How Understanding the History of the Earth's Climate Can Offer Hope Amid CrisisRoundup
tags: climate change, global warming, environmental history, Protest
John Brooke, Michael Bevis and Steve Rissing teach History, Geophysics and Biology at The Ohio State University, where they team-teach a general education course on climate change.
Because CO2 traps heat, our industrial emissions of greenhouse gases have launched a sudden and rapid shift in global temperature and climate. For over a century we have unconsciously been playing with the delicate controls of our planet’s unstable climate system. We did not understand what we were doing until recently, but we do now.
Fortunately carbon in the atmosphere isn’t the only thing that can grow exponentially. Technological rates of change provide a ray of hope. Fossil-fueled economies emerged in a geological instant—the past two hundred years—but over the last decade, renewable energy systems have developed even more explosively. With strong governmental action supported by a broad popular consensus, we might yet find a way through.
We need to act just as “exponentially” to reset these global controls and to accelerate through a new global energy transition.
The means are at hand. Solar and wind renewable technologies are surging in the market place. Driven by technological advances and economies of scale, renewable energy is already a prudent financial investment. Coal power generation persists thanks to national subsidies; across the United States, investment in coal is stalled and collapsing. Widespread gas leaks undermine the possible benefits of natural gas as a “transition fuel.” Indeed, power generation by natural gas may be at what some analysts see as a tipping pointtoward unprofitability.
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