The signs of climate change are all around us and getting bigger every year, yet with everything else going on in our lives, we can still let them pass by without much thought. Signs like:
- The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season being the most active on record.
- At least 270 people dying in floods in Europe between July 12 and 15, 2021.
- The small town of Lytton in northwest Canada hitting 121 degrees Fahrenheit in June 2021.
- Drought in the West leading to wildfires so vast that the smoke reached the East Coast.
- Cold in North America in February 2021 shifting south to cripple power generation in Texas.
- Hurricane Ida causing massive flooding retracing some of the same ground that Hurricane Katrina traveled exactly 16 years before.
These are just a few of the examples of how climate change is manifesting real change in our world, but unless you are personally affected, it’s easy for these record-breaking events to become background noise. To realize the full significance of climate change and prepare ourselves for it, we need to stop for a moment, take stock of what’s happening, and then help determine a path forward.
On August 9, 2021 the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a portion of their Sixth Assessment Report, the most comprehensive and conclusive “state of the science” on the climate crisis. The report was authored by more than 200 scientists from over 60 countries and cites more than 14,000 individual studies. It points to a disturbing reality – no matter what we do, climate change is here, it’s getting worse, and we will be living with it for hundreds to thousands of years. Adding urgency, the report shows climate change is happening even faster than scientists previously thought, and the latest projections have the world reaching or exceeding 1.5ºC, a key threshold, within the next decade or two.
Life in this climate changing reality demands a two-pronged approach – our clients in the transit and rail industry will be instrumental to both.
First, to eventually stop global warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be reduced to net-zero, an action dubbed “mitigation.” At this point, avoiding 1.5ºC of warming is all but impossible, but it will take significant cuts to emissions to even avoid 2ºC of warming before 2050 and 3ºC before the end of the century. However, every fraction of a degree we can avoid reduces the magnitude of the disasters we will face. Transit and rail systems with a significant and growing portion powered electrically and their inherent energy efficiency moving people and goods are a necessary element in reducing GHG emissions and mitigating climate change.
Second, to live most effectively in this changing climate, we must adapt. We must become resilient. This includes helping our clients add resilience to the infrastructure and systems we rely on. Basic transportation and mobility are critical to the working of our communities. Never more so than in the aftermath of a disaster. The ability of public transportation to recover and continue post-disaster is essential to recover and rebuild communities by allowing first responders and other front-line workers (and those that support them) to get to their jobs. Ensuring transit and rail systems are resilient is not a luxury, it is critical for our future.