A glimpse of optimism on climate change | مركز سمت للدراسات

A glimpse of optimism on climate change

Date & time : Monday, 4 December 2023


As leading experts on climate change, we often get asked if there’s hope for the planet — but it may surprise people that we find more cause for optimism than despair.   We see an energy transition underway that isn’t getting nearly enough attention, and rising investments in adaptation that can make us more resilient to extreme weather. Even as the international community remains far from meeting its climate goals, recent progress shows that widespread change is possible and paves the way for broader action.

While headlines about climate-amplified disasters have grown, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 17 percent from 2005 to 2021 as the size of the economy doubled. Solar and wind costs have plummeted by 70 percent and 90 percent over the most recent decade and account for 80 percent of new electricity generating capacity this year. Domestic sales of electric vehicles are also surging, with over 1 million vehicles sold so far in 2023 — up 50 percent from 2022 and representing one in 10 new vehicles sold.

These trends have supporting tailwinds of public policy in many states, and at the federal level, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) aims to further lower costs of renewables, electric vehicles, heat pumps and other low-emissions technologies. Recent analysis suggests the IRA can nearly halve U.S. emissions by 2035 while reducing customer costs by as much as $370 per household each year.

Falling clean energy costs and additional climate policies in the U.S. and elsewhere have helped to reduce the global warming we expect this century, from 3.5 degrees Celsius to 2.4 degrees, in part by making climate action more affordable worldwide. This reflects significant progress, even if countries are not yet on track to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and falling short on national goals.

None of this is to minimize the rising and observed impacts of climate change. We are increasingly experiencing the consequences of historical emissions, with climate change-fueled events unfolding more frequently and severely. This year has seen climate records not just broken but shattered — global surface temperatures, Antarctic sea ice loss, ocean temperatures, extreme flooding, heat waves and extensive wildfires, all with substantial adverse impacts for individuals, assets, ecosystems and institutions.

U.S. households are facing climate-related increases in medical expenses, food prices, insurance premiums and home repair costs, and research has uncovered less-appreciated impacts on mental health, school performanceand crime. Government resources are also increasingly strained by spending on disaster response and wildfire suppression, even as lost tax revenue decreases available federal and municipal funding. The full magnitude of impacts will hinge on unknowns around climate variability, technological change, behavioral responses and differential vulnerability.— and this uncertainty itself is an economic burden to a generally risk-averse society.

Moreover, there are striking differences in who will be harmed by climate change and who will benefit from different responses. Certain individuals may face greater risks due to increased exposure of marginalized neighborhoods or climate-sensitive livelihoods, with impacts unevenly distributed across income levels, credit access, age and race. At the same time, frontline communities have fewer resources to pursue adaptation.

Source: The Hill



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