Climate Change: Can we solve climate change?
6 minute read
Updated on: 17th May 2020
We now know that to stop climate change we need to:
- Shift consumption and in some places reduce consumption [ref]
- Take emissions back out of the air [ref] using technology [ref] and nature [ref]
This is called mitigating climate change - it reduces the cause of the problem (greenhouse gases) [ref].
Sadly, it is almost inevitable that global temperatures will continue to rise to some extent, with increasingly negative effects on people and wildlife [ref]. We are already feeling the effects of climate change: more frequent and severe heat waves, floods, cyclones and wildfires [ref].
What can we do about this? We must adapt to the changes in climate, so that we are not so badly affected by them [ref].
Reducing consumption is a form of mitigation [ref].
A major problem that we need to adapt to is sea level rise - even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, sea levels will continue to rise [ref]. We can protect ourselves from flooding by using sea walls, trees, and wetlands, or by moving cities to higher ground [ref1,ref2,ref3].
We need both mitigation and adaptation - not just do one or the other [ref].
What can governments do?
Governments in developed countries have the power to enforce effective laws and change where vast sums of money are directed to [ref1,ref2]. For example, they can choose to spend more money on advancing and deploying low-emission energy technology [ref].
Despite multiple official agreements between the world’s governments to tackle climate change [ref1,ref2,ref3], we are not on track to prevent rapid warming [ref]. For example, new coal plants are still being built [ref] even though we know they have very high emissions per unit of electricity generated [ref].
To make sure our governments are acting in the planet’s interest, we ought to vote and campaign for policies that effectively tackle climate change [ref].
Why businesses matter
Many large corporations have profited from selling fossil fuels [ref1,ref2,ref3], a key driver of climate change [ref]. However, the same businesses can also play an important role in developing climate change solutions [ref]. For example, major leaps forward in wind power were a result of cooperation between many different businesses [ref]. To slow or stop climate change we need even greater technological advances [ref1,ref2], electricity generation, transport, industry, and agriculture [ref].
Does personal change matter?
People are becoming increasingly concerned by climate change, but what can we do personally?
You can use your career to tackle climate change. For example, you could work on low-carbon energy or improved farming methods. Alternatively, you could work on the policy side to implement these advances [ref]. If you already have an established career, work to make your sector as planet-friendly as possible [ref1,ref2].
Everybody can make changes to their personal lifestyle [ref], but that often only has a small effect.
This graph shows how much each of these actions can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions [ref1,ref2,ref3,ref4]. Consumption changes do have an impact but can only have a significant effect if almost everyone acts and even then can’t prevent climate change completely [ref].
What should we prioritize?
What about all the other problems that society faces [ref]? You might wonder if we should prioritise reducing poverty [ref] or the provision of clean drinking water [ref] over tackling climate change.
In fact, all these issues overlap and interact with each other [ref]. In the absence of action against climate change, it’s expected that failing crops, natural disasters, and disease will cause 100 million people to fall back into poverty by 2030 [ref]. On the other hand, as countries develop and more people escape poverty, it is likely that their personal emissions will go up as they consume more, adding to climate change [ref1].
Clearly the relationship between climate change and poverty is complicated. We want to bring people out of poverty, but we have to do so in a sustainable way [ref1].
We need to find solutions to mitigate climate change and adapt to it, whilst also tackling other problems like poverty, hunger, poor education and gender inequality [ref]. The following courses will introduce various solutions in more detail. Out of those, green energy is the most important one [ref] - we really need to figure that out soon!