Climate Change Solutions: Where Do We Go From Here?

Climate Change Solutions: Where Do We Go From Here?

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3414-3.ch008
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Carbon pricing initiatives, as well as carbon capture and geologic sequestration (CCS), are tools to offset and reduce the impact of CO2 emissions. The best solution is to not create the CO2 emissions in the first place by switching from fossil fuels to renewable clean energy sources. This can be incentivized through tax breaks, as Norway has done with EVs. DOI can be used to change the public mindset so that they will embrace EVs, as Germany is doing now. Sea level rise solutions include shoreline armoring and beach renourishment, elevation of roadways and sidewalks, managed retreat through purchase of vulnerable land for public use, and avoidance through limiting development in high-risk areas. This chapter gives case examples from U.S.'s 100 Resilient Cities, and UK's Bristol is Open, a programmable city where data on air quality, transportation, health, and needs of elderly residents are integrated into one high-speed centralized network.
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Short of building an ark, where do we go from here? The consensus among most experts is that it is too late to stop climate change. A twinned approach to climate change is recommended, one that involves both adaptation and mitigation. As the late Australian epidemiologist Anthony McMichael (2010) put it, “Adaptation is managing the unavoidable; mitigation is avoiding the unmanageable.”

Although the situation is dire and there is a high probability that we can only slow down global warming, not stop it, there are some glimmers of hope. Returning to the framework of DOI Theory, we must thank the tenacious persistence of the innovators and early adopters (DOI Theory—see Chapter 5), who “got it” about climate change back in the 1970s and have continued to pursue regulations to limit GHG emissions for the past forty years or so. The United States had a wakeup call during the 1973 oil embargo by OPEC, which caused gasoline shortages, long lines at the pump, and much higher gas prices. At the height of the energy crisis, everyone had to conserve gasoline, as supplies were limited. Once the crisis eased, most people resumed their usual consumption habits. However, the early adapters became more ecologically conscious, starting organic food coops, composting leftover food scraps, recycling, biking instead of driving, installing solar panels, and urging the public to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Automobile manufacturers, however, catered to the late adopters, who were in the majority, by producing bigger SUVs, which guzzled more gas and emitted more CO2.

Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben was one of the first to write about global warming for the general public; his 1989 book, The End of Nature, warned the world that their “reassuring sense of a timeless future” is a delusion, due to rapidly rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, a hole in the ozone, and acid rain. In 1992, Senator Al Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, warned about the dangers of deforestation in the Amazon and of “needles, dead dolphins, and oil-soaked birds” on beaches, evidence of the environmental degradation of our waterways. As Vice President from 1993 to 2001, Gore helped to push forward protective environmental legislation, including President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice (see Chapter 4 herein), and the 1996 Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act (P.L. 104-19, Food Quality Protection Act (amended FIFRA), and Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments.

As a result of growing worldwide concern over global warming, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established in 1994 with the aim of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human-induced] interference with the climate system” (United Nations, 2014a). The first binding UNFCCC agreement to reduce GHG emissions was the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect in 2005, with its first commitment period from 2008 to 2012. It mandated reduced emissions by 37 industrialized nations and the European Community; the United States and Australia did not ratify it because of the lack of regulation of emissions from developing countries.

In 2006, Gore’s book and documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth:The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, reached hundreds of millions of people around the globe, greatly increasing world consciousness about the imminent dangers of global warming. In 2008, Dr. James Hansen of NASA, widely regarded as the most eminent climate scientist in the United States, wrote an article with his colleagues entitled, Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? Based on analysis of the scientific evidence on the impact of CO2 in the atmosphere, Hansen and his colleagues concluded that

If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.

Since 2008, when Hansen and his colleagues wrote this article, the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere observed at Mauna Loa have continued to rise, from 385 ppm to monthly averages of 404.04 ppm in February 2016 and 406.42 ppm in February 2017 (NOAA, 2017). Recent average monthly trends are shown in Figure 1.

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