On Monday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that reveals the severe impact of climate change may be experienced well within the lifetime of the general world population, if dramatic policy changes don’t happen fast.
How fast? To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, the report recommends that greenhouse pollution should be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.
The report reverberated across social media: politicians, scientists, environmentalists and concerned citizens alike joined in a collective cry for much-needed change, with the focus on where we’ve gone wrong. Headlines blared and red flags raised about an impending doom, and understandably, there has been much more fear-raising than presented solutions or praise for positive steps forward.
But what the media outlets have left out in lieu of sounding the alarm, is that climate-related catastrophe is already here. Much of North America experienced a record-breaking heat wave this summer, wildfires fueled by ideal conditions ravaged the U.S. West, and the death toll climbed to at least 3,000 in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico a year ago.
Although climate-related natural disasters are omnipresent in our reality, we should not accept this as a fact of life. Every human life on this planet is deserving of a safe environment to thrive, and the technology exists to stave off the growing threat of even more severe disaster, if we join together to make the change.
When 20,000 people remained without power 10 full months after Hurricane Maria, many residents turned to solar power for energy independence after the storm ravaged the island’s grid. Solar-powered buildings became a lifeline.
And there is still an infinite amount of potential to explore beyond existing technology, because our planet is overflowing with passionate people with groundbreaking ideas to take our existing solutions to the next level. Every solution we could possibly wish we had exists already on this earth, in the minds of heroes currently tapping into, or striving to tap into their potential. We must elevate their voices, we must create and share the tools necessary to help each other explore our biggest ideas.
That is what we strive to do every day at Solar Energy International. We believe in a world powered by renewable energy, and we believe that is achievable by empowering you. You, with the crazy-huge ideas. You, who may have left a different career path to see what the solar industry is all about. You, reading this article on the SEI website because you took initiative to learn about solar technology and spread it even further throughout your network.
This week, we have over 300 students enrolled in online classes, and 22 students on campus for our last PV201L: Solar Training- Solar Electric Lab Week (grid-direct) of the year. Students from all over the world: U.S., Nigeria, Russia, St. Vincent, Colombia, Barbados, Bahamas, Australia, and South Africa. During introductions, people shared why they came to SEI: because of the impact of hurricanes, climate change, and because they want to help their countries.
Solar has stepped up to the plate as an emerging and necessary technology amid impending and present disaster due to climate change, but so have you. Thank you for taking the initiative to grow your solar training, to improve the lives of others, and to take responsibility for the fate of our collective existence on this planet. Keep working to elevate and encourage the ideas of others, and we will, too.
Are you ready to learn more about renewable energy or to join the clean energy workforce? Check out our full training schedule, or enroll in our next session of PVOL101: Solar Training- Solar Electric Design and Installation (Grid-Direct)-Online.
Our online campus kicks off another session on November 5 and spots are filling fast. Course offerings include:
A letter of advice from SEI Curriculum Developer and Instructor Karolina Fernandez:
Post-despair letter after reading Special Report SR1.5 of the IPCC
In 2016, after many countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accepted the challenge of investigating and reporting on the differences in global warming consequences at 1.5ºC or 2ºC. Early this month, 91 authors and editors from 40 countries representing the IPCC published findings and conclusions in the SR1.5 report (www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/), igniting the anxiety of scientists, environmentalist and activists who understand the critical state of affairs we’re in.
After reading the report summary, my first reaction was despair, frustration, anger… you name it, you probably felt it too. Following that, I returned to hope and gave myself space to write these words. It is clear the situation is precarious; it is also clear we should all understand the findings of this report and decide what role we want to play following them.
I share with you my main active conclusions from SR1.5.
- CO2 AND OTHER DEMONS – The main takeaway from 5 is this: of all the problems that haunt us these days (plastic in the oceans, selfish politics, sexual harassment, chemicals in our rivers, extreme poverty and famine, wars, extinction of species…) none is more critical than reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, quickly and massively. This is mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), but also includes methane (CH4), nitrous dioxide (N2O), black carbon and hydrofluorocarbon (HCF3).
- WHAT´S UP WITH 5ºC – Environmental catastrophes at this point are imminent. What this report explains is how exponentially less catastrophic, or how much better our situation will be if we do not exceed 1.5ºC. The differences between 1.5ºC and 2ºC are abysmal; I’m not using the word “exponential” in vain. It’s worth acting immediately. At present rate, global temperature change will reach 1.5ºC by 2040 – 22 years from now.
- DON´T MISS THE STARTING GUN – There is still Actually, time is of the essence if we want to substantially reduce the problems we will face in 3 decades. The starting gun for calculations and pathways in SR1.5 was in 2010. Since, our practices have become more energy-intensive and our budget of CO2 emissions gets slimmer by the day. Actions begin now.
- KINGS OF THE HILL – The speed at which we must change requires leaders: home leaders, company leaders, community leaders and, obviously, world Bottom line is acting fast requires motivation, and that requires commitment in massive scales. If you are a leader, adopt change; if you’re not a leader, demand adoption accordingly.
- IT´S A TECHNO PARTY – The IPCC explains that we have the technology and the means to adapt our global community as needed, into one that emits a balanced amount of CO2 for what Earth can Think electric vehicles galore, 70-85% renewable grids by 2050 (IPCC C2.2), massive reforestation, and wide adoption of sustainable consumerism and agriculture. What must happen is a matter of mass adoption. “The masses” include me, they include you, and everyone around you. We are each responsible for recognizing what these technologies are and for adopting them with immediacy. Technology that allows business as usual whilst staying at 1.5ºC max. does not exist (this includes mainly carbon-capturing tech).
- HORDES, HEARDS, HEAPS, AND SWARMS – The IPCC also affirms that there is historical precedent for human beings adapting at the speed that is We adopted seatbelts in every single vehicle produced within 12 years; CFC and HCFC was eradicated from all new refrigerators within 7 years of commitment (prompted by the 1987 Montreal Protocol), without the technology existing at the time of commitment (from other sources). This means that we can do it. The obstacle is a matter of scale: from each individual, to each company and each country, there must be change at every scale.
- PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE… THE SOLUTIONS ARE – The biggest obstacle in this mass adaptation will be the group of humans who choose NOT to The first and most important decision you make is wanting to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. The IPCC states clearly how offer/demand play a key role in staying at 1.5ºC average global warming – the way we consume and what we consume are key to making our existing technologies be enough for mass adaptation. Our demand can increase the versatility and flexibility of solutions to stay at 1.5ºC. Picture yourself divesting from high-emissions demand, adopting effective demand-side measures. According to the IPCC, lowering our energy consumption, for example, means we won’t need to deploy almost all know options to reduce emissions.
- INTEGRATE, UNDERSTAND, IDENTIFY AND HACK – Sure, living completely off-grid in the woods and not participating in global economies is one way of fighting this However, the numbers are in: most people don’t, and won’t, adopt that lifestyle. To hack a system, one must understand it, identify its processes, and change it from within. The IPCC has set forth the first steps into understanding this system: SR1.5 identifies exactly what needs to be done. If you know you’re doing something that lowers your CO2 emissions, share it. Integrate with society, politics, and corporations and become a model of good practices instead of isolating yourself.
- WHAT EXACTLY AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? – In one sentence: CO2 emissions from all human activity must diminish in 50% by So, unless you look around you and 50% of all people will reduce their CO2 emissions by 100%, it is your responsibility to at least reduce yours by 50%. That is the bottom line. Even if you think your footprint is “negligible,” it’s not. Wherever you are today, that’s where you start.
Non-IPCC based conclusions
- WHAT´S YOUR NUMBER? – What is not measured cannot be If Earth is asking you to reduce your carbon footprint by 50%, this is 50% of what? Put a number to it – start by knowing what’s your carbon footprint.
- THE PAYBACK – What if this is all a hoax? Best case scenario, as humans become more local and source their energy renewably, they become more Best case scenario, the “climate changes back” and we’re left with all these clean technologies and sustainable habits. We have everything to lose if we don’t.
According to the IPCC, it is too late now to not see whole ecosystems disappear, and our planet is undoubtedly veering towards a more hostile environment. Even at 1.5ºC, 70 to 90% of coral reefs are expected to disappear. Most impact will be felt in the tropics, my home. What has not yet been decided is how extreme these conditions will be. That’s where I come in, where you come in, where your car comes in, your habits and your company come in. That’s where we all enter the equation, and it’s worth waking up.
Following these words, I will attempt to outline which areas of maximum impact we must change first according to IPCC SR1.5. If you think your life can accept only a few changes at this moment (as is the case for an overwhelming majority of humans), what should these changes be?
Meanwhile, what’s your CO2 footprint? Have you calculated it? How much is your 50%?
We need to act quickly, it must be all of us, and the scale of this adaptation has no precedent in our history. If a great challenge excites you, this is IT.
– Karo Fernández, Costa Rica October 2018