The four-day G-seven summit in Cornwall, England, ended recently concluded. One of the topics discussed is the growing threat from climate change. The seven world leaders pledged to reduce carbon emissions, including the United States of America. But for this to occur, the US must implement stringent policies to deal with its contribution to climate change. For three weeks, Love Senior Reporter Hipolito Novelo joined forty-nine journalists specifically selected by US Embassies to participate in the Foreign Press Centre’s “Combatting the Climate Crisis through U.S. Innovations Virtual Reporting Tour”. The tour guided Hipolito and his colleagues from around the world to examine and review efforts by the US government to promote international cooperation to develop and expand the availability of diverse traditional and alternative sources of energy. In the following item, Hipolito looks at the US climate change policy.
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “People often say “We’re not certain.”, “Perhaps it isn’t as bad as all that.” Maybe there’s other information we haven’t looked at yet, maybe it’s a natural set of events.”
Senior Advisor to the State Department’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Dr. Jonathan Pershing says the science is explicit when it comes to climate change. The threat is real- global warming is real and everything is being affected.
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “We are looking at a future in which some parts of the world, a number of countries in the Middle East as an example become too hot and humid where a human life is not sustainable out of doors without protection and I don’t mean protection from the sun and therefore being in the shade, no I mean the combination of temperature and humidity is too hot for a person to cool him or herself without an air conditioner. That’s extraordinary. We don’t have places in the world that are like that.”
According to Dr. Pershing, places like that will become real by 2030 or 2050 when several days per year means you cannot live outside. But this can be prevented if actions are implemented quickly, not by one country or by a dozen but by the human species.
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “We do know how to do this. We do know how to make the shifts and what’s required. In some sense the direction of travel is known; you have to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that come from energy primarily but also from land use and forestry and from industrial activities. That’s pretty clear, we know what we have to do. But we’re increasingly also able to point to ways you can deliver those outcomes at relatively marginal cost and certainly if you look at the damages from climate and weigh those against the cost of action the cost of actions are quite modest the damages are very very large. So in net, in balance, the world is much much better served by taking these actions.”
The United States is the second country in the world with the highest carbon emissions with the single largest coming from the transportation sector. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency “In 2019, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totalled 6,558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.” So what is one of the most industrialized countries in the world doing to affect this shift?
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “We committed ourselves to a 50 to 52 percent reduction below 2005 levels by the year 2030. That’s a significant increase from where we had been before. We are driving toward a commitment to get to net zero by 2050. We are driving towards actions that the President has put into executive orders that call for decarbonizing the U.S. electricity system by 2035 by installing significant numbers of charging stations or electric vehicles, by putting in place building efficiency programs, and by putting resources to rebuild the American economy post-COVID and rebuild our infrastructure in ways that are low or zero-carbon.”
But the US is lagging, affected in part by the Trump Administration, compared to countries like the United Kingdom and other European countries. While Belize’s carbon emissions count is in no way close to that of larger countries, the effects of global warming are already being felt as in Small Island Developing Countries. It is the US’s global moral responsibility to effect change.
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “It’s a transition that can’t leave people out in our country, who are underserved and more vulnerable. It can’t leave out those same communities around the world who did very little to contribute to the emissions surplus but are going to be the – reap the difficulties of the change in climate and who we need to be assisting and facilitating as they make their own transition to a low-climate-, low-carbon-impact world.”
And change has to start from within, by US citizens and the transportation sector.
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “One of the things that the President committed to was the installation of 500,000 charging stations, which makes it much more plausible that you can get electric vehicles recharged whenever you’re traveling somewhere, and therefore that anxiety about will your battery run out when you’re going to do grocery shopping won’t really play. But we’re also looking at finding ways to create incentives for the consumer to purchase vehicles and for the manufacturers to make more of them. And we’re thinking about the supply chain in batteries and how does that technology advance and where does that go. In that sense, it’s not the only sector, because once you’ve got an electric vehicle, you then have to charge it, and what is the power going to come from to make that vehicle run? Well, at the moment the U.S. energy system has a pretty heavy share of fossil-intensive sources, including coal and gas, so very little oil in our power generation mix. But we’re so therefore looking at how do you decarbonize the power sector, what are the mechanisms through which you might do that, because that also plays back in. And at the other end, it’s very clear that we can do a fair amount with electricity in managing our industrial emissions. A lot of the lower-temperature industrial emissions can be managed with electric motors and electric heat. That’s a way to kind of take the same clean electricity and apply it to that sector.”
The US has committed, under President Biden, to double its overall finance and to triple the amount of finance to countries like Belize earmarked for climate change adaptation.
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Sr. Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: “These are dire times and the world needs to step up, and the U.S. is trying to be one of those stepping forward to help manage that.”