The Climate Reality Project’s annual telecast December 4-5, 24 Hours of Reality, is expected to focus on the mounting impacts of climate change, and on the wave of global action to phase out fossil fuels and build a post-carbon economy.
The Energy Mix is a media partner for 24 Hours. So we’ve begun republishing our own #24ClimateRealityChecks, selected from recent coverage on The Mix. The stories reinforce both the need and the opportunity for countries to push farther, faster in their efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
Even the last few months of coverage tell the two-part story of global climate change: an immediate crisis that is devastating lives and communities around the world, and a suite of affordable solutions that create jobs, improve public health, and can help countries shift to a post-carbon economy.
More and more often these days, the list of solutions begins with the rapid rise of electric vehicles and plummeting cost of stationary energy storage, a still-emerging development that has caught fossil companies and energy modellers somewhat by surprise. In October, as staid an institution as Barclays Bank predicted that EV sales and rising vehicle fuel efficiency could reduce oil demand by 2025 by an amount almost equal to Iran’s entire production.
“That kind of jaw-dropping outlook has become increasingly common in recent months, amid signs that a tipping point is coming for electric vehicles,” InsideClimate noted at the time. “The technology breakthroughs, market forces, and government policies might also augur a peak in oil demand, and that would be a big step toward wiping out emissions of greenhouse gases from the automotive tailpipe.”
It adds up to a persuasive argument that the fossil era is entering its sunset—and the choice for governments, industries, and communities is whether the resulting transition should be managed or unmanaged. Just ahead of this year’s United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, Hannah McKinnon of Oil Change International published a blog post insisting that fossil workers and communities must be at the centre of that transition from Day One.
“What does the path from here to zero carbon look like?” she asked. “Is it ambitious enough to avoid locking in emissions that we can’t afford? Is it intentional enough to protect workers and communities that depend on the carbon-based economy that has gotten us this far? Is it equitable enough to recognize that some countries must move further, faster? And is it honest enough about the reality that a decline of fossil fuels is actually a good thing?”
In Canada, the climate and energy community cheered the end of a four-year campaign to stop the massive Energy East pipeline, after social movements and First Nations played a “huge part” in TransCanada Corporation’s decision to cancel the C$15.7-billion megaproject. And Montreal provided the setting a couple of weeks ago for the historic moment when the Kigali Amendment went into force, heralding controls on climate-busting hydrofluorocarbon coolants that would account for at least 0.5°C if their production continued. The amendment “sends a message to companies that make the compounds and to companies that use coolants in their products that they will have to come up with alternatives,” the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that tree planting, peatland protection, and better land use could deliver 37% of the greenhouse gas reductions humanity must achieve by 2030, at a cost of $10 to $100 per tonne of carbon averted. And a story from Costa Rica chronicled a farm family’s painstaking effort to rebuild the damaged soil on their property, diversify their crops, and protect their own health along the way.
But the other side of the story—the grinding, day-to-day impacts of climate change—brought home the need to get on with the job of implementing solutions that are already in our hands.
The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Asian Development Bank predicted that the number of climate refugees around the world could exceed one billion by 2100, with the Asia-Pacific region feeling the worst impacts, in the absence of faster, deeper carbon cuts. The report foresaw “drastic changes in the region’s weather systems, agriculture and fisheries, biodiversity, trade, and urban development,” Eco-Business reported at the time. “The living conditions that result in the tropics would make it almost impossible for people to live outside, prompting migration on a massive scale.”
A couple of months later, former United Nations human rights commissioner Mary Robinson highlighted cities’ central role in receiving people displaced by climate change, poverty, and conflict. “The capacity to integrate these new arrivals in a manner consistent with their human rights and dignity is often woefully inadequate — reflecting an equally inadequate response from political leaders,” she said.
In October, brutal wildfires in California left more than 40 people dead and communities scarred, capping a summer/fall season in which many jurisdictions in the U.S., Canada, and Europe scrambled to cope with unusually hot, dry conditions. And a feature report on Politico cited long-term mental illness and substance abuse problems as “the primary long-term effect of natural disasters” like Hurricane Katrina, as well as this year’s severe storms in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean.
Last month, researchers reported that 3.0°C of average global warming would leave South Florida underwater and expose eight times more U.S. residents to severe storms. The ice melt partly responsible for sea level rise could also expose deadly pathogens contained in Arctic permafrost that have been covered for millions of years. “Many of these pathogens may be able to survive a gentle thaw—and if they do, researchers warn, they could reinfect humanity,” The Atlantic reported.