by Sree Pranav Somarouthu - Sun Prairie High School - Class of 2024
A solid plan, not just vague deadlines, is clearly needed in regards to climate change. That much is seen quite clearly by the general public, as more than 70% believe the government is doing too little to help the environment. Currently, we have already raised the average temperature by 1 degree since pre industrial times, and are well on track to 1.5 and 2 degrees in the future without serious efforts to contain and prevent this problem. My proposal to partly solve the problem is to include government accountability through economic regulations that are heavily enforced, a reworking of climate investing to support developing countries with setting up renewables, a robust system to add more renewables anywhere in the world through a pursuit of a sufficient electrical grid, and a protection of those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Invest in Developing Countries
One of the best ways to help with climate change is a pathway that developed countries can use to invest in developing countries, as current investment in renewables is drying up. According to Simon Clark, “Projects in developing countries using renewable energy generation must be prioritized by development banks and by foreign aid and absolutely prioritized over projects using fossil fuels.” This quote shows the importance of continued investment in the renewable energy sectors of developing countries, as they could completely skip the step of super reliance on fossil fuels that most developing nations feel. This is further supported by the fact that manufacturers, when given ample investment, make production increasingly efficient and thus cheaper, and make new investment much more attractive.
This effect caused the cost of operating solar energy and land based wind energy to go down by 80% and 60%, respectively. This made the product cheaper for consumers, and thus more viable for communities that need cheap power. This further shows how important focus on renewables will be for developing countries, because it shows how that extra funding for renewables, especially in developing countries like China and India, can heavily expand the market and yield many positive results.
Cut Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Another major strategy that the government has to act on is cutting subsidies for fossil fuels. Currently, fossil fuels get tremendous subsidies from the government to function, with 300 billion dollars in the US, and 5.2 trillion dollars worldwide, used to subsidize a dying industry. This extravagant spending defending fossil fuels is unwarranted and unwise because it prevents renewable energy, despite its much lower price tag, from being implemented. This is compounded by the fact that in 2016 there was research done to show that it would be overall cheaper to literally start from scratch and build all the infrastructure to create renewable energy than to subsidize and let fossil fuels run. This displays clear bias from the U.S. government and, with all the evidence on the side of renewable energy being cheaper, we as a nation need to call out those who argue otherwise, and in doing so implement the renewable energy bills that are critical to pass as soon as possible
The third strategy that will be very important is the introduction of infrastructure as a key component to a clean future. Infrastructure must be built in haste due to the extreme importance it has in the future of renewables and overall energy security. The lack of current infrastructure to deal with new renewables can have clear consequences. This is shown in Delaware, where a new solar project in a very pro-renewables state was rejected due to a lack of infrastructure to deal with extra energy going through the power grid.
This lack of infrastructure shows a need for spending to fix this problem, which has to be solved in a proactive manner, to make sure new renewables aren't just wasting energy. This level of nationwide projects for infrastructure would take 370 billion dollars in the next 10 years, according to Princeton’s Net Zero America Report, and would take a national campaigning effort to do. But, according to Robert Gramlich, we must do this now in order to prevent the possibility of new fossil fuel infrastructure being incentivized by localization, and instead so renewable energy infrastructure may be built.
Protect Those Most Vulnerable to Climate Change
Another major part of the renewables drive must be to protect those who are most heavily affected by climate change, like people in coastal areas where hurricanes can form and in fire-prone areas like California. The need for this can be found in the steep increase in climate change related disasters, which negatively affect already disadvantaged groups of people the most.
These people cannot afford to replace all the belongings and economic resources lost as a result of these disasters, so we must find a way to protect them, which would best be done in the form of climate mitigation strategies. These strategies include hazard protection against disasters like floods, sea level rise, and other climate impacts, early warning, and warning systems against any natural disaster, and health infrastructure in the case of a disaster causing many people to be injured.
The Cost of Inaction
Now some may say that climate bills are unaffordable and will raise debt in America, like many industry groups who have run analyses on climate bills. They argue that the massive perceived cost would burden our country, and thus justify inaction through it. This results in growing dismissal of climate change activists as idealistic, and wrong, because they “don't understand the reality of how much we can spend as a country.” This argument, however logical it may seem on the surface, is swiftly countered, however, by the simple fact that the costs of inaction are much higher. We can see this in a landmark study by the University of Maryland, which does not have an overall figure, but clearly states the costs of inaction in relation to multiple man made climate issues. For example, the increase in natural disasters is clearly linked to carbon emissions, and the costs of dealing with those disasters are on the scales of hundreds of billions.
This is compounded by the fact that often the industry financed studies that representatives in the congress and senate use to delay and stop bills are often wrong.These studies often miss key points, leading to flat out wrong estimations in many cases. From 1989 - 1990, analyses of a climate bill in relation to acid rain were very negative, with the industry experts estimating numerous cost increases for citizens and arguing against the bill on that basis. However, when implemented the bill was a success, with costs being 75% of predictions, and electricity rates actually going down. This clearly shows that climate bills, while having a not insignificant price tag, are essential as the costs of both not implementing cost saving bills and dealing with the natural disasters created by such inaction are enormous.
The cost of not implementing these strategies, and many others, is human life. Already in many countries, and soon to be many more, the effects of climate change are clear on the population, with many African countries and South and East Asian countries experiencing scorching temperatures for extended periods of time. One example of these conditions that caused not only extreme heat but actual loss of life, is in India. In 2022, an Indian and Pakistani flooding system killed nearly 3700 people cumulatively. This isn't just limited to the Indian subcontinent, however. This is a problem all across the world, with the death toll in Europe estimated at 26000 in 2022, and flooding in South Africa and Nigeria combined around 1100. This tragic story will only repeat more intensely, and regularly, if we as a world audience don’t condemn this and demand change from those who can create it.
Life and Death Choice
The tragedy of the lethargic state of current climate politics is that the solutions do exist, and support also has been generated. We just need a strong example for the world that the right choice is renewability, and we can accomplish that through implementing strong federal bills in America that can set a gold standard for the world. This is something we as a people need to do, because inaction has true, human consequences and to do nothing is to allow people to die for our ignorance.
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