One of the positives of the previous US president pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord is it galvanized the many who see the need to act to save our planet. Coupling the US exit with the former president placing climate change deniers and fossil fuel supporters in key cabinet roles, he placed the US government at the kids table, while the adults talk about solving the world’s problem. But, with the current president, this is changing, but even he is not moving fast enough. Getting the US back to the table is a huge plus, though.
Fortunately, even the former president’s actions cannot stop the momentum as a tipping point on renewable energy and other efforts have been reached. As reported in the book “Climate of Hope,” by former New York City Mayor and Governor Michael Bloomberg (he actually did some good before his sexual harassment caught up with him) and former Executive Director of the Sierra Club Carl Pope, cities, businesses and citizens have been leading the way. This is important as cities are significant contributors to climate change and can therefore make a huge dent in ameliorating its effect. And, they are sharing their successes formally and informally
Some of these efforts include:
– Restoring and renovating older buildings into green buildings. Bloomberg touts the renovation of the 1931 built Empire State as a key example.
– Building new structures with an even greener footprint. In India they deploy white rooftops to reflect away the sun to minimize cooling costs, e.g,
– Building more pedestrian areas which provide safer and eco-friendly access to shops, restaurants and businesses. These car free zones actually are part of a solution to reroute traffic to reduce carbon polluting stoppage.
– Building and nurturing buffers to allow nature to do its jobs to absorb the pounding of the ocean, since, so many large cities are coastal cities with some below sea level. We should use nature to provide defenses that stand the test of time.
– Developing master traffic plans embracing car sharing, ride sharing, bike sharing, pedestrian pathways, electric vehicles from buses to taxis, and the elegant use of mass transit based on capital needs and restrictions. Bloomberg is big on measuring things, so installing GPS in New York taxis allowed them to measure success and make modifications to their plans as executed.
– Planting more carbon saving trees in cities and other areas, as well as using other plants such as mangroves in coastal areas as they suck carbon out of the air.
– Conserving food and reducing wastage. We waste huge amounts of food, both before and after it is cooked. Imperfect fruits and vegetables go straight to the dumps unless concentrated efforts prevent it and guide distribution to other users. Buying local saves on transportation costs and emissions, as well (but we need to buy more of what grows naturally in an area, as a caveat).
– Challenging manufacturers for efficient production and distribution. For example, a significant amount of wood goes to pallets that are tossed after one use. Look to more durable pallets that can be reused. Plus, the US does an excellent job of distributing products by rail and can do even better, as the rest of the world improves their efforts. These transmodal distribution centers that marry the efforts of ships, planes, trains and trucks provide huge efficiences and enhance trade.
– Dissuading the building of new coal plants. Active efforts have reduced coal from over 53% market share in 1990 to 30% market share of energy in 2016. Market forces are reducing this further as natural gas became cheaper and renewable energy cost fell to become more on par with coal. If new coal plants must be built, do it in concert with retiring older, less efficient plants. Fortunately, coal has become more costly to produce (not even factoring in its other costs) than natural gas which has its own set of issues) and is more on par with certain renewables.
– Making investment funds available to pay for upfront costs for renewable energy in countries that have fewer capital funding sources. India could do even more with available funding, especially as they electrify more of the country.
The great news is these things are happening. And, they are being shared. Please read this book. It is brief and optimistic. Also, watch the soon the sequel to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and the excellent documentary “Ice on Fire” to learn more. Also, there is a very practical book called “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn on dealing with climate change. Iowa gets over 40% of its electricity from wind energy with Texas getting about 20% from renewables. And, California is the 4th largest solar energy “country” in the world, by itself. Then spread the news about what is happening.
To be frank, these actions are positive and smart irrespective of one’s stance on climate change. And, a final note from Bloomberg is the millennials are paying attention. They want to work in places that are doing their part to fight climate change. Think about that as you plan. Yet, we still need to move faster than we are. In my view we are at least ten years behind where we should have been.