We have 12 years to do something unprecedented in human history, and pivot our entire economy away from fossil fuels, lest the planet become incredibly and irreversibly hostile to life in 20 years. These are the facts of our reality, and we are beginning to witness the reckoning of it. The Green New Deal has gained the support of 30 House Democrats and 4 Senators, global shipping titan Maersk unveiled a pledge to reduce their carbon footprint to zero, and 90 US cities and two states (California and Hawaii) have begun initiatives to get to zero carbon emissions. For once, humanity seems to be taking this threat seriously.
So enter our friends across the pond, as London joined the initiative to save the world. Per The Guardian:
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has declared a climate emergency and urged the UK government to do more to avert an ecological breakdown that he says poses an existential threat to future generations.
Speaking as City Hall outlined its new climate change plan, Khan said he was implementing measures to protect people from floods, fires and the political upheaval caused by climate change. He accused central government of “dragging its feet” on dealing with these issues.
London’s existing plan, unveiled by Khan in May, was for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050. But last week the London Assembly passed a motion saying that target should be brought forward to 2030 and called on Khan to draw up “a specific emergency plan”.
This is a global effort that must be undertaken. No one can sit this out, as the repercussions of climate change will affect us all. However, one fact that we all must internalize is that this is not centrally a problem of the western world. The harsh reality of the situation is that the United States could completely reduce our carbon footprint to zero, and unless China and India follow suit, it would not budge us from our current apocalyptic path.
Even if U.S. emissions dropped to zero overnight, the climate change problem would still be extremely severe, because Chinese emissions are so huge. (https://t.co/C9R5H5hXmq)
Thus, a U.S.-only carbon tax would mainly be for purposes of symbolic moral leadership. pic.twitter.com/uGLdWmoyqQ— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) December 6, 2018
This means that Western policymakers must not only find ways to reduce our carbon output to zero over the next 12 years, but we also must develop inexpensive and widely deployable green energy technology that can spread quickly to the developing world. For mankind to survive this gargantuan challenge, countries like India basically need to skip the fossil fuel stage of development and go right to green tech. This is eminently possible, and it simply requires a gigantic investment from government and industry in new technology. The French protests sparked by Macron’s gas tax should be a warning to policymakers: we are not going to solve this problem by focusing on the consumer of energy, but the purveyors of it. It’s time to grow ourselves out of this mess.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.