Major reductions in the burning of fossil fuels are necessary to slow the increase in gases that are warming the earth. Most people living in industrialized nations can reduce or modify their energy use on a personal level and take part in the solutions to the changing climate. However, for substantial changes that will keep the Earth from warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius and minimize the risk of catastrophic impacts, world leaders must immediately address the crisis and collectively work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Major commitments from the international COP26 meeting on climate change, which ended last November, included the phase out of coal, a transition to zero emission vehicles, financial assistance to developing nations dealing with climate change disasters, and an end to deforestation. China and the US are the largest carbon dioxide emitters, which means their commitments to major changes are crucial. In the United States, two new major pieces of legislation will be impactful in controlling carbon emissions. The first one, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Law, includes funding for research and development of alternative energies and methods to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It also provides funds for a national network of chargers for electric vehicles.
The more impactful legislation for immediately addressing climate change is the legislation that has not yet passed, the Build Back Better bill. This is designed to implement current technologies expeditiously. Experts who model greenhouse gas emissions with and without the changes proposed in the bill show that the US can meet its commitments to reducing emissions with the components of this legislation. Without the rapid implementation of green technologies that are a major part of the proposed legislation,the necessary reduction in US emissions will not happen.
While we rely heavily on our leaders to make the right decisions, especially on issues of utmost consequences, Pope Francis reminds us that “the global climate crisis will require us to transform the way we act” and we must “walk together with courage and creativity.” One way to be part of the solutions is to contact your elected officials and ask them to support the Build Back Better bill and other legislative efforts to combat climate change.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.