Daily Kos: Wherein I talk about solutions to the worst effects of …

One of the worst effects of climate change: Typhoon Haiyan,crushing the Philippines

Climate change is THE issue that must be confronted if we and the generations to follow are to live in peace and safety; that is why my activism and writing has been focused on solutions to climate change. The effects of climate change touch all areas of our concern: our health, our economy and our very freedom to live on this planet.

The scientific and academic communities have been working furiously toward finding new and workable solutions and I’ve written extensively about their efforts. On the surface the problem seems simple: Our climate is warming rapidly because civilization has been on a fossil fueled party.

The fossil fuels we have burned to fuel our excesses have created a warming blanket of greenhouse gases around our planet which is now causing our ecosystems to be out of equilibrium, imperiling our future. The solution would seem to be to simply remove the excess greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. But, not so fast.

In our unbridled quest for a life of comfort, we failed to look ahead to the ramifications of our disregard for nature.

We find ourselves in a situation in which our dependence on technological innovation may not be sufficient or work in time to get us out of this imploding disaster.

Of course when you find yourself at the bottom of a large hole the first thing to do is to stop digging. That leads us to the first indisputable solution: that of an “as soon as possible” transition away from using fossil fuels as our source of energy. That is estimated to take more than1 20 years and be costly to our economy in the short term, though the future benefits surely outweigh those costs.

We are already working on this solution though we need to speed it up. As a no brainer addendum to a rapid transition away from fossil fuels we must acknowledge the need to leave what fossil fuels are left to be exploited in the ground.

As obvious as the aforementioned solutions are we find that the opposition to the remedies has been formidable. And so we must fight for every inch of ground we gain in our quest for energy sustainability.

More on the worst effects of climate change below the fold.

So when and if we accomplish these necessary goals will be out of the woods?

The answer to that question is a resounding NO. In our disregard for nature we failed to recognize that the greenhouse gases we were spewing into our atmosphere, primarily CO2, remain2 in the atmosphere for hundreds if not thousands of years. So if we went entirely zero carbon today we would still have the remaining effects of our fossil fuel hangover preventing us from stopping the worst effects of climate change: those of rapidly impending rising seas, droughts and extreme storms.

So this is the dilemma in which we find ourselves: in shark infested waters in a sinking canoe and without a paddle.

We are hearing about the scientific community looking for a silver bullet solution primarily involving geo-engineering and/or carbon capture and sequestration. Let’s look at where we are with those efforts.

The latest research, published in in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, finds that geoengineering could reduce critical global rainfall.

The research found that geoengineering would cause a drop in both the amount and frequency of precipitation worldwide, particularly over some land areas. In the dozen computer models used for the study, monsoonal rains dropped by an average of 7 percent in North America, 6 percent in East Asia and South America and 5 percent in South Africa.

Those seasonal rains are vital for sustaining crops in highly populated regions and substantial changes to monsoon seasons could have wide ramifications for food availability and political stability. In addition, the study found that average global precipitation could drop by about 4.5 percent. Obviously more work needs to be done in that area.

So how about carbon capture and sequestration? Surely, there is some way to hide all that carbon so that it is incapable of adding to our climate woes. The most current research5 shows that carbon capture may not be the answer:
Though scientists have speculated that it’s possible that injecting gas underground could cause seismic activity, there had been no hard evidence, until now.

Seismologists Wei Gan of China University of Geosciences and Cliff Frohlich of the University of Texas-Austin investigated why a West Texas oil field experienced 93 earthquakes in 2009 and 2010, some of which were Magnitude 3 or greater, and they were surprised by what they found6.

Frohlich said he originally thought the earthquakes were caused by an oil production process called waterflooding, which involves the injection of large amounts of water into the ground to help move oil deposits into wells, increasing crude oil production.

I was surprised when I found the quakes in West Texas appear to be caused by carbon injection, he said.

The riskiness of these solutions underline the desperation in which we find ourselves. But we needn’t jump from the frying pan into the fire to solve this crisis. The solution that I have been writing7 and talking about for several years: the reduction of short-lived-climate-pollutants8 (SLCP’s) of black carbon (soot), methane and ground-level ozone, to buy us the time to have a safe reduction of CO2, has survived the intense scrutiny of science and time to become perhaps the most practical and safe path forward.

The only controversy in reducing the SLCP’s seems to be which methods to use. The answer to that is that we must use all known methods of reducing the short-lived-climate-pollutants.

The Clean Air and Climate Initiative9, founded by the U.S., has been successfully gathering global support for the reduction of the SLCP’s. They are working on an initiative to reduce Black Carbon(soot) emissions in underdeveloped countries, which must be done.

But, as usual, no one wants to offend the rich countries or have them participate in solutions so they are ignoring the major contributor10 (pdf) to the SLCP’s and that is industrial livestock production of which the U.S. is the major culprit. This is where we need to focus our activism: on eliminating the agricultural subsidies for animal feed, on regulations to the industry and on reducing consumption of meat and animal products both in U.S.

and globally.

This seems as good a place as any to respond to the comments which will address a solution which says you can have your cake and eat it too: that of rotational livestock to capture carbon in supposed grasslands created by that rotation. That is a fantasy. It has been disputed11 many times.

Time to let it go.


  1. ^ more than (climateinteractive.org)
  2. ^ remain (www.nature.com)
  3. ^ latest research (www.climatecentral.org)
  4. ^ Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres (onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
  5. ^ current research (www.climatecentral.org)
  6. ^ what they found (www.pnas.org)
  7. ^ writing (www.dailykos.com)
  8. ^ short-lived-climate-pollutants (en.wikipedia.org)
  9. ^ Clean Air and Climate Initiative (www.unep.org)
  10. ^ major contributor (www.worldpreservationfoundation.org)
  11. ^ disputed (www.slate.com)

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