has taken note of the latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and he’s not taking it lightly.
In the future, when historians are doing their work, many of them in underwater archives, they are going to be mystified by the role played by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Golly, they will say through their respiration devices, why didn’t anyone listen to these people? On Monday, the IPCC issued yet another report on the climate crisis, and the only way it could have been more direct about the imminent threat to human habitation is if you tied the report around a brick and threw it through a window at Exxon HQ. From the Guardian:
Within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and bringing widespread devastation and extreme weather. Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate breakdown, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to compound the accelerating effects, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science.
This is the sixth time since 1988 that the IPCC has rung the alarm, and this time it’s hitting a gong the size of Wyoming with the hammer of doom.
Here’s some key points from the IPCC’s latest review of the science on Climate Change/Global Warming via The NY Times:
- "Nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, though there is still a short window to prevent the most harrowing future, a major new United Nations scientific report has concluded."
- "...total global warming is likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades, a hotter future that is now essentially locked in."
- "...At 1.5 degrees of warming, scientists have found, the dangers grow considerably. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide could swelter in more frequent life-threatening heat waves. Hundreds of millions more would struggle for water because of severe droughts. Some animal and plant species alive today will be gone. Coral reefs, which sustain fisheries for large swaths of the globe, will suffer more frequent mass die-offs.
- "We can expect a significant jump in extreme weather over the next 20 or 30 years,” said Piers Forster, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds and one of hundreds of international experts who helped write the report."
emphasis added (Full report here.)
The short answer as to what we need to do to keep things from getting worse than they are already going to is: everything we can, ASAP. The response falls into two categories:
- Decarbonization: We have to get fossil fuels out of our economy in every way we can and transition to renewable energy. We may have to find ways to get carbon out of the atmosphere.
- Resilience: We have to rebuild our infrastructure to adapt it where we can, and move on from where we can’t. (Building for greater weather event resilience, retreating from the coasts, etc.)
There is one approach that meets both objectives at a scale and within a time frame that makes it a prime policy to pursue: Solutionary Rail.
It offers a vision that can get carbon out of transportation, connect clean power from wind and solar to the entire country, add to resiliency, create good jobs, and revitalize communities that have been left behind. The technology is available now, it works, and it can make a huge difference, the difference between building the future we want versus living (and dying) with the future we're facing now. Here’s the gist of it:
1) Electrify the nation's rail corridors with clean power from wind and solar. Electrification has been in use for over a century, and is widely used around the world. It’s a proven technology. There is also carbon-free rail technology that can be used while electrification is being done or where it doesn’t make practical sense, such as trains powered by battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell electric, and hybrids that also use electrification where available.
2) Use rail corridors for the backbone of a national transmission grid to connect that clean power to the entire country. There is enough untapped clean power in the middle of the country to run the country and more. A national grid would increase resiliency, lower costs for customers, and allowed stranded renewable power to connect to the rest of the country.
3) Upgrade rail corridors to support faster trains, better trains, more frequent trains for freight and passenger service that will provide desirable alternatives to doing everything over the roads. We can reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and make clean energy go much farther. Rails use only a third of the energy needed to move things over the roads. As we build out wind and solar power, we can make it go farther with rail.
This will require the level of public-private cooperation the government and the rail industry partnered to do in World War II. Railroads have to be categorized as critical infrastructure and managed for the common good, not just Wall Street and hedge funds. The situation is that dire. Time is running out.
Electric cars are part of the solution — but they’re not the magic bullet some would like to believe, and they still entail all the other negatives of car culture. High Speed Rail is part of the solution — but it has limited application, will take years to build, and is not practical for some areas. High Speed Rail complements conventional rail, but doesn’t come close to replacing it. Higher Speed Conventional Rail would make a big difference to more people in more places sooner. It’s not an either/or choice.
We can start upgrading the conventional rail we already have now. Just shifting as much freight from trucks to the rail we have now would result in huge cuts in emissions. (See Moon Shot Mode Shift
and what we can do by as early as 2030.) We can restore rail service to parts of the country that have been abandoned or simply bypassed by the rail industry.