Global warming threatens life as we know it like never before. But we have the tools and the power to meet the challenge. Here are seven smart climate solutions
Our entire civilization has developed under the skies of a remarkably stable climate. Now, thanks in large part to human actions, that stability has come to an end.
Scientists tell us that we must keep the global temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably 1.5 degrees, to avoid catastrophic consequences.
The good news is that we have many solutions to climate change at our disposal, if we can muster the political will. But we have to act fast.
1. Revolution of renewable energies
Fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil are the main source of emissions that warm the planet. They fueled the Industrial Revolution and lifted billions out of poverty, but their day is over.
The sunrise climate solution is renewable energy: solar, wind and hydro in particular. Once seen as too expensive and inefficient to replace fossils, they are now among the cheapest energy sources on the planet, and increasingly cheaper.
The cost of solar energy it has fallen a heady 90 percent in the last decade, and the wind is not far behind. And unlike its fossil counterparts, its fuel comes free, at dawn every morning.
On a sunny and windy day at Easter 2021, Britain met 60 percent of its electricity needs. only from the wind and the sun, and wind power alone accounted for half of the demand on May 3.
Wind farms are now among the cheapest energy sources on the planet. Image: Thomas Reaubourg
In terms of blows per dollar, onshore wind offers the best returns of any single climate solution, say experts from Project reduction. Once dependent on coal for most of its energy, the UK now regularly enjoys long chains of days without coal.
Of course, the sun doesn’t always shine; the wind doesn’t always blow. And when it does, you may not need the electricity it generates. This is where energy storage comes into play. Batteries are the secret weapon in the renewable energy revolution, whether it’s the home-use ones that store surplus electricity from rooftop solar panels or the huge power banks that can help match supply and demand across the street. a wide region. like the giant 320MW planned for Thames Gateway, or the new ‘gigafactory’ planned for Coventry, both in the UK. Surplus green energy can also be harnessed to produce hydrogen for use in transportation and industry. That means you never need to waste the wind.
Along with other renewable energies, such as hydroelectric and geothermal, experts say that green energy should be able to produce most of the world’s energy needs by mid-century.
2. Transport in transit
Electric bicycles, cars, vans and trains are the future of light transport, and their batteries will play a key role in the renewables revolution by acting as mini-power stations that transmit power to and from the grid when they are not on. use.
The race to electrify trains, airplanes and automobiles has begun. Image: Michael Fousert
Climate-friendly aviation is a tough nut to crack: some short-haul flights will eventually go electric, but the best option for longer ones is hydrogen or syngas. [synthetic gas] from household garbage or new biofuels made from algae or even food waste. An even better bet, of course, is to cut out unnecessary flights entirely.
3. Cold heat
Keeping the weather cool doesn’t mean shivering in our beds. Instead of gas boilers, most houses can be heated with electricity from the ground or air. heat pumps. When combined with high levels of insulation, these can end up saving money as well as carbon. Energy efficient modernizations, such as the one carried out in Nottingham by the Energiesprong team, you can create both more comfortable jobs and homes – “How to put a cozy tea on a house”.
Hot countries pose different challenges. In major cities in the global south, air conditioning can account for half of all electricity consumption. More efficient AC designs can help, but radical and profitable approach It is based on long-standing indigenous architecture: it maximizes natural airflows and uses “radiant cooling”, which carries the heat from the room to the walls cooled by water circulating through recessed pipes. (This mimics the effect of caves with water running through the interior, providing early humans with a cool refuge.)
Gas boilers will need to be replaced by ground or air electric heat pumps. Image: He Gong
4. Slimming down our waste
If cows were a country, as Bill Gates put it, would be the third largest source of greenhouse gases after China and the United States. His comment sums up the key challenge of a climate-friendly diet: eat less meat, especially beef. You don’t necessarily have to be super vegan (although you will enjoy a climate halo if you do), but you will drastically reduce livestock’s impact on the planet, either directly from their own emissions or through all land, water and energy. used to support it – it is one of the most effective solutions to climate change.
If you love to eat a burger, there is always the option of lab-grown versions, like the Impossible Whopper or Beyond Meat, almost indistinguishable from the real thing in blind taste tests.
One third of all food produced is never eaten, either because it spoils between harvest and arrival in stores, or because it is thrown away by the buyer. For farmers in the global south, a combination of agricultural market reforms and the provision of cold storage can dramatically reduce waste and increase their income.
In the richer world, look for a combination of government actions (such as France bans supermarkets from throwing food away), With voluntary initiatives by retailers, and smarter shopping and cooking habits for the rest of us.
Adopting a plant-based diet will help reduce emissions. Image: Dan Cristian Padure
5. Soak up
Boosting nature’s ability to absorb carbon is one of the most rewarding solutions to climate change, as doing so also provides vital habitats for wildlife. With the Amazon and other vast forests moving from a carbon sink to a source of emissions, the race has begun to conserve, restore and create forests on a large scale. Rich countries must incentivize the poorest to keep forests intact. In some cases, put more power and resources in the hands of its indigenous inhabitants is the answer.
For an object lesson on recovery, look at Costa Rica, which has doubled its rainforest coverage in the last 30 years, cutting logging permits, paying landowners to conserve forests, and investing in forest-based pharmaceuticals and ecotourism.
Meanwhile, a recent study showed that 11 percent of the world, the size of the United States and China combined, is fit for a trillion trees reforestation campaign.
Beyond trees, we need to farm in a way that locks carbon in the soil, rather than releasing it, using no-tillage and low-tillage methods, rebuilding the earth where appropriate, and promoting agroforestry and other intensive approaches in a sustainable way. The seas matter too: we need to adopt fishing methods that conserve marine carbon sinks and foster habitats like mangroves and seaweed, which sequester carbon up to 35 times faster than rainforests.
Conserving, restoring and replanting forests is a safe way to absorb carbon dioxide. Image: Kazuend
6. Less is more
Fewer people would also help. Population rates in many developed countries are falling, which, while having less healthy implications for economic and social cohesion, is a solution to climate change, as the wealthy account for a much larger share of emissions per capita. But populations continue to grow in some developing countries most threatened by global warming. The most effective intervention is educate girls– the safest route for smaller, healthier families.
Reducing resource consumption is key to many climate solutions. the rise of circular economy, as celebrated by the Green Alley Awards, you are helping to break the link between quality of life and quantity of things. There is a growing interest in “ favorite ” products, including clothing (sold through the popular Of pop application), borrowing rather than buying infrequently used appliances, through initiatives such as the Things library, and in repair and restore Projects.
Design ‘smart cities’ around cycling and walkingInstead of the car, it not only slows carbon, but also creates healthier, quieter streets and more vibrant neighborhoods. In common with so many promising solutions to climate change, it improves life in the soil in the here and now, as well as fending off a high-carb catastrophe.
The circular economy will have to go mainstream if we are to meet climate goals. Image: Clem Onojeghuo
7. Change the system
None of these solutions to climate change will really take off unless government, finance, and business support them. Most states and many major companies and investors have set “net zero” targets, which is a start. Now they need to put the words into action.
That means stopping funding for high-carbon sectors and investing in truly sustainable sectors. It means putting a high enough price on carbon to incentivize industry to move away from it, and reflect it in fiscal policies that shift the burden from labor to resource use. In other words, taxing what we don’t want (global warming activities) and not what we do (jobs).
And it means recognizing that delivering durable climate solutions is the defining task of this decade and beyond. We change the weather by mistake. Now we must change it on purpose.
Lead Image: Damian Patkowski