Don’t step on the gas!
The imminent threat from the climate emergency needs to be tackled urgently. Fortunately, there are ways and means available, says Darshan Goswami
Climate change is real and happening now. The crisis is accelerating more rapidly than most scientists anticipated, and many of them are deeply concerned that climate tipping points are now imminent. This could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of the Earth uninhabitable.
The climate crisis is driven by emissions of greenhouse gases, the main contributor to warming temperatures. Every additional delay in action will result in worsening the consequences of global warming, including more extreme weather events, higher temperature extremes, and a higher risk of fire, droughts, and flooding.
Fortunately, it is something which is solvable. There are plenty of well-understood solutions, but the leadership and the courage to change course are sine qua nons.
What is ‘climate crisis’?
Climate change is a modification of the global climate over a long time. During the past few centuries, humans have released more greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere, increasing the Earth’s temperature and contributing to a serious climate crisis. At least 97 per cent of published climate experts agree that global warming is real and caused by human activities. The release of harmful gases from burning fossil fuel (coal, oil, and gas) is the main cause. The planet has already heated by about 1.2°C due to past emissions, and the temperature is certain to increase further because greenhouse gas levels are still rising. If it continues at the current rate, global warming is likely to increase the Earth’s temperature by 1.5°C between 2030 and 2050. 
Impact of the climate crisis
The impact of climate change can be seen in the massive raging wildfires in California and Turkey; surging global temperatures and heatwaves of 49ºC in Canada and Morocco; devastating flash floods in Japan, Europe, US, India, and China; the rapid melting of glaciers; rising ocean temperatures; widespread mega-drought; increased respiratory diseases; and mass forced human displacement that is affecting every living being on Earth. Recent scientific reports show that the climate crisis is only getting more severe and that we are not prepared for the worsening impacts.
These impacts are specifically affecting the planet’s poorest countries and low-income communities, which face higher risks of death and displacement. In addition, the record-breaking heat waves are rippling across the planet, bringing death and destruction in their wake. Refusing to address the climate crisis will cause significant economic damage and global supply chain interruptions.
What can we do?
Many scientists have called for urgent international action, citing cutting carbon emissions as the only long-term solution for avoiding the impacts of the climate crisis. We need to focus on two things to address the climate crisis: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation involves decreasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by reducing emissions. If we want to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, we must cut global emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. To meet these targets, we must transform businesses to rely on low-carbon energy sources such as hydrogen and electricity generated from solar energy and wind. Because the climate is already changing, we also need to adapt, and this involves preparing for extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and food insecurity.
Climate crisis solutions
Greenhouse gases are released when oil, coal, and other fossil fuels are burned for energy—the energy we use to power our homes, cars, and economy. By using less fossil fuel, we can curb our contribution to the climate crisis. Scientists also urge the slashing of pollutants, stabilising the human population, and switching to plant-based diets.
Here are 12 promising solutions to tackle the climate crisis and put the world on a path to zero emissions by 2050.
1. Expedite the deployment of renewable energy (RE)
Renewable energy is the cheapest and safest option to avert the effects of the climate crisis. We must gradually phase out fossil fuels and transfer our energy sources to clean technologies like solar, wind, biomass, hydro, tidal wave, and geothermal. Costs for wind and solar technologies have come down between 60 per cent and 80 per cent since 2010, and battery costs have come down to 85 per cent in the same period. By 2030, the cost of electricity produced from renewable resources is going to be about half of that generated from coal and gas.
2. Cut emissions
To avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis, we need to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal, we must no longer build fossil fuel infrastructure, phase out carbon-intensive assets, and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. The scale of these changes requires significant international cooperation.
3. Carbon pricing
To protect our health and well-being, and move beyond fossil fuels, we need a price on carbon pollution. Economists believe that carbon pricing is the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon pricing makes polluting more expensive and solutions like clean energy and electric vehicles (EVs) more affordable.
4. Develop a national renewable energy policy
Each country must enact and deploy a comprehensive new energy roadmap with innovative RE policies—such as 40 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050—to create demand, new industries and innovation, and a new wave of green jobs.
5. Decarbonise the electricity system and electrify everything
Expedite a move to electrify transportation by encouraging expanded use of EVs and plug-in hybrids, and deployment of solar-powered EV charging stations around the world. Facilitate the public transportation system of the future with zero-emission battery-powered electric buses in all major cities.
6. Energy efficiency
To reduce the long-term energy demand, it is imperative to engage states, industries, utilities, and other stakeholders to promote energy efficiency investments in the economy, industry, transportation, buildings, and appliances.
7. Develop energy storage
We are already seeing incredible progress in energy storage, battery technology, fuel cells, hydrogen generation and storage, and smarter and more flexible energy grids. With newer and better technologies, and evolving energy and climate policies, renewed investment in energy storage could set the stage for a major transition to renewables.
8. Stop deforestation and plant trees
Cutting forests is a chief contributor to climate change because forests and trees are reservoirs of carbon. While they absorb carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis, whenever they are burned or cleared, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Therefore, controlling logging, and planting new trees can offset greenhouse gas emissions.
9. Plant-based diet and consumption
One of the best ways for us to stop the climate crisis is by reducing our meat consumption or by going fully vegan. Animal products contribute to 15 per cent of global greenhouse emissions and threaten both human health and environmental sustainability. Moreover, animal farming significantly contributes to deforestation and land use.
10. Work with governments to take bold climate action
Work with government leaders around the world to set aggressive goals for climate solutions that create jobs, protect people, and cut pollution. Governments around the world need to adopt climate action plans that comply with international standards.
11. Protect oceans
Oceans absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which helps to keep our climate stable. But many are overfished, used for oil and gas drilling, or threatened by deep-sea mining. Protecting oceans and marine life is key to protecting the environment from the climate crisis.
12. Educate girls
Education is the most powerful tool available for breaking the cycle of international poverty while mitigating emissions by curbing population growth. Educating girls is one of the most cost-effective, high-impact ways for every nation to fight rising temperatures because women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their own reproductive health and, therefore, a lower carbon footprint.
Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity. The crisis can be averted by radically reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases. However, all countries must live up to the commitments of the Paris Agreement.
Some scientists have found that we may have already reached irreversible climate destabilisation. Left unchecked, climate change could render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable, creating increased social, economic, and political crises in the very near future.
Decisive actions and policy changes are needed to effectively combat the climate crisis and ensure the health of the planet. While real solutions will require action on a global scale, each one of us can make small changes in our day-to-day life to lower our impact on the environment.
I believe that the threats posed by the climate crisis can be solved with technologies and the science that already exists. The above solutions are favourable for creating millions of jobs, protecting the health of our communities, and fostering a stronger, cleaner, more equitable economy.
To transition to a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050, policymakers everywhere must tackle the climate crisis by making massive investments in large-scale renewable energy projects. Through a powerful combination of informed policy and personal choices, we must ensure that the planet is safe and inhabitable for ourselves and future generations. If we do not act now, the damage from climate change could be much greater and longer-lasting.
1. Skeptical Science (2017). The 97% consensus on global warming. https://skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-intermediate.htm
2. Brookings: Why is girls’ education important for climate action?
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