Respond to a Warming World!

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

As energy demand rises around the globe, so does concern about climate change. The science seems clear: Ninety-seven percent or more of scientists active in the field are convinced the climate has been warming over the past century, the pace of warming is accelerating and human activities — particularly the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels — are a primary cause.

Many of these scientists also concur that the best option to mitigate the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change is to reduce the use of fossil fuels and speed up the transition to renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind.

We asked experts in the energy and environmental fields whether they concur on the need for an urgent transition to alternative energy. And if so, how the energy industry can make that happen quickly enough to matter. We also asked energy executives how their companies would navigate such a fundamental change. The responses have been edited and condensed.

Rapidly phasing out fossil fuels is critical to address the climate crisis because fossil fuels are the biggest driver of the climate crisis. Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based on the work of thousands of scientists have confirmed there are no scenarios in which we both keep digging out fossil fuels and keep the world from a climate disaster. We must act now, and decisively, to switch to alternative sources of energy.

What little has been done is not nearly enough. Research published by the Stockholm Environment Institute shows that despite all the rhetoric about transitioning to renewable energy, the world is on track to produce 120% more fossil fuels than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the goal set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

We want to be clear: the coal, gas, and oil industries cannot make this happen on their own; markets are not going to get us out of the hole they got us in. We need the political will to fundamentally rethink some of the underlying assumptions about how we organize our societies. This is why we call for a global Green New Deal.

We can do it because people want it and are increasingly demanding it. Technology is an important part of the coming transition, and so is finance. But what is going to make it happen is public outrage, public imagination, and public inspiration.

A Guest Editorial