Future paints bleak picture
Suppose you built a time machine and travelled 30 years into the future, and saw the consequences of some present-day decisions later causing great strain on society. You’re surprised that those decisions felt so safe, normal. Acceptable.
Your curiosity is piqued now, so you dial the time machine another 50 years into the future and are horrified to find that the world is in absolute turmoil. You’re alarmed, but want to see how the chaos plays out, and visit more decades, the next century... the next millennium. You gaze out at an alien world — one without people; almost entirely lifeless — and cry for the losses. Billions of human lives and trillions of others; your trip was a stop-motion view of their slow mass extinction, you realize.
After a while, you collect your composure and, considering that you have a time machine at your disposal, race back to warn people of what is coming — to instruct them to change. The problem is, they like the decisions they’re making, and dismiss you. They say that the changes you call for will harm the economy and ruin the quality of life enjoyed.
This must be what it feels like to know climate science.
Renewables are the best option
Problems with renewable energy don’t warrant keeping fossil fuels. Concerns about batteries and installation are valid, but no source of power is magic.
Renewables come with upfront costs, but fossil fuels other than natural gas are more expensive ($1,200-1,800 vs >$3,600/kW). Prices for conventional sources stagnate as renewable costs continually drop. Dumping money into crumbling coal plants is plugging holes in a strainer.
There’s another major advantage of renewables: zero-carbon electricity. Emissions from producing renewables can cancel out some savings but are low in reality. The “carbon payback period” of solar is 2-3 years and under six months for wind. These systems last 20-25 years, meaning they displace significant emissions.
For evidence of intensifying weather, look to heat waves along the West Coast, which have killed over a hundred people. Hazardous hurricanes, anomalously hot summers and devastating flooding have all gotten more frequent. No single event is caused by global warming, but the climate as a whole has worsened each decade.
Renewables aren’t perfect, but innovations are rapidly fixing its shortcomings. To keep Missouri as a livable place for future generations, we need to stop propping up the dirty fossil fuel industry and invest in a greener future.