The recent decision by the G7 to end fossil fuel use by the end of the century is not a cause for celebration. It’s an example of feel-good climate procrastination.
In its fourth climate assessment report, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – which represents our best scientific understanding of climate change – found that we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. If we fail to reach these targets, we will face runaway climate consequences that will challenge our ability to survive on the planet. But even those timeframes are too far out there. Climate change is already affecting the health of millions of people around the world, and if we don’t act now, it’s going to get worse.
This urgency requires us to make decisions TODAY that will put our society on an aggressive path to reduce our addiction to fossil fuels.
We need to end all fossil fuels subsidies and put a price on carbon. We need to stop all extreme fossil fuel extraction projects like the Alberta tar sands and drilling in the Arctic, and instead shift investments to renewable energy. We need to exclude nuclear energy investments, which require massive public subsidies and magical thinking to avoid addressing the mountains of radioactive waste that will remain hazardous to human civilizations for 120,000 years.
The G7 announcement is akin to a tobacco addict saying “I’ll stop smoking when I get cancer.” It is easy for politicians to make commitments that will not come due under their watch or even their children’s generation. The steps we need to take to address this global health crisis are hard, and we need leaders who are willing to put aside partisan politics and tackle climate change today.
This announcement lulls into thinking we have more time than we really have.