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Published on April 30th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor

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Climate Change Is In The Air

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April 30th, 2013 by  

This article originally appeared on the Mosaic website.

solar-powered-military-300x202By Rosana Francescato

Last year climate change became reality for the United States. New York City floodeda historic drought blanketed the Midwest, and we saw one of the worst fire seasons ever recorded. By July, the US had shattered over 40,000 daily heat records.

The question now is whether last year’s events will lead to new momentum for climate solutions. Will we get a shift in public opinion to match the shifting climate?

So far, surprisingly, the answer seems to be yes. Recent months have seen a long list of institutions and individuals—many rather unexpected, some powerful—speaking out in favor of action on climate change.

The climate movement has some strange new bedfellows. Here’s a roundup:

The American People

No longer able to deny what they see with their own eyes, a growing number of Americans are acknowledging that climate change is real. According to Gallup, 51% of Americans worried a great deal or a fair amount about global warming in 2011. By March 2012, a Gallup poll showed that number had increased to 55%, and this year, Gallup bumped that up to 58%. This is in line with the trend seen in a Yale poll released in October 2012, which found that 74% of Americans believe “global warming is affecting weather in the United States,” up 5 points from their survey six months earlier.

Other findings align with these, though the numbers differ. According to a recent study conducted by Duke University, 50% of Americans are now “convinced the climate is changing” and another 34% believe it “is probably changing.” That study found that Americans are at their highest level of belief in climate change and humans’ contribution to it since 2007.

Perhaps this trend will bolster new science teaching guidelines expected to be implemented in up to 40 states, which include extensive lessons on human-caused climate change.

The changes to the science curriculum are not without controversy, and the Duke study saw some division on climate change along party lines. However, another recent Yale survey revealed that even a majority of Republican and Republican-leaning voters now believe in climate change. Notable among those is former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like many other Americans, he not only believes the majority of scientists on this issue but also what he’s seeing himself. And what he’s seeing is a threat to California and its agriculture, which helps feed the rest of the country and provides over 1.5 million jobs in that state.

The Security Establishment

Another Republican, former Secretary of State George Shultz, is an unlikely climate activist who considers the issue urgent enough to warrant a recent visit to Capitol Hill after a 20-year absence. His purpose? To push Congress to support alternative energy sources.

And Shultz is not alone. Even before 2012, military leaders were expressing concern about climate change. In February 2010, the Pentagon’s primary planning document identified climate change and energy as “two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment” and went on to note that “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.” In April of the same year, 33 retired generals and admirals wrote a letter to senate leaders warning that “Climate change is threatening America’s security” and urging action.

Although the military is currently setting lofty goals for transitioning to renewable energy, it has sometimes been reluctant to attribute those actions to concern about climate change. Still, while it may have other reasons for adopting renewables, many in the military acknowledge that climate change is not only real but also a serious issue.

The Navy considers climate change a national security challenge and has devoted a task force to dealing with it. Rear Admiral David Titley told a Mother Jones reporter that “climate change is not only coming but it’s here”—and four-star Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, chief of the US Pacific region, claims that climate change, more than any other scenario we face, will “cripple the security environment.”

Recently, more than three dozen national security officials, members of Congress, and military leaders joined George Shultz in signing a bipartisan letter urging Congress to take action on climate change. This came on the heels of a December report from the National Intelligence Council, which coordinates all US intelligence agencies, identifying climate change as one of four “megatrends” that will shape the world over the next two decades.

The Financial World

Climate change is more than a security issue. Institutions and investors alike are realizing it will hit them where it really hurts: their pocketbooks. Given that Superstorm Sandy alone is estimated to have set us back over $70 billion, they have cause for concern.

Last year, a major coal company not only admitted climate change is real but also invested significant money into hedging against its effects—a sure sign that financial interests are in jeopardy. That company even acknowledged its own role in causing climate change, as well as the likelihood that the market for coal will soon shrink.

More recently, global investment bank HSBC joined the ranks of climate believers. In fact, HSBC paints a rather gloomy picture of the situation, comparing climate change to a “chronic disease, where the problem accumulates over time,” and predicting a “Peak Planet” scenario in which we use up our global carbon budget for the first half of the century before 2030.

It’s not the only financial institution getting on the climate change bandwagon. The World Bank connects climate change with increased risk of poverty in developing countries; its president, Jim Yong Kim, has warned that we can’t wait to take action. IMF chief Christine Lagarde, former conservative finance minister of France, has echoed this call to action.

Investors are also making their voices heard. A record number of 722 investors worth $87 trillion signed up this year for the Carbon Disclosure Project, a platform for companies to report their carbon emissions and the actions they’ll take to mitigate them. And the London Stock Exchange now requires that all companies listed there submit annual sustainability reports.

A Good Climate For Action

All this concern about climate change indicates that the climate is in fact changing—that is, the climate for action. And it could be an indication that real change is on the way. Initiatives in the military and financial worlds will likely set the tone for other areas and hasten progress on a number of fronts.

A good example is the Navy, which is seeing climate change as an opportunity to “turn vulnerability into capability.” Its search for the best biofuels will likely drive down prices and make it less necessary to protect oil supplies. And as it likes to point out, where the Navy leads, others will follow.

The same can be said of financial institutions. As more investors demand that companies mitigate carbon emissions, the financial pressures will force businesses to take action.

While the past year’s extreme weather events may have done a lot to change some minds, belief in climate change has been progressing for years. Now we’re at the point where some of our most sober institutions are on board to deal with it, and they’ll be backed by increasing public support. With all these sectors of society working on the problem, we have a much better chance of solving it.

Learn More

Author Bio: Rosana Francescato combines her passions for solar power and community as a community solar advocate. This began with her quest to install solar on her San Francisco condo complex and has evolved into blogging and solar analysis. She’s a member of the Local Clean Energy Alliance steering committee and has hands-on experience installing solar with GRID Alternatives, where she’s been the top individual fundraiser three years in a row. She’s excited about new ways for the 75% to participate in solar and has invested in several Mosaic projects. Follow Rosana @SolarRosana.

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  • http://www.sustainableenergyadvantage.com/ Richard Fenneman

    Global warming and climate change is occurring. Most people believe this, but there is a huge financial incentive to deny. The large energy producers (ie. coal and oil) are vigorously defending their turf. Remember the Golden Rule…… He who has the money, makes the rules. Unfortunately, it will probably take an ecological disaster before these people admit that there MAY be a problem. There is much work to be done to educate people about climate change. Articles like this help to spread the word. Kudos to the author and this website for publishing posts like this.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Interestingly the major oil companies have acknowledged that climate change is happening and that fossil-fuel produced CO2 is the major reason.

      But like your neighborhood dealer who will admit that smack will kill you, they keep selling. Money is very addicting….

      • http://twitter.com/SolarRosana Rosana Francescato

        Thanks for the comments! Yes, fossil fuel companies do keep selling … but like the coal company I mention in this article, they are looking to a future when they will need to change their business models. Now, if we could make it less cost-effective for them to continue with their current business, perhaps they would make that transition more quickly. Why not charge them for the costs we incur from their products, such as health care costs and environmental cleanups?

        In any case, though there are still some unbelievers and they are quite vocal on sites like this, they are increasingly a minority — especially in other parts of the world, but more and more also here in the United States. When even the military, fossil fuel companies, and major banks are acknowledging climate change is a reality, the tide is clearly turning.

  • http://twitter.com/SolarRosana Rosana Francescato

    Thanks for the comments! Many scientists are now in fact saying that predictions were off and the situation is more critical than expected. There are still those who spend a lot of time on blogs denying the facts, but their numbers are shrinking. The point here is not to prove anyone wrong but to take action to make our situation better. And the more people acknowledge what is happening, the more likely we are to be able to do that.

  • Victor

    According to research released in the spring of 2012 by the science
    journal Nature, humanity is now
    facing an imminent threat of extinction – a threat caused by its reckless
    exploitation of the natural environment. The report reveals that our planet’s
    biosphere is steadily and ever more rapidly approaching a “tipping point,”
    meaning that all of the planet’s ecosystems are nearing sudden and irreversible
    change that will not be conducive to human life.
    We have reached 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, how much more will we dump into it?

  • mememine

    We need certainty for the ultimate crisis not “maybe”. Help my house is on fire maybe?
    So how close to the point of no return from unstoppable warming will they take us before they say a crisis is eventual, inevitable or “WILL” happen like science says asteroid hits are?
    Deny this:
    In 28 years science has never said their crisis “WILL” happen, only “might” happen.
    The consensus is: “Climate change is real and is happening and “could” cause a crisis.” Not one single scientific paper says it is as real as an eventual comet hit. A climate crisis “IS” a comet hit of an emergency?

    Not one IPCC warning says anything more than “maybe” and “could be” etc. So find us one single IPCC warning not smothered in “maybes” and if “maybe” is good enough to condemn your own kids to a climate crisis, you are no planet lover.
    MOVE ON:
    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by corporations.

    • Ross

      The problem with waiting until the last minute to act is it makes change immensely more difficult. Rather like trying to divert a comet at the last moment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/arndt.ritter Arndt Ritter

      Wow mememine. 2733 comments all basically saying the same thing. A true professional troll. I wish I was funded to hang out on blogs all day.

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