Changing the Climate

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“It’s a boondoggle based on bad science and ignores the geologic record,” my friend stated decisively. “It’s bad enough that they’re making us drive electric cars, bankrupting the coal industry, and subsidizing wind farms, but now they’re trying to charge a carbon tax to pay for their outlandish schemes.” He regrouped for his final argument, “And none of it will make a damn bit of difference!”

I’ve heard the talk about carbon tax, but haven’t seen one yet. At any rate, the idea of doing nothing in the face of climate change doesn’t sit well with me, whether it’s part of the normal 50,000-year glacial cycle or man-caused. Waiting fifty more years to prove you’re right or wrong is kind of silly. Climate change is occurring anyway.

We need to change the conversation from blame to solutions — to quit arguing about the things we disagree on and talk about how to implement things where we agree.

Justin Adams’ essay in the August/September 2016 Nature Conservancy magazine hits on solutions in a less- or non-controversial manner. His premise is that we can implement natural solutions to battle climate change at a much lower cost, and in the process, improve ecosystems, local economies and the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Cutting down forests, plowing under prairies and the like not only emit carbon but also reduce the planet’s overall capacity to store carbon.”

His amazing-sounding solution?

“Protect natural lands from development where appropriate.

Restore degraded lands so they absorb more carbon.

Implement the most productive and sustainable methods on land that is already in cultivation.”

They don’t sound particularly complicated; we’re already working on all of these items. And, they are implemented locally or regionally, not necessarily at a global or national level. How does my skeptical friend react?

Protect nature? “Yeah, we all like nature.”

Restore degraded lands? “Of course; I learned in kindergarten to clean up after myself.”

Improve our productivity and sustainability? “You mean do it better with less? Sign me up!”

So, will these steps really help us battle climate change? Adams reports that these measures can accomplish about a third of the necessary carbon reduction predicted to be required. We’re already working on these efforts and the costs are tiny compared to costs for other climate change reduction strategies.

These steps are also relatively benign politically. Protecting existing natural lands through parks, wildlife refuges and open space has broad support; as does restoration. We plant trees and reclaim damaged and abandoned lands. Even farmers (a notoriously conservative community) support improving productivity, and get behind sustainability if it can be practically applied. A slew of new regulations aren’t required for these steps, nor will it grow the government bureaucracy.

Maybe everything we do in these steps doesn’t get us all the carbon reduction required. Maybe we need a faster shift to non-carbon-emitting sources of energy like solar, wind and nuclear. However, while we’re implementing these steps, we can continue to research, learn and develop tools to evaluate climate change and other potential solutions. Maybe that technological miracle will come along after all. It will even give us a little more time to continue disagreeing about climate change.

Win-win solution? Somewhat, I think. And, I do know that allowing my skeptical friend to continue to argue about climate change will keep him relatively happy.

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