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- by David Greenfield

This was originally shared with my friends on Facebook and then with our local candidates. Even though I present it as a guide, it is not full of citations and statistic (though they are certainly out there) It is certainly not a media sound bite. It is really intended as a conversation starter.

I do not like telling people what they should or should not do either individually or as a group but I am concerned that there are important issues that few people are currently talking about. If a few people discard any notions of doing or thinking about things a certain way, think about the issues from a new perspective and have a real conservation about the issues with their friends or family and then as a group let their elected official know what they think, then I will be happy.

Solutions that are ineffective

1. Banning single use plastics: This is a nice thought but if someone drives their car to a McDonald’s and orders a hamburger, the plastic straw is not the problem, In some cases this ban could potentially make things slightly worse but I am not going to go into details.

2. Simply reducing emissions by 1-100%: honestly a country like China could implement something close to the 99-100% that is needed as a form of police state solution but I don’t want to live in that world.

What we can do:
Part 1 mitigation

1.Fix the electrical grid: Nuclear power seems unpalatable to many people who are otherwise environmentalist. It is not ideal and I don’t understand why almost nobody is talking about switching to Thorium power as is is far safer if we want to use nuclear power as a semi-long term solution. The reality is that until we have major breakthroughs in battery power, we cannot rely entirely on sustainable sources and since nuclear power is many orders of magnitude safer and better for the planet than coal or oil, it will be require for at least the short term. The only other solution is huge lifestyle shifts that are untenable.

2. Carbon Fees: Any carbon tax that is less than the cost of sequestering the carbon in the earth is essentially giving a subsidy to those who are harming the planet. Current carbon taxes are far too low and the money from than can be used as a huge boon for people who make choices that help everyone.

3. Fix the transportation system: For everything except for air travel, this is relatively easy. Require that all new cars use carbon neutral fuel sources and phase out ones that do not over a relatively short time frame. Massively invest in public transit and make the cost free (or nominal). The problem is that people will not use a system that is not efficient and that governments do not want to invest in a system that few people use. See it as an economic investment similar to how we build roads without the expectation that we will make back the money in tolls. Also ships are about two order of magnitude more efficient than trains which are about two order of magnitude more efficient than trucks.

4. Fix our food system: Eating locally is often not effective due to bot transportation and production inefficiencies (that last 100km is worse than the first 2000km). It would be easy for me to say that everyone should just be vegan but that is not a realistic solution for now without switching to that police state solution that I said would be bad. Instead, we should provide incentives for people to make sustainable food choices and add punitive taxes to those who do not. That Beyond burger will look appetizing when it costs $1 and the beef version is $50.

Part 2 Geoengineering

Start sequestering carbon: Currently this is a slow process and their is little economic incentive to do it but there is no particular reason why over time we cannot simply put all of the carbon back into the earth. This ranges from simple solutions like planting more trees to complex technological solutions that tap carbon at its course or pull it directly from the air. This type of geoenigeering is essential because we have already put massive amounts of carbon in the air. Despite this, very few people are talking about it. The good news is that this can help counteract rogue countries that do not participate in mitigation level steps. Is it fair that some countries will take these steps and other will do less? No, but fair doesn’t save the planet for our grandchildren and not leaving a habitable planet for future generations seems much less fair.

Atmospheric manipulation: This is the scary one but I suspect that we will come to it as the first four steps will likely not be carried out in an ideal manner. We can lower the amount of heat that gets absorbed by the earth. This can range from small easy solutions like changing the colour of your roof but can also involve putting tiny particles in the air that reflect back sunlight. We can see this process naturally occurring such as when mount Tambora erupted in 1815 causing the year with no summer. This solution can be done in a unilateral way that is even a little bit scary due to atmospheric manipulation being potentially use to favour certain countries over others but I suspect that it will come to this step and it needs to be a part of our current discourse even if we aren’t ready to do it yet.

Part 3 Adaptation

We will need to accept that some damage will not be undone. For example, ice melts very slowly. Greenland and Antarctica will continue to melt for a very long time even if the world’s temperature stays at its current level. My hope is that we can avoid the most extreme adaptations. Your great-grandchildren will not appreciate that you did not like the taste of a veggie burger when all that they have left to eat is blue-green bacteria.

photo: By Ramesh NG from Bangalore, INDIA - Electric Buses in Bangalore by BmTc, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47279675

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