Superstorm Sandy in 2012 increased awareness of climate change in the US. An AP-GfK poll of adults held after the storm reported that only 22% think little or nothing should be done by the government to prevent global warming, a 3% decline from a 2009 survey. With extreme weather patterns like hurricanes and high temperatures, the numbers of Americans who see global warming as a serious problem has increased from 46% in 2009 to 68% in 2012, so the number of concerned young environmentalists will probably increase as well.
The bottom line is that all living beings’ future depends on the environment. Climate change especially hurts low-income countries by reducing crop production, increasing drought or floods, and raising sea levels. In an increasingly connected world, ozone created in China reaches the west coast of the US. Bill McKibben (one of the most influential US environmentalists) reports that global warming is here now, that warming will increase by at least five degrees this century making it an inhospitable planet. He said the world will need to cut fossil fuel use by 70% to stop the increase. We’re losing the fight because of the money spent by the fossil fuel industry, so he backs divestment by universities (i.e., University of Hawaii), companies (Axa in France), churches (Church of England), and countries (Norway). Although the statistics are gloomy, he’s encouraged by global activism, especially the defeat of the XL Pipeline in 2015.
The 2015 Paris conference committed to 1.5 Celsius, although temperatures are already up by 1 degree and 90% of the world’s fossil fuels would need to be left in the ground. Developed countries pledged to raise $100 billion to invest in green energy in developing countries, but without specifics and a small amount compared to the US $600 billion military budget. A report released in 2016 by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and 350.org listed dangerous fossil fuel expansions underway in Australia, Canada, China, the US, Russia, and Africa that will push the climate past the danger zone. In 2015 Citibank predicted it will cost $44 trillion to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change by 2060.
Some US states commission climate change studies in order to prepare for the future, but Republican state legislators prohibit the use of words that associate climate change with humans, as in Nebraska, or the use of “sea level rise” and “climate change.” A Virginia lawmaker labels these phrases as liberal propaganda. Some members of Congress say climate change is a hoax. Congress voted to remove Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut emissions from coal plants while President was advocating action in the Paris climate change Congress in November 2015. In 2014, US Senators including Barbara Boxer formed a think tank to counter climate change denial propaganda (as seen in video clips of Congressional deniers ), hoping to be able to pass legislation to tax carbon emissions. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, based on the Clean Air Act, required states to reduce carbon emission 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. However, 27 states sued to stop Obama’s “war on coal.”
Alarmingly for the future of the planet, many youth are unaware of the consequences of climate weirdness and about 40% of the US public believes warming is natural. Although 200 nations agreed that warming shouldn’t increase past 2 degrees, global emissions are increasing with devastating consequences. A survey looking at 11,000 years of climate readings found a dramatic U-turn of rising temperatures. The Arctic is melting even though the planet is just 0.8 degrees Celsius warmer than it was before industrialization, impacting coastal areas and acidification of the oceans. Melting the artic ice sheets releases huge amounts of methane, which is worse than carbon dioxide.
Greenhouse gas emissions increased 2.3% in 2013, mainly because of large increases in China and India, according to the Global Carbon Project. A World Bank report states that we’re headed toward a four degrees centigrade warmer world by the end of the century with no certainty that humans can adapt to extreme heat waves, loss of agricultural land, and sea-level rise that will jeopardize major cities. Low-income people are most harmed by climate change; a group of journalists documents the impact of climate change on poor girls and women. The UN’s Green Climate Fund assists poor countries as they switch to lower-carbon energy sources. The International Energy Agency predicts that six degrees Celsius is more likely and that dangerous warming will be locked in by 2017 if change isn’t implemented.
At the UN climate conference of 2015 every major country made a comment to cut emissions but not enough to prevent continued heating of the atmosphere to 6.3 Fahrenheit. The commitments would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3% below the present 8% rise by 2030. Emissions currently average five metric tons per person annually—17 tons in the US and six tons in China. To save the planet, this would need to fall to one ton similar to emissions from Haiti and Yemen. Around the same time as the Paris conference, the House of Representatives voted to keep the EPA from considering the costs of climate change.
In Naomi Klein’s analysis, “our economic system and our planetary system are now at war” on a dying planet. She explained that deregulated and privatized capitalism prevents lowering emissions in a world controlled by “an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.” Her blog “The Leap” provides updates on climate change issues and activism. Klein called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies (worth $5.3 trillion in 2015 and more than all governments spend on health care combined, according to the IMF), taxes on financial transactions and increased royalties on fossil fuel extraction and a progressive carbon tax. Global economic “degrowth” is required to rescue the planet as 80% of fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground.
The German program Energiewene provides a green model by converting almost 30% of their electricity from solar and wind in about 15 years. More than 1.7 million households and cooperatives generate their own electricity The leading solar producers in 2014 were Germany, China, Japan, Italy, US, France, Spain, UK, Australia and Belgium. The International Living Future Institute “offers green building and infrastructure solutions that move across scales (from single room renovations to neighborhoods or whole cities.)” Globally 1.3 billion people don’t have electricity and can benefit from solar energy. NGOS like Empowered by Light provides solar energy in developing countries helping students study at night and even help prevent rape of young women in dormitories. About a quarter of the people without electricity live in India and millions more can access it for only a few idea a day, using unhealthy but cheap kerosene lamps that make it hard for students to study at night. Prime Minister Modi raised funding for solar technology, but also increased the number of polluting coal plants. Corporations like Selco India sell small solar units to homes.
Some progress is occurring with reducing funding for coal-burning plants, capping limits on carbon emissions or taxing them, lobbying for ending government subsidies for oil companies, and stopping the use of CFCs (fluorocarbons with chlorine). The Gates Foundation invited investors to join the Breakthrough Energy coalition to invest in carbon-free energy, joined by researchers at the University of California. Huge government subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel corporations should be shifted to renewable energy companies, as IMF Director Christine Lagarde recommends. Norway is a model in encouraging the use of electric cars and the market for them is growing in China. Activist in the US Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, US activist Gopal Dayaneni believes that systems change is the umbrella goal that unites and unifies the climate movement, the global justice movement, and the antiwar movement in their focus on grassroots movements. He’s active in the Our Power campaign to organize in communities such as the Navajo Black Mesa Water Coalition.
Others say the emphasis on reducing carbon emissions detracts from Vandana Shiva’s “regenerative agriculture” approach that captures carbon dioxide into properly farmed soil and forests, the largest “sink for CO2.” Land misuse accounts for about 30% of carbon emissions. The factory agricultural and livestock system is second only to energy consumption in creating greenhouse gases. About 150 ppm (parts per million) of harmful CO2 must be removed from the atmosphere through regenerative land use—Bob Willard lists a 12-step program for how to end fossil fuel dependency. Iowa provides an example of how to manage organic farming and transform degraded soil. Because of the US blockade, Cuba developed perhaps the best model of sustainable agriculture, including state-supported urban farming. Regeneration International calls for a Regeneration Revolution and the World Resources Institute provides research about how to sustain natural resources, keeping in mind the human population will jump to 9.6 billion by 2050.
Canadian Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014) is the new handbook of the climate movement. Her book was followed by a 2015 documentary with the same title. She advocates that acting on climate change is “our best chance to demand and build a better world,” thereby saying no to powerful corporations in a conflict between “capitalism versus the climate.” Climate provides the “big tent” to build a movement of movements. She advocated adopting the German model of encouraging decentralized local energy generators and predicted that change will occur because of leadership from below, as it did with the abolition movement in the 19th century.
Klein’s book predicted riots will occur to protest water shortages in an inevitable water revolt. The World Economic Forum included water crisis along with climate change and mass migration as the biggest problems facing people. Climate News Network reported that more than 40% of the world’s large cities supplied by surface water might experience drought and shortages by 2040. A Dutch university study reported that four billion people across the planet suffer water scarcity during at least one month during the year while half a billion struggle with it during the year. Globally, 663 million people lack clean drinking water and multinational corporations such as Nestle and investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are buying up water rights, privatizing water especially in developing nations. More than 180 communities remunicipalized their water. In the last 15 years. The UN estimates that six to eight million people die annually from water-caused diseases, most of them under age five. President Mikhail Gorbachev, the last head of the USSR, pointed out that UN agencies forecast that by 2025, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will face scarcity of fresh water, which could cause massive migration and violence.
Reversing privatization, hundreds of cities are taking back control of their water from corporations—over 180 cities in 35 countries, especially strong in France. Inexpensive nanoparticle-coated paper presented in book form is an effective filter to clean contaminated water, invented by Theresa Dankovich. An Austrian company called Pumpmakers invented the NSP Solar Pump in hopes it will bring clean drinking water to the nearly million people without it. It is assembled locally from a kit. The pump can reach water as deep as 800 feet even on cloudy days. Solutions are available as in all the problem areas.