WHEN?

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By Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent

During the past week, we have seen major metropolitan areas around the globe lose drinking water, electric and gas power, and other vital public utility services.

The howling winds, widespread flooding, raging wildfires, terrifying landslides, and massive earthquakes have killed thousands of people and unknown numbers of other animal and plant life.

These natural disasters also have damaged essential infrastructure, including major highways, city streets, and dusty country roads.

These natural disasters, including droughts, are disrupting food production and supply lines for foods and other necessary goods.

Long lines of desperate people at grocery stores, building supply outlets, and gas stations were expected before and after the natural disasters. Disruption of cell phone and internet communications services too was anticipated.

However, dramatic video of healthcare workers rushing critically ill patients from hospitals to safer ground was shocking.

There is a growing consensus that many of these natural disasters are caused by climate change. Those believing climate change is real point to data produced through rigorous empirical research.

The scientific data show that the planet is becoming warmer, in part, because humans are burning too much fossil fuels. Research results also show that as the planet warms, mother nature’s delicate balance is upset.

See, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report issued last month at https://www.ipcc.ch/2021/08/09/ar6-wg1-20210809-pr/. IPCC’s report “provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”

This past week’s natural disasters present an important opportunity to address human-caused climate change. We can begin to build back better.

Building back better, however, requires more than building a resilient power grid, particularly one that is built and powered by burning fossil fuels.

We can encourage and support entrepreneurial initiatives designed to dramatically reduce or completely eliminate fossil fuel burning. We must do this now to reach the ambitious year 2050 net-zero benchmark for fossil fuel emissions.

When – by what date certain – will we use re-building opportunities to help us reach net-zero emissions?