Here is a letter which I sent to my representative in the US House. I want to encourage other Americans to write similar letters to their representatives.
I strongly urge you to vote against the H.R. 1901 PTC Elimination Act, because it would eliminate the subsidies for wind energy, while continuing to give fossil fuels billions of dollars of subsidies. The US needs to transition to renewable energy as fast as possible to save the planet from the worse effects of global warming.
Humanity can only emit 886 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2000 and 2050 and still have an 80% chance of limiting climate change to 2 degrees C of warming. The world has already emitted so much CO2e that to achieve that goal humanity has to lower global CO2e emissions from 40 gigatons per year today to 6 gigatons per year in 15 years. We can’t go under 6 gigatons, since that is the minimum emissions from agriculture to feed humanity.
There is absolutely no way that humanity will meet the 2 degree C goal if we don’t immediately start giving massive subsidies to wind, solar, geothermal and tidal energy and eliminate every subsidy for fossil fuels. In addition, we need to implement a fee-and-dividend for carbon, that would tax carbon at a rising rate over time, but redistribute 100% of the collected revenue by sending an equal amount to every citizen and legal resident of the US. This would give every citizen an incentive to lower his or her carbon emissions in an equitable fashion, while not raising taxes and not costing the US government a cent.
Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown 3% per year since the year 2000 which is terrifying, because if we continue on the current path of emissions we will have 4-6 degrees C of warming by the end of the century, With long-term feedback loops over future centuries, that temperature rise will be roughly 50% greater. A study by the National Academy of Science (2011) which synthesized many previous studies predicts that agricultural yields of American corn will fall 60% per acre and American soybeans will fall 30% per acre at 4 degrees C of warming. Indiana agriculture will suffer massive losses due to climate change and probably have to switch to other crops such as wheat which require less rainfall and have less profit per acre.
4-6 degrees of warming by the end of the century means 6-8 degrees of warming in the long term, which basically means the death of the majority of humans on the planet. If there were any justice in the world, the children of people who refuse to implement policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be the first casualties of the mass starvation, mass migration and wars over scarce resources which will be caused by global warming. Unfortunately, it will be the children of the poor in places like Africa who emitted the least who will be the first to die from global warming, although they were the least responsible for creating this crisis.
We need to immediately start implementing policies to leave 80% of the oil, natural gas and coal in the ground. The world currently has 15,000 gigatons of CO2e locked up in its hydrocarbon reserves. 80% of those reserves must stay in the ground to have any chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C, but we are currently on a path to extract all of it with techniques such as tar sands extraction, fracking, Arctic drilling and deep sea drilling. We desperately need policies to prohibit all of these new forms of extraction and end all extraction of hydrocarbons on public lands.
James Hansen et al. (2013) calculates that if the world keep emitting 3% more greenhouse gas emissions per year, the world will emit 5,000 gigatons of CO2e in 97 years and 10,000 gigatons of CO2e in 117 years. They calculate that emissions between those two ranges will raise global temperatures 16 degrees C. At that level of warming, it will be impossible to raise grain crops, meaning most human beings will starve to death. For those who don’t die of starvation, the rest will die from the increased UV radiation. With 16 degrees of warming, the atmosphere will hold so much extra water that it will destroy most of the ozone layer which protects us from the sun’s UV radiation.
It is urgent that the US change its energy policies immediately to address global warming. To meet the 2 degrees C target, we need emissions to drop 11% per year. The US has recently had a slight drop in its emissions due to the change from coal to natural gas in recent years, but this minor change is far from what is needed. I calculate that due its population size, the US has a carbon budget of 40.00 gigatons of CO2e between 2000 and 2049, but according to the World Resources Institute the US emitted 72.64 gigatons between 2000 and 2011. In other words, in just 12 years, the US emitted 192% of its carbon budget. Even worse, I calculate that the US has a total of 607.94 gigatons of CO2e in its reserves of coal, natural gas and petroleum. This means that the US has 15 times as much greenhouse gases in its reserves than it can emit.
If 6 gigatons CO2e per year is the bare minimum of emissions from agriculture to feed the 9.6 billion souls that the UN predicts will inhabit the planet in 2050, that means that only 628 kg CO2e can be emitted per capita by mid century and still hold climate change to reasonable levels. For the sake of humanity, the US must lower to its annual emissions from the current levels which are 19.69 tonnes per capita to 628 kg CO2e per capita by mid-century. If the US implements bold policies to address climate change, China and India will follow suit, but if the US refuses to act, then the developing world will not act. The US is the linchpin holding back global policies to address climate change and our country has the moral responsibility to act first since we historically emitted more than any other country on the planet.
With recent science showing that the collapse of the West Antarctica ice sheets are now inevitable, we are facing the eventual inundation of Miami, New York, Washington DC, and many other coastal cities. Climate change is the greatest threat that humankind has ever faced, far greater than the two World Wars and the Cold War. We need to address climate change with the same level of urgency which America engaged in World War II. In less than a year every major industry in America was transformed to produce different products during World War II, and we need to make a similar transformation today to switch to a low-carbon economy. Every cent wasted in the so-called “war on terror” would be better spent to transition the industrial base of America to producing low-carbon products. The risk of climate change for our country is far greater than a few thousand terrorists.
Finally, I want to urge you to face reality and listen to what the scientists are telling us about the risks of global warming. How we act to address this issue will determine whether we survive as a species. All other issues pale in comparison, and it is our duty to act for the sake of future generations.
Amos B. Batto