This week New York Magazine featured a new article by journalist David Wallace-Wells about the state of the fight against global warming.
He warns that “Already, the planet is warmer, at just 1.2 degrees, than it has ever been…” But there’s also some good news:
Just a half-decade ago, it was widely believed that a “business as usual” emissions path would bring the planet four or five degrees of warming — enough to make large parts of Earth effectively uninhabitable. Now, thanks to the rapid death of coal, the revolution in the price of renewable energy, and a global climate politics forged by a generational awakening, the expectation is for about three degrees. Recent pledges could bring us closer to two. All of these projections sketch a hazardous and unequal future, and all are clouded with uncertainties — about the climate system, about technology, about the dexterity and intensity of human response, about how inequitably the most punishing impacts will be distributed. Yet if each half-degree of warming marks an entirely different level of suffering, we appear to have shaved a few of them off our likeliest end stage in not much time at all.
The next half-degrees will be harder to shave off, and the most crucial increment — getting from two degrees to 1.5 — perhaps impossible, dashing the dream of avoiding what was long described as “catastrophic” change. But for a climate alarmist like me, seeing clearly the state of the planet’s future now requires a conspicuous kind of double vision, in which a guarded optimism seems perhaps as reasonable as panic. Given how long we’ve waited to move, what counts now as a best-case outcome remains grim. It also appears, miraculously, within reach….
The price of solar energy has fallen ninefold over the past decade, as has the price of lithium batteries, critical to the growth of electric cars. The costs of utility-scale batteries, which could solve the “intermittency” (i.e., cloudy day) problem of renewables and help power whole cities in relatively short order, have fallen 70 percent since just 2015. Wind power is 40 percent cheaper than it was a decade ago, with offshore wind experiencing an even steeper decline. Overall, renewable energy is less expensive than dirty energy almost everywhere on the planet, and in many places it is simply cheaper to build new renewable capacity than to continue running the old fossil-fuel infrastructure. Oil demand and carbon emissions may both have peaked this year. Eighty percent of coal plants planned in Asia’s developing countries have been shelved… [I]n the fall, the U.K. pledged to ban nonelectrics by 2030 — a once-unthinkable law coming both too slow and much more quickly than seemed possible not very long ago. Similar plans are now in place in 16 other countries, plus Massachusetts and California. Canada recently raised its tax on carbon sixfold. Italy cut its power-sector emissions 65 percent between 2012 and 2019, and Denmark is now aiming to reduce its overall emissions 70 percent by 2030…
[F]or all their momentum, renewables still only make up 10 percent of global electricity production. But alarmists have to take the good news where they find it….
The author also spoke to Pulitzer Prize-winner environmentalist author Elizabeth Kolbert about her new book Under a White Sky:
In her book, Kolbert sketches a spectrum of interventions, from electrifying rivers to using CRISPR to save endangered species to solar geoengineering, often called “solar-radiation management,” by which aerosol particles are suspended in the stratosphere to deflect some sunlight back into outer space and artificially cool the planet. “There is a slippery slope here, you know?” she says. “And where does that end?
“But there are not a lot of great choices. We’re not returning to a preindustrial climate — not in my lifetime, not in your lifetime.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.