GOING GREEN IS GOOD FOR ALABAMA (AND OUR NEIGHBORS).
Climate Change, Global Warming, The Greenhouse Effect. All of these titles refer to the same thing: That by burning fossil fuels and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, we are making the world more and more inhospitable. We’ve known about this for over a century, with an article published in 1882 talking about how pollution “will have a marked influence on the climate of the world.” And here we are, 140 years later, living in the middle of that “marked influence.” Last year, Germany experienced the most catastrophic natural disaster in 60 years. This year heatwaves and droughts are causing the Rhine and Danube rivers to dry up.
And that’s just in Europe. Pakistan is experiencing one of the worst floods on record. China’s heatwave is causing the Yangtze River to dry up to the point that hydroelectric dams along the river are becoming inoperable.
Here in America, the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to over 40 million people, is now so low that Lake Powell could lose the ability to produce hydroelectric power within the next year.
These are the most extreme and recent examples of course. There are more nuanced changes as well. In recent years, more and more turtles are being born female because the sex of a turtle is determined by the temperature of their nest. There is now so much CO2 in the atmosphere that the pH of the ocean has dropped. It has gotten so hot and dry in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that a golf course where I used to work had to replace the grass planted in the 70’s with a type that can better handle today’s hotter conditions.
If we look at NOAA records we can see that natural disasters that do over a billion dollars in damage are happening with greater and greater frequency. From 1980 to today the average number of disasters a year that cost over a billion dollars is 7.7. If we average the last 5 years of events that number has jumped up to 18.6.
Some say the best time to have nipped this problem in the bud may have come and gone, and that may be true. But, the second best time to tackle this problem is now - and we need to do it together. Everyone must do their part.
So how can we do anything to help on a state level, you might ask? Or, you might even be thinking “Well, we already joined the Paris Climate Agreement.” You would be right, but we shouldn’t settle on the minimum when we can do so much more. Alabama has already done a great job with reducing the amount of coal we use in the past 10 years, from about 32% of our power coming from coal plants to just 16%. But we mostly just replaced coal with natural gas which now accounts for roughly 40% of our annual power. Alabama already produces nearly 45% of its electricity from carbon-free sources, mostly in the form of nuclear and hydro power. It is not out of the realm of possibility for Alabama to safely wean itself off of fossil fuels by the 2030s, but we have to work towards that goal.