Bob Sheak, Feb 1, 2023
There are many recent books and reports that give us a good understanding of the dire effects and projections of climate change (climate disruption, climate crisis, global warming), how fossil-fuel corporations and an array of other powerful corporate and political forces in and outside of government have created false, but, unfortunately, narratives denying climate change, deflecting attention away from it, or proffering false solutions (e.g., geoengineering).
The authors provide extensive documentation of the problem, its causes, the concerted efforts to delegitimize efforts to address the problem, and what can be done to save the planet. Kate Aronoff’s book, Over-Heated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet – and How We Fight Back” is one of these books. Other books on these topics include John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark’s The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift, Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin’s Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal, Robert Pollin’s Greening the Global Economy, Bill McKibben’s Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, and Ian Angus’s facing the Anthropocene: fossil capitalism and the crisis of the earth system.
There are two themes, among others, that stand out. We don’t have much time to prevent the ongoing increase in climate catastrophes from getting worse, and we have the know how to prevent this from happening. In the final analysis, politics will make the difference.
Michael E. Mann’s book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, published in 2021. The concept of “war” in this context suggests that there is an intransigent enemy, prominently the Republican Party and its corporate and wealthy benefactors, that threatens to make life on the planet less and less habitable, and that it will take an equally powerful force to stop them.
Despite the growing body of evidence that we are losing the fight against “climate change” and its myriad and destructive effects, Mann, who is a well-known and published climate scientist, offers an analysis that is designed most fundamentally to reveal what climate scientists have learned and to leave readers with some “hope” about the future. He writes, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” He continues: “Alone it won’t solve the problem. But drawing upon it, we will” (p. 267).
Mann’s main contention is that it is not too late to radically reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are the principal sources of climate change and, through domestic and international efforts, to limit the emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next decade. That would require at least a 50 percent decline in fossil fuel emissions. To achieve this goal, he argues, policies based on science must be instituted, citizens must be “educated” about the facts and, some at least, must be or become active in the political process. In addition, the disinformation of the fossil fuel interests must be effectively challenged, and the government must, over the next decade or two institute policies to remove fossil fuels from the energy mix and replace them with renewables, energy efficiency, and other environmentally sustainable technologies.
Mann argues, “We need policies that will incentivize the needed shift away from fossil fuel burning toward a clean, green global economy. So-called leaders who resist the call for action must be removed from office” (p. 6). The word “incentivize” suggests that the climate-related policies of corporations and the ideological commitments of the far-right republican Party can be changed through negotiations or, or more plausibly, through elections that remove them from office.
At the same time, it becomes clear as time passes that there is little or no reason to expect the Republican Party or their allies and supporters to negotiate on this issue – or any issue – in good faith. (See Steve Benen’s documentation of this point in his book, The Imposters: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics). Geoff Dembicki analyzes the “far-right conspiracy to cover up climate change,” in his book, The Petroleum Papers (publ. 2022).
Meanwhile, oil, natural gas, and coal continue to provide most of the overall energy and electricity for the U.S, though there is some decline in the contribution of fossil fuels in the energy mix, as renewable energy sources increase their share of energy production. But moving from where we are at to where we need to be will require systemic changes of massive levels, including changes that would phase out fossil fuels over the next three decades.
In this post, I offer evidence documenting that: (1) climate disruption or change is worsening internationally and domestically; (2) the last 8 years have been the hottest on record; (3) there are a host of detrimental effects of climate disruption; (4) there is a lack of sufficient efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions; and (5) there are some who are hopeful about replacing or reducing our dependence on fossil fuels with “renewables” (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal) before the problem undermines societal institutions and brings increasing havoc to everyday life. It will take international cooperation and the enactment and implementation of a radical agenda domestically to achieve such a transition.
#1 – Greenhouse gases continue to rise
The United Nations Climate Change agency reports on Jan. 18, 2023 on the problem and offers proposals that, if enacted, would “unleash renewable energy’s full potential” (https://unfccc.int/news/unleashing-renewable-energy-s-full-potential). The agency reports that
“Speaking at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly in Abu Dhabi last weekend, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said the positive outcomes from last November’s UN Climate Change Conference COP27 give the world enormous opportunity to make progress, starting now.
“It requires the cooperation of every single country represented in this room,” said Stiell. “All Parties must come together in order to achieve the level of ambition needed to get to where we need to go, and we have a lot of work to do to get there.”
“There is reason for optimism when it comes to renewable energy because renewables are moving further and faster than projected. Here are just a few examples:
“Renewable electricity capacity additions have been outpacing those of non-renewables since 2014.”
“The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Renewables Outlook complements this, noting that renewables are set to account for over 90% of global electricity capacity expansion in the next five years and that renewables will become the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025, surpassing coal.”
“Worldwide renewable energy employment reached 12.7 million last year, a jump of 700,000 new jobs in one year. Solar energy was found to be the fastest-growing sector. In 2021 it provided 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the current global renewable workforce.
“But there is also reason to be frustrated. As IRENA pointed out in its submission to the global stocktake, regardless of increased ambition expressed by countries at the last two COPs, current climate pledges and overall finance to support the shift to renewables remains insufficient.”
Benjamin Storrow reports in Scientific American that “U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Went Up Again in 2022” (https://scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-greenhouse-gas-emissions-went-up-again-in-2022). “Though renewable energy surpassed coal generation for the first time in 60 years, causing U.S. power emissions to decline, emissions from buildings and transportation went up in 2022.”
“Emissions from buildings grew 6 percent following a particularly cold winter. Transport and industry each saw emissions increase by slightly more than 1 percent. Those sectors of the economy have historically proven difficult to green, and in 2022, they pushed total U.S. emissions up.
“The United States would need to cut emissions by about 5 percent a year over the next decade to meet its 50 percent target in 2030. For context, U.S. emissions fell by an average of 1.7 percent annually between 2011 and 2020, according to EPA figures. Yet even that figure overstates the United States’ past emission progress because it included a 10 percent drop from 2020 that resulted from the pandemic.”
#2 – The Last 8 or 9 Years Were the Hottest on Record
This reflects the recent findings of Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, as reported by The New York Times on Jan. 10, 2023, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on January 12, 2023,and also by Berkeley Earth, Jan 12, 2023.
For example, in the article for The New York Times, Henry Fountain and Mira Rojanasakul report that scientists from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service find this: “The eight warmest years on record have now occurred since 2014” (https://nytimes.com/interactive/2023/climate/earth-hottest-years.html). They continue: “Overall, the world is now 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.1 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than it was in the second half of the 19th century, when emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels became widespread.”
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) finds that 2022 was the “Fifth Warmest Year on Record, Warming Trend Continues,” as reported by Tyler Greene and Jacob Richmond on Jan 12, 2023 (https://nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-says-2022-fifth-warmest-year-on-record-warming-trend-continues). The key point:
“2022 effectively tied for Earth’s 5th warmest year since 1880, and the last 9 consecutive years have been the warmest 9 on record.” Additionally, “Human-driven greenhouse gas emissions have rebounded following a short-lived dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, NASA scientists, as well as international scientists, determined carbon dioxide emissions were the highest on record in 2022.”
Berkeley Earth reports Jan. 12, 2023 on its Global Temperature Report for 2022
It concludes that the year was nominally the fifth warmest on Earth since 1850 based on land and ocean data, with an estimated 850 million people experiencing local record warm annual average temperatures” and that the “last eight years have been the eight warmest years observed in the instrumental record.” The authors of the Berkeley report add:
“‘Twenty-eight countries experienced their warmest annual average since record-keeping began, including most of Western Europe,’ said Berkeley Earth Lead Scientist Dr. Robert Rohde. ‘This means a substantial fraction of the world’s population has just lived through the warmest year in their local history — with disruptive and sometimes even deadly consequences.’” And:
“‘At the current rate of progression, the increase in Earth’s long-term average temperature will reach 1.5°C (2.7 °F) above the 1850-1900 average by about 2034, and 2 °C (3.6 °F) will be reached around 2060,’ Dr. Rohde said. ‘The increasing abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities is the direct cause of this recent global warming. If the Paris Agreement’s goal of no more than 2°C (3.6 °F) warming is to be reached, significant progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to be made soon.’”
The full report is available at https://berkeleyearth.org/global-temperature-report-for-2022
#3 – Examples of the deleterious effects
The Trend: More hot days than cold ones
The changing climate is producing more and more “extreme weather events.” Romm writes: “while we will continue to have record-setting cold temperatures in places, the ratio of record-setting hot days to record-setting cold days will grow over time, which has been measured” (p. 32). Climate Nexus tracks all this and substantiates Romm’s contention as follows: “Record-breaking high temperatures are now outnumbering record lows by an average decadal ratio of 2:1. Record highs are occurring more often than record lows due to climate change.” And: “In a stable climate, the ratio of new record highs to new record lows is approximately even. However in our warming climate, record highs have begun to outpace record lows, with the imbalance growing for the past three decades. This trend is one of the clearest signals of climate change that we experience directly.”
Other research findings come to similar conclusions. A study published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres shows that “extreme heat events both in the summer and in the winter are increasing across the U.S. and Canada, while extreme cold events in summer and winter are declining,” so that “there are more extremely hot days during the summer as well as more days that are considered extremely hot for the time of year, like abnormally warm days in the winter” (https://phys.org/news/2018-11-extreme-summer-winter.html). And research by Richard Davy published in the same journal finds that “[o]bservations from the last fifty years have shown that the nights have been warming much faster than the days. Analysis of the causes of this more rapid warming at night shows that this is likely to continue in the coming decades” (https://phys.org/news/2016-03-nights-warmer-faster-days.html)
Billion Dollar disasters in 2022
Adam Smith, considers the costs of “billion-dollar disasters” in an article Oct. 11, 2022 article for Climate Central (https://climatecentral.org/climate-matters/billion-dollar-disasterws-in-2022). Smith is a Ph.D. in “applied climatologist” who works at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). As of October, “the U.S. has experienced 15-billion-dollar weather and climate disasters so far in 2022—already well above the historical average of seven events per year.” Furthermore, “The frequency of billion-dollar disasters has also increased. In the last five years (2017-2021), there were just 18 days on average between billion-dollar disasters—compared to 82 days in the 1980s.”
#4 – The Causes
Despite growing recognition of the reality of advancing global warming and its destructiveness, and despite international efforts to reach agreements to stem the problem, the U.S. and the world’s nations have not yet been able to free themselves enough from fossil fuels, the principal sources of this growing existential threat.
In the U.S., the chief hurdles have been continuing support and dependence on fossil fuels, too little investment in renewables, political and economic forces that generally prioritize fossil fuels, a powerful right-wing, reactionary movement under the sway of Trump.
Here’s why the U.S. electric grid isn’t running on 100% renewable energy yet
Catherine Clifford delves into the question of why “the electricity grid is not already free of fossil fuels and running 100% on renewables (https://cnbc.com/2022/12/29/why-isnt-the-us-electrical-gird-run-on-100percent-renewable-energy-yet.html). This is curious, Clifford thinks, because the technology to generate electricity with renewable resources like wind and solar has existed for decades. She makes the following points of what needs to be done.
Scale up technologies like batteries and transmission lines. Work to shift cultural and political “toward solving tomorrow’s problems, instead of maintaining the status quo.” Shift away from fossil fuels in generating electricity for homes and businesses.” The problem is that “the U.S. electrical sector is still dependent on fossil fuels. In 2021, 61 percent of electricity generation came from burning coal, natural gas, or petroleum. Only 20 percent of the electricity in the U.S. came from renewables, mostly wind energy, hydropower and solar energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Another 19 percent came from nuclear power.” There is some progress.
“The contribution from renewables has been increasing steadily since the 1990s, and the rate of increase has accelerated. For example, wind power provided only 2.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 1990, doubling to 5.6 billion in 2000. But from there, it skyrocketed, growing to 94.6 billion in 2010 and 379.8 billion in 2021.That’s progress, but it’s not happening fast enough to eliminate the worst effects of climate change for our descendants.
The power of the giant fossil fuel corporations
Amy Westervelt reports Dec. 24, 2022 on “Subpoenaed Fossil Fuel Documents Reveal an Industry Stuck in the Past (https://theintercept.com/2022/12/24/oil-gas-climate-disinformation). “The industry is still running the same five-step plan, to the same end: preserving power, subsidies, and social license.” She adds:
“As part of its investigation into climate disinformation, the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed documents in November 2021 from four of the world’s largest oil companies; their U.S. trade association, the American Petroleum Institute; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber did not comply with the subpoena, but the rest submitted a variety of responsive documents, the most salient of which have been published by the Oversight Committee in two batches. The more than 1,500 pages include internal communications about media relations, advertising, and marketing campaigns from 2015 to 2021.
“Taken together, they reveal that the industry’s approach on climate really hasn’t changed since scientists first started warning that the burning of fossil fuels was becoming a problem: push “solutions” that keep fossil fuels profitable, downplay climate impacts, overstate the industry’s commitments, and bully the media if they don’t stay on message. It’s the same five-step plan, deployed to the same end: preserving power, subsidies, and social license.”
Recognition by the US government, but not enough action
There has been an understanding of and concern about the rising Earth temperature for at least 165 years, principally caused by emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Eunice Newton Foote “theorized that changes in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect the Earth’s temperature back in 1856 (All We Can Save, p. xvii).
The scientific confirmation of this theory is confirmed again and again over the last century and a half. Jumping to recent times, James Gustave Speth, an internationally environmental expert, writes that it is well documented that “the federal government knew enough in the 1970s and 1980s [as did Exxon] to begin addressing the climate issue in energy policy and elsewhere. Such understanding is documented during the Carter administration in the 1970s, and has been continuously demonstrated in every subsequent administration up through Trump’s four years. And all of these administrations failed to reduce the rise in fossil fuel emissions (See Speth’s book, They Knew: The US Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis). The climate denialism of the Trump administration was off the charts in denying or avoiding the problem and in undermining efforts to address it.
The “climate damage” of the Trump administration
Stacey Feldman and Marianne Lavelle consider “Donald Trump’s Record on Climate Change” after four years in the White House (https://insideclimatenews.org/news/02012020/trump-climate-policy-record-rollback-fossil-energy-history-candidate-profile). Here’s some of what they write.
“As president, he has rolled back regulations on energy suppliers at a rapid clip slowed only at times by the courts, while auctioning off millions of acres of new drilling leases on public land. Last year , domestic oil production hit a record high.”
“Trump began the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, the agreement signed by nearly all nations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. He replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, intended to sharply reduce emissions from U.S. power plants. He took the first step to weaken fuel economy standards for cars, the single most important effort for reining in the largest driver of U.S. emissions.
“His administration has undone or delayed—or tried to—most regulatory and executive actions related to climate change, while proposing new ones to accelerate fossil fuel development. Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law counts 131 actions toward federal climate deregulation since Trump took office. In the absence of any comprehensive national climate law, those moves have led to an erosion of the federal government’s main regulatory levers for cutting global warming emissions.”
Coral Davenport considers the evidence that Trump’s most profound legacy will be “climate damage” (https://nytimes.com/2020/11/09/climate/trump-legacy-change.html). She writes:
“…Mr. Trump’s rollbacks of emissions policies have come at a critical moment: Over the past four years, the global level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere crossed a long-feared threshold of atmospheric concentration. Now, many of the most damaging effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, deadlier storms, and more devastating heat, droughts and wildfires, are irreversible.”
As one example, Lisa Friedman reports on how the Trump administration “traumatized the EPA” and left short of the resources needed to do its job (https://nytimes.com/2023/01/23/climate/environmental-protection-agency-epa-funding.html).
The Biden Administration – the Inflation Adjustment Act
Tobias Burns reports on Sept. 7, 2022, on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s vow to ‘rid’ the US from ‘dependence on fossil fuels’ (https://thehill.com/policy/finance/3631596-yellen-will-vow-to-rid-us-from-dependence-on-fossil-fuels-in-detroit-speech).
“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will call out the fossil fuel industry in a Thursday speech on the Biden administration’s economic agenda to be delivered in Detroit, Mich., where oil and gas companies have long held influence in the U.S. auto manufacturing sector.
“The visit to Detroit comes on the heels of the Democrats’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes $14.2 billion worth of subsidies for electric vehicles meant to wean the auto industry off of gasoline in an effort to reduce U.S. transportation emissions that are contributing to a rise in global temperatures.”
“Our plan — powered by the Inflation Reduction Act — represents the largest investment in fighting climate change in our country’s history. It will put us well on our way toward a future where we depend on the wind, sun, and other clean sources for our energy.” At least, this is Yellen’s view.
IRA neglects public sector
Burns refers to an interview with University of Massachusetts economist Robert Pollin, who agrees that the IRA represents a step forward but is too focused on the private sector to solve the problem. Pollin said:
“The IRA is almost entirely geared toward incentivizing private investment. Between federal, state and local governments, we’re talking about $7 trillion of public spending. Why not take a tiny slice of that and do things like investing in, say, retrofitting every single public building to raise energy efficiency standards, or investing in 100 percent renewable energy to supply public buildings, or having public sector purchases of electric vehicles for public transportation significantly?”
The editors at the Monthly Review agree with Pollin’s point that the IRA is too focused on the private sector to solve the climate crisis. See the November 22, 2022 issue, Volume 74, No. 6. Specifically, they are concerned that the Inflation Adjustment Act has “no emissions targets, since it relies exclusively on a carrot approach (avoiding all regulatory sticks), provide primarily in the form of tax credits and subsidies to corporations, the wealthy, electrical utilities, and relatively well-to-do consumers.” They add: “even the most optimistic assessment of the IRA would not close the gap between the present U.S. emissions reduction pathway and the pathway needed to reach zero emissions by 2050. (It should also be noted that the U.S. military’s vast and increasing climate emissions are not included in the accounting of U.S. emissions….)”
There is more. The editors write: “…the Biden climate legislation envisions the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry. A controversial part of the plan, promoted by Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, is a tradeoff in which solar and wind energy projects are contingent on opening up millions of acres of public land and water to oil and gas leases, while another provision includes locking in drilling off the coast of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.”
#5 – Reasons for being hopeful in 2023
Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, professor, and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, offers “4 reasons for hope in 2023” (https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/3799154-climate-crises-4-reasons-for-hope-in-2023).
1) The reality of climate change is sinking in – “More than ever, people in the United States and globally are listening to science and taking action to stop climate change. Public opinion research highlights that fewer than 10 percent of Americans are dismissive of climate change, and that majorities in all states think global warming will harm future generations, support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and think corporations should do more to address global warming.
2) Climate action across the U.S. is now very real – “States, cities, corporations and universities are leading the way in showing how the transition to a clean energy future can happen. For example, in Michigan, the state-level government is committed to carbon neutrality as a member of the United States Climate Alliance (24 states with 58 percent of the national economy and 54 percent of the population). Many cities in Michigan, including Ann Arbor, are taking real steps toward carbon neutrality, just as the corporations in the state (e.g., the top five: Ford, General Motors, Lear, Whirlpool and Meijer) are working to rapidly reduce their carbon emissions.
(There is a problem with the goal of “carbon neutrality,” that is, it does not seek to reduce emissions but rather only to keep emissions from rising.)
3) The multiple economic benefits of clean energy are becoming too obvious to ignore – “The costs associated with renewable energy continue to plummet and are already becoming cheaper than fossil fuels almost everywhere, even before taking into the account the increasing costs of climate change. Moving quickly into clean energy will not only stave off climate disasters but will enable us to thrive economically. The United States is not alone in this effort: European countries, China, India, Australia and many more are working to accelerate the global clean energy transition. Accelerating the clean-energy transition, as well as developing all the knowledge and technology involved, is essential if our states and nation are going to compete economically in a world that is going carbon-neutral.”
“The benefits of clean energy go well beyond halting climate change. Transitioning to clean energy will also eliminate an estimated 8 million premature deaths per year due to fossil fuel air pollution. And the latest 2022 research estimates that the clean energy transition will save the global economy trillions of dollars in terms of energy costs alone, because renewable energy sources are simply cheaper. Finally, the transition will save trillions of dollars associated with avoided climate change impacts, and will also cut dependence on petro-states that use their fossil-fuel profits for corruption and war.”
4) Climate action is increasingly designed to be equitable and just – “The foundation for a more sustainable planet needs to benefit not just the wealthy and comfortable, but those who have been historically marginalized. Here in the U.S., this includes urban, rural and Indigenous communities. In this clean-energy world, the countries that created the climate crisis will be the ones that help and empower the less affluent countries whose actions contribute little if any to the climate crisis, but who suffer the most.”
Also check out Matthew Hoffman’s list of reasons to be hopeful (https://yesmagazine.org/environment/2021/01/12/climate-change-hope-momentum).
Polls in the U.S. find that a majority of respondents have become convinced that “climate change” is a real and an existential problem that will only worsen if governments and societies do not adequately address it. Bradley Dennis, Chris Mooney and Steven Mufson refer to a report by The National Climate Assessment, compiled by a broad range of federal agencies (https://washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/11/07/cop27-climate-change-report-us). They write,
“Many of the harmful impacts that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge.” The research evidence indicates the following. (1) Every part of the U.S. is grappling with climate change — but not equally. (2) A warming world threatens reliable water supplies. (3) Extreme events are wreaking havoc on homes and property (4) The U.S. can expect more forced migration and displacement. And (5) Climate change is a growing public health threat.
There is a scientific consensus that the problem is growing and that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a major part of any potential solution. Wikipedia refers to some of the evidence on this consensus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_in_climate_change). On Sept 3, 2022, The United in Science 2022 report is published by the WMO, summarizing latest climate science-related updates and assessing recent climate change mitigation progress as “going in the wrong direction”.
And on October 26: “At the 30th anniversary of the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, scientists in a BioScience study concluded that ‘We are now at ‘code red‘ on planet Earth”, presenting new or updated information about tracked ‘recent climate-related disasters, assess[ed] planetary vital signs, and […] policy recommendations.’”
As indicated previously in this post, Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, professor, and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, refers to research that finds that “majorities in all states think global warming will harm future generations, support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and think corporations should do more to address global warming” (https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/3799154-climate-crises-4-reasons-for-hope-in-2023). And, according to an article by Brett Wilkins, “shareholder resolutions push big banks to phase out fossil fuels (https://commondreams.org/news/fossil-fuel-finance-iccr).
However, some polls find respondents qualifying their support for an energy transition away from fossil fuels. According to a Pew Research Center survey in March 2022, “69% of U.S. adults prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, over expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas,” and to do this by 2050 (https://pewresearch.org/science/2022/03/01/americans-largely-favor-u-s-taking-steps-to-become-carbon-neutral-by-2050). However, only a “small share of Americans (31%) believe the U.S. should phase out the use of oil, coal and natural gas completely; far more (67%) say the country should use a mix of fossil fuel and renewable energy sources.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine rattled the global oil and natural gas markets, as countries in Europe and elsewhere, which have been highly dependent on the Russian oil and gas, rallied in opposition to the war (especially in EU countries) and Russia responded.
David Gelles analyzes the situation (https://nytimes.com/2023/01/14/businesses-environment/davos-energy-climate-ukraine.html). Russia and OPEC tried to take advantage of the situation and raised gas and oil prices while reducing supplies of these energy sources. In the short term, “gas bills [across Europe] nearly doubled and electricity costs spiked some 70 percent in the first six months of the war, according to the Household Energy Price Index, which tracks energy costs.” In short order, however, many countries were prompted “to accelerate their development of renewable energy.” Gelles points out, “From England to Spain to Albania, countries across the European continent are rushing to deploy wind and solar power at record rates.” Unfortunately, in the short term, these countries also increased their use of coal.
Republicans and much of the corporate community are opposed to meaningful government action and have spent billions of dollars lobbying legislators and fostering disinformation to confuse people. In the present political situation, in which Republicans and their allies confound the truth about the crisis and make it a partisan issue, government has been thwarted from advancing and implementing policies that would curtail and reverse greenhouse gas emissions.
Josh Siegel and Kelsey Tamborrino report on the House Republicans plan to “keep Democrats on their heels (https://politico.com/news/2022/11/01/house-gop-2023-energy-bill-00063739). They write:
“The plan, described by a dozen current and former House lawmakers, aides and outside allies, seeks to build on the political momentum that the GOP claimed on energy policy this year, as jumps in fuel and electricity prices battered President Joe Biden’s popularity and complicated his climate agenda.
“The GOP effort would include components of a strategy that top House Republican Kevin McCarthy released in June that called for measures to stimulate oil and gas production, ease permitting regulations and seek to reduce reliance on China and Russia for critical materials.”
One of the counterproductive “solutions” advanced by the supporters of fossil fuels is that natural gas and the fracking boom are “bridges” to a cleaner, lower emissions outcome.
However, as Michael Mann points out in his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, the reality is that natural gas is “nearly one hundred times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a twenty-year time frame.” And when the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to break up the bedrock to get at natural gas deposits inevitably allows some of the methane to escape directly into the atmosphere,” the result of “methane releases from drilling operations, pipelines, and storage facilities.” The Trump administration disbanded regulations issued by the Obama administration to regulate “fugitive gas, claiming it would save industry millions of dollars” (p. `150). This is a serious mis-step in that the “rise in methane is responsible for as much as 25 percent of the warming (p. 150).
In the end, our current energy-use path leads to a climate apocalypse. If we are fortunate and are able to follow an alternative path based on actions and policies that follow the science, acknowledge the growing costs of using fossil fuels, elect legislators who respond constructively to the best science and push for alternatives to fossil fuels, then we have a chance.