By George P. Nassos
Global warming was first brought to the attention of Congress in 1988 when James Hansen testified that the atmosphere is getting warmer due to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. After several centuries of the concentration being at 280 parts per million (ppm), the carbon dioxide concentration was starting to increase. He stated that if it goes over 350 ppm, the world will be in trouble. Well, we are currently at about 422 ppm, and it is very unlikely that it will decrease any time soon.
Global warming is now known as climate change because it doesn’t sound as bad. The formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change resulted in numerous meetings since 1992, and this IPCC concluded that the atmospheric temperature in 2050 cannot increase by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Researchers now tell us that we may see a 1.5°C increase by 2027. Everyone must agree that we have a problem, and we must all do something about it, including climate change deniers.
Who are these deniers? I put them in one of four categories. 1) They don’t believe that climate change is for real. 2) They believe that climate change is real but are depending on governments, corporations, and the markets to solve the problem. 3) They believe that climate change is real, but they don’t want to change their lifestyle to improve the situation because they don’t feel that they will make a difference. 4) They believe that climate change is real but why bother doing anything since they won’t be here when it becomes catastrophic.
Here is the position we should all take on this issue. Let’s everyone assume that climate change is a real problem, and everyone does what is necessary to combat it. We switch to renewable energy, drive less, use public transportation whenever possible, walk whenever possible, replace old gas furnaces with heat pumps, participate in community solar, and many other alternatives. If in 30 years we learn that climate change was not a big issue, what would be the consequences. We will have inconvenienced ourselves and spent more money unnecessarily.
If we take the other position, and we all assume today that climate change is not a real issue, we can therefore do nothing about it. But in 30 years, if we find out that climate change was a real issue, what would be the consequences? Catastrophic. So, it seems to me that we really have no choice, and we should all agree that climate change is a problem and we should all work together to mitigate this problem.
This message is also directed towards the governments of all the countries and to the major corporations. Every country should look at the Climate Change Performance Index, see where they are ranked, and try to improve their performance in each of the four metrics: greenhouse gas emissions, use of renewable energy, total energy consumption, and climate policy. The CCPI analyzes the performance of 60 countries and the European Union. Denmark is at the top of the list, but way down are the two biggest carbon emitters, China and the United States ranked #51 and #52. Another big emitter is India; however, this country is ranked #8 but the highest rank (Denmark) is #4 as the CCPI feels that no country is worthy of being ranked in the top three.
We also must convince the corporations to refocus their commitment to sustainability by adopting the ESG standards. Rather than following the Milton Friedman definition of a corporation’s role to maximize the profitability for the shareholders, following ESG can accomplish the environmental needs, the social needs and profitability. A good example of what can be done is for the auto industry to produce more fuel-efficient gas automobiles while it is increasing its production of electric vehicles. In 1975, EPA established the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that took effect in 1980. However, the auto industry has found ways to get around these standards. An example of it is producing large SUVs in truck assembly plants since the CAFÉ standards only apply to automobile assembly plants.
Someone who is really concerned about where we are heading with climate change and the other environmental issues is Antonio Gueterres, Secretary General of the United Nations. He recently wrote a letter to his granddaughter’s granddaughter, dated 2059, basically apologizing for not providing a better environment for her. You can read this letter at Antonio Guterres’ Climate Change Letter to His Great-Great Granddaughter | TIME