In each of the coming years, we will see more floods destroy billions upon billions of dollars worth of property, crops, and infrastructure, and take hundreds of lives; more frequent, more deadly, tornadoes and hurricanes that will do the same; an increasing lack of water for crops cause food shortages and higher food prices, which will lead to more people going hungry, starving. Before long, in America, we will begin to see the lack of water cause displacement of populations, and we will see rising temperatures make large areas of the once habitable become uninhabitable. These things we will see here in America. Some other parts of the world will suffer much more, some a little less. All these things are happening because of the burning of fossil fuels.
Yet, it was a herculean task to take minimal action when what was needed was an all-out effort to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. At this point, every ton of CO2 added to the atmosphere worsens and prolongs the damage. Yesterday was too late for preventing what we are seeing now. Any delay increases the damage. For any hope of a future where most of ours and other species will survive at any modicum of comfort, we need an all-out effort to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. This is not a time to dilly-dally trying to preserve wealth or jobs. We haven’t the time. Spending tens of $trillions to get off hydrocarbons would be a bargain.
While we are working around the clock to develop alternatives, we do need to make all the changes we can to reduce greenhouse emissions, to lessen the further damage. Reducing the consumption of goods could mean a lot. For example, say clothing lasted 3-4 times as long. It takes about as much energy to make a cheap pair of pants that last three months as it does to make a pair that last one year. Tons and tons of CO2 are emitted by trips to the shopping mall. Long commutes into work never made sense. Neither did hauling manufactured goods all around the world. Remember when a refrigerator lasted 20 years? In the interim, before we can get off fossil fuels, every percent helps.
The demand for air conditioning is, understandably, skyrocketing. Around the world, homes that never needed air conditioning before Global Warming; now do. This means increased consumption of electricity. In the interim, before we can get completely off fossil fuels, let’s make sure that all this increased demand is met with electricity from clean alternative energy generation; avoid another positive feedback loop. Any new air conditioning should come connected to solar panels with an inverter.
Any benefit the fossil fuel industry might realize from slow-walking the transition will be minuscule relative the harm done the planet. So, any economic advantage from slow-walking. Just as continued logging could not save the lumberman’s job, nor continued fishing, the fisherman’s; the only scenario that affords a future where most of mankind survives and can expect a modicum of comfort is one based on clean energy. It is not about saving the past; it is about saving the future. The sooner we get off fossils, the better that future.
Now is the time. The time to spend wisely, for sure; but a time to spend whatever it takes.