Fricke column: We must get off fossil fuels by 2050 | PostIndependent.com

Fricke column: We must get off fossil fuels by 2050

Randy Fricke

Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity heating the planet with fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels in our vehicles and power plants causes heat-trapping greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide emissions. These emissions heat the atmosphere, which in turn causes global warming.

Global warming has resulted in severe droughts, forest degradation, increased rainfall and flooding, wildfires and acidic oceans. Global warming is causing ocean levels to rise, which is a major concern for America’s coastlines. Climate change is affecting habitants of the planet right now.

More than 1,800 climate scientists from around the world working with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have proven that climate change is real. The arduous work of these scientists since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 laid the groundwork for this consensus and the road to the Paris climate agreement/Treaty. The essential goal of the Paris agreement is to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F).

The Paris agreement was signed by 196 countries in December 2015. Earlier that year, then-President Barack Obama pledged the U.S. would cut its carbon pollution by 28 percent by 2025. At the United Nations Summit in New York in September 2014, the European Union announced its plans to cut carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2030. Other countries have pledged similar cuts to their emissions.

At the same summit, China pledged to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2020, but this is tied to a complicated GDP formula. Note that China and the United States are the largest polluters in the world. These pledges are very ambitious and will place many of these nations under heavy pressure to follow through. A monitoring plan is set in place with the help of the IPCC.

The official climate change report released by the IPCC on Nov. 2, 2014, stated that carbon emissions from fossil fuels must drop to zero by the end of this century in order for the world to maintain temperature increases below the danger zone. The danger zone being: CO2 emissions above 350ppm/or 1,200 tons of CO2 emissions. This would breach the 2 degrees Celsius level.

Climate scientists revealed at the time of this final report that emissions have risen so fast in recent years that two-thirds of the carbon allotment has already been used. Earth, we’ve got a problem.

The key word in this whole climate change scenario is accelerated. Climate scientists say that icebergs are one of the best climate change indicators. In recent years, we have seen icebergs breaking away from the Arctic and Antarctic Regions that are the size of small countries. Many polar bears are unable to swim far enough to find ice sheets. Some believe polar bears could be extinct by 2050.

Every year is getting hotter than the previous one. Accelerated climate change will also speed animal and vegetation extinctions. As this pattern continues, the world is on pace for more climate disasters. We see it in the news every day.

It is imperative that the largest polluting nations reset their goals for zero emissions for the year 2050. Waiting for 2100 will be too late. The economic impacts of climate change will hit America hard if it does not adapt quickly.

Even though President Donald Trump withdrew the U. S. from the Paris climate agreement in June, American businesses have been gearing up for the coming changes in global environmental policies. The U. S. has the potential to achieve zero emissions by 2050. Solar and wind energy for power grids are more economical now and can replace coal-fired and natural gas-fired power plants. New “microgrid” advanced technologies can also take over the power needs of homes and businesses in America. Electric car production needs to be boosted while phasing out fossil fueled-vehicles. America needs to accelerate the building of a renewable energy economy right now to avoid the negative economic impacts of climate change.

Many storms today are devastating. The next ones could be worse. We need to become a greener America faster and save the polar bears from extinction. Let’s use 2050 as the target-year to end the use of fossil fuels and cut carbon dioxide emissions to zero. If we can save the polar bear, we can save the planet.

Randy Fricke lives in New Castle and is an environmental advocate and a political activist. He is the author of “If I Were President/Saving Main Street America.”