In a sense, our climate radar has been pointing in the wrong direction—at coal, cars, and carbon. Of course, these are crucial causes, and they are being addressed brilliantly by many. However, the radar needs to point the other way too, to the true cause, which is what we believe and how we treat one another.—Paul Hawken
Our Climate Crisis
The big climate news this month has been the release of the U.N. Climate Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The picture it paints is not encouraging. Written by 270 researchers from 67 countries, the report warns that any further delay in global action to slow climate change and adapt to its impacts “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
Climate reporter Raymond Zhong contrasts this with the previous IPCC report in 2014, which said that global warming was having a “relatively small” effect on human health compared with other stressors. It also said that there was “limited evidence” that nations needed more money to cope with its dangers. The new report tells a dramatically different story.
It finds that “climate change is not only adding to ecological threats such as wildfires, heat waves and rising sea levels, it is also displacing people from their homes and jeopardizing food and water supplies. It is harming people’s physical and mental health, with increasing incidence of food and waterborne illness, respiratory distress from wildfire smoke and trauma from natural disasters.” Furthermore, finding necessary funding for dealing with all this has widened significantly.
The report is “an atlas on human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” according to António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general. “With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.” Some takeaways can serve as a roadmap of what needs to be done to mitigate the worst effects of global warming:
· The widespread adverse impacts of global warming have disproportionately affected the most vulnerable humans and ecosystems, pushing them beyond their ability to adapt.
· Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in highly vulnerable regions.
· If global warming reaches 1.5°C (it is presently at 1.1°C) it will cause multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. Actions that will limit warming to 1.5°C, however, would substantially reduce those damages compared to even higher degrees of warming,
· Near term actions to mitigate global warming will significantly reduce losses and damages accrued by 2040 and beyond.
· Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage.
· If global warming exceeds 1.5°C in the coming decades, many human and environmental systems will face additional severe risks, some of which will be irreversible even of global warming is later reduced.
Politics and Policy
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is pressuring FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to reverse the 4th Circuit Court decision blocking the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He says that the 4th Circuit has been unmerciful on allowing any progress and that the case can be moved to the D.C. Circuit Court. He argues, “Energy independence is our greatest geopolitical and economic tool and we cannot lose sight of that as instability rises around the globe.”
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sen. Manchin wants to use natural gas from West Virginia to achieve U. S. energy independence and to help European countries. He is now calling on President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act if necessary to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline following the ban on oil imports from Russia.
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing strict new limits on pollution from buses, delivery vans, tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks. It would require heavy-duty trucks to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide—which is linked to lung cancer, heart disease and premature death—by 90 percent by 2031. It would also slightly tighten truck emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is driving climate change.
Dominion Energy is building a $500 million ship to build wind turbines up and down the Atlantic Coast, beginning in 2023. Depending on the approval of state-regulators, it will also be used to build Dominion Energy’s own 2,640-megawatt wind turbine farm off the coast of Virginia. Scheduled to go online in 2026, it will power the equivalent of 660,000 homes.
Six energy companies bid a total of $4.27 billion in an auction for leases to develop offshore wind in federal waters off the coast of New York and New Jersey. This is huge! To help put it in perspective, it is 10 times more than what was paid for any previous off-shore wind lease. It is also much more than the record for winning bids of $191.7 million for oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021. A federal judge revoked those Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases because the federal government had not adequately factored in the impact they would have on climate change.
Liz Carlisle, an assistant professor in the Environmental Studies Program at UC Santa Barbara, where she teaches courses on food and farming, has recently written the book Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming. She writes that young farmers and scientists of color are “reviving ancestral regenerative farming traditions in a self-conscious effort to respond to climate change and racial injustice in tandem.” They understand “regenerative agriculture not as a menu of discrete, isolated practices from which one can pick and choose and then tally up into a sustainability score. Rather, they see regenerative agriculture as their ancestors had—as a way of life.”
The practice of redlining, where loan banks and loan agencies deemed minority urban neighborhoods too risky to invest in, still has adverse environmental effects even though it was banned 50 years ago. The practice made it difficult for people of color to get home mortgages. Furthermore, local zoning officials worked with businesses to place polluting operations such as industrial plants, major roadways. and shipping ports in or near these neighborhoods. A recent study finds that, as a result, 45 million people in these neighborhoods are still breathing dirtier air and face other environmental challenges, including excessive urban heat, sparse tree canopy and few green spaces.
Cheap, fast, and disposable fashions are accelerating the greenhouse emissions of the clothing and textiles industry, which accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined. Lower prices means poorer quality clothes that don’t last as long. Those lower prices have also “resulted from unseen human and environmental costs such as pollution of rivers, poor working conditions, low wages and exploitation of workers in factories.” We can do our part to mitigate this trend by buying second hand, repairing or adjusting existing clothes, and restricting our purchases to fewer items that are durable and will last.
Cities that are serious about meeting their carbon reduction goals will want to make their streets more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Melinda Hanson, co-founder of micromobility firm Electric Avenue, says that “upward of 50% of all car trips in the U.S. are relatively short and are taken by a single person.” Examples from all across the world demonstrate that building pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is not that expensive, and it works.
London has taken a more aggressive approach to reducing carbon emissions within its city limits. Beginning next year, anyone who wants to drive a more-polluting older vehicle manufactured before 2014 will have to pay a 12.50 pound ($16.70) daily charge to do it.
CAAV Steering Committee