When we discuss climate change and its ever-changing effect on our planet, it’s hard to imagine how we can reverse the damage we’ve inflicted.
But there are many options for us to implement.
What exactly are those options and how do we implement them?
Renewables are diverse; Grabbing power out of thin air, sunbeams, waterfalls, the center of the Earth and the nucleus of an atom. Renewable energy sources are the cornerstone of the next step in human evolution. Using renewable energy in all but the rarest circumstances, from the major power generation down to small generators intended for remote single family or several family settlements. This is possible and needs to be embraced with the same excitement and awe as previous major innovations have been; be excited about the move away from fossil fuels!
2. Natural Gas
Natural Gas is exactly that – it is a gaseous, non-homogenous hydrocarbon cocktail containing only the shortest carbon chain molecules found in many different regions in the country and produced from the long underground decomposition of organic material. Of all of the hydrocarbon products, natural gas is the most appropriate to burn for multiple reasons. First, burning natural gas results in half the carbon dioxide emissions compared to crude oil products or coal. The United States has recently seen a natural gas explosion – in discovery, production, and in use. Often envisioned as a transitional solution to the emissions crisis, natural gas has become the primary fuel used in the United States in the production of electricity and has been for several years.
Moving away from internal combustion engines as the primary means of powering vehicles and other devices such as lawn mowers and snow blowers will be an easy step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing overall energy consumption. Due to the sheer size and prioritization of energy efficiency in a power plant, using energy from the power grid will always be more efficient than using internal combustion to power the same device. Not only is the grid more efficient at converting fuel to energy, it is also cleaner when performing this process, meaning more usable power with far less carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.
4. Next Generation Nuclear Power
Nuclear energy is truly limitless. The ability to harness the energy present at the quantum scale is exciting and much misunderstood – though nuclear is often viewed with suspicion and contempt, it is, in reality, the most reliable means of consistently producing large amounts of energy without any fear of dwindling fuel resources. Nuclear produces no greenhouse gas emissions and, as we embrace newer designs, reactions, and fuels, less and less waste is produced and that which is waste is substantially lower in radioactivity.
New nuclear comes with one very important promise – it is a promise to produce nuclear plants which are not capable of melting down. Though this is actually an old idea, it was ignored as academic once the water-cooled nuclear submarine entered the scene. Once available, investment came almost exclusively to water-cooled reactors for the reason of cost, the familiarity of the cooling material was also a comfort to initial investors in the early 1900s. Using water was cheaper. Even if the use of an alkali metal salt (per the requirements of the architects of nuclear reactors) would guarantee a melt-down would never occur, the trend toward the cheaper, and far more dangerous, water-cooled reactors was favored throughout the world. It was these decisions, based in economics, that led to the meltdown disasters in Chernobyl & Fukushima. By accepting science and chemistry, we can start to envision a future with safe nuclear energy.
5. Sustainable Agriculture
Changing our agricultural habits will be key to improving our environment, improving quality of life, and quality of natural resources. Being able to balance our current environmental needs with the great humanitarian victories of Norman Borlaug, the American agronomist who led global initiatives to increase agricultural production, known as the so-called “Green Revolution”, is absolutely essential for the survival of humanity as we know it. Reliable crops producing high outputs with minimal detriment to the soil and preventing vicious runoff pollution problems is a goal we all must be reaching toward.
Circularity – or a “circular economy” – is the notion of improving logistics across the board in a large, coordinated system. Circularity is the concept of minimizing waste across production, distribution, and consumption. Imagine a world where producers are responsible and considerate of the final destination of their product and its packaging. Whose responsibility are all of the plastic bags, water bottles, packing peanuts and boxes? Improving reusability and considering the life of a product and its packaging will go a long way in improving overall efficiency of resources. Further, bizarre and wasteful practices that lead to mass food waste while millions go hungry must be abolished.
7. Digital Disruption
Using our technological resources as the great tool that they are will do a lot toward reducing our expenditures of resources surrounding transportation – the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – by using tools such as Zoom and other online tools to reduce the demand on flying or driving long distances when not absolutely necessary.
8. Research & Development
Focusing on the possibilities of our future will be integral to maintaining and improving our quality of life and expanding access to shelter, electricity, heat, food, mass transit, the internet; the next society must meet the challenges or climate and environment while also meeting the challenges of society. Research and development also involves industrial development to support green technologies. We need further advancement in things like battery technology that improve our world’s ability to produce renewable energy and store that energy.
9. Carbon Capture
We need to start to undo the climate impact of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Capturing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can be achieved by new technologies preventing their emission from reaching the atmosphere and sequestering the CO2 in the Earth as well as simply allowing more of our land area to produce wild vegetation, which naturally sequester CO2 and release oxygen.
10. Polluter Pays Principle
Moving toward more ownership on behalf of producers and the entire infrastructure regarding inefficient and inequitable established norms which push the responsibility for handling waste and pollution on the entirety of society rather than placing the responsibility solely upon the polluters. This will require a change in the way corporations have been able to skirt EPA laws in both letter and spirit, and it will require better oversight and a commitment on behalf of businesses and our representatives in congress to improve the environment rather than simply placating donors and self-serving, unsustainable big business interests.
11. Carbon Dividends
Creating incentives for carbon efficiency and an economic cost for emitting and polluting will not only create more equity in our economy, it will also help alleviate the struggle to recruit participation in efforts to clean and maintain our biosphere.
12. Triple Bottom Line
Embracing the incorporation of a more holistic and realistic appraisal of the impact of a business in their accounting framework, Triple Bottom Line encourages organizations to take stock of their impact socially, environmentally, and economically – a great initial step toward more awareness of the real impact of commerce and industry. Not all businesses are created the same and it is important to begin to see the real impacts of our activities at every level, and starting with business will go a long way in improving accountability across the society.