Climate change catastrophe is imminent, but time remains to reverse course

Climate change is the most important issue of our time. This is a fact that is becoming more and more difficult to ignore every year. California, in particular, has been plagued by droughts and frequent wildfires recently. If society hopes to stop the worst impacts of climate change, people need to take strong action today. That means making the switch from traditional energy, like coal and oil, towards clean sources like wind and solar.

Our situation is dire. The impacts of climate change have been accelerating at a rate even the wealthy can no longer ignore. Miami Beach took out $162 million in loans last week, and they want their investors to understand that, while they are trying to manage the effects of climate change, the rising sea levels pose a serious threat to the city, and by extension real estate projects.

The wealthy elite have not always felt this way, however. Miami Beach’s recent statement is a far cry from the comments Miami Beach developer Jose Isaac Peres made earlier this year in January. At the time, Peres seemed unconvinced that climate change posed any real threat to his line of work, going so far as to invest several million dollars in the building of residential areas in the city. “You see a ghost, and you run after it as if it were real,” Peres explained. That ghost now seems all too real for some investors.

Investors are so concerned about climate change, in fact, that several ranking sites have cropped up in an effort to highlight companies that dedicate resources to clean energy. Carbon Clean 200 is one such ranking, updating every six months and featuring companies that meet a number of criteria, including whether or not they incorporate dirty energy into their power grids. The need for these ranking systems suggests that climate change is at the forefront of many business people’s minds.

It has been argued that the effects of climate change aren’t drastic enough to warrant extreme action. Switching to a U.S. energy grid based on 100 percent renewable energy will prove difficult. This is a valid concern. In the short term, making the switch from coal and oil power to clean renewable sources may be costly.

That being said, if there is any hope in saving the planet, it is embedded in the process of making the switch to cleaner energy sources. There is no sense in postponing the switch any longer. It is inevitable. Society’s inaction has already done irreparable damage to the Earth and it would be nothing short of foolish to postpone the switch to renewable energy any further.

Our recent past should be enough to prove to investors that we should be worried. As mentioned before, California wildfires have been increasing in both intensity and regularity in recent years, and the occurrence of natural disasters such as Florida’s Hurricane Michael and Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria is becoming far too regular. All of these extreme weather events pose a serious threat to our infrastructure.

The situation is dire, but we still have time to fight climate change, dwindling though that time may be. The good news is that renewable energy is becoming more cost-effective than fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels runs between $0.05 – $0.17 per kilowatt hour in countries like the U.S., while, by next year, renewables are expected to only run us $0.03 – $0.10 per kilowatt hour. This cost efficiency is making them more accessible to the general public.   

It is also worth noting that the societal shift towards a cleaner energy future has already begun in California. Last September, former California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100, a California bill that commits the state to clean, renewable electricity by 2045, effectively taking the first step in the long battle against climate change. Shortly after, the UC system made a similar commitment to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025.

We have the tools to fight climate change, and the issue is hotter today than it has ever been. Perhaps, as more wealthy members of society begin to recognize the importance of taking action in the fight to slow the effects of climate change, we will see faster progress.

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