Summer in the Northern Hemisphere has seen a trail of devastation left behind: wildfires scorching Hawaii, Canada and Portugal; drought plaguing Indonesia for four, long hot months; marine heat waves occurring in 40% of the world’s oceans, the most since satellite tracking started in 1991; intense flooding in Slovenia (a month’s worth of rain dropped in 24 hours, leading to the country’s worst-ever natural disaster); and heat waves scorching the US from California to Texas to Florida. Even in South America, where it is currently winter, there have been heatwaves. Dozens of meteorological stations at more than 1000 meters altitude in Chile recorded unprecedented temperatures above 35 degrees C (95 degrees F). And Antarctic sea ice reached a record low for winter in the Southern Hemisphere. On the global scale, the planet saw its hottest June on record this year. And July 2023 is not only the hottest July on record, but also the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.
Yet, our fate is not set in stone. We’re not doomed. Though the challenges we face are significant, they are not insurmountable. Every bit of warming matters. But every bit of action and every choice countering the warming matters, too. Climate change is moving faster than we are, so we are at a critical time. Big climate action needs to take place at government and corporate levels, but we can motivate and mobilize that through our votes and our voices. Throughout the world, we are seeing progress, so let’s look at some of these positives:
(1) Steel is a building block of modern society: it’s found in cars, trains and bridges. Producing it accounts for nearly 10% of all carbon dioxide emissions generated by humans. Companies in the US are pushing for a greener product: low-carbon steel, with Nucor Corporation, in South Carolina, leading the charge. Despite political attacks, this is not stopping some companies in red states from going green. We need more of this.
(2) Despite losing about $3 billion this year, Ford Motor Co.’s development of electric vehicles continues, as it invests heavily in the new technology. They’re embracing new technology and competitive disruption in the industry, knowing that it will pay off in the end. They’re expected to start turning a profit by 2026. 2022 sales records show that only 6% of cars sold in the U.S. are electric. Globally, the number is 14%. There are huge implications for the energy sector here, as electrification is set to avoid the need for 5 million barrels of oil a day by 2030.
(3) New Zealand’s government is partnering with U.S. investment giant, BlackRock, in its aim to become one of the first nations in the world to have its electricity grid run entirely from renewable energy. Canada is leading the way in ending public funding for fossil fuels (fossil fuels are subsidized by over $16 million per minute, skewing the market and keeping us more dependent on the old, dirty ways of getting energy than we should be). The city of Houston, the 4th largest in the U.S., is working on an ambitious climate action plan that connects climate resilience and emission reductions to social justice.
(4) People are speaking up and fighting for climate action. Polls in the US show that nearly 70% of people support the country becoming carbon neutral by 2050. A UK poll found nearly 75% of adults surveyed reported feeling very or somewhat worried about climate change, with a majority wanting to support net-zero policies. Oberlin, a small college town in Ohio, is planning to cut emissions 75% by 2030 and create a blueprint for others to do the same. Let’s try that in a small town.
Let’s keep this rolling. Get educated, get involved, spread the word! Collectively, we can turn the tide. Again, while every bit of warming matters, every action and choice to counter it matters, too.
photo by: Ricardo Peña