2021 will be defined by major challenges. While we work to emerge stronger and healthier from the COVID crisis, climate disruption is rushing ahead of our efforts to stop it. We must get control of the climate crisis. There are many signs of hope that the world has the potential to overwhelmingly accelerate climate action and prevent the most catastrophic impacts.
In Episode 13, we explore the reasons for climate hope in 2021.
With escalating mass death from COVID, an ongoing insurrectionist plot, and what appears to be a nation divided, how can we say there is hope on climate?
One reason, as we have previously reported, is that there is increasing bipartisan support in Congress for climate action.
Another is that the incoming Biden-Harris administration is elevating climate to national priority-level across all areas of policy and governance. The nation’s senior climate diplomat will be a member of the national security team, a former Secretary of State, and arguably the most empowered climate negotiator the country has ever had. The domestic policy team brings expertise in law, governance, regulation, science, and the social and justice impact of energy and climate policy.
Our host Don Shelby asks the operative question: Do you think this forceful statement by Joseph R. Biden that science will lead decision-making will lead to the conclusion that Nature is science?
Myra Jackson notes this is very much part of this moment of emerging climate hope. Science now can be more bold. We are seeing signals from Nature itself: permafrost melt is significant and happening faster than previously expected. As we see more methane released into the atmosphere, we’re going to see extraordinary warming. By aligning policy with science, we will see what Earth systems are communicating to us every day.
Recent studies indicate atmospheric concentrations of global heating gases may stabilize faster than previously thought. Does this mean we can give hope to a generation of people who may have come to believe that even if they do all the right things, even if we reach carbon zero, we are still doomed to experience catastrophic climate disruption?
The answer, notes Joe Robertson, may lie in responding to both scenarios from the same practical vantage point: Whether the worst is baked in or whether we can quickly stabilize atmospheric GHG, we must stop making it worse, and we must stop destabilizing the climate as soon as possible. Joe adds:
We have a duty to each other to make sure we’re not making it worse. We have a duty to future generations to make sure we’re not making it worse. That test, the solidarity test, I think, is what holds a society together…
Don notes the prominence of women among the senior positions in the incoming Biden-Harris administration. “As a father of 3 daughters, let me say that I am beside myself with joy… the prominence and the recognition of women in science is far more important… will have a lasting effect…”
Myra agreed, saying:
As an engineer… I too am really happy when I see the makeup of this Cabinet, but really moreso… around solidarity… There’s big work ahead… women help the bearing go in a direction where there’s more life.
Will the emphasis on science and climate as a national priority, will this move business toward climate-friendly practices? Our economic future depends on those kind of conversations happening, not only in the White House, but also in considering the legal responsibilities of banks and businesses. It will be harder and harder for businesses that violate the public trust and generate unaccountable harm to make money.
The old status quo that says those things are niche concerns, that is no longer the status quo. We are already in that new economy, where you have to have a handle on your clean future strategy.