by Peter A. Belmont / 2019-02-03
© 2019 Peter Belmont
Well, here we are, we humankind, many of us up to our necks in “civilization”, and some of us are wondering what it will take—what we, humankind, must do, and how soon—if all or part of our “civilization” is to survive until, say, 2100.
What we face is by now well known: Global Warming and Climate Change (GWCC) and mass extinctions, especially of insects, and other results of human overpopulation and our over-active chemical industries.
What Needs To Be Done?
With respect to GWCC, it is widely understood that humankind should reduce to (or toward) zero all emissions of greenhouse gases, especially CO₂ and CH₄. This is not all easy to do, but some of it is very straightforward. Fossil-fueled electric power generation can be phased out over a short period, maybe 10 years, and replaced by solar- and wind-generated electric power installations. This should be done ASAP. there is no reason to wait to begin this, or to do it slowly.
The forest fires, droughts, water shortages, floods, sea-level rises, hurricanes, cold waves, heat waves, and other manifestations of GWCC need to be slowed down as soon as possible. Nothing is gained by waiting and much is lost by waiting.
As well as reducing emissions, we must take on an even bigger task—removing CO₂ from the atmosphere. After all, GWCC is not caused by annual increments to the atmosphere’s GHG burden, but by the massive size of that burden as it already is—before the relatively small annual increments. ”Climate Restoration” is, in large part, the work of removing CO₂ from the atmosphere and rendering the removed CO₂ inert. Since about 40% of the CO₂ which has been emitted since 1900 has been absorbed by the oceans, which have become not only warmer but more acidic as a result of GWCC, it is clear that the business of removing CO₂ from the atmosphere is also the business of removing CO₂ from the oceans. As we clean up the atmosphere, the oceans will release the CO₂ which it earlier absorbed. Thus, the atmosphere will continue to have CO₂ replaced from the oceans even as we remove it and make it inert. To remove CO₂ back down to 300 ppm (for example) is a major, major undertaking. It is clearly a necessary undertaking.
And this work will tend to help to restore the oceans to health as well, improving coral reef life and fisheries.
How Much Wind- And Solar-Capacity Do We Need?
And if the total amount of new solar- and wind-generation capacity required to replace today’s fossil-fueled capacity is ”X”, then over the next 20 years we—humankind—should install 3X such capacity. Why?
Well, for one thing the business of CO₂ removal from the atmosphere will require a lot of electric power and it must obviously be “green” power.
For another thing, the climate is going to get warmer before it cools off again, and there will be ever greater need for air-conditioning in warm cities. Also, ideally, there will be a move toward electric-powered vehicle and electric heating of buildings, and many other switches from fossil-fueled to electric-powered throughout the range of human activities.
And then, of course, regrettably, the human population is still growing and lifestyles in many places are aspiring to copy those of the richest countries, indicating a growing use of electric power world-wide.
So, all in all, maybe even 3X will not be enough. But aiming at 3X should get us going in the right direction.
Education Is Needed
A great part of the “political” work of Climate Restoration is bound to be educational. (There is some educational material in a recent interview about Climate Restoration.) Politicians must tell the people, and tell the media, and persuade the media to reveal—the magnitude of the problems, the magnitude of the solutions, and the happy fact that although things will get bad, and will get worse even after we begin to act, nevertheless action is possible and will ultimately be effective if we get started ASAP and work relentlessly and urgently.
What Else Do We Need To Do?
I’d like to think that Climate Restoration is a part --a major part to be sure—of what should be called Biosphere Restoration.
The earth-system is today awash in artificial chemicals, mostly poisonous to various forms of life, which mankind has seen fit to spread widely over the earth. Agricultural poisons, fertilizers, industrial poisons, household chemicals, plastics including microplastics, and medicines, hormones, and antibiotics. These industrial poisons are threats to various forms of life on earth and are also threats to the health of the earth itself, especially in soils used for commercial agriculture.
And whatever humankind does that injures the natural world, increases in the number of people tends to multiply these ill-effects. It is clear to most people that the earth is already overpopulated and headed for worse and worse overpopulation. And the case has been made that overpopulation is leading to mass extinctions.
Soils have been a source of 1/3 of the GHGs emissions of mankind but new and different agricultural techniques (and refusal to cut down existing forests) can lead to CO₂ sequestration, that is, removing CO₂ from the atmosphere and making it more or less inert.
These are examples. Both GWCC and industrial poisoning have been responsible for a drastic draw-down on the number of insects in the world and the number of insect species—as insects are becoming extinct at a greater rate than mammals.
And, of course, many species of pollinators are in trouble—bees and butterflies are dying off. This may be a matter of poisons but also of habitat reduction: people are so numerous and spread out over territory that ought to be available to non-human organisms.
I am not a biologist and I cannot keep track of all the threats to the biosphere (or to humankind) that modern chemical engineering has let loose or which GWCC has produced. There are many.
Green New Deal
Any political Green New Deal will have to begin slowly to avoid “frightening the horses”. But as GND gets under way, and in not too many years, the true stories will have to be told so that people can see what needs to be done and be willing to do them.
Climate restoration should be carried out on a “war footing”, with all the urgency of a war, and paid for from a budget equal to that of the defense department, beause climate restoration really is defense.
The corporate media will have to begin to tell truth to power rather than hiding the truth because of misguided obeisance to the economic and political power of the fossil-fuels producers (and users).
A lot of problems to solve.
Best luck to all Green New Dealers and to us all!