How Can The U.S. Best Prioritize Climate Action in 2019?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5 °C that came out in October 2018 placed extreme urgency on strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change. According to the report, if the global population does not make drastic decreases in emissions production quickly, we will be seeing extreme consequences in the very near future.
Fortunately, a world where limiting warming to 1.5 °C is possible, but only with rapid and urgent changes.
With a ticking down clock weighing heavy on our shoulders, the U.S. needs to prioritize its efforts so that it can not only reduce the amount of greenhouse gases it is emitting, but also begin to remove those gases from the atmosphere. Looking ahead into 2019, Climate Social sees these steps as top priorities for U.S. policy makers, civil society, and the private sector.
According to the United States EPA, the transportation sector contributes the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere every year - 28.5% in 2016 to be exact.
These gases are primarily generated by burning fossil fuels for our transportation fleets including cars, buses, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. With petroleum accounting for 90% of vehicle fuel sources and electric vehicles just getting off the ground, the transformation of this sector will need to be dramatic!
Fortunately, there are a number of companies working to make a difference. Electrify America is building out the adoption of electric vehicles through enhanced infrastructure and energy management solutions. With 484 planned fast-charging stations in 40+ states, Electrify America is one of the leading electric transportation investors in the field.
Businesses aren’t the only ones working on solutions. Local city governments are implementing more ride and bike share programs alongside public transportation. Over 80 cities now have bike share programs and the ridership is increasing. The U.S. saw 35 million bike trips through bike share programs in 2017 - a 25% increase from 2016. In smaller and more rural areas, companies like Lyft and Uber come in, with Lyft having statewide coverage in 32 states.
Climate Social was proud to work with the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania over the past sixteen months, where these issues are always explored in depth.
Transitioning to Renewable Energy
Electric vehicles are only one part of the solution: decarbonizing our electricity is the next. Electric production comes in second to transportation in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sharing 28.4% of the overall contributions. Approximately 68% of our electricity comes from burning coal and natural gas. As the coal industry continues to fade globally, renewable resources such as hydro dams, wind farms, and solar panels are taking its place.
Even though the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Agreement on a national level, states are still fighting to uphold the agreement. In April 2018, Hawaii announced a commitment to 100% renewable energy production by 2045. As former importers of crude-oil, Hawaii is setting the precedent for state-level action. California is upholding the agreement as well with former Governor Brown hosting the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco this past September allowing for a constructive dialogue between innovators and policy-makers.
Our Founder, Marissa Rosen, participated in #GCAS2018 in September of 2018 on behalf of Forest Trends, covering the announcements and sessions pertinent to deforestation and land rights issues.
Land Management & Protection
One of our greatest tools against carbon emissions is our own land, which is plentiful in the United States. Since 1990, Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) activities have resulted in more removal of CO2 from the atmosphere than emissions. Plants remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Our soils also absorb CO2 under the proper climate circumstances. This process of storing carbon is called biological carbon sequestration or a “carbon sink.” In 2016, 11% of U.S. emissions were offset by these carbon sinks.
Global warming and deforestation are threats to these natural solutions. Proper land management and adequate protections ensure that land is viable for carbon removal. Deforestation is occurring much faster than our ability to replant trees and changes in climate negatively affect the soils ability to store carbon. A natural solution is a free solution and should be protected.
Have you heard of the startup, Nori, which has named itself ‘a marketplace for reversing climate change’? Climate Social connected with this fantastic group at November’s Companies Vs. Climate Change conference in Miami!
As the consequences of climate change approach the point of no return, the pressure is on to combat the rise in global temperatures. As we start the new year, it is essential for the United States — and all nations — to turn towards renewable energy that electrifies our transportation and fades out coal. Proper land management and protections also help strengthen our natural solutions and offset our emissions. These priorities will set us in motion for a continually healthy and habitable environment for generations to come.