The asteroid of climate change is bearing down on us
At least three op-eds have appeared recently in the Express-News that say a “prudent” approach to climate change will work just fine.
County Judge Nelson Wolff and CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams praised CPS Energy’s FlexPath (“CPS Energy approaching change prudently,” Another View, May 13, and “Difficult energy talks will pay off,” Another View, April 8). Bernard Weinstein touted “clean-burning” natural gas (“Natural gas making U.S. a green leader,” Another View, May 20).
In addition, Wolff and Gold-Williams both argued that the city’s proposed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, or CAAP, will cost too much, hurting the city’s businesses and poorest residents the most. None of these addressed the real urgency of climate change. Rather, they sounded as if San Antonio and the world had the problem of climate change well in hand. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Please, imagine scientists have told us an asteroid will hit the Earth in 2030 — that it will wreck our economies, destroy our coastal cities, and ravage humanity with drought, floods and disease. What price would we say is “too high” to divert or destroy that asteroid?
Well, the asteroid of climate change has been identified by scientists, and they now say we have until roughly 2030 to take massive efforts to divert it. Otherwise, it’s going to hit us hard.
The figures in the recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tell us this: We need to cut our CO2 emissions 45 percent by 2030. If you’ll look at the figures in the draft CAAP, 48 percent of San Antonio’s emissions come from coal- and gas-fired power plants. Natural gas still emits tons of CO2. Without doing anything else, San Antonio could meet that 45 percent goal. If you throw in electric vehicles and mass transportation (another 38 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles), we can mostly likely meet our city’s commitment to meet the Paris agreement.
Some say quick transition to solar and wind power would cost too much. What is the expense of not transitioning quickly? Our own government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment states that U.S. weather disasters in the past four years come at a total cost of nearly $400 billion. In an understatement, the report says, “Acting sooner rather than later generally results in lower costs overall for both adaptation and mitigation efforts.”
California has committed to generating 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045. CPS is committed to the CAAP but still has plans to burn gas and coal beyond 2040, mainly because of cost.
Surely in Texas and San Antonio, bastions of free-enterprise and innovation, we can match California in vision and ambition. We need to include in the CAAP a plan to close our coal and gas plants by 2030 and a plan to transition away from gas-powered vehicles soon thereafter.
Burning fossil fuels until 2040 is tantamount to doing nothing, and the cost of doing nothing will be astronomical. The asteroid of climate change is approaching — fast. How much are we willing to pay to save a habitable Earth?
Wendell Fuqua of San Antonio is a member of the local Sierra Club’s Executive Committee.