We can do this: 10 reasons there's hope for our climate

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Feeling pessimistic about our ability to turn the corner toward climate stability before it is too late?

"We're in the race of our lives," Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp said this week at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, explaining that he understands why some are losing hope. “The science is scary, the politicians are polarized and the impacts are increasing.”

But Fred delivered a profoundly optimistic message based on a range of compelling and tangible successes, trends, and truths that – taken together – stand as powerful evidence that, yes, we can overcome polarization and inertia. We can reduce emissions in time to avert the worst impacts of global climate change.

As leaders from around the world listened, Fred shared the Top 10 reasons why he has renewed hope that we can get national and international climate solutions back on track.

Following the model of the master, Late Show host David Letterman, he presented them starting with number 10: 

10. Solar and wind prices are dropping – dramatically

We’re talking about a 75-percent drop in the price of panels since 2008, and the United States added more solar capacity in the past 18 months than in the previous 30 years combined. In some parts of the country, wind is already becoming cost competitive with coal and gas.

9. The American economy has moved in the right direction.

Between 2005 and 2012, the U.S. reduced its carbon dioxide emissions from energy by 12 percent. Our economic system is demonstrating its capacity to reduce emissions.

8. China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is on the move toward a cleaner future.

Recognizing the need to act, China has set up seven pilot cap-and-trade areas, covering nearly 250 million people. They recognize the need to act, and are reaching out to partners such as EDF and the State of California for advice.

7. The United States, the world’s second-biggest emitter, is also moving to limit carbon pollution from its largest source, the power sector.  

The Clean Power Plan, supported by two-thirds of Americans, will cut billions of tons of pollution and drive investment in clean energy. 

6. President Obama has required big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from cars, doubling gas mileage by 2025.

Even so, car sales rose by more than a million vehicles per year between 2009 and 2013 as average fuel economy increased. Not for nothing, but electric cars are getting cool, too. 

5. We are starting to bring that same technological leap into our homes.

A world in which people generate, store, and even sell their own electricity is already becoming reality. And imagine having an electric bill of just 3 dollars a month. That’s a clean energy revolution everybody can support.

4. Methane is 84 times more dangerous to our climate than carbon in the short term.

Why is this good? Here’s a major contributor to climate change that we can fix cheaply. Consider this: We can stop almost half of methane leakage and the cost of a thousand cubic feet of natural gas would go from just $4.50 to $4.51.

3. Politically, the future belongs to those who support climate action.

Seventeen out of 20 young voters support climate action, which means being on the right side of this issue is a matter of long-term political survival for both Democrats and Republicans.   

2. We have a plan.

Working with our allies, we’ve figured out how to cut 6 gigatonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions a year by 2020 – enough to begin turning the corner toward climate stability. We'll be posting the details of this plan very soon.

1. The two largest emitting countries haven’t yet adopted the most powerful tool we have: A price on carbon.

When it doesn’t cost to pollute, you get a lot of pollution. But when there’s a price to pay, industry will have an incentive to find low-cost carbon solutions. The first nine reasons for hope on climate are the reason we can get to this last one, as difficult as it may sound.

You’ll find more details about each of these reasons in the full video of Fred’s speech. 

“[Oberlin College] Professor David Orr taught me the difference between optimism and hope,” Fred noted in a Q&A session on Facebook earlier this week, also part of the Aspen event.

“Optimism is a prediction everything will be ok, hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. I actually am not only hopeful, but also optimistic that if people join the fight we can turn this around.”

He’s right. Join us. 

Dan Upham

Dan Upham

Dan is a writer and editor at EDF.

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Comments

Fred Krupp presented 10 excellent reasons why there is hope for the climate. It is important for us to hear about the positive things that are happening as this should encourage us to work harder.

I feel Mr.Krupp did a fine presentation of stating our case for Global Climate concerns. Complete with viable solutions to address our current and future plan of action.Although quite inspiring for those in attendance, it is shameful there were so few who cared enough to show up. Like the voice of a child at the bottom of a well, to little will be known until the time is late for action. In a show of support for the EDF and Fred Krupp we should all take it upon ourselves to share this message far and wide. Let us use this Well as a Megaphone to amplify his message until it echoes from the Halls of Congress. With our unified action and the power of the Social Network we can bend our Politicians to our will. Forcing them into action before we cross that fatal tipping point. But we must act Together and We Must Act Now.

I feel that there is another reason for hope, not mentioned here. More and more people are changing to a plant-based diet, for many different reasons, including their health, for the animals, for global hunger, and of course for the environment. Meat sales are declining in this country, and ultimately the need for fewer farm animals will have a huge impact on both methane production directly from the animals, and carbon consumption, in growing and fertilizing all the crops needed to feed them, not to mention the fuel costs in taking animals to slaughter and refrigerate the meat thereafter. Unfortunately there are many developing countries who seek to emulate the American way of life, and are therefore increasing their meat and dairy consumption. I hope that they will soon see the downsides to this, and recognize the value of their traditional, lower impact diets.