No Way to Avoid Pain This Decade | Only Question is How Much

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 24, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

Not only is climate inaction more expensive than climate action, it’s also a lot more painful.

Fact: there is absolutely no way for us to stay below 1.5ºC without experiencing pain. We have to muscle up and get ready for a whole lot of unpleasantness. Once we recognize this, it becomes much easier to make the right choices: financial (ie higher gas prices), or endless extreme weather events that result in death and destruction. There’s also high heat intensity for prolonged periods that ravage our crops and wipe out our food supply while undermining our health.

Clearly the easiest choice from a pain perspective is paying higher gas prices right now which will help curb emissions from the transportation sector immediately. It’s unfortunate that oil executives are driving up the gas price, but let them hasten their own demise. We don’t need to counteract their greed by lowering the price, we should counteract their greed by adding carbon pricing to the top to make the price go up even higher. 

The August IPCC Report warned Code Red for Humanity, Act Immediately! With the current high gas prices just before the holidays, some of us adjusted our holiday plans rather than pay more at the pump. That’s the strategy behind keeping prices high. Curbing emissions, which is exactly how they do it in the EU. Higher prices equal lower carbon emissions.

Heart of the matter. “Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice. Either we stop it or it stops us. And it’s time to say enough. Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres on opening day of COP26 in Glasgow.

President Biden’s decision this week to sell 50 million barrels from US crude oil reserves in response to public complaints about the higher gas price and lower poll numbers — rather than use it as a teachable moment that would force us to start adapting immediately to lower our carbon emissions in order to achieve a 50 percent cut by 2030 — is short-sighted. 

At his press conference, President Biden declared: “Our combined actions will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight. It will make a difference. It will take time, but before long, you should see the gas price drop where you fill up your tank and in the longer term we will reduce our reliance on oil as we shift to clean energy.” 

Biden’s statement seems to contradict his own impassioned COP26 speech: “Will we act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the enormous opportunity before us? Or will we condemn future generations to suffer.”

The rising gas price is a tool that provides us with our golden opportunity to reduce driving, take public transportation, or switch to an EV. We can begin our sprint down this new way of thinking and living. We should not be demanding a lower gas price, nor giving our president lower survey scores because of the higher gas price. Sadly, President Biden is bending to public opinion, despite the fact that the public wasn’t asked the right question. Which pain would we prefer? High gas price pain or losing all our personal property along with a few family members. And rather than choosing to do whatever is necessary (ie keep gas price high and we’ll drive less over the holidays) we have chosen to condemn future generations to suffer.

President Biden’s Climate Team is impressive. But it doesn’t appear that anyone has woven cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 into all the decision making yet. Perhaps John Doerr’s Speed & Scale, An Action Plan For Solving Our Climate Crisis Now needs to be required reading. 

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No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
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