Climate change is no longer a concept. It’s a lived experience.
It doesn’t matter if you think the increasing number of violent storms, surging floods, wildly fluctuating temperatures, and explosive wildfires are caused by human activity. It’s impossible to ignore the increasing frequency and power of these events.
Our best science tells us we need to “stop burning stuff.” That means we must stop using fossil fuels – gasoline, oil, coal, natural gas, and biofuels – to power life on Earth.
In recent weeks, another alarming warning has raised eyebrows and deep concerns. According to reporting in the Los Angeles Times, temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean have shot up “nearly 2 degrees (1.09 Celsius) above the mean dating back to 1982, the earliest year with comparable data.”
“Underlying everything is human-caused climate change,” says Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. But adding to the change are several other factors: the early arrival of El Niño; the recent eruption of a giant undersea volcano in Tonga; new regulations affecting sulfur aerosol emissions, and a notable lack of Saharan Desert dust in the air. It turns out that particulate matter in the atmosphere helps keep Earth cooler.
Still, Swain says, “The North Atlantic is record-shatteringly warm right now. There has never been any day in observed history where the entire North Atlantic has been nearly as warm as it is right now, at any time of year.”
Well, as United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the world bluntly in 2022, “We’re on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”
What does climate chaos look like? Just look around. In the West, it looks like the devastation of great swaths of forest by rapacious fires. In the Northeast, it smells like smoke from massive wildfires in Canada. It looks like historic flooding, more powerful and frequent hurricanes across the Southern United States, and unprecedented high and low temperatures almost everywhere.
There’s also something called “climate migration,” whole populations fleeing one country for another because they can no longer grow food where they live due to global warming. Imagine populations fleeing sea level rise to reach higher ground due to global warming. Now, imagine countries desperately trying to defend themselves from waves of displaced refugees coming their way.
The specter of such migrations and global unrest explains why the US Department of Defense has elevated climate change to “a critical national security issue.”
In the last chapter of my memoir, Not Your Father’s America, I warn readers about the urgency of addressing global warming. I invite skeptics who doubt the significance of the widely dreaded 1.5 to 2 degree Celsius increase in Earth’s average temperature to think about it in terms of their own temperature.
Even though we measure the planet’s temperature in Celsius and our body temperature in Fahrenheit, incremental increases can be hugely significant. At 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, you feel fine. You’re normal. But a small increase can cause you to feel unwell. At 100 degrees Fahrenheit, an increase of just 1.4 degrees, you feel off and probably become concerned. If your temperature climbs to 102 or 103 degrees, another small increase, you’re in bed and on the phone with your doctor. If your temperature reaches 104 degrees (an increase of just 5.4 degrees), you’re on your way to urgent care or the ER.
The science is clear. Our lived experiences are undeniable. Global warming is not something we humans can tolerate.
What can we do?
Fortunately, we can do a great deal to slow global warming, and we can do it now. We can urgently support candidates, policies, and programs that advance the immediate adoption of renewable energy.
For example, a team of scientists led by Stanford University climate scientist Mark Jacobson has developed renewable energy roadmaps for all 50 states in America and more than 143 (on their way to 196) countries to power life on Earth with electricity generated solely by wind, water, and the sun.
In his new book, No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air (Cambridge University Press, 2023), Dr. Jacobson brilliantly and completely addresses the fear that we don’t have the technologies needed to solve the climate crisis. The truth, he demonstrates, is that not only do we have the technologies, but also, more importantly, we now have the calculations to guide how many wind farms, solar farms, rooftop solar arrays, tidal, geothermal, and hydroelectric installations will be required to power life as we know it with clean energy, with storage for everything.
The transition will require “whole of America” and “whole of Earth” mobilizations on the scale of the global mobilizations that ended World War II. But transitioning to renewable energy will dramatically slow global warming, advance climate justice, save millions of lives lost each year to pollution, and create tens of millions of jobs worldwide.
Realizing what’s at stake, global investors, sovereign funds, nation-states, and local, state, and federal governments are poised to invest the trillions of dollars needed to finance the transition. Joining a global, green industrial revolution will be legacy companies and startups that will grow and prosper from the greatest economic movement the world has ever seen.
Can we change how we power life on Earth in time? We have to. If we hope to avoid the inevitable impacts of climate chaos, we must act nationally and globally now. 100% clean energy for 100% of people is 100% possible.
Cort Casady has won two Emmy Awards and three NAACP Image Awards for his work as a television and documentary writer-producer. His memoir, Not Your Father’s America: An Adventure Raising Triplets in a Country Being Changed by Greed (Chandler Press, 2023), is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores nationwide. He is currently developing a feature-length documentary, 100% Possible: The Battle for the World’s Energy Future. For more information: www.cortcasady.com