Climate change: Even Arnold Schwarzenegger gets it
Arnie's back! And this time, he's fighting his new enemy, climate change.
Floods in Europe; catastrophic tornadoes in Oklahoma; record reductions in Arctic summer sea ice, the list of climatic disasters seems to be endless. And let’s not even talk about the hottest 12 months in the U.S. since records began.
Evidence of climate change is so clear it has even sparked a new genre in literature called “cli fi.”
To be honest, it looks bad. In May, for the first time in human history, the average daily concentration in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million. If that level is sustained, average temperatures could rise by more than 2 degrees compared with pre-industrial times – the level beyond which scientists project potentially catastrophic consequences. It’s enough even to make a former climate-change skeptic like me sit up and take notice.
At U.N. conferences there’s been a call for targets to lower greenhouse gases. And some countries have listened: Britain has committed itself to cutting greenhouse gas emission to 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. South Africa, a big emitter because of its dependence on coal-fired electricity, is striving to meet future power needs through renewables. And last month, China – previously a hardliner on emissions reduction – said it would set an absolute cap on greenhouse gases from 2016.
But real action by the U.S. on climate is blocked by political gridlock in Washington, D.C., whatever Barack Obama’s green leanings, and progress globally remains mired in arguments about how much newly industrialized nations should share the burden.
The problem is so serious, that big names are chiming in. This week, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard published a joint opinion piece, begging the world’s politicians to put politics aside and act, saying “taking action on climate change can no longer be delayed and that such actions can succeed beyond partisan politics.”
What actions are needed to make the difference? The International Energy Agency published a report this week laying out a detailed road map for reducing energy-related emissions. Savings in transportation and in buildings and infrastructure are two areas with potential. After all, it’s said that energy efficiency improvements could deliver half the cuts in emissions needed to slow global warming over the next 25 years. Conveyor belts and many automation systems, for example, are powered by dozens of electric motors. Combining them with smart drives can manage their power needs and reduce consumption.
Spending on infrastructure isn’t always a vote winner, but power grids are outdated and need modernization. Beefing up national electricity systems and international interconnections would seem like a good investment for growth, to harness renewables and for energy security.
It’s great to recycle and turn off the lights (which I do). But at this point those are just drops in the ocean. It’s time to make leaps.
Looking over the agenda for the G-8 summit scheduled for next week, I see that the topic of the environment didn’t make the cut. Perhaps it should have.
As Schwarzenegger said in the end of the movie “Predator” – “Do it! Do it now!” Before it’s too late.