We need an aggressive response to Climate now.
Scientists last year identified a “12-year window” (time marches, and the window is less now) during which we must decarbonize by 50% (reducing fossil fuel use, etc) if we are to still be able to affect Climate in this way at all. The problem is accelerating, though, and if we wait, we will lose this option and wish we had it back. It seems hard and expensive and disruptive now, but what will follow will be much, much worse.
In his book, The Uninhabitable Earth, author David Wallace-Wells describes the problem this way: “If we had started global decarbonization in 2000, when Al Gore narrowly lost election to the American presidency, we would have had to cut emissions by only about 3 percent per year to stay safely under two degrees of warming. If we start today, when global emissions are still growing, the necessary rate is 10 percent. If we delay another decade, it will require us to cut emissions by 30 percent each year.”
No one should be fooled into thinking the actions proposed in the Green New Deal, including Beto’s recent variant, are “radical.” They are anything but. If anything, they may be insufficient. But they are a credible start.
No one should be fooled into thinking more “moderate” approaches offered by so-called “centrist Democrats” are, in fact, moderate. They are moderate like the idea of treating an aggressive cancer in a lazy way is moderate. Moderation in treating Climate is delay. And delay is catastrophe, or worse, just as certainly as not treating at all.
Some have proposed market solutions, like a carbon tax (such as H.R. 763). Nothing wrong with a carbon tax, but it doesn’t address all of complex issues of Climate, and if we adopt one, it’s important to understand that a “greed is good, everything is accounted for now, you can stop caring about climate” theory of the world will not save us. It will need heavy oversight and regulation to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks, and there are elements of climate change like food safety, disaster preparation, disaster recovery, disease control, and other matters that need to be managed as well.
Nuclear power is considered by most serious scientists to be an important aspect. There is risk to nuclear power, but that risk is manageable and long term. Our problem right now is surviving long enough to get to the long term. Modern nuclear is safer than traditional nuclear, and can solve important load problems that presently justify continued use of coal or oil. We should use it only where necessary, and with proper safety regulations, but we need not to rule it out. Climate is a big problem that needs all available tools. Different regions will need different solutions.
There are many things to do. But we must start now. And we mustn’t waste time discussing whether there is a problem and whether a mostly-status-quo approach will be “good enough.” It will not be.
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Want to learn more about the science of Climate change? The University of Exeter offers a short online course (MOOC) called Climate Change: The Science that is taught at a very nice level of abstraction—full of good science that will help you reason qualitatively, but without getting bogged down in any detailed math. I took this course and really enjoyed both the teaching material and the class discussion. A new round of this course just started April 19, so you could join late and catch up. It's free (subject to certain pretty reasonable terms) and involves about 3 hours a week for 4 weeks.