More Climate Warnings
Terry H. Schwadron
April 7, 2022
Another United Nations climate panel this week urged drastic, if familiar, worldwide actions to avoid the most catastrophic results of climate change.
But the prospects of seeing practical implementation of these six general recommendations from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the scale needed is unlikely at best. This third and final installment on a periodic look at climate was optimistic in tone, outlining solutions, but warning that global politics are in the way, CNN reported.
The UN panel finds that solar and renewable energies are more affordable than ever, for example, that there are changes afoot in car and truck manufacture towards electric vehicles, that our food-producing processes can be addressed and that building and development is under our control for a more sustainable world.
The point of the report, however, is that we’re at that balancing point right now.
What this report doesn’t deal with is the reality of a world that finds it must increase oil drilling and incent other energy production immediately to forestall effects of a war in Europe, or that continued resistance towards massive changes in China, India, Russia, Europe and the United States are causing climate thinking to lag economics seen as more pressing.
It all echoes well-trod arguments.
Yes, we can do more to switch to renewable energies, even within the next year or four years to make a dent in keeping emissions down and limiting global warming. There have been advancements in energy technology, the prices of solar and wind energy have fallen markedly, and there are government policies that either incent alternatives or seek to limit carbon consumption.
But it is scale, timing and will power that will govern what happens, not generalized reports like these. Divided U.S. politics show that even a single senator, perhaps even one motivated by personal investments in coal and oil, can kill a bill to advance climate causes.
Indeed, it is the auto industry itself, oil companies that are diversifying into solar and wind and local governments and private citizens that are leading in climate policy. How people fly and transport goods accounts for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions around the world
By contrast, consider our public response to rising gas prices that reflect covid effects on supply lines and the war more than general economic conditions, even apart from any wrongly perceived anti-oil bias of the Biden administration.
Recommendations to make buildings more energy efficient can affect perhaps 20 percent of greenhouse gases, but changes are expensive, localized and not a priority for any infrastructure package moving through our Congress. In any case, these are changes that take a lot of time. The idea of turning our cities greener by creating green spaces while we are rapidly destroying the Amazon suggests that we need to deal more with clear thinking than clean air.
Recommendations for returning carbon to the land with better land-management techniques is an idealized goal that does not seem to recognize what it will take to change agriculture and livestock production or people’s eating habits and markets.
Running into Reality
Repeatedly, we’re reading about the science and mathematics of carbon removal or limit that simply doesn’t seem to mesh with the energy-gobbling habits of an increasingly digital world. Even if we switch to electric cars, the energy needs of a growing addiction to cryptocurrencies makes energy production a constantly tenuous proposition.
The report presents as a truism that maintain forests and undisturbed wetlands will produce as much climate benefit as 2 million windmills. But the likelihood of restraint in our desires for more oil, more natural gas, cheaper prices and the rest make the practical goals here slim, especially on a global basis.
Likewise, the rise of nationalism and tribalism makes the prospects of richer countries coming to the developmental aid of smaller climate nations seem unlikely as well. Instead, we will face demands of climate migration from those forced from their home nations by famine and drought.
America First, the repeated MAGA slogan, appears in various forms around the world. Free translation is worry about me right now, not you, whether we are discussing covid, security issues, immigration or dangers from global temperatures.
Perhaps it is time for us to start focusing on what we will need to do as global temperatures pass the 1.5 degree-Celsius threshold that scientists have warned of and surpass 3 degrees by the end of the century.