Released in April 2022, the latest major United Nations report on climate change put in the starkest terms yet the need for rapid reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. However, underneath the alarm bells the report had another message: we now have the technological tools to combat this crisis. It is up to us to decide to use them.
This U.N. report is the latest in a series of dire scientific warnings that — despite international agreements — the world is not on track to meet carbon emission reduction goals and the planet is heating up to a dangerous degree. In order to meet the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which is to limit average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, global emissions need to fall sharply, starting immediately.
At the same time this latest report highlights the hopeful fact that reducing global emissions to the levels necessary is, scientifically speaking, feasible, given the tools we have today.
Renewable energy technology is more available and cheaper than ever. According to the World Resources Institute, the cost of solar energy has fallen by 85% in a decade, and wind power by 50%. These renewable energy sources are now cost-competitive with fossil fuel energy.
In an interview with Scientific American, Sarah Burch, one of the lead authors of the U.N. report and a climate researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, said, “We … have solutions [for reducing emissions] in every sector [such as transportation and power generation] — which is very exciting — many of which are scaling up rapidly and closer to working at scale.”
Now that the technologies exist, she said, “it’s deploying them and scaling them up — that’s the tricky part.”
While personal action is critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, individuals are often “locked in,” in Burch’s words, to high-carbon lifestyles. Changes to infrastructure are necessary for the transition to renewable energy.
Politicians will need to champion the kinds of large-scale investments and regulation necessary for this transition, and corporations will need to participate as well.
“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behavior can result in a 40% to 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said Priyadarshi Shukla, one of the co-chairs of the U.N. working group that published the report.
The key is generating enough momentum to garner the political will for change.
FAITH IN ACTION:
• Join the Catholic Climate Covenant in calling for the U.S. government to invest in ambitious climate solutions: https://catholicclimatecovenant.org/
• Visit the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform website to learn about the global Church’s efforts to care for all creation: https://laudatosiactionplatform.org/
• Sign up to receive email action alerts from the Maryknoll Office for Global
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Phone (202) 832-1780, visit www.maryknollogc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image: A solar panel canopy at the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers campus in Ossining, New York, demonstrates the Society’s commitment to renewable energy. (Courtesy Ecogy Energy)