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We must adapt to climate change and reduce CO2.
The planet will warm, so let's be prepared
In the article What the evidence says about Americans' views on climate change (8/9/2023), Pew published eight charts that highlight Americans' views on climate change. On the one hand, there is a lot of optimism if you don't read too closely. Not only do two-thirds of Americans support the development of wind and solar energy, but they also believe the federal government should promote its use. A majority of individuals, 54%, believe climate change is a major threat to the country, though Democratic (78%) and Republican (23%) opinions differ significantly.
Let us now start investigating closely. First, the percentage of people who believe climate change is a big concern has decreased. Even the Democrats, with 78%, have lost 5 percentage points in recent years. The most crucial graph, however, is the sixth on the list, as seen in Figure 1.
When questioned about their priorities, Americans rank climate change in the lowest third, with only 37% of U.S. adults ranking it as a priority. In fact, only 59% of Democrats consider it a priority, ranking seventh out of 21. In other words, there isn't much political will to address climate change. Let's go deeper and return to the original Pew article for the data in Figure 1. Figure 2 shows not only the priorities in order but also the Dem/Rep divide.
Number 1 on the list in Figure 2 is strengthening the economy. It is first for Republicans and second for Democrats. Democrats are significantly more interested in lowering health care costs than combating climate change. When we look at the list, we observe that concerns that commonly touch people's daily lives and well-being rise to the top. This should come as no surprise to anyone. The main conclusion is that we shouldn't expect any more action on climate change than what we're already doing, which is adding solar and wind power to the grid and moving forward with electric vehicles.
Americans are wealthy and unwilling to do much about climate change, so how much should we expect the rest of the world to do? Most likely, less. Take a look at Figure 3. In 2022, Americans used 78,754 kWh of energy per person. China consumes 31,051 kWh per person, while India consumes 7,143 kWh. India is the world's most populous country, and each individual uses less than 10% of the energy that someone in the United States does. They are energy-poor. Their priority will be to improve their lives, which will imply using more energy, rather than to address climate change.
Figure 4 provides global coal use through 2022, with predictions to 2025, to support my assertion. The lowest light blue represents China, and the next darker blue represents India. China is predicted to maintain its current coal consumption, while India is expected to slightly rise. Over the next few years, we may witness a minor drop in coal consumption. In other words, we are still going to burn as much coal as ever.
All of this means that, at most, the world's CO2 emissions will slow during the next decade. We are still a long way from lowering CO2 emissions significantly. The planet will continue to warm. In fact, even minor reductions in CO2 emissions will keep the earth warming for years. Playing with UCAR's simple climate model interactive demonstrates this.
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My point is that we should prepare for adaptability, as people are already dying due to a warming planet. Any climate activist who thinks adaptation is out of the question is not dealing with reality. This is not an either-or situation. We can continue to seek to minimize CO2 emissions while also planning for adaptations and solutions. For example, we haven't seen the last of the summer heatwaves, so what do we do for the poor and working class when the next one hits?
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Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.