Meeting climate challenge can help the U.S. economy while saving planet

Explaining climate change

An introduction to the causes of modern-day climate change, signs that the climate is already changing, and how climate change affects the environment and human well-being.
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An introduction to the causes of modern-day climate change, signs that the climate is already changing, and how climate change affects the environment and human well-being.

The next Global Climate Action Summit will meet on Sept. 23 in New York City, trying to boost the Paris Agreement on climate change and demonstrate massive movement in the economy that supports that agenda.

That’s if President Trump doesn’t decide to cancel, because people at this summit don’t talk coal or fossil fuels. Let’s give them a final credit, because the world has benefited from the fossil fuel industry. But now it’s time to move on. We have only one planet.

The Paris accord was signed by 197 countries in December 2015 in an effort to curb global greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius. It also urged achieving net-zero global emissions by 2050. The result of global warming is known, but is it understood?

Biodiversity is the foundation of human livelihood, food security and economy. We can’t destroy the environment and stay in business. We can’t accommodate an increasingly mobile world population and stay in business. We can’t keep responding to disasters and stay in business.

We need to unify and do what’s happening around the world. Countries are acting and shifting to a low-carbon economy. Their motivation is clear, they can’t afford not to. It’s considered the biggest business opportunity and they are all in the race.

Here are the commitments to the Paris agreement of a few countries:

Germany: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030 and 95% by 2050. Renewables must provide 60% of all energy by 2050, 80% of all electric power by 2050.

China: Peak all greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Renewables to provide for all new energy needs. China is the worlds largest investor in renewables.

Denmark: Cut all emissions 70% by 2030.

Luckily for the United States, there are states with strong leadership and goals:

New York State: Cut carbon dioxide 85% by 2050.

▪ California: Cut all emissions to zero by 2045 and provide 100% of electric power from renewables by 2045.

The U.S., still polluting twice as much per capita compared to China and the European Union (EU) has no national goals. Trump decided to pull out and isolate the U.S. as the only country in the world not to support the framework-deal to combat greenhouse gas emissions. His reason was that coal workers would be put at an economic disadvantage. As if black lung is an advantage.

Kentucky’s carbon dioxide emissions are close to 30 tons per capita, the U.S. average is at 15 tons per capita. China’s and the EU’s are both at 6 tons per capita. Emissions are not “cool” when you are looking to invest.

It would be helpful to the state of Kentucky if Gov. Bevin enacted legislation to curb emissions, not increase them and to create revenue, not manipulate funds. Investments in renewable electricity will do just that.

The challenge of the 21st century is to formulate an economic “growth” that does not add pressure on climate, biodiversity, water consumption and natural resources. So, the big question becomes: what does “growth” look like to balance the climate crises?

A future sustainable economic growth will depend on technological developments comparable to sending people to the moon. Lower production, changing habits and waste disposal must all be part of this ecological economic equation.

Human and environmental well-being is a central part of the equation, as it has become clear that human crisis, climate crisis and economic crisis are all connected. To avoid one crisis, they must all be avoided. We need to invest in people and the environment.

Kirsten Petersen O’Daniel of Springfield is a Denmark native and scientist who raises beef cattle and trains horses.