Fifty years ago, it was hard to describe climate change. Now, there are thousands of pictures a year showing the devastation it can cause.
In the last 50 years Global temperatures and sea levels are rising sharply. We lost half the sea ice in the summer arctic, low-lying coastal cities are already experiencing devastating floods and working to come up with creative solutions to combat rising tides, the chemistry of the oceans have changed, we've lost some of the great barrier reef and large parts of the rainforest, half of the wild animals in the world are dead. These are massive climate change impacts that need to be met with an equal mass action effort. This time, its a greater struggle than we have ever seen before and the salience of that struggle is highlighted as we deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. What are some of the messages that come out of this hard hitting moment in human history?
2020 will be known as the year the Covid-19 microbe and the Carbon Dioxide molecule was so real and hard hitting it showed us that we cannot force or negotiate with Nature - it is immune to political pressure or persuasion. Humans, have had to social distance, self isolate and lock down for our survival and there was no negotiating this. We have learnt a crucial lesson about delaying to take action - Governments that flattened the Coronavirus curb avoided the devastating impacts that Countries that did not take action early enough experienced. And, we learnt that social solidarity is everything in times of crisis — when fighting for our existence and the vulnerable in society.
The only chance is for the world to move to renewable energy. Based on current trajectories, the world that we will run on sun and wind in 50 years will be a broken world. If we move more quickly, it will be less broken. The fossil fuel industry thrives from the funding it receives from banks, asset management companies and government support — and its what's fuelling global warming. The only way to move to renewable energy fast enough is through civil society standing together to put pressure on these organisations and systems - Activism and nonviolent resistance, is our only way out of this mess.
You may be asking how does the pandemic help us in our fight for climate change. Even though, we are living through the horror of the pandemic, people in countries are getting a glimpse of what life could be like. There are people on Earth who are getting their first breath of clean air in their lives. The demand for oil and gas has declined as people don't need their product. BlackRock Inc., the world's largest asset manager, urged companies in January to emphasise steps they are taking to combat global warming. Citigroup the 3rd largest bank in America joined Wells Fargo & Co., The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Swiss bank UBS in avoiding Arctic petroleum investments. Oxford University also pledged to divest from the Oil and Gas Industry. These are powerful breakthroughs.
Clean technologies keep getting cheaper. As the cost of building new solar and wind continued to fall three-quarters of U.S. coal plants are more expensive to run than new renewables. In April 2019, the U.S. got more energy from renewables than coal for the first time, and low-carbon energy has overtaken fossils in a number of countries like the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Corporate purchasing of renewables continues to accelerate. The mode of electric travel is growing fast. China has more than 400,000 electric buses on the road (the U.S. has only few hundred) and 60 million Indians are getting rides on electric rickshaws every day. Daimler announced it would no longer develop internal combustion engines with all R&D going to electrics.
This year, vegan offerings from Impossible and Beyond Meat quickly jumped from niche curiosities to featured players on the menus of Burger King, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, White Castle, KFC, and Carl’s Jr. They’re also sold in tens of thousands of grocery stores. Burger King credits the Impossible Whopper for its most successful quarter in four years. And Beyond Meat, when it went public in May, had the best IPO of the year up to that point. The alternative protein trend is also global, with Hong Kong-based Omni Pork offering vegan substitutes across Asia. This shift is important because the conventional, industrial food and agriculture industries (including the cows) produce a quarter or more of global carbon emissions. Both Impossible and Beyond have dramatically smaller footprints than industrial beef. In response, the conventional food business is talking more about regenerative systems and specifically “regenerative agriculture.” These new methods of production promise to grow food and raise cattle while sequestering enormous quantities of carbon, which makes the soil richer and helps tackle climate change. Big food buyers are looking seriously at this as well: Danone’s CEO, Emmanuel Faber, speaking at the UN, said “the food system we’ve built over the last century is a dead end for the future.” It’s early days, but watch this space.