These gruesome discoveries are the result of climate change, which doesn’t care about war in Ukraine or soaring gas prices or the upcoming midterm elections. Climate change is progressing and we are ignoring it for the benefit of our immediate interests at our grave short-term peril.
A gigantic wildfire in New Mexico has burned more than 370 square miles in the past few weeks and remains out of control. A deadly heatwave is scorching much of India and Pakistan, with daytime temperatures of up to 120 degrees and lows in the 90s – and it’s not even summer yet. Rapid sea level rise poses an unprecedented threat to the teeming coastal cities of the world’s most populous nation, a new report from the Chinese government says.
I could go on. But we all know now that climate change is ravaging the planet. We just keep finding reasons not to take the actions – or make the sacrifices – we know are necessary to reduce carbon emissions and prevent worst-case scenarios from becoming our hellish reality.
One of those sacrifices is paying more at the pump. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline hit $4.42 on Thursday, an all-time high. Low-income Americans struggling to keep up with inflation are suffering. The Biden administration and the Democratic Party, looking ahead to November, are worried. But we must keep in mind that paying higher gas prices today will mean a better life for our children, our grandchildren and the generations that follow.
Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine leaves the United States and its allies no choice but to do everything in their power to maintain Russia’s fossil fuels, which are funding the President Vladimir Putin’s war, off world markets. We need to see this not as a problem but as an opportunity.
Demand for petroleum products fell sharply during the two years of covid-19 shutdowns. As major economies recovered, demand rebounded. But refining capacity fell for the first time in three decades in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency, which choked off gasoline supplies. And the disruption of supply from Russia – the United States, for example, imposed a total ban on imports of Russian oil – has driven gas prices even higher.
The exorbitant price of gasoline is a powerful incentive to use less of it, which would mean lower carbon emissions. But it’s also a powerful incentive for motorists to get mad at the politicians who run their governments. President Biden responded with an unprecedented release of oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a move echoed by allied governments around the world. “We’re all too dependent on fossil fuels,” Cecilia Rouse, chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, told me on Thursday. “That’s just the reality of today.”
Biden, however, hasn’t given in to the “drill, baby, drill” nagging from Republican critics, who see the solution to high gas prices as getting more and more American oil out of the ground — and, ultimately, spitting its heat- trap carbon in the atmosphere. On Wednesday, the administration canceled the planned sale of offshore oil and gas leases, including 1 million acres off the Alaskan coast and more in the Gulf of Mexico.
The right long-term solution, for the good of the planet, is not to increase the supply of fossil fuels. This reduces demand.
One of the effects of high gasoline prices should be to spur greater demand for electric vehicles, which have a much lower carbon footprint. They allow drivers to happily ignore prices at the pump – and, with their tremendous acceleration, embarrass Ferrari owners at red lights.
The price spike comes as consumer electric vehicles hit the market in earnest. Ford is about to ship its F-150 Lightning, the all-electric version of the pickup truck that has been America’s most popular vehicle for a generation. The base model will retail for around $40,000 – not cheap, exactly, but in the range of what a buyer would expect to pay for an all-new pickup with a few bells and whistles.
Rivian already has its electric pickup on the streets. Other automakers, including General Motors, are following suit as fast as they can. Imagine the difference it would make if every pickup truck on American streets stopped spewing carbon.
These high gas prices and shallow lakes encourage us to make good choices. We should listen.