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OUR TAKE: Pope’s July Climate Meeting Lends Hope for Action

The Pope will have another climate meeting early in July, this one not with fossil fuel and finance heavyweights, but with prestigious environmental activists. Attendees can influence debate, but not policy. It’s good to have the Pope make the climate a top concern, but can even he impel a recalcitrant, indifferent world into action? Immediate action to curb carbon emissions is required to avoid the most catastrophic damages of climate change worldwide. Not more talk. Government policies must commit to ending subsidies for fossil fuel, closing legacy coal mines and power plants, retraining workers and supporting affected communities. Governments must also incentivize the switch to electrical vehicles (EVs). And they must invest much more heavily in public health and social safety-net measures to reduce infant and maternal mortality, and to provide old age security, both of which are necessary for the demographic transition to low fecundity. A high population growth rate is simply no longer sustainable. The fossil fuel industry must redouble efforts to accelerate the transition to renewable low-carbon energy sources. Financial institutions and global development agencies must stop funding fossil fuel projects. Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs must speed up developments in battery technology, carbon capture and storage technology, zero-emission hydrogen fuel technology, biodegradable plastic technology, urban agriculture, meatless meat, and other ways to create a sustainable planet. What must be done is clear, but will entail change, which is always difficult. Talk must give way to concerted action. Somehow enough popular will must be aroused to force governments to find the courage and will to effect rapid though unpopular change, corporations to eschew short-term profits for long-term viability, and financial institutions to divest resources from extractive activities that damage the environment in order to instead deploy the resources required for a new, sustainable world.

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