Why your smartphone and acid rain should give you hope about climate change

  (iStock.com/Kwangmoozaa)

(iStock.com/Kwangmoozaa)

Earlier this Fall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the world on notice (again): Unless we make significant changes in how we get our energy and use our land, we will be committing to a future with tremendous human suffering from extreme weather, drought, and ecological damage. While the report is driving important conversations about solutions to this challenge, the average reader might feel discouraged about the changes required. Luckily, the truth is more hopeful than some recent press lets on.

On one hand, the IPCC report builds a compelling case for why we must work urgently to avoid more than 1.5 degrees C of warming (I, for one, would like my daughter to have some coral reefs on her planet and to know that we prevented the tremendous human suffering that will come at higher levels of warming). On the other hand, numbers pulled from deep within the report seem to suggest that carbon prices would have to be hundreds or even thousands of dollars per ton to avoid these severe impacts. For example, the New York Times mentioned carbon prices “perhaps as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100.” Yet these numbers –stripped from their associated caveats — don’t tell the whole story of what we know…