On climate issues, no longer act as if nothing had happened

Alaina Wood is a 25-year-old sustainability scientist who accepts the grim predictions of experts on climate change. However, with a growing number of people, especially young adults, she rejects a dark and doomsday view, using social media to send a positive message that she and others “eco-creators” consider more advantageous. Wood said: “Science says things are bad. But it will only get worse the longer it takes to act. Using TikTok, the popular social media platform for young Americans, Wood identified ongoing environmental achievements such as the commitment of 175 nations to support an eventual treaty on the production and disposal of plastics, and the expansion of the offshore wind industry in Britain.

In April 2022 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-affiliated group of environmental experts, has released its latest report, which backs up the eco-creators’ claims. While emphasizing the critical need to step up the assault on global warming, the panel noted that environment-related progress has taken place and that a positive outlook on the challenges of climate change fosters positive outcomes.

Recently a survey of more than 10,000 Americans found that nearly 70% prioritized the generation of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to significantly reduce temperature-raising carbon emissions by 2050. The following section supports my previous references claiming that significant gains in pollution reduction have already taken place.

Historical indices on the environmental campaign

A well-known journalist provided two examples suggesting that “environmentalism is arguably the most successful citizens’ movement that has ever existed.”

Acid rain develops when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produced primarily by power plants and vehicles combine with water droplets from clouds to produce sulfuric and nitric acids, often killing plants and aquatic life. Spurred on by environmental activists in the 1980s, the United States crafted a new reform; the power plants received a limited number of allowances for the aforementioned toxic emissions, which the administrators could buy and sell among themselves. Gradually, the authorities reduced the number. Using a similar strategy, many other countries have also achieved good results. The vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund said the approach not only tackles acid rain but also other pollutants, offering “benefits [valued at] 40 times more than the costs.

Another environmental advance involves protecting the ozone layer, located about six to ten miles above the earth and blocking most ultraviolet rays that can harm or kill humans and other life. In 1974, research concluded that because chlorofluorocarbons used as propellants in aerosols were destroying the ozone layer, replacement was essential.

Many countries have cast doubt on the investigators’ claims. However, in 1985 the British Antarctic Survey found decisive evidence that ozone at the South Pole had decreased by 40% compared to two decades earlier. Nations rallied together, crafting the Montreal Protocol that phased out CFCs and other ozone-destroying chemicals. A leading environmental lawyer said the treaty eliminates a massive threat “and puts the ozone layer on a path to recovery by 2065”. Significantly, the agreement emphasized that companies producing CFC substitutes could increase their profits.

The optimism of experts continues to prove insightful. An environmental economist noted the importance of focusing on success, promoting group consensus and minimizing political differences. He added: “We have to remember that we did it and… we can do it again.” I will add that for our collective well-being, we must do so. Let’s look ahead.

Forward-looking initiatives

The previous section suggests that a successful attack on climate control can evolve within the capitalist system. The previously mentioned UK offshore wind industry illustrates the potential contribution of the business sector to cleaning up the environment. At the start of the 21st century, only two small wind turbines were operating off the Northumberland coast, but by 2022 the UK had 2,000, which have steadily increased in number and size. By 2030, industry goals include installing one million heat pumps for homes annually, manufacturing 10 million turbine-powered vehicles, and generating 40 gigawatts of offshore wind power. Meanwhile by 2026 this lucrative business will provide nearly 70,000 jobs.

A prominent environmental researcher stressed that a successful venture requires “open channels of dialogue between industry and government, … [developing] a common vision and a way to overcome barriers to deployment. The task can be difficult. In Georgia, for example, a plan for a plant producing up to 400,000 emission-free trucks per year became a political football, with the governor and a strong challenger for his office taking opposing positions.

Overall, the stakes are astronomical and concern us all. Allow me to speak personally. My wife and I have a 2 year old granddaughter – Siena is lively, curious, funny and so much more. We fervently wish him a long and happy life on an increasingly healthy planet. To secure this environmental outcome, many more of us need to start taking the challenge of climate change seriously and join the assault against this formidable threat.

Chris Doob is professor emeritus of sociology at Southern Connecticut State University and author of various books on sociology and sports.

Teresa H. Sadler