We Really Should Have Decarbonized Sooner, But We Still Can Now

By: Nora Germain

The grotesque Russian invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that despite having regular climate talks, summits, and even naming stadiums after our movement to decarbonize, we still have a long way to go. The Telegraph stated March 11, 2022 that “The West” continues to purchase about $700 million in oil and gas on a daily basis from Russia.

It’s an astounding amount of fossil fuels, considering we only have about eight years until 2030 – and that’s just the fossil fuels being purchased from Russia alone! Imagine if we invested $700M per day in deployment of new technologies or cutting edge engineering schools.

A Tweet from @Guillaume0905Kl reads, “Good speeches do not produce good actions. Good actions produce good speeches.” We have suffered thirty years of talk with very little real action on climate or extinction, and while there is never a bright side to any war, we have once again been confronted with this problem as a result of our inaction. Through increased prices at the gas pump and in other ways, we are giving the fossil fuel companies who delay climate progress, lie to the public and bribe Congress a huge windfall. We are also paying for Putin’s invasion.

We are so held hostage by our own laziness and hubris that even Elon Musk, one of the world’s leading decarbonization innovators Tweeted this on March 4. “Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.” It now has over 400K likes and is one of his most popular Tweets over the last few weeks.

I’m not a geopolitical expert and I’m not going to pretend to know the best answer to these problems, but is it not incredibly sad that in 2022, after witnessing so much climate destruction in the past two years alone, that we are back to this place of needing more oil? How impoverished is our political will and general ambition that this is the state of things again?

The purpose of this writing is not to look to the past and despair. We have a lot of solutions available to us, all over the world, and we are not using them as quickly or as widely as we should. Every day there are new reports and articles including the recent IPCC report that show data illustrating a future of mass human suffering. That is what they show. This is not something that the Northern Hemisphere nor Americans can magically escape, as exceptional and untouchable as we may falsely view ourselves to be. 

Knowledge is power, and it can inform how well we build the cities, companies and technologies of the future. We will ignore these facts at our own peril. Young people especially know this to be true, which is why advocating for preparedness is so widespread, and why criticism of crypto energy use is at an all time high.

The forward looking question is this: What are we not doing now that in 30 years we will be furious at ourselves for not doing? Is it creating green cities with gardens on every roof? Is it supporting democracies through secure voting so that autocrats like Bolsonaro can’t destroy our natural places? Is it making life saving improvements to the energy grid? Is it something you have an idea for that nobody else has thought of yet, or something that operates on the blockchain or in the metaverse?

The world has gone through an enormous amount of tumult in the past decade. Trump emerged as a major political figure in 2015, then there was an insurrection on the US Capitol amidst a pandemic, a huge recession, and now a major war in Europe that has the potential to go nuclear. This is all very difficult stuff that can distort our experience of time and perhaps our sense of solidarity with one another.

Once we have made our way to “the other side” if there is such a thing, we will still have to deal with the only truly unprecedented situation for human beings mentioned so far, and that is the climate and extinction crises. It looks like we’re not going to catch much of a break this century judging by how the first 20% of it has gone. More and more I understand why The Matrix was created by artificial intelligence to look and feel like the 1990’s, a choice that was ahead of its time if you ask me. Many people look back on those years fondly, and probably for good reason.

As I have said in other writings, it’s up to us now to decide how bad things will get, and there is still a lot worth saving. The question about whether it’s “too late” or there are still a few seconds left on the clock is almost irrelevant. It’s not a binary choice. Your future will happen, provided you survive to experience it.

The almost infinite spectrum of possibilities in that future depend on two things. They are our expansion of nature and our rapid and permanent decarbonization. If we can’t get it together, then we will face these same humiliating geopolitical fights over and over again, and our little trial run with crisis from 2015 until now will seem like the new 90’s. If we stop fighting amongst ourselves and tearing one another down, we can build a better world. Consider this your formal invitation to contribute in your own unique way.

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