Pam's Points: Climate change needs an army now

Pam's Points: Climate change needs an army now

December 10th, 2018 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

News happens fast these days. That's true whether its about Trump, Mueller, Russia and China; or whether it's about climate change and the GOP's insatiable lust for fossil fuel favors.

But with climate, the whole world is running out of time.

After several years of global greenhouse-gas emissions plateauing, that particular type of pollution spiked to record levels this year, scientists revealed Wednesday. This is true in the U.S., as well as in major developing nations.

The report seems to shatter the hopes of many that market forces — think TVA's plan to build the largest solar installations ever constructed in Tennessee and Alabama to power Facebook's new Huntsville data center with 100 percent renewable energy — would save the world.

Instead, market forces in the form of oil companies are eagerly lining up to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — all in anticipation of the Trump administration's fast-tracked effort to clear the way for fossil fuel exploration there and in the Beaufort Sea.

It would seem to be just one in a series of David and Goliath stories: TVA's two solar farms that would total a 377-megawatt output for one business that employs 100 people vs. the oil industry's rush to secure leases near and in the National Petroleum Reserve — despite a glut in domestic oil production.

The world is off target

"We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change," United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016, greenhouse gas emissions leveled off, but in 2017, the world's emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent.

This year's anticipated increase will bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, driven by a nearly 5 percent growth of emissions in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while those of the European Union declined by just under 1 percent.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, hoping no one would notice, the Trump administration released a nearly 1,700-page report co-written by hundreds of scientists finding that climate change already is causing growing damage to the United States.

Two months ago, in October, a top U.N.-backed scientific panel found that nations have about a dozen years to take "unprecedented" actions and cut their emissions in half by 2030 to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

Despite these consistent warnings, many countries are not on pace to meet their relatively modest Paris Climate Pact pledges.

Is our government concerned? Not it's ruling party, anyway.

Just Friday, the Trump administration rolled back yet another environmental regulation — one that would regulate coal-fired power plants, the biggest contributor to our sad climate change story.

Trump continues to insist that the U.S. will completely pull out of the Paris agreement in 2020.

Other countries are seeing our abandonment of the goal and are following suit. Even Brazil, which has struggled to rein in deforestation, in the fall elected Jair Bolsonaro, a president-elect who has pledged to roll back protections for the Amazon.

Where's the cavalry?

Enter Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who says Democrats will only support Trump's suggested infrastructure deal if it includes measures to combat climate change.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post and in a letter to Trump, Schumer said Democrats "will have an extraordinary opportunity to force action on climate change" after taking control of the House of Representatives in the recent midterm elections.

Infrastructure is probably Trump's only hope of bipartisan legislation now. The president is said to be planning a $1 billion package to upgrade roads, bridges and railways.

For that to happen, Schumer says, legislation must include money and policy changes to promote renewable energy and harden American infrastructure against the future storms of climate change damage.

Be part of the effort. It will take all of us — us little people, too — doing all that we can do.

Scientists say that in little more than a decade the world's percentage of electricity from renewables such as solar and wind power would have to jump from the current 24 percent to 50 or 60 percent.

Remaining coal and gas plants would need to add carbon capture and storage technologies that would funnel carbon dioxide underground rather than into the air.

Our cars, trucks, trains and the like would need to be electric, powered by renewable sources.

Support our lawmakers who push for common-sense climate change adaptations.

But just as importantly think about your own energy use as you shop for Christmas, for cars, for appliances, for home improvements.

Be the cavalry: Save our world.

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