Sowers: A net-zero world by 2050 is indeed possible


A recent Daily State News Opinion piece was titled, “Net zero by 2050 has zero chance of succeeding” (Nov. 9). I decided to check up on that overconfident conclusion by doing an internet search on the net-zero issue. I found a June 8, 2022, article with a title that I paraphrased for the title of my Opinion here. The article was on the website (a subgroup of the United Nations). It was certainly uplifting to read something with a positive attitude and hope, which offset the doom and gloom, pessimism and defeatism in that Nov. 9 Opinion piece. I found another important and very detailed — but more cautious — article titled, “Can we still avoid 1.5 degrees C of global warming?” It was on the website, and it showed how we can still get a happy ending by 2050, but you will have to read the whole thing yourself.

Here is a short summary of the reality of climate change. Earlier this year, large areas of planet Earth officially experienced all-time record-breaking extreme heat waves, and in some cases, they persisted for weeks. In Europe, it was estimated to cause an additional 60,000 deaths from heat exposure. In China, the government shut down many factories all across the country for weeks. At various places on Earth, there were record abnormal rainfalls, floodings, storms, expanded droughts, highest-ever power grid demands and out-of-control wildfires. Bad secondary effects included damage, which then caused insurance claims to also reach record levels. This is only a part of a growing list of bad secondary effects, including sea level rise, that we are already starting to get from climate change.

Research results from people who have full-time jobs and careers in climatology imply that, by 2100, there will be more long periods of 120-130-degree extreme heat. Plant physiology references on the internet say that photosynthesis stops at these higher temperatures. Think about crop yields. Will future crop farming need to be done in widespread and massively large greenhouses with air conditioning? Will cattle and cow barns need AC, too? Will seafood and fish industries die off because waters become too warm for fish to live and reproduce, too? Some articles on the internet report that this is already happening. And some reports say some fish have been migrating to cooler waters to survive. If the power grid goes down for very long, then how long will you survive without your air conditioning? Therefore, we really do need to do something to reverse or at least stop climate change. But climate change deniers just don’t see the elephant in the room.

However, all proposals to fight — let alone recognize — climate change are constantly opposed by climate change deniers. Two polls came out not long ago showing that radical and extreme climate change denialism is far more common only among conservatives in the USA and much less so among conservatives in any of nine to 23 other countries. The problem is not conservative politics but radicalized conservatives only in the USA.

Climate change deniers cannot understand that human activity is driving climate change.

They should learn that the atmosphere of planet Venus is 95% carbon dioxide, and the surface temperature is 800 degrees. That is about 2.5 times higher than the temperature on planet Mercury, which has no atmosphere and is much closer to the sun. Earth’s atmosphere is 0.04% carbon dioxide, a number that is now growing rapidly. Planet Mars has almost no atmosphere at all, and the average surface temperature is minus 80. Clearly, carbon dioxide captures heat. More CO2 captures more heat. Simple high school chemistry says that burning a gazillion pounds of carbon in oil or coal will produce over 3 gazillion pounds of CO2. This happens when that carbon combines with 2 gazillion pounds of oxygen. In a few minutes of internet search, you can get global annual oil production and coal mining. From that, you can get the annual human production of carbon dioxide and add it to the prior year’s total existing atmospheric CO2. This line of thinking is as easy as apple pie to understand, but deniers cannot seem to grasp it.

The Nov. 9 Opinion piece also did not acknowledge anything about the considerable positive progress to date toward getting to “net zero.” It took me only a two-minute internet search to find a June 11 report saying that 929 publicly listed corporations have pledged to be net zero by 2050. And that is up from 417 in 2020. So, it would be reasonable to expect that there will be even more pledges in the future. Because these are all recent pledges, we will need to wait another 27 years before we judge the effort to reach the net-zero target by 2050. Also not mentioned are all the solar and wind farms built in the last decade. And, last but not least, on Nov. 13, Exxon Mobil announced plans to produce lithium for electric vehicle batteries and spend $17 billion on green projects (from the CNBC website). This is why the conclusion in the Nov. 9 Opinion piece is not only premature but derived from a very defective analysis.

Arthur E. Sowers


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