America’s Climate Selfishness on Display
The third and final Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on cutting greenhouse gas emissions concluded that without immediate action the world was on track for a 3.2°C rise in temperature by the end of the century. (https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1115452) Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General summed up the report’s warning by saying that the world is on a “fast track to disaster.” He went on to say, “We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5°C limit agreed in Paris,” and added, “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing, but doing another. Simply put, they are lying.” The authors of the report gave the dire warning that it was time now or never to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Today’s developed countries, the biggest polluters, have brought us to this pending disaster, with the United States the single biggest polluter. Historically, developed countries have been the highest emitters of harmful gases and have recently been joined by rapidly growing Asian countries who are now increasing global emissions. As a result, instead of declining, overall emissions rose by 6 percent in 2021. The reduction needed in emissions would mean the use of traditional coal would have to fall by 95 percent by 2050.
Given past and ongoing emission levels, we in the United States should be willing to do all we can to save the planet from a pending catastrophe, drastically limiting our emissions and helping historically low emitters, such as most of the continent of Africa, with technology and the needed financial resources to maintain a low level of emissions as they embark on a path of more rapid economic growth.
Yet we refuse to dramatically reduce the use of coal, especially important in electricity generation that we need to increase as we transition to electric vehicles and heat pumps. While the majority of Americans favor a transition to cleaner energy, coal-producing states and owners of coal mines and power plants that use cheap coal have resisted the move away from coal. Some U.S. lawmakers stand out in their support for coal.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has become the lightening rod and most high-profile roadblock to America’s transition away from coal. He refuses to embrace the retraining of coalminers to cleaner and safer jobs. Rather than…