Some cheery thoughts about action on climate change
Sometimes, maybe most times, we can be depressed and depressing on environmental issues so it’s only fair to be cheery occasionally
Trump, and other climate destroyers in, for instance, Australia, will be gone, hopefully sooner rather than later. While the US under T-Rex undermines climate change action, China and others proceed with developing the renewable and sustainable technology that will be critical over the rest of this century, and beyond.
As a result, energy technology (e.g., battery storage capacity, smart meters and grids, solar and wind, maybe carbon capture) will continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Regional and local governments and institutions will continue to experiment with transportation and building practices and policies to promote energy efficiencies and renewable sources of energy. Economies of scale and lower prices for renewables are in part the result of states mandating a portion of energy resources to be renewables.
Many multi-national businesses, accustomed to operating in climate-friendly places like the European Union and California, are resigned to accepting carbon regulation and even are embracing the increasingly lower cost renewables. As we pointed out in a recent ieBLOG, big oil is making sounds like climate change progressives. A Statoil n/k/a Equiver report is pushing the view that more renewable energy is urgently needed and that “The climate debate is long on targets, but short on action.” NYTimes (Povoledo). ExxonMobil has for years supported a carbon tax as a necessary and fair method for addressing carbon emissions.
Even in Australia, about half of big businesses are moving toward renewables. As least 22 companies of the Fortune 500 have committed to buying renewable power to meet 100% of their electricity use. While 22 out of 500 is just a start, 100% is an aggressive target from the 22. And such action in turn drives utilities to meet these demands from some of their prime industrial customers. The next step needed is to extend such arrangements to medium and smaller businesses, perhaps by their pooling resources and uses.
A recent study has indicated that the fossil fuel industry is facing increasing financial challenges. One key reason is that it now has a competitor (renewables) that can deliver the same product — energy — with cheaper, cleaner, better technologies. See McKibben.
Of course there are and will be the regressive exceptions, such as the Koch Bros and industrial farming. But like T-Rex, they will also be gone some day while those who adapt to climate cost pressures will survive economically.
Besides enlightened local, regional and national governments, and progressive leaders of the business community, like Michael Bloomberg and many IT companies, and even some fossil fuel companies, we are also seeing religious leaders stepping up their commitment to climate and other environmental challenges.
In his 2015 climate change encyclical, Laudato si: On Care For Our Common Home, Pope Francis called for a transition away from fossil fuels. The Pope is at it again, by recently bringing together at the Vatican representatives of some of the biggest oil companies. At that gathering, Pope Francis reinforced his message from Laudato si making clear that the only debate over climate change was not whether we have to transition away from fossil fuels but how long the transition will be.
Around the same time, the government of Indonesia announced that it had joined forces with the country’s two largest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, to encourage consumers to reduce plastic waste and reuse their plastic bags. Such a collaborative effort is notable as Indonesia is the second largest contributor to plastic waste, after China, and it has committed to cutting its plastic waste by 70% by 2025. And the two Islamic organisations that have committed to help the country meet this target have over 100 million followers. NU has introduced “Ngaji Sampah” or “Sermons in Waste” which are broadcast online and rely on “Islamic principles to promote sustainable consumption and environmental awareness.”
So while there are lots of powerful special interests that are continuing to sabotage any meaningful action on climate change, there are also some progressive voices and commitments that we need to encourage.
Brad Plumer, “ A Year After Trump’s Paris Pullout, U.S. Companies Are Driving a Renewables Boom, The New York Times (1 June 2018). nyti.ms/2Jn0sXG
Ben Smee, “Almost half of Australian big business moving to renewables,” The Guardian (14 May 2018). bit.ly/2IBWLNJ
Kate Lamb, “Preaching against plastic: Indonesia’s religious leaders join fight to cut waste,” The Guardian (7 June 2018).
Elisabeth Povoledo, “Pope Tells Oil Executives to Act on Climate: ‘There Is No Time to Lose’,” The New York Times (9 June 2018). nyti.ms/2kXnruC
Bill McKibben, “Some rare good climate news: the fossil fuel industry is weaker than ever,” The Guardian (21 June 2018). bit.ly/2trDWDd
“The Pope, the Planet and Passion: LAUDATO SI’ and Getting the Tone Right” in the Reports section of irish environment (September 2015). bit.ly/2tyKgtm
“How Big Oil Now Talks about Climate Change: It’s real. It’s happening. It’s dangerous. BUT…” in the ieBLOG section of irish environment (May 2018).