The Race That Matters Most

Bernice Lee, an expert on climate politics at Chatham House, says: “Good results at a global level are built on strong domestic, local and regional action.” Illustration: Nathalie Lees

Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment editor, Damian Carrington, as always, for reminding us which horse to bet on:

Hope amid climate chaos: ‘We are in a race between Armageddon and awesome’

Renewables, decarbonisation, activism, cooperation … The challenge is immense, but the situation is far from hopeless

Every one of us will love someone who is still alive in 2100, says climate campaigner Ayisha Siddiqa. That loved one will either face a world in climate chaos or a clean, green utopia, depending on what we do today.

It’s a powerful reason for action, providing hope that the will for transformative change can be found. But are there more tangible reasons for optimism in fighting the climate emergency? The challenge is undoubtedly immense: carbon emissions have yet to start falling and must plummet by half by 2030 to avoid the worst outcomes.

Yet the situation is far from hopeless. From the exponential growth of green solutions to the power of protest, experts say there is a clear path to limiting the damage. The question is how fast we can travel along it.

“We have everything we need in terms of technology and, in terms of the actual physics, we know what we need to do,” says Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of change agency Futerra. “The vast majority of solutions have a really significant benefit to our health and wellbeing, income and standard of living around the world. We are in a race between Armageddon and awesome.”

The shining light of climate hope is the exponential growth of ever-cheaper renewable energy, which now delivers 75% of all new power – coal has plummeted to just 4%. An important recent study found that a swift transition to clean energy would save trillions of dollars, even without accounting for the enormous damage continued fossil use would cause. Even climate deniers should be on board with that, says study author Prof Doyne Farmer at the University of Oxford.

Electric vehicle sales are also rising exponentially. Sales in China doubled year-on-year in August, to more than 500,000. Both of these green technologies have passed tipping points in many places – they are now simply so good and cheap that a runaway takeover is inevitable.

Such positive tipping points are crucial, says Prof Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter: “We need to go more than five times faster than we are at decarbonising the global economy. So finding and triggering positive tipping points is a way to create the necessary acceleration of change.” Pushing important sectors more quickly towards tipping points is the aim of a little-reported but potentially very powerful initiative launched at the UN climate summit in Glasgow in 2021 – the Breakthrough Agenda, supported by 45 nations including the US, China, India and the EU…

Read the whole op-ed here.

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