Positive developments on climate change might make the future just a little less horrible

November 17, 2022

In Congress, Congressman Peters has been a strong advocate for the health of our environment and air. The EPA’s steps to further curb super pollutant emissions, based on legislation he authored, will help us slow the effects of climate change and keep our communities healthy.

Read more about it in this October 30th piece from the San Diego Union Tribune, posted below:

Positive developments on climate change might make the future just a little less horrible

By Michael Smolens

October 30, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it will seek further cuts to emissions from super-pollutants in another step by the United States to reduce greenhouse gases.

The targeted chemicals — known as hydrofluorocarbons and used in refrigeration and air conditioning — are far more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the globe, even though they have a shorter life.

This is one of several bits of good news on the climate front lately, though they hardly offset the constant, familiar forecasts that a great deal of human suffering and environmental damage is ahead as temperatures inevitably rise.

But with ongoing worldwide government efforts spurred by increasing public pressure, many in the scientific community are beginning to see a future where the warming does not lead to the worst-case scenarios, according to a New York Times Magazine article.

The story was filled with caveats, however, and the Times even added one that didn’t quite seem intended. The magazine article said a “truly global political mobilization” was afoot to tackle climate change. On the same day, the newspaper published a story citing a United Nations report that said “just 26 of 193 countries that agreed last year to step up their climate actions have followed through with more ambitious plans.”

Nevertheless, costs of renewable energy have dropped dramatically and its use has grown. Carbon dioxide emissions are still on the rise, but the International Energy Agency expects the demand for fossil fuels will peak this decade.

Not long ago, the world was looking at a possible upper-end rise in temperatures of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius, largely because of human reliance on fossil fuels. Now some scientists believe the heat-up could be limited to between 2 and 3 degrees, according to the Times magazine article, “Beyond catastrophe: The new climate reality is coming into view.”

For years, researchers have considered a 1.5-degree increase (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) to be the “tipping point” of irreversible ice melting, resulting in potentially devastating sea-level rise and other adverse consequences.

Make no mistake: Even with the reduced temperature rise, storms, floods, droughts and wildfires will continue to get worse — as they already have because of global warming. Tens of millions of people may still be displaced and more people will die due to climate change-fueled weather events.

But any reduction in projected temperatures — perhaps by half from the worst-case forecast — gives adaptation and engineering a better chance at managing what will still be a very challenging world.

The proposed U.S. guidelines on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, aim to reduce the production and use of the chemicals to 40 percent below historic levels starting in 2024, according to The Washington Post.

A couple of years ago, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, was a lead author of legislation that called for phasing out HFCs over 15 years, along with reducing methane gas emissions. Like HFCs, methane is a potent greenhouse gas.

This was parallel to international efforts that were seen as a key short-term strategy in the long-term fight to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. According to the Post, the combined global actions on HFCs are projected to prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century.

Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has factored into the energy picture in predictable and unpredictable ways. The hostilities sparked an energy crisis, with countries burning heavily polluting fossil fuels such as coal rather than the more-limited natural gas.

But that likely will accelerate the global transition to cleaner technology such as wind and solar power, along with more electric vehicles, according to the International Energy Agency in its annual World Energy Outlook.

Countries faced with higher fossil fuel prices increasingly have turned to alternatives, including hydrogen fuels and nuclear power, said the IEA, which expects that trend to continue.

Regarding climate adaptation, a potentially big diplomatic move is brewing. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry last week said the United States was open to negotiations on climate financing for poor countries.

Smaller countries of lesser means say they’ve been disproportionately impacted by climate change that has been exacerbated by emissions mostly from bigger, wealthier countries.

The significance of this is a potential resolution to a dispute over compensation that threatens to upend the annual U.N. climate conference in Egypt beginning Nov. 6.

But the impact of these positive developments could be neutralized, or worse, by low-end warming and global politics.

A report from UNICEF said by 2050 “virtually every child on earth — over 2 billion children — is forecast to face more frequent heatwaves.” Already, around 559 million children are exposed to “high heatwave frequency.”

This projection is consistent, according to the report, regardless of whether the world achieves a “low greenhouse gas emission scenario” with a 1.7-degree Celsius increase or a higher 2.4 degrees of warming.

Then there’s the presidential election in Brazil Sunday that the Times ominously concludes “will determine the conditions for future life on Earth.”

President Jair Bolsonaro’s deforestation and development policies have the Amazon ecosystem “on the brink of catastrophe,” according to the Times. His challenger, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, promises to stop the destruction.

The Amazon forest absorbs billions of tons of carbon, though that will continue to decrease unless something changes. The loss of millions of trees has already decreased rainfall. Scientists say if the Amazon reaches its own “tipping point,” wooded areas that are not turned into ranchland will become dry savannah.

If that election seems distant, consider this: Princeton University researchers say an Amazon stripped bare could mean a 50 percent reduction in the Sierra Nevada snowpack — a critical water source for California cities and farms.



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