. With high rates of emissions, sea level rise would be much higher, but was unlikely to exceed 6.6 feet higher than 1992 levels.
Pieter Tans, a climate scientist with NOAA said “If we managed to keep emissions constant, that’s not enough. Then CO2 would continue to go up at the same rate that we’ve seen in the last decade. Emissions really have to go to zero to stop this problem.”
And this would be genocidal, a true case of the cure being far worse than the problem. When so called climate scientists make black and white statements like this, they discredit themselves.
In 2020, renewable energy overtook coal consumption in the United States, and electric vehicle purchases soared 43 percent over their 2019 level. But fossil fuels still reign in transportation and the power sector, the world’s two biggest pollution sources.
Renewable energy is still unreliable, though mass storage systems can help. All coal and natural gas fired electricity could easily be replaced with clean nuclear power if carbon dioxide emissions were really about to lead to a catastrophe. Electric vehicles are still unaffordable and face the twin issues of limited range and limited commercial charging stations. Affordability is key, but it is waiting on economies of scale. Mass adoption is therefore currently a hen and egg problem.
Some measurements compiled from GPS data show car traffic surging even past its 2019 levels… Of course, these are signs of a rebounding economy. But when fossil fuels still run the underlying fundamentals of the economy, we’re gambling dangerously with climate change.
The immediate suffering that will be caused if the economy doesn’t recover makes any gamble worth it.
Worse, it’s still possible for pollution to accelerate if the world chooses “business as usual” in its post-pandemic recovery. Last year, climate scientists from the University of East Anglia, Stanford, and other institutions pointed to the possibility that emissions could rebound to levels worse than before if politicians delay climate action for temporary economic gains. The former Trump administration justified environmental rollbacks in part by citing the pandemic’s impact, and now the Wall Street Journal reports that China is limiting the rollout of its national carbon-trading program later in June.
Recovering from the pandemic had better take priority. Otherwise, you will have a very angry populous who will likely throw out the ruling party.
The return to flying, driving, and commuting carves away from a limited global budget of pollution, which represents everything the atmosphere can afford before the 1.5°C [Paris accord] target is reached. A United Nations agency, the World Meteorological Organization, updated its analysis in May and underscored that we’re essentially out of time. It found a fairly good chance — 44 percent — that the Earth will hit 1.5°C of warming in one of the next five years. That’s double the odds from just one year ago.
And yet no country is building new nuclear power plants, a simple, proven way that we could eliminate a massive amount of emitted CO2.
Last year was also one of the hottest on record, at 1.2°C above the pre-industrial average, and parts of the world are warming unevenly and have already surpassed 1.5°C. These variations don’t sound huge, but their real-world impacts can be catastrophic and concentrated in particular regions.
The 1.5°C target is for the increase in global average temperature. It’s expected that the polls will heat more quickly. The real world impact of global warming so far is insignificant next to the effects of Covid-19.
A return to normal doesn’t have to mean climate change careens out of control. It’s a path governments choose if they continue to subsidize fossil fuels and fail to meet the challenge of investing in renewable infrastructure.
While I don’t believe governments should be investing tax money in renewable infrastructure–the government’s job is to govern–I agree completely that we should not be subsidizing fossil fuels.
Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, said “A majority of Americans actually think that taking action to deal with climate change will grow the economy and increase the number of jobs.”
A majority of Americans are completely unqualified in their opinions.
Most Americans don’t think there has to be a zero-sum trade-off between climate change and economic growth. The Biden administration has capitalized on that view, making the case for “building back better” and trying to boost the economy with a climate-focused infrastructure package. But this can’t happen without large-scale political action. The US may savor a returning sense of normalcy — but the whole world need to remember that normal was never good enough.
It’s not a zero sum trade off. Nuclear power can replace coal and natural gas when renewables cannot. Electric vehicles will continue to improve. Once the tipping point of price, range, and ubiquity of infrastructure is reached, they will become a far better choice than internal combustion powered vehicles. The government can help achieve this with careful regulation.
“Building back better” is a slogan of the World Economic Forum, as is the idea that western democracy is not good enough. These elitists would love to keep the populous locked down. By using their slogan, the author of this article shows that she is parroting globalist propaganda. If governments do attempt to impose new lock downs for a “climate pandemic”, I expect that they will be quickly toppled, either by democratic vote or by civil revolt.