It’s time for zero in our net zero goal | Local columnists
Net Zero has become the holy grail of climate action. This is one way of describing the goal of removing the amount of greenhouse gases that are added to the atmosphere.
When the total quantity of greenhouse gases emitted by an entity is offset by the elimination of an equivalent quantity of greenhouse gases, that entity has reached net zero. It could relate to any entity, such as a household, business, or nation.
Reducing emissions is a start, but to be net zero you must also eliminate any greenhouse gases that are emitted.
Later this month, in Glasgow, Scotland, the United Nations will convene a meeting to forge guidelines that will be used to achieve the net zero goal for our planet. Called the Conference of the Parties, the organizers will aim for net zero, trying to create a path to achieve it.
The conference website lists four results that must be achieved. The very first says simply: “Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 ° C close at hand.” It might be easy to say, but it will be quite a challenge for the 200 or so nations.
I have to admit here that my wife and I are one of those net zero pursuers. Not on the world stage, but net zero for our household in Colombia.
For the past seven years, we have been steadily increasing the production of CO2-free energy using solar panels and also steadily reducing household energy consumption. The goal is to match our solar energy production each year with the energy needed to run the house during that time. Basically, we’re aiming for net zero for our unique home, and yes, I’m happy to report that we’re getting very close to that goal.
It’s just one house – in this case, a 60-year-old, 1,500-square-foot ranch-style building. During the journey to get to this point, we have learned many lessons regarding reducing energy consumption to match the outputs of our solar panels. This resulted in a back and forth adding panels, then reinsulating the attic, replacing the gas water heater, gas range, and gas furnace with electric equivalents, then adding more panels; replacing household appliances, such as refrigerators, with newer, more efficient units is also helpful. And, yes, by adding more solar panels.
Currently we are running on 10 kilowatts of solar capacity, but we will probably have to install a few more, especially when we buy an electric car. The project has not been smooth, and I am always amazed at how much we have learned. Seven years later, and while the goal of net zero is incredibly close, it’s still not quite finished.
By projecting this on a global scale, a race is underway to achieve a global net zero position by the middle of the century. Scientific climate models tell us that this mid-century milestone is crucial to maintaining a livable future.
From our house perspective, it seems technically feasible, but time is running out. Only if we immediately begin a massive transition, in this decisive decade, as John Kerry calls it, will there be enough time to reach that mid-century goal.
Kerry will lead the US delegation to the Glasgow conference. Unlike the previous administration, it positions the United States to play a leading role in the process, but there are a lot of difficulties and landmines along the way.
The crucial nature of this Glasgow conference is to achieve an acceptable set of rules regarding net zero accounting. So far, countries have created their own voluntary plans and their own net zero policies. The result is an assortment of claims and accusations, like double counting, with the result nowhere near the path needed to keep global climate temperatures within manageable limits.
Climate action monitoring, an independent organization monitoring national climate commitments, says that even if all current commitments were implemented by all the nations offering them, our planet would continue to heat up, up to 2.4 degrees by the end. of this century.
Translated by our Fahrenheit system, this means 4.3 degrees heating above pre-industrial levels. Raising temperatures this high would certainly mean a world you wouldn’t wish on your enemies, let alone your children.
Net zero is something that we all have to find, one way or another. It includes everyone. We will all need to join this quest, both individually and collectively, to make it happen. There are many ways to get started.
Given the mantra “every action is a climate action”, you can start pretty much anywhere, from your consumption of goods and services, to how you move around the city, to the type and amount of. energy used in your home. By far the most important action is to start somewhere.
Ideas for creating your own quest to achieve net zero are plentiful. They can be found in local courses, like those offered at Peace Nook, or online like at Edx.org, or through a multitude of books on the subject, such as “There is no plan B” by Mike Brenner-Lee.
It doesn’t end there, however. Besides your personal action, there is a whole other side of the equation, which is informing public officials of your concerns and holding them accountable for taking the necessary climate action.
Jay Hasheider is a MU graduate and has worked in the energy field with the Peace Corps, the State of Missouri, and the City of Columbia. He currently sits on the Columbia Water and Light Board and writes a monthly column for the Missourian.