Another Look at Climate Change; Part 4 – What Can Be Done?

In this series we have found that in the 1970s and 1980s climate scientists developed models that could predict the effects of a warming planet on society.


We saw that society, at that time, had little faith in the accuracy of those model predictions.


We also saw that natural occurring events, like tropical storms and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, gave climate scientists an opportunity to test their models – and their models past with flying colors.


We have seen the development of international councils and panels to address climate change, enhance the models, and provide advice on how to turn the potential negative effects of a warming planet around.


We have also seen that many of the predictions from those early models are occurring, some have occurred faster than the models indicated they would.



Is there anything we can do about it?


The answer is pretty simple really.  Just like those trying to lose weight – you need to either reduce the calories you take in and/or burn those calories off.  With climate you need to reduce the amount of carbon you put into the atmosphere and/or remove the excess carbon.


In 2006 NASA climate scientists stated that we had about a decade to make some serious policy changes to avoid irreversible climate change that could cause economic and ecological havoc.  They mentioned we needed to cut CO emissions between 50-85% by 2050.  Their suggestions could be found on both sides of the solution model.


Reducing Greenhouse Emissions Removing Greenhouse Gases
Cut fossil fuel use (especially coal) Add technologies to both smokestacks and combustible engines to remove CO2 in their emissions
Shift from coal to natural gas Sequester CO2 by planting trees
Improve energy efficiency Sequester CO2 underground
Use more renewable energy and make these technologies available in developing countries Use better land management practices in agricultural
Reduce deforestation Sequester CO2 in the deep ocean
Use more sustainable agriculture and forestry methods  


Other methods that could help reduce CO2 emission…

  1. Increase the fuel efficiency of our cars. One target had vehicles getting 60 mpg by 2057.
  2. Reduce the distance we drive each year. One target had no more than 5000 miles/year.
  3. Cut electricity use in homes and offices by 25%.
  4. Increase solar power use.
  5. Increase wind power use.
  6. Increase the use of biofuels.
  7. Stop deforestation.
  8. Better methods in agriculture.
  9. Install scrubbers in fossil fuel burning engines to clean emissions.

So…  How are we doing with these?


Cars are more fuel efficient than they were decades ago.  Many have turned to electric cars, or hybrids.


It seems that we are driving MORE miles each year – not less.  Our society is designed around the need for an automobile – we cannot function without one.  And our city planning seems to have us living farther and farther from our work.  When I was younger there was much talk about mass transit to reduce traffic and emissions.  In large cities where this was already ongoing it continues.  But in the other parts of the county this has not really caught on.  We are still driving too much.


There are methods of making homes more efficient.  My wife and I adopted some of these as we rebuilt our house after a fire.  Compared to neighbors and friends, our power bills are much lower.  Many of these methods and technologies are being used in new home developments and are encouraging.


Solar farms are increasing – even along I-10 in the Florida panhandle.  There is some concern that these solar farms are replacing food farms, but there is an attempt to do this.  Out west we see the same.


The same can be said for wind farms – at least out west.


According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, biofuel production has increased each year since 1980.


Deforestation has not slowed.  As a matter of fact, many developments in the Florida panhandle begin by removing ALL trees.  In some cases, they replace lost trees with saplings in the new neighborhoods.  But a major source of carbon removal has been removed from the system.  There is much more that needs to be done with this issue.


Speaking for the farmers in the Florida panhandle – yes… many have turned to better land management practices to protect their land and reduce, or sequester, carbon.


“Scrubber” in internal combustion engines is required by law in the U.S.


Despite some of these positive changes, carbon in our atmosphere continues to increase – not decrease.  Part of this is because this is a global issue and that all of human society must work together to reduce greenhouse emissions.  Some countries are doing better than others.  There are international summits every few years to discuss what the world should do to tur the tide on climate.  But all countries need to attend, particularly those producing the largest amount of greenhouse gases.


Here at home, there is resistance to reducing the use of fossil fuels, so many programs have not moved as far forward as they need to move.  It is also important to understand that even with the behavior changes we seek, it will take time to undo the damage already done.  We will not see improvement right away.  Enacting new programs and technologies now could take over 100 years to see the impacts.  It is important to understand that the longer we put changes off, the longer it will be before we see any positive benefits from those actions.


There is the concern that the political and public will is still not there to make these changes happen.  But they will need to if we are to see things begin to improve.


Until then – you can do your part.  Use fossil fuels as little and efficient has you can.  Plant trees to help remove carbon dioxide and shade your house so you need less air conditioning.  There are many other things you can do to help turn the tide on climate.  Check with your local extension office for more ideas.


Photo: Molly O’Connor



Posted: July 8, 2024

Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources
Tags: Climate Change

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