Legislate, fund technology and educate to change industries that have caused climate change
Attempting to limit the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans is a honourable target, considering the tragic health consequences posed to wildlife and humans alike. Bans to straws, plastic bags, plastic cutlery and micro plastics have been put into place in countries such as Kenya, Taiwan, Australia and France to name a few. In addition, entrepreneurs such as Boyan Slat have initiated private solutions such as his floating screening system which uses the ocean currents to passively catch plastic rubbish. Although this will improve the environment, health and quality of life for humans and wildlife, this will not change the rate at which climate change occurs.
There is overwhelming scientific consensus now that mankind is accelerating the rate of global warming through intense combustion of fossil fuels and intensive livestock farming. This is often somewhat convoluted and combined with other forms of air, land and sea pollution. But it is arguably this air pollution, specifically that of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that is causing global climate change. The current level of atmospheric carbon dioxide being at 400 parts per million, an unprecedented level considering 300 parts per million was not exceeded in the last 400,000 years.
The largest change that needs to occur is the switch to sustainable and clean electrical energy. The world wide use of fossil fuels needs to be replaced with renewable, waste free, electricity generation, namely the large scale integration of solar, hydrological, wind and geothermal energy sources across the globe. Technology is key here, not just to increase large scale efficiency, but also to be integrated at an individual consumers level. When fossil fuel combustion is necessary, stricter emissions tests and regular externally regulated checks need to be in place, with heavier levies imposed over time.
The biggest issue however, still remains with the current, historically high, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Even if the release of carbon dioxide ceased today, the level is still currently high enough to increase the rate of glacial melting, ultimately releasing larger amounts of carbon dioxide and more worryingly methane. In recent years the amount of methane pockets in the arctic tundra were discovered to have been previously underestimated by many thousands of giga-tonnes. This discovery lead to many environmental agencies labelling artic methane the most serious risk factor that could cause abrupt climate change. Wallace Smith Broecker’s green house gas removal research, and solutions posed by scientists such as Klaus Lackner, have proposed the development of technologies to filter out greenhouse gases present in the air. This line of research and technology requires large scale investment, but aims to reverse the rising rate of greenhouse gas emission and therefore global warming.
The foundation for these changes needs to be in education, and not just with the goal to inform people. Greater efforts made to fund education in the climate science engineering and research sectors is the only thing that will lead to the technological advances needed here. This will naturally increase the rate of new energy solutions, with new technology generating new industries and more money to fund further education, research and expensive policy changes.
Life on planet Earth is a self sustaining feedback cycle of food webs and nutrient chains. Mankind have learned to manipulate these natural cycles for its own gain, thus massively disrupting the rate at which carbon is recycled back into life and the Earth. As can be seen in Boyan Slats example, the most realistic solutions the ones that employ or utilise natural cycles and integrate them. Where that is not possible, changing lifestyles to fit into natural systems more closely is the only solution. The Earth’s methods for self sustaining are marvellous, we should be fitting into the reality we live in not going against it.