Tag Archives: UN Report

It’s Not Easy Being Green…

There has been a lot of discussion about the “Green New Deal” proposed by several Democrats. Critics have pooh-poohed it as “pie in the sky,” while others have praised it for setting high aspirations.

As usual, Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has cut through the sanctimony, pro and con.

It’s really just a set of goals, not a really specific program for how to achieve those goals. The resolution calls for a “10-year national mobilization” to work toward the end goal of ending greenhouse gas emissions and replacing all of our energy production with renewable sources. In order to keep the rise in global temperatures at 1.5% or lower, it sets these goals:

(A) global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and
(B) net-zero global emissions by 2050;

This doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to me. What I have long called for is a national program similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority project, which was a huge push from the federal government to electrify rural areas in that valley. It should be the policy of the government to invest enormous resources in the development of new renewable energy technologies (principally solar and wind), better battery storage and to replace the current electric grid with modern technology.

As Brayton points out, the measure also calls for conservation– especially through the upgrading of older buildings and building new ones with energy efficiency in mind.

At this point, the Green New Deal is primarily symbolic; its passage would signal recognition of the threat that climate change poses, and America’s determination to do everything we can to ameliorate that threat. Recent scientific reports have underlined the immediacy of the damage being done by a warming earth: insects are disappearing; oceans are warming and rising, contributing to extreme weather events; coral reefs are disappearing…the list goes on.

In a time of significant political polarization, climate change is the common enemy: we really are all in this together. At the very least, our quarreling and hostile tribes should be able to come together to combat the changes that threaten the planet. And as the U.N. Report makes clear, those changes are on our doorstep. 

Oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and the sea level has risen. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. The sea ice extent in the Arctic has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 × 106 km² of ice loss per decade.

Given current concentrations and ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that the end of this century that global mean temperature will continue to rise above the pre-industrial leve. The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted to be 24–30 cm by 2065 and 40–63 cm by 2100 relative to the reference period of 1986–2005. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries, even if emissions are stopped.

There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed. Ecosystems as diverse as the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic tundra, may be approaching thresholds of dramatic change through warming and drying. Mountain glaciers are in alarming retreat and the downstream effects of reduced water supply in the driest months will have repercussions that transcend generations.

I don’t think we can get “too ambitious.”