Quantcast

America's Zero Emissions Imperative

Last fall, we wrote an article explaining why zero has become the most important number for humanity. Since that time, zero emissions has been embraced as an idea that's time has come by nearly 120 countries, leading European companies, high-profile CEOs, two Pontifical Academies, climate visionaries like Al Gore, mainstream media outlets and, if you can believe it, even the leaders of the G7. We now address the critical issue of timelines.

Currently, the two target dates most commonly cited for achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions are 2050 and 2100. Given the extreme weather weirding we are witnessing at current levels of pollution, we shudder to think what 35 years—let alone 85 years—of continued emissions will bring. Everyone can see that the climate is already on steroids and wreaking havoc.

The urgency of our planetary emergency requires that we transition from fossil fuels to renewables not in decades, but in years. We must move beyond what conventional wisdom views as politically feasible to what this existential crisis truly demands: an all hands on deck societal mobilization at wartime speed.

The time for timid visions and baby steps is over. The time for our generational mission is at hand. Zero emissions: because the first step to making things better is to stop making things worse. Photo credit: Shutterstock

To be clear, we are not suggesting ending the use of fossil fuels tomorrow. Decarbonizing our industries, homes, transportation, power generation and food production will take time, probably longer than 2020. Let's hope it doesn't take us until 2030. But we must make this transition as quickly as humanly possible.

In 2011, an unprecedented coalition of planetary protection leaders called on the presidents of the U.S. and China to declare a global climate emergency by launching a wartime-like mobilization to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. Because that urgent call was not heeded, we have lost precious time in the race to save civilization, and must now set our sights even higher.

To this end, we join with our allies at The Climate Mobilization in calling on Congress and the White House to revitalize our economy and put America back to work by declaring a U.S. goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.


Some will no doubt call this bold national goal unrealistic, but they would underestimate the innovative genius and social conscience of the American people. America has a long and proud history of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds (consider World War II, Apollo program and Abolitionist movement). What is unrealistic is thinking we can put off for decades action that is desperately needed now to ensure our survival as a species.

We will be reminded of the fragility of our existence this summer when the victims of Hurricane Katrina are honored on the 10th anniversary of that savage storm. We will be reminded again this fall when the victims of Hurricane Sandy are commemorated on the third anniversary of that superstorm's lethal landfall.

Five months from today, delegates from more than 190 nations will gather in Paris for the 21st UN Convention on Climate Change (COP21) to negotiate a global climate accord—this after decades of failed international talks have only watched fossil fuel emissions continue to soar. For the sake of all that we love, we cannot allow COP21 to become yet another climate cop-out.

Intergenerational justice demands that the centerpiece of the Paris agreement be zero emissions, a goal UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “ambitious but achievable." Five months is ample time for the nations of the world to draft their legally binding zero emissions commitments for Paris.

In his widely anticipated encyclical, timed to influence the Paris talks, Pope Francis writes, “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most." As the nation that historically contributed the most to global climate pollution, and that is in the strongest position to respond, the U.S. has a moral imperative to lead the zero emissions charge at COP21.

The current weak U.S. target of 26-28 percent emissions cuts by 2025 cannot be described as honest, courageous or responsible when what is needed is what the pontiff calls a "cultural revolution" to free ourselves from fossil fuels.

The time for timid visions and baby steps is over. The time for our generational mission is at hand.

Zero emissions: because the first step to making things better is to stop making things worse.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

10 Iconic Places That May Disappear Due to Climate Change

Dalai Lama Endorses Pope Francis's Encyclical on Climate Change

Satellite Data Shows Underground Aquifers Are Running Out of Water

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Strawberries top the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of U.S. produce most contaminated with pesticides. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP / Getty Images

Which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are most contaminated with pesticides? That's the question that the Environmental Working Group answers every year with its "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides after being washed or peeled.

Read More Show Less
A drilling rig in a Wyoming natural gas field. William Campbell / Corbis via Getty Images

A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked oil and gas drilling on 300,000 acres of federal leases in Wyoming Tuesday, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) "did not sufficiently consider climate change" when auctioning off the land, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less