As part of the Letters to the Future project, which coincides with the Paris climate talks, we asked local dignitaries, including The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's Susan Glickman, to offer their perspective on what our future is going to look like, which largely hinges on the climate action that's supposed to result from the upcoming summit in France.
Children of the Future,
My greatest hope for your future and the future of all children is that the 2015 Paris Climate Talks — the 21st Conference of The Parties where more than 120 world leaders will gather — result in a meaningful global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The simple and sad truth is that we have known for a long time that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions are dangerous. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson acknowledged human’s role in climate change stating, “This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”
We are at a crossroads. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are the highest in at least 800,000 years — more than 40% since pre-industrial times — from approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) in the 18th century to past 400 ppm for the first time in human history.
Given this reality, industries that burn fossil fuels – rather than innovate with renewable energy and efficiency technologies — bear a sobering burden for this dangerous trajectory. What legacy do they leave their children? I pray that when you read this, we are headed in another direction - towards a sustainable low carbon economy.
I first worked on climate and energy issues in 1999, prior to the 5th Conference of the Parties. Not many people were paying attention then.
Ultimately it took people marching in the streets to counter the powerful interests conspiring to confuse climate science. The tobacco industry did the same thing lying about the link between smoking and disease. Recently, leading environmental, science and social justice organizations called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate oil giant ExxonMobil for deliberately deceiving the public about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for clean energy alternatives.
While disappointed my generation handed off these challenges, I am optimistic we have the solutions to the seemingly intractable problem at hand. Increasingly affordable and fast becoming available at scale, solar and wind energy with battery storage are game changers. Combined with advanced efficiency technologies from building materials to lighting and more efficient appliances, clean energy is disruptive. It will alter our world just as computers and wireless technologies have changed the way we live.
Know that many of us care deeply about your future. Please learn from our mistakes and our triumphs.
Susan Glickman is Florida Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund.