MITIGATION

Individuals, Communities, Companies, and Government are responsible for creating our perilous situation and we hold, in our hands, the tools for altering it.

Mitigating climate change involves decreasing the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — by reducing the use of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transport, by enhancing the ability of the oceans, forests and soil to accumulate and store those gases, and by convincing all of us to alter our personal carbon footprint. The goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas levels allowing ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, ensure that food production is not threatened, that extreme weather is calmed, sea level rise is stabilized, air pollution is decreased, and that we can enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

There is much we can do — which basically means either putting less CO2 into the ecosystem or taking it out (a process which has come to be now as drawdown). To that end, we have it in our power to reduce the consumption of meat (decreasing deforestation and methane), shift our use of gas and oil to electricity and reduce the fossil fuels currently powering our electricity as we accelerate the use of renewables.

CUTTING EMISSIONS

Q: How can we curb the rate of sea level rise?

A: The answer to this question is a lot simpler than the solution: cut carbon emissions. Sea level rise is a delayed reaction dependent on temperature rise, which is a delayed reaction dependent on rising carbon emissions. The only way to prevent the continuing increase in the rate at which sea levels are rising and to prevent the possibility that they rise further than current projections is to cut net carbon emissions to zero, preferably negative, as quickly as possible.

As Professor Peter Clark of Oregon State University explained, “It’s like heating a pot of water on a stove; it doesn’t boil for quite a while after the heat is turned on – but then it will continue to boil as long as the heat persists.” Clark’s new research asserts that a short window spanning only the next few decades exists to get climate change under control before ensuring commitment to catastrophic climate change that will last millennia. More at Carbon Brief

POLITICS

Q: Do a majority of Americans, countries, and corporations support the Paris Climate Accord?

A: Of the 195 signatories on the Paris Climate Accord, the U.S. is the first to pull out, while other countries have reaffirmed their commitments to the goals established in the historic agreement. Among other goals, the Paris Accord aims to cut carbon emissions enough to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial average temperatures. A majority of Americans in every state support U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement. A group of governors, mayors, business owners, and investors have banded together under the title We Are Still In to show commitment to adhering to the established goals even without federal support. More at Yale Climate Communication and We Are Still In 

Q: What is the Clean Power Plan?

A: The Clean Power Plan was finalized on August 3, 2015 by the Obama administration and established target emissions levels for each state and would have reduced emissions due to electricity generation by 32% by 2030. In March 2017, President Trump moved to dismantle the Clean Power Plan by putting under the EPA (headed by Scott Pruitt)’s review. and dismantled by the Trump Administration’s EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt. Over twenty states, all of which have major stakes in the coal, gas, and/or oil economies, sued the original plan on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. In order for it to be repealed, however, it must be replaced by the new administration. More at The Guardian and The New York Times

Q: What is the ZEV plan?

A: The ZEV (Zero-Emissions Vehicles) plan was first adopted by California in 2016 and nine other states have followed suit: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. The plan sets a goal for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles to occupy state roadways by 2025. More at the state of California

Q: As oceans become more acidified by the emissions of carbon dioxide, threatening shellfish in particular is there any legislation to resolve this problem?

A: Ocean acidification is the often-overlooked partner to global warming and is driven by the same human-caused emission of carbon dioxide that is driving the rapid rise of global temperatures. As the ocean absorbs much of that excess carbon dioxide, the pH of the ocean water declines, meaning it becomes more acidic. Since the April 2016 release of the panel’s report on the West Coast’s waters, two bills have already passed in California to reduce the impacts of ocean acidification and promote its research. A bill to establish an ocean policy council is currently moving its way through Oregon’s government. More at Climate Central

Q: Can the US learn from other countries in cutting emissions?

A: We could cut emissions in half by 2050 with policy changes and commitments to renewables: We need to create a carbon tax, shift to zero-carbon sources for our electricity, incentivize electric vehicles, set efficiency targets for the industrial sector & energy efficiency standards for residential and commercial buildings, curb methane emissions from oil and gas operations, and, finally, end the use of hydro fluorocarbons. Almost all these seven commitments rely on politics. More at the New York Times

REPLACING FOSSIL FUELS WITH CLEAN ENERGY

Q: Will renewables be able to support our energy needs?

A: Yes, whether or not U.S. leaders and policy makers get on board, the fact is that global climate change is happening and to survive on this planet we are going to need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. How quickly this happens, however, and how much we damage the planet in the meantime, depends solely on how quickly we can make the switch. Many individuals, business, and communities (even whole countries) are making the pledge to switch completely to renewables and become carbon neutral. More at the Independent and Treehugger

Q: What about jobs in the renewable sector?

A: Some: U.S. solar-industry employment in 2016 grew at the fastest pace in at least seven years, with growth in all sectors including manufacturing, sales and installations, as demand for clean power swelled. One out of every 50 new American jobs last year was in the solar industry, which now employs more than 260,000 workers. That’s 2% of all new workers. More at Bloomberg

Q: If the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and the sun doesn’t shine all the time, how will we retain their energy?

A: Many people see affordable storage as the missing link between intermittent renewable power, such as solar and wind, and 24/7 reliability. Energy storage absorbs and then releases power so it can be generated at one time and used at another. Major forms of energy storage include lithium-ion, lead-acid, and molten-salt batteries, as well as flow cells. More at McKinsey

Q: Where do gas and nuclear fit in?

A: Onshore wind and solar energy is expected to be cheaper than gas by 2020. As renewable energies become not just more environmentally safe but also more economically feasible, their place in the energy economy will continue to grow. Use of natural gas is expected to fall in the coming years, as countries around the world struggle to meet their lower carbon emissions goals. Nuclear, on the other hand, is more complicated. Because of its low carbon emissions, some countries, such as the UK, have committed to building more nuclear power plants (again in an effort to meet low carbon emissions goals). The future of nuclear is uncertain, since large oil and gas companies oppose nuclear’s competition and some environmentalist groups oppose its use because of their radioactive waste and high-energy maintenance. However, recent studies have found the environmental risks of nuclear energy to be less than gas. More at the Guardian and the New York Times and  Anthropocene magazine

Q: What is the effect of nuclear power plants on the environment?

A: Nuclear power is a renewable resource. It does not come from fossil fuels, nor does it directly produce any carbon emissions. However, nuclear power plants are harmful to the environment. They produce radioactive waste, such as uranium mill tailings and reactor fuel, which are hazardous to human health and remain in the environment for thousands of years after their release. Also, nuclear power plants use huge amounts of water to run and produce their energy. They are made from concrete and cement, which also are very energy-expensive to make. More at EIA

Q: What is biodiesel?

A: Biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement made from a mix that includes recycled cooking oil, soybean, oil, and animal fats. It therefore allows for the recycling of certain farm-produced wastes and has been deemed by the EPA to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 57% and up to 86% when compared with petroleum diesel. It is domestically produced and therefore reduces U.S. dependence on foreign, non-renewable resources. More at biodiesel.org

DECREASE DEFORESTATION (AND METHANE)

Q: What does taking trees down have to do with our consumption of meat?

A: Because the average person in the US eats 2,000 lbs. of beef every year and it takes up to 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Beef uses about 3/5 of the world’s agriculture land, both directly though pasture and indirectly through feed and forage. The increase in meat production has been responsible for 35% of the heat-trapping gases produced by deforestation. Much more at greener ideal

ECONOMICS

Q: How can we “decarbonize” the economy?

A: The best way to decarbonize the economy is to put money into the renewable energy sector. This means investing in renewable energy resources, like wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy. These quickly growing industries are creating new jobs and working directly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet climate change goals. Billions of dollars currently reside in big gas and oil companies. To motivate policy makers to make climate change a top priority, we must divert resources to companies producing clean energy. One such organization is Clean Choice Energy, which helps homes and businesses make the switch to renewable energy. More at Climate Solutions

Q: What is revenue decoupling?

A: Revenue decoupling removes the link between electricity sales and company profits. Instead, companies receive profits according to the number of customers served. Under current regulation, most utilities’ revenue generation is tied directly to retail sales. In this system, reducing energy consumption directly decreases the energy companies’ profits. This has a very negative consequence of disincentivizing energy efficiency and renewable energy distribution. Decoupling removes this disincentive, but works best when companies are further incentivized to produce clean energy with rewards based on renewable production. More at SEIA

WHAT CAN I DO?

Q: How can I mitigate climate change?

A:

  • You can fight for candidates who care about climate change and vote!
  • You can cut back on meat, turn down the heat and the air conditioner, wash in cold water.
  • You can eliminate junk mail. You can reduce the amount of food you waste.
  • You can bring your own bags when you shop replace the use of plastics with your own containers.
  • You can compost and you can plant a tree.
  • If you have the resources, you can buy an electric car, install solar and battery storage, and convert the heating in your home from oil or gas.
  • Much more detail at CCR

A: This article is from 2017 but curiously the 9 recommendations are every bit as good whenever you read them: Vote more, reuse and recycle more, walk more and do, more or less everything else, less – your dryer, your heater, your air conditioner, your car, your consumption. More at Forbes  

A:

  • Choose cars that get better miles per gallon of gas or choose an electric car.
  • Investigate your power provider options—you may be able to request that your electricity be supplied by wind or solar.
  • Buy your food locally, which cuts down on the fossil fuels burned in trucking or flying food in.
  • Support leaders who push for clean air and water and responsible steps on climate change. More at NRDC

Q: Why should I buy an electric car and how do I get it charged?

A: 1. Over its lifetime, including manufacture, driving emissions, and disposal, an electric car is about 50% cleaner than a gasoline-powered car. As renewables occupy an ever-larger percentage of electricity generation, that number will grow. 2. It’s cheaper in the long run. An electric car has few moving parts diminishing maintenance costs. Also no oil changes. Plus the fact that the electricity costs to charge is lower than gasoline. There are federal and state tax incentives available for both chargers and vehicles. There are currently 3 levels of charging stations from slow (if, for example, you choose to plug into a regular 120V 20-amp dedicated household outlet) or fast (20) if you plug into a DCFC station. More at PSEG Long Island

Q: How much food do we waste and what does this mean for climate change?

A: Cutting food waste is not just important to addressing global hunger; eliminating waste would also eliminate its consequent carbon emissions. In the US, we waste more than $160 billion worth of food per year of which 40% is wasted by consumers. Wasted food accounts for 3.3 billion tons of emitted carbon per year. But changing how we consume food is complicated, and it doesn’t just entail buying less. More at the New York Times

WHAT CAN A COMMUNITY DO?

Q: What can a city do?

A: Half of humanity now lives in cities. They need to think about how people get around, how they heat their homes, and what they do with their trash. Copenhagen (a city of under 700,000 people) has answers: wind turbines, bicycling  (bike lanes a bit higher than are lanes), mass transit, recycling (a requirement with 8 separate bins), incinerating garbage to heat homes, and changing eating habits. More at the New York Times 

 

CAPTURING CARBON - FORESTATION

Q: Can planting trees really mitigate climate change?

A: The land and the oceans together absorb 55% of CO2 produced by human activity. Planting billions of trees is one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Research shows that a worldwide planting could remove 2/3 of all the emissions remaining in the atmosphere today. More at the Guardian

 

Q: Have young people embraced forestation?

A: Trees consume carbon dioxide and if there are enough of them, they can do a lot of good. When Felix Finkbeiner was 9 in Germany, he planted his first tree. Today, Finkbeiner is 19 — and Plant-for-the-Planet, the environmental group he founded, together with the UN’s Billion Tree campaign, has planted more than 14 billion trees in more than 130 nations. The group has also pushed the planting goal upward to one trillion trees — 150 for every person on the Earth. More at National Geographic

CAPTURING CARBON -REGENERATING OCEANS, FORESTS, AND SOIL

Q: How can kelp farming combat ocean acidification?

A: Bren Smith is a former cod fisherman in Connecticut who now grows groves of kelp. He explains that too much carbon in our waters is creating acidification, and that kelp farms soak up to five times more carbon than land-based plants, filter nitrogen out of the water column, function as an artificial reef so species can come and hide and thrive, and acts as storm surge protectors for most local communities. A recent World Bank study found that a network of kelp farms spanning just under 5 percent of the U.S.’ oceans could remove the carbon equivalent of almost 95 million cars from the ocean each year. More at Greenwave

NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Q: What is carbon capture?

A: Carbon capture describes the removal of carbon dioxide from the air, which many think is our only hope for meeting climate goals like those established in the 2015 Paris Accord. The technology to do this is still in its infancy, but Climeworks launched their first carbon capture plant in Zurich in May 2017, which will pull carbon from the air and reuse it as fertilizer. Another hope for carbon capture is reforestation, or the expansion of natural forests, which act as natural carbon sinks and pull carbon from the atmosphere. More at Climate Central

Q: Can negative emissions really save the world?

A: Companies like Carbon Engineering and Climeworks are searching for ways to capture carbon to tackle climate change. There is a great deal of pushback, expressed simply by 350.org: “To keep warming below 1.5 degrees or less, we first need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, period. Negative emissions of any kind, natural or technological cannot offset our current carbon trajectory.” More at Greenpeace

FIGHTING DISINFORMATION

Q: What does taking trees down have to do with our consumption of meat?

A: Because the average person in the US eats 2,000 lbs. of beef every year and it takes up to 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Beef uses about 3/5 of the world’s agriculture land, both directly though pasture and indirectly through feed and forage. The increase in meat production has been responsible for 35% of the heat-trapping gases produced by deforestation. Much more at greener ideal