Discover more from Talking Climate with Katharine Hayhoe
Confronting climate risks + sparking climate action
We just lived through the hottest two months in human history... It's time to rewrite our future
Can you believe we’ve just lived through the hottest two months in human history? Ocean water off the coast of South Florida is now as warm as your hot tub. Winter temperatures in South America are topping 38C or 100F. And if that’s not enough, there are still more than a thousand wildfires burning across Canada at the same time as record floods around the world from Nova Scotia to Slovenia to eastern China are inundating homes and putting lives at risk.
But here’s the kicker – by themselves, all these climate risks still aren’t enough to get people going. If all we hear is doom and gloom, we just freeze up like deer in headlights. That’s why it’s more important than ever to balance out the scary stuff with some hopeful news, 50-50. We've got real solutions, and you know how to get things started: talk about it!
Here’s some good news and some not-so-good news you can share.
In the U.S., a lot’s been happening since the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) kicked in almost exactly a year ago. Over 70,000 new jobs have been created from more than 200 big clean energy projects. These include solar and wind installations; but they also include many of the new factories needed to make the parts for solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicles, and to recycle what’s no longer needed. And more is coming this year, with huge new solar farms being planned everywhere from old coal mines to Cold War bomb development sites.
Globally, things are changing too. Renewable energy like onshore wind and solar are now cheaper than fossil fuels, on average. By 2025, renewable energy is expected to power 35% of the world’s electricity demand. And guess who’s leading the way? China, with nearly 3 times more renewable energy than its nearest rivals: the U.S., Brazil, India, and Japan. Because of this, China is on track to peak their carbon emissions years ahead of their 2030 goal.
Deforestation accounts for nearly 20% of global carbon emissions, and last year more than 40% of that deforestation happened in Brazil. When President Lulu was elected last October, he promised to end deforestation in Brazil. Today, he’s well on his way to keeping that promise. Brazil has slashed Amazon deforestation by nearly two thirds in just nine months.
Real change is happening and the growing awareness of both climate risks and the progress we’ve made can inspire even greater change.
While growing climate risks can make more people aware of the problem, these same extremes can also hinder climate action and even increase heat-trapping gas emissions.
Up in the north, Canadian wildfires are still a major concern. The carbon emissions from these fires have already doubled the previous annual record, and there’s nearly five months left in the year! At the same time, Russia is using the melting Arctic sea ice to their temporary advantage (and all of our long-term detriment), shipping oil to China through the newly accessible routes.
During intense heatwaves, the demand for electricity in places like China and India is soaring. To meet this demand, they're relying more on fossil fuels and even reviving old coal plants. While this might provide a temporary solution, it's actually a step in the wrong direction. In the long run, increased dependence on coal is only going to exacerbate the problem, making the situation worse rather than improving it.
And places like the United States, Spain, the U.K. and even the EU, the growing push for climate action seems to be driving a conservative backlash against clean energy policies. This reaction is disappointing but not surprising, as climate denial primarily stems from an aversion to the solutions themselves. I've talked about this very thing in a Global Weirding episode. This is why it’s more important than ever that people understand the benefits of climate solutions.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
As environmentalistwisely puts it, "One of the most effective things an individual can do is not be such an individual." He means that when we join forces with others, our voices can become louder and our impact stronger. Just how strong can we be? As the famous quote says, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has." (This quote is often inaccurately attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead, but its true origin is unknown.)
So this week, look for an organization that aligns with your values on climate action. Start by following them on social media or subscribing to their updates and sharing what you learn with people you know. Look into how you can contribute to their work. By teaming up, you can amplify your impact and make a real difference.
For example, are you a …
And if you’re a citizen in nearly any country who just wants to tell politicians what they should be doing better? Citizen’s Climate Lobby is all about that!
There are climate action groups for young people and schools, healthcare professionals and athletes. For more ideas, see this handy quiz I helped create with Science Moms.
Do you have a favourite organization I didn’t mention? Let us know!