Climate Change Milestone Demands Shift to Renewable Energy
The need to shift to sustainable and clean energy sources will be reinforced when the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history in the next few days.
Scientists from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii are set to announce that levels of atmospheric CO2 are reaching 400ppm now, marking a critical point on the pathway to dangerous levels of global warming.
The imperative to drive down these emissions has never been stronger, says Samantha Smith, World Wildlife Fund leader of the Global Climate & Energy Initiative.
“The laws of physics tell us that the more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the warmer the world will get. The last time the Earth’s atmosphere had as much CO2 as it has today, the world was 3-4 degrees Celsius warmer. And the last time the world was that warm, sea levels were five to 40 meters higher than they are now,” says Smith.
According to scientists, there’s no doubt that human beings are responsible for rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, with most of global climate pollution coming from the energy sector, especially burning fossil fuels. If CO2 levels continue to rise, we can expect to see record high temperatures become the new summer average; record droughts become the norm; and record storms and floods become frequent events.
“Globally, communities and governments already struggle to respond to droughts, crop failures and extreme weather events, even in rich countries such as the U.S. If CO2 levels keep rising, efforts to adapt to a changing climate are very unlikely to do the job,” says Smith.
But this trajectory can change if the right choices are made.
“With a fast global shift to renewable energy and supported by strong energy efficiency measures, we can drastically reduce CO2 emissions which eventually will also stabilize and reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations,” says Smith.
Costs of renewable electricity have dropped radically, and in 2011 investments in renewables outstripped investments in fossil fuel power for the first time. Renewable energy can become “the new normal.” But it requires commitments from governments if it is to happen quickly enough and at scale, she says.
The Mauna Loa Observatory is operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for ocean and Earth science research, education and public service in the world.
The observatory in Hawaii is sited 3,400m above sea level and far from any major pollution sources in the Pacific Ocean and therefore its data on CO2 is considered to be the “gold standard” of data.
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Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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