10 Reasons for Some Optimism on Climate Change

The Guaradian has published a helpful article providing 10 reasons we should perhaps be a bit more hopeful than we might otherwise seem advised to be about climate change. The 10 reasons cited in the article are:

  1. Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues.
  2. China has ordered coal power plants to close.
  3. The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds.
  4. People are taking their money out of fossil fuels.
  5. Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians.
  6. Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power.
  7. European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000.
  8. Cutting emissions has become a business imperative.
  9. Oil is becoming much more expensive to find.
  10. Electric car sales are doubling each year.

Of these, the ones that I find most promising and hopeful are items 3, 4, 5 and 8.

Chart showing decline in price of solar panels from 1977 to 2013 from $75 to 74 centsWith the cost of solar falling rapidly, the potential for widespread adoption of this best-of-breed technology grows greater and greater. Sun power is clearly and unequivocally the best renewable energy source by any measure. Are there problems to be resolved? Sure. But they can’t be resolved from a position of stasis. In building out the solutions and encountering the problems and dealing with them in place, we will overcome them or find ways around them.

The rapidly growing divestment movement is most promising. As universities, retirement funds and other large institutional investors begin to show the way toward carbon-free portfolios, it will become increasingly difficult for the world’s richest companies to continue to convince a dwindling shareholder base of the economic soundness of their underlying strategy. (About which, see items 8 and 9.)

As the world’s poorest workers are being retrained to install solar power, two related things are happening. First, they and their culture are being made acutely aware of the impact of the climate on their lives. Second, the cost of solar continues to decline (see item 3, above). This puts upward pressure on the economy in some powerful and as-yet-little-understood ways.

As for item 8, when it becomes economically advantageous to reduce carbon emissions and to rely less and less on more and more expensive and socially sanctioned sources of energy, businesses are being forced to realize that it is good business and politics to reduce their carbon footprint.

The combined effect of all of this won’t mean a lot without a great deal of public policy shift, but taken together these indicators are indeed reasons for increased optimism.

 

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