Fighting Climate Change

carbon cycle“There is, however, a catch: The world must act now … If we’re too slow to start better managing and protecting these natural systems, the inaction will damage nature’s ability to help heal the planet … In other words, the longer we wait, the less nature can do.”
~ The Nature Conservancy

We seem to be doing more fighting about climate change than actually fighting climate change. Despite the scientific consensus, many people, particularly political conservatives, deny that climate change is occurring or that humans could have an effect on climate.

Much about climate change is misunderstood. Some confuse climate with weather. Science tells us that climate change causes disruption of the earth’s environment and heralds greater extremes, more flooding, more drought, hotter summers, colder winters, and more extreme storms, like tornados and hurricanes. My geologist friends tell me that we have these cyclic climate changes every ten thousand years or so. Why worry?

There is a misunderstanding that the only reason to fight climate change is if it is human-caused. Of course, the deniers say that natural processes are just fine and we’ll just adapt. I’m not all that comfortable with the Great Plains becoming a sea when the polar ice melts and the glaciers invade the northern hemisphere during the next ice age. Should we also expect to see herds of Tyrannosaurus Rex roaming the countryside?

According to the Nature Conservancy, global temperatures that increase over 2°C by 2030 would cause “extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea levels”.

There are many measures that can be taken to combat the rising carbon dioxide levels that cause global warming. The most obvious is to reduce atmospheric carbon and create more oxygen. There is much resistance to measures that would control carbon emissions at their source, particularly from the oil and gas industry and related businesses — who rely on the emission of carbon to make their livings.

In addition to attacking the issue at the source, other options fall under the category of geoengineering. “There’s two sorts of categories (of geoengineering) according to Congressman Jerry McNerney on NPR. The one category is removing carbon from the atmosphere. You can do that by planting a lot of trees. You can do that by trying to seed the ocean to grow more carbon-absorbing plants like seaweeds. And then, on the other hand, there’s what they call albedo modification, which is reducing sunlight.” For example, you can use dust or vapor to shade the planet surface or alternately, plant vegetation that absorbs sunlight and cools the atmosphere.

The Nature Conservancy notes, “Trees and other plants have perfected this process over hundreds of millions of years of evolution. In fact, we’re unlikely to see a better carbon capture and storage technology than that which nature provides — we just need to actively give it the best chance to do its job …”

Many of the considered options have significant potential downsides. Oceans have a considerable capacity for storing carbon. Unfortunately, higher carbon dioxide levels increase the acidity of the oceans, which impacts the health of coral reefs, a backbone of much ocean life.

Jerry McNerney noted, “Plenty could go wrong. But I think the biggest thing is that we might change the climate patterns enough to disrupt national production of wheat or food. It could cause severe flooding and severe droughts in certain parts of the world. So I think the risks are very, very high, and we need to have a clear understanding of what the science tells us about these projects … Isn’t there an old saying that if you’re in a hole, stop digging? Well, we’re clearly in a hole now. Climate change is becoming more obvious, and if we don’t stop emissions or reduce emissions, then it’s just going to accelerate.”

So, what do we do? Some accept the attitude about rape from Republican Clayton Williams which was quoted in The New York Times, ”If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

For me, I think we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and our planet. Maybe while others argue and resist doing anything, we should just start doing the things that we can do locally. Per the Nature Conservancy, “… ‘natural climate solutions’ – the conservation, restoration, and improved management of land in order to increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in landscapes worldwide” are not only practical but can be influenced locally. Neighborhoods can plant trees, fight against polluting industries and do all the things environmentalists have asked of us for decades — use less energy, develop wind and solar power, drive less or smarter, create less plastic waste, eat more sensibly, etc.

I for one, see climate change starting to affect me, and I do not intend to either relax or enjoy it.

Additional Information:
Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Researching How To Fight Climate Change With Geoengineering, 12/17/17, National Public Radio,

Gabriel Popkin, Trees Could Change the Climate More Than Scientists Thought, Oct 13, 2018, The Atlantic

The Nature Conservancy, How Nature Can Help Heal Our Planet, 3/17/19

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