15 November 2023 –
Five ways we can empower ourselves and tackle the climate crisis – effectively
Yes, it’s real: that cold mass in the pit of your stomach when you realize we might not make it. The climate crisis could end it for you, your family, all of humanity, oh, and life as we know it.
Yet, as they say in the movies, it doesn’t have to end this way. Yes, the earth, and all we hold dear, is threatened. But we know how to get through this.
How can we address the Climate Crisis effectively and with some optimism, rather than falling into despair? Here’s what I do.
Recognise the real problem – and the solution
“Life on planet Earth is under siege. We are now in an uncharted territory,” William Ripple, Johan Rockstrom and other top climate scientists reported recently. “Unfortunately, time is up. We are seeing the manifestation of… predictions as an alarming and unprecedented succession of climate records are broken, causing profoundly distressing scenes of suffering to unfold.”
But don’t doom-scroll through the science, let alone the apocalyptic projections of surrender advocates like Dark Mountain; don’t drink yourself insensate, or pay hundreds of dollars to rave out at a concert to forget. Join the millions of us who are acting.
Saudi Arabia makes a billion dollars a day on every day they delay climate action. So let’s think about what we know, and what we can do about it.
Yes, we ARE in a climate emergency. But you are not the reason. Stop blaming yourself. One hundred entities are responsible for 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Saudi Arabia makes a billion dollars a day on every day they delay climate action. So let’s think about what we know, and what we can do about it.
Join the Majority
The vast majority of people on Earth want to address climate change. Surveys show that about three-quarters of people in advanced economies – especially young people – believe that the climate crisis is real and that it will harm them personally. More than 80% are willing to change their lives to do something about it.
So why hasn’t it happened? Most people don’t believe that actions taken by the international community will reduce the effects of global warming. Many also believe – incorrectly – that others don’t share their concerns, and so are far less likely to act.
“Social norms (what we believe others are doing and thinking) are important and powerful determinants of behavior,” a recent Nature study reported, “To create serious movement on climate change, we must dispel the myth of indifference.”
See the good news
So, sit back, relax and hear what companies and communities are actually doing.
We need two major changes to end the climate crisis: eliminate emissions from fossil energy use, and remove the excess carbon in the atmosphere using regenerative agriculture. Both are happening — more slowly than we’d like — but also faster than anyone thought possible.
Yes, that’s less than 12% of the $7.2 trillion in annual global fossil fuels subsidies. But it’s progress. In fact, wind and solar have started to produce more energy in the EU than all fossil fuels combined, with coal, nuclear and even gas declining. Global fossil fuel emissions could peak by 2025, and might already have crested, according to Rystad Energy, a Norwegian research firm.
Wind and solar have started to produce more energy in the EU than all fossil fuels combined, with coal, nuclear and even gas declining.
“Europe’s electricity transition has hit hyperdrive,” Sarah Brown, of the clean energy think tank Ember, told Euronews. “The EU is on track for a huge collapse in fossil power.”
The transition will not be cheap, but it absolutely will be cheaper than not doing it. Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University calculated that switching the world to renewable energy will cost $62 trillion. But, he argued, the payback would take just six years.
Jacobson showed that 145 of the world’s nations could switch to 100% renewable energy in a few years using technologies available today. Our goal should be to have 80% operating on renewable energy by 2030. His new book, No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air, details how we can get this done. And we – as individuals, businesses and communities – can help in multiple ways to speed this transition.
You’re not alone
We Mean Business, a coalition of 131 large companies representing $1 trillion in revenues, and even including some former fossil companies, is urging national governments to phase out fossil fuels and make our power systems 100% renewable in advanced countries by 2035, and in developing nations by 2040.
China has been moving even more aggressively. Setting a target of 1,200 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale wind and solar capacity by 2030, China will double its current renewable energy capacity five years ahead of plan, while cutting back on coal. (A gigawatt is roughly the output of a nuclear power plant.)
Yes, despite resistance from utilities and fossil fuel companies and the politicians they fund, despite supply chain constraints, permitting delays, disinformation, inflation and higher interest rates, renewables now cost less to generate power – and they create more jobs and economic growth.
And renewables costs continue to fall rapidly. A Credit Suisse report in early 2023 argued that because of the recent US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the cost of solar and wind power will drop below one cent per kilowatt hour by 2025. As Tony Seba of Stanford has written, such low-cost and easily accessed power will have transformative effects on the global economy.
Government policy is accelerating the transition. The U.S. IRA has already helped drive nearly $110 billion in private investment in clean energy, including 51 new or expanded solar panel plants, 91 new battery factories, and about 170,000 clean energy jobs. The IRA also drove 2022’s 54% investment increase in electric vehicles and associated infrastructure.
Percentages of the more than $106 billion in new clean energy investment since the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was passed. Source: E2 Clean Energy Works.
In fact, E2 (Environmental Engineers) forecasts that the 210 biggest clean energy projects announced since the IRA passed will ultimately create more than 400,000 new jobs in the 5-year construction phase – including nearly 100,000 permanent jobs – adding $156 billion to U.S. GDP, $111 billion in new wages, and more than $32 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that 14% of all new cars sold were electric in 2022, up from around 9% in 2021 and less than 5% in 2020. The IEA predicted 14 million EV sales in 2023 – a 35% increase over 2021.
The trend is obvious: EVs are making the combustion engine obsolete in the 21st Century, just as the combustion engine made the horse obsolete in the 20th Century.
This is good news for new car buyers. Electric vehicles offer superior performance and cost nearly $1,000 a year less to operate and maintain than fossil fuel autos.
EVs are making the combustion engine obsolete in the 21st Century, just as the combustion engine made the horse obsolete in the 20th Century.
And the momentum is building: Nissan announced that all new models launched in Europe will be electric and that all its vehicles in Europe will be EVs by 2030. Porsche just announced that its solid-state battery will get 800 miles. And major automakers have agreed to standardize charging technology.
A major reason the inevitable transition to renewables is not moving faster is that $7.2 Trillion that we – you, me, and the rest of the world’s taxpayers – pay our governments to subsidise fossil fuels with tax dollars. That’s $13 million dollars a minute. Crazy, right? Finally, some folks are waking up. As I write, the EU and the UK have called for ending all fossil subsidies.
Regenerative agriculture is the other half of the climate solution. See last spring’s Regenerative Agriculture: The Business That Could Offset All Human Emissions, which describes the rapid progress here.
What can you do? The best way to combat feelings of powerlessness and despair is to act.
Five steps to empowerment
Face reality, as Erasmus advised us back in the 16th Century. Yes, the climate crisis could end human life on Earth. We are already ending life for thousands of species in the “sixth great extinction.” And it’s only one of many crises we face. But, per above, we’re well underway to the solutions…
Much will be lost. But if we act now, much can be saved – and even made better. But progress won’t be steady, or even. So we need to “bend, not break.”
Have courage, as Victor Hugo counseled. Be brave. Much will be lost. But if we act now, much can be saved – and even made better. But progress won’t be steady, or even. So we need to “bend, not break.” Learn the wisdom of the grasses. The earth has regenerative capacities far beyond our imagination. Learn them, and become a regenerative force.
Care for you – and your people – so that together, you can help care for all. This is the firefighters creed: if you go down, you are no use to anyone, and you require others to take care of you. Find the rhythm that works for you, food that nourishes you, and the connections you need to stay strong and flexible. And then make sure to share those with others.
Find your voice. You have a unique view on the challenges facing us and others need to hear it. Learn to tell stories instead of reciting facts and figures. Humans have always learned through stories. Learn to share why this matters to you. Speak your mind. Speak your truth – with courage and conviction.
Find your power. What you do inspires those around you. One empowered person empowers others. Every day, ask yourself, what is my DOT: Do One Thing. Will recycling save the planet? No. but your commitment to be a force of change will inspire others. But what can I do? I’m just one person … said eight billion people.
Originally published in Climate and Capital Media.