Climate-induced wars, species extinction, the collapse of our natural life-support systems, more frequent and extreme natural disasters - why be hopeful in what’s quickly become the greatest crisis of our time?! Why put on the rose-tinted glasses when we’re staring down the barrel of a loaded rocket-launcher? Well, I’m a big fan of conditional optimism (being optimistic but not complacent). Pessimism only breeds apathy and a feeling of helplessness, whereas a positive outlook can snowball into great and unexpected change. Besides, glancing beyond the Trumps and Brexit's of the world can reveal some fantastic climate triumphs – here’s 3:
📸 Shannon Wild
1) One Earth, One DiCaprio
A new study funded by modern climate hero Leo Dicaprio, a man who has every reason to hate the ice caps, created something called the “One Earth Climate Model”. This model shows that it’s not too late to solve the climate crisis and, by extensively analysing the global electricity grid alongside available renewable resources, essentially provides an instruction booklet for each country to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Not too shabby! With governments currently providing the fossil fuel industry with $5 trillion p/yr, the “One Earth Climate Model” says we could avoid climate catastrophe for just $1.7 trillion p/yr. So, what’s standing in the way? Why can’t we start divesting funds from fossil fuels and follow their instructions right away? The only hurdle to vault here is dirty politics. Which is no small feat. That’s why it’s now more important than ever to make your voice heard and demand climate action from political leaders! So get sending an email to your local MP!
China is the Harvey Two-Face of the climate crisis. It’s the world’s biggest carbon polluter, ranking 48th in the world’s top 58 CO2 emitting countries (see the 2017 Climate Change Performance Index) and has become increasingly supportive of coal-fired power plants in other countries, funding >25% of new facilities worldwide with around $36 billion across 23 countries. Yet it has the potential to lead the world out of the climate crisis - it’s near the forefront of global renewable energy, 1/4 of its electricity comes from renewable power, and their silicon solar panels cut the price of solar energy globally and even undercut the cost of coal power.
China have also closed mines and power plants in an attempt to reduce total carbon-based energy consumption from 69% in 2011 to 58% in 2020. They’re even tackling deforestation, as just last year China deployed 60,000 soldiers to plant trees covering an area around the size of Ireland (84,000km2)!
📸 Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
A fantastic idea and an attempt to increase their forest coverage from 21% to 23% by 2020 - such efforts not only combat air pollution but also greenhouse gas emissions! Whilst China’s motives are no doubt more strategic and economical rather than being altruistic, boosting global green energy is good for everyone and China has the very real opportunity of being a global leader in climate crisis aversion. Plz China, do it for the pandas.
📸 James Warwick
3) Economics of Decarbonisation
As I mentioned, the main obstacle in climate crisis aversion is neither economic nor technological, it’s political. Those bloody politicians at it again hey. But no politician worth their salt will question the principles of economic growth. And Professor Michael Grubb at University College London argues that “conditional optimism” is exactly how economists should view climate change and the transition from carbon-based to renewable-based societies. He’s optimistic about our potential to avert climate crisis due to the principles of market growth - the idea that technologies such as renewable energies can cruise at low levels of market penetration before reaching a threshold and skyrocketing! A classic S-shaped curve driven by innovation and scale economies, in which current industries are substituted for newer ones – dubbed ‘logistic substitution’.
Grubb’s point is that clean energy has a wonderful potential for rapid expansion and complete domination of the global market, leaving those dirty fossil fuels in the ground. And you can see it happening as countries start to realise the advantages of renewable energy: Israel pledged to stop using fossil fuels by 2030, Ireland became the first country to divest from fossil fuels, New York divested it’s pension funds from fossil fuels freeing up $5 billion, California and New Zealand are committed to 100% renewable energy by 2045 and 2035 respectively, and Costa Rica plans on becoming the world’s first decarbonised country by banning all fossil fuels as early as 2021!! In the words of Prof. Grubb - “The world of the future grows from the niche markets of the present”, and it’s clear the once niche renewable energy sector is quickly transitioning to our future – a future which could help avoid a climate catastrophe, not only for ourselves but for all the wonderful species we share this planet with.
📸 Tomas Kotouc
What can you do next?
So now you know - it’s not too late to avoid catastrophe and there’s great cause for optimism, but absolutely no time for complacency. It's time for drastic action – demand change from your politicians and support carbon taxes, support women's rights worldwide, eat a more plant-rich diet with local foods, consume less, waste less, use Ecosia for searching the web (they plant 1 tree for every search - pretty awesome!), travel mindfully and use energy wisely, support renewables, be more conscientious of your individual impacts as consumers, be an advocate for climate action, and help spread the word by sharing articles like this. Together we can change the world - but it's up to you to take action!
📸 Lynsey Smyth