Sometimes it is hard to comprehend the path forward.
The new U.N. International Panel on Climate Change report released in early April is dire. We are not going to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius target. That will mean, in the best case, there will be more heat waves, more horrendous fires, droughts and flooding and therefore more food shortages, climate migration and species loss.
But the good news, if there is such a thing under these circumstances, is we might be able to keep warming below 2.0 Celsius. That is a pretty big “if,” however. As Damian Carrington, the environment editor for the Guardian recently reported, the first in-depth analysis of the net-zero pledges made by 153 nations at Cop26 could keep warming to 1.9 Celsius, but only if those pledges are met. The pledges need to be followed by policy and financial and technological support. The peer-reviewed analysis was published in the journal Nature.
As Christopher McGlade of the International Energy Agency said, “This is the first time that governments have come forward with specific targets that can hold global warming to below the symbolic 2 Celsius level.” And he added, “But now the real work has to start. The pledges have not yet been backed up by strong and credible near-term policies needed to make them a reality.” If the pledges are not met, warming will be at 2.6 Celsius or higher and life as we know it will be increasingly unsustainable. If we delay further our only hope for a livable future will be massive CO2 sucking technologies that do not yet exist in any scalable form and very “ify” geo-engineering schemes that could well make things worse.
These pledges imply global cooperation, mutual support and a degree of integrity that is not yet evident. Russia’s war in Ukraine is reshaping the geo-political climate and increasing reliance on fossil fuels. It may also be a new wake-up call.
If we start local, there is a lot we can do. Get an energy audit on your home. Make your next car electric or a hybrid. Reduce, recycle and reuse. Use the power of the purse by supporting companies that are working toward sustainable values. Get involved in community efforts. Help elect good leaders who care about the quality of our future.
There is a lot of good happening. We are not in limbo. There is movement. There is still time to act, but we must not delay. I am hopeful we will act in time. The new fuel standards will help, as will proposed new SEC climate disclosures. We need to electrify everything – in our homes, businesses, infrastructure and governments. A reckoning is coming one way or the other. The good news is that we can still do it. That means we must halve our emissions by 2030. Can we implement the pledges that will get us there?
As LA Times writer Nicholas Goldberg said in the Albuquerque Journal on April 14, “We have wrung our hands but changed our behaviors only in incremental ways. We consistently fail to meet the challenge. We need to stop kidding ourselves.” He added, “only sweeping, transformational change in the way we live and work can avert disaster. Only plunging massive amounts of money into the problem and adopting broad behavioral changes can protect us. We are running out of time and alternatives.”
People are looking to New Mexico as an example of how this might be done. We have demonstrated strong, consistent support for renewables and climate policies, and we are also now the country’s second-largest oil supplier. We need those revenues, and we need to transition. I am hopeful our Legislature will follow through on the policies our governor has proposed to get us to net zero, build a diverse economy, and help our oil and gas industry transition. We know methane regulation is critical, but hydrogen may also be part of that transition. We need to be open-minded and work together. More massive fires are only a part of what we will face if we fail to act.
The Ukrainian people have shown the world the resolve and courage it takes to try to save a country. We all need to show the same degree of courage and resolve if we hope to maintain a livable planet.
Judith Polich is a New Mexico resident and a climate change columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.