Climate Change represents one of the greatest challenges to global society. It is both a threat and a challenge. The threat is destruction of the life support systems of our planet Earth, on which we all depend for our well-being and our survival, and the challenge is to do this in a relatively short time – in the next few decades. The worsening symptoms are there now scientifically for all to see – rising temperatures, worsening wildfires, worsening hurricanes, worsening tornados, worsening rains, floods and mudslides, and sea rise and worsening coastal storms. Although the Climate Change Treaty was signed in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, it was with US leadership (with Obama) that the Paris Agreement in December 2015 (23 years later) that the world finally got started with the kind of action needed. Nations said that they would like to aim at keeping temperature rise to below 2.0 degrees C, but the commitments made at Paris were estimated to only get us to a temperature rise of 3.5 degrees C – we are currently at about a 0.7-0.8 degrees average temperature rise and a carbon dioxide level exceeding 400 ppm (parts per million). Globally, the whole process has suffered a big setback by Trump withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement, and there is now a lack of global leadership.
Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement may be called the “Great Leap Backwards”! Further, through the EPA and Scott Pruitt, he has succeeded in dismantling all areas that would provide solutions and taken actions like encouraging coal that would make things much worse. He has dismantled Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) that would have enabled the states to get started with their own clean power plans. North America and the US are suffering much already – Alaska’s glaciers are all melting, and no glaciers may be left in a couple of decades, wildfires are getting worse (2017 was one of the worst), worsening floods/mudslides, worsening hurricanes, and worsening tornadoes (the number of tornadoes in each cell has increased).
With national leadership headed the destructive way, states, cities and counties have had to try and take up the slack. California has been courageously trying to do its utmost, although there is some criticism as to the approach that California is taking towards solutions. Governor Jerry Brown has organized a global conference for early September in San Francisco to try and provide leadership. However, California still has many things it needs to do, both at the State level and at the local government levels.
It is easy to get disheartened. The good news is that the solutions are now there and are understood. – it needs the right type of leadership (that’s why it is critical to get the Republicans out of power), the political will and the funding to do the job. Through a combination of increased energy efficiency and renewable energy we could get the carbon reductions we need. The problem is that the more we wait and drag our feet, the higher the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the more drastic actions that will be needed. We have to move in two directions – first, totally transforming how we live, move and eat to a low carbon society, and second repairing all of the carbon sink ecosystems – forests, oceans, soils, lakes, and coastal and coral reef ecosystems.
Future updates: In future, I will provide updates on what California’s past strategies and legislations have achieved in terms of Green House Gas (GHG) reductions, and what current bills being pushed in Sacramento are and what they are expected to achieve. (Sierra Club and Fossil Free California). It is obvious as soon as you get on our highways that our fossil fuel driven cars and traffic jams are a big contributor. So, in California we need to push for big changes in transportation (electric cars, and more mass transit, bikes and high-speed rail), and housing developments (must be the most energy efficient and all should have solar panels). At the same time, we need to start preparing all the time to mitigate the effects of our natural disasters – e.g. start preparing our forest areas before the wild fires come, and then prepare the burnt areas to resist mudslides when the rains come.
Pope Francis has recently said that if we don’t solve global warming, our civilization will be reduced to rubble. What I am saying is that if we get seriously started now locally, nationally and globally (for it is GLOBAL problem), we can transform to a much cleaner, less noisy and joyful existence – but our lives have to be transformed – the great thing is that we will have a planet in which the natural paradise will be rejuvenated, and the productive capacity will be restored – sustainable agriculture, horticulture, forestry and every kind of natural culture (food or natural raw materials). It will a bigger version of what the US did after the dust storms of the 1920s and the 1930s, only this time it will need the activities of us non-farmers to be transformed also, and we need to show the global leadership to not only do it ourselves but also lead and cooperate with the rest of the world.