No Time to Waste.
The climate debate is quickly turning into a question of time.
The Guardian Carbon Calculator is one approximation of the amount of time before our atmosphere contains so much carbon that we are locked into a 2℃ rise in temperatures – guaranteed catastrophe. As of July 2019, we are 76.1% of the capacity and that usage is increasing steadily by 0.13% per month. That means we are using 1.5% every year. Yes, that means we have 17.5 years left.
What the clock doesn’t say is that we have to turn the Titanic around in that time, and it moves much slower than that. In fact, it would be preferable to keep the rise to just 1.5℃ this century, meaning that carbon emissions would have to be cut by 45% by 2030. That means a reduction of 5%/year starting in 2021. That means that 2020 will have to be our peak global emissions year. A different set of math suggests reducing by 10% per year. Those are dramatic and real changes that we have to make. On our current course, we are headed to an unimaginable 3℃ by 2100, not 1.5℃ and all of that impact will be decided in the coming 10 years.
The answers are not easy, and the most talked about answer (Direct Air Capture) is still projected to fall very short, and according to our analyses, be very expensive. There is a better way.
Think about retrofitting your house. The rule of thumb is to first make your house more energy efficient with better insulation, better windows etc., and then add the solar panels. Go after the lowest hanging fruit first!
We need the same thinking for climate change about transportation, food, community resilience, etc. The average household has a carbon footprint of 50 tons/year. That needs to come down to 5 tons by 2030. That means all households. The great debate will be how much action do we take individually, and how much will be done ‘for us’ by governments and corporations?
Can it be done? Can we start ramping down our emissions by 10%/year or less? YES!
We have that template and we can tell you that you can comfortably get to work every day, drive 1,000 miles per month in an electric car, fly 2 people once per year to the vacation of your choice, and do it for less money than you are currently spending on the carbon lifestyles (i.e. fossil fuel intensive) that we are currently being offered.
The key is real estate and the land use planning that the wealthy dominate. A key question regards real estate. Do we do this from within our own property, figuring out choices for 10% every year? What if the real estate that is a big part of the problem. Can you imagine yourself at a new property within the next 3-7 years that is designed for a lower cost of living and greater community while immediately reducing your carbon footprint to 90% of what it currently is?
The question becomes 10 years of constant adjustments and retrofits that will likely never get you to your goal, or sell the property and get an instant shift in carbon footprint the day you move in.
Who needs to act? If you could manage living with just a bicycle, you are probably in a good location. That location however is going to need more and more free cash flow to pay for the property taxes as the location becomes more and more desirable. Think of the wealthier ‘top drawer’ segment that will out-compete you with more cash. The question becomes “when will you convert/cash out”?
The following question becomes, “But where will I go?” and will it have a low enough carbon footprint? Citadels is designing for that question.
That sounds like a good plan, but maybe a better alternative will appear, a magical silver bullet. That may happen, but what is also the case is that the political solutions are never permanent. Consider the roll backs of numerous environmental programs within the past 30 months. Environmental progress in one administration can be undone by a subsequent administration. The turbulence and societal pain over the next 20 years will create numerous grievances and demands for alternative approaches.
“The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” said the Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute (Dr. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber). If we don’t act correctly by the end of 2020, we will be locked into the wrong trajectory for 4 more years until a new window of opportunity to change occurs.
“I am firmly of the view that the next 18 months will decide our ability to keep climate change to survivable levels and to restore nature to the equilibrium we need for our survival,” said Prince Charles, speaking at a reception for Commonwealth Foreign Ministers recently.