The Climate Is Collapsing and We Have the Collective Capacity to Mitigate Damage
The climate is collapsing and we have the collective capacity to mitigate damage. Climate change is happening and the inevitable reality of the worst effects of it loom large over us. Record high temperatures are now a global commonplace, drought and wildfires are frequent, and there is no longer a way where someone who is paying attention to deny the artifacts of our rapidly worsening environment.
Climate change is urgent and every moment of inaction has compounding effects. The longer we ignore the planet’s fate or pretend that anyone alive today won’t see it, the sooner the ramifications will come.
Climate change is a dire situation.
But because we’re still here, with the agency to make positive impacts now- before extreme weather and dwindling resources erode the ties of society, we can defer calamity and maybe even mitigate the worst aspects of climate change.
We will inevitably experience complications due to climate change. Storms are already worse, average temperatures are only rising, and the problems that got us into climate change are still a part of our daily routines. We still generate the majority of our electricity through fossil fuels, and we still need to figure out how we are going to fully sustain our rising global population. Even though it is certain that we will feel the ramifications of climate change, it is up to us as to what degree it will be.
The quicker we enact solutions, the less damage we will feel, and not only can we start now- progress has already been happening.
Along with recent developments in renewable energy installations, a commonly overlooked source of renewable energy- and one that currently generates 6% of the United States’ total energy generation is hydroelectric power. Hydroelectric power can be generated in a variety of methods, and is capable of generating vast amounts of electricity with a single installation. While hydroelectricity has some controversy surrounding it due to the possibility of it disrupting the natural flow of the waterways it is installed in, the fact that these dams date back to 1881 in the United States goes to show that large scale renewable energy was a possibility more than a hundred years ago.
The renewable energy sector in the United States has been quietly growing into a robust and viable industry over the last several years. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, nearly 250,000 Americans work in solar, and in 2017 solar energy accounted for almost 2% of all of the United States energy generation. Wind energy is common in the United States, especially the midwest, and according to the Energy Information Administration, in 2013 it generated 4.13% of the US’ electricity.
Not only is there a solid base of renewable energy in the United States, that level of installation is starting to grow even faster thanks to a drop in cost.
While renewable energies have been considered too costly in prior years, over the last decade, the price for generation has plummeted. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, in a 2017 report, “the cost of generating power from onshore wind has fallen by around 23% since 2010 while the cost of solar photovoltaic electricity has fallen by 73% in that time.” The report also suggests that the price for wind and solar energy, along with other renewable options, should be on par with fossil fuels by 2020.
There is already a group of cities in the United States that are already running on 100% renewable energy, with an even larger number having committed to do the same. The entire states of Hawaii and California have even gone as far as committing to generating 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2045 and 2035 respectively- landmark steps towards cutting emissions.
Cities that are currently running of off renewable energy:
- Aspen, Colorado as of 2015
- Burlington, Vermont as of 2014
- Georgetown, Texas as of 2017
- Greensburg, Kansas as of 2013
- Kodiak Island, Alaska as of 2012
- Rock Port, Missouri as of 2008
In all total, 73 cities and counting have committed to generating 100% of their energy from renewable sources in various timeframes between 2020 and 2050. These cities range from rural to metropolitan, from large to small, and all together will have a massive impact in curbing the United States’ emissions. Some notable cities that have committed to eliminating emissions from their energy generation include:
- Atlanta, Georgia by 2035
- Boulder, Colorado by 2030
- Denton, Texas by 2020
- Denver, Colorado by 2030
- Eau Claire, Wisconsin by 2050
- Fayetteville, Arkansas by 2050
- Menlo Park, California by 2030
- Minneapolis, Minnesota by 2030
- New Brunswick, New Jersey by 2035
- Orlando, Florida by 2050
- Portland, Oregon by 2050
- Salt Lake City, Utah by 2032
- St. Louis, Missouri by 2035
While the United States is currently the only country in the entire world that has removed itself from the Paris Climate Agreement, these commitments from the cities and states from within the US show that even though our sitting president doesn’t see converting to renewable energy as a necessity- a large and growing population of people in power aren’t letting that setback stop them from bringing their communities to a renewable future.
To go even further with the switch to renewable energy, a number of companies that grows more and more as time goes on, also recognize the need to switch to renewable energy. Intel, Kohl’s, National Hockey League, Walmart, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nestle, T-Mobile, and Amazon are all amongst the list of companies that already or have committed to powering their companies with 100% renewable energy. These are massive corporations that realize that the future needs to be powered by renewable energy, and likely wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t good business.
A common argument against renewable energy that gets brought up along with the cost of it is that of storage. The fact that the sun goes down, and the wind eventually stops, and that people still use energy in these situations, gets brought up. To meet this problem, there have also been great advancements in utility scale battery installation and production as well as new developments in distributed grid networks that keep energy where it needs to be. As reported by Reuters, “U.S. deployments of energy storage systems will nearly triple this year thanks to sharply lower costs and state policies that support the case for installing batteries in homes, businesses and along the power grid… Pairing big batteries with renewable energy projects improves reliability without creating climate-changing emissions, and more homeowners and businesses are looking to batteries for backup power”
Since the majority of our global emissions come from energy production, if we were able to convert ourselves to 100% renewable energy sources, the quicker that we did that as a society, then the less environmental damage we will see.
Even if we weren’t able to stave off the climate crisis enough to be able to survive in the new environment, it could also stand to reason that the global cooperation that it would take to even try to fix this problem would prime us to get along better in the arid landscape.
It would be one thing if we were starting from scratch, but the global renewable energy sector is gaining momentum and is viable today. If we can just elect government officials that make climate a priority, or personally invest into companies that are carbon neutral, it seems that we truly have the collective capacity to mitigate damage.