Tangible Solutions to Climate Change

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More efficient vehicles, and fewer vehicles, are just 2 of the strategies.

Climate change, while very complicated in nature, has grown more tangible in recent years. Especially for skiers and boarders, abnormal snowfall has been widespread over the last several seasons. Mitigation seems complicated. Scientists agree that reducing emissions is key, but so many sources of pollution leave so many areas for improvement.

An August 2004 paper published in Science magazine spells out 11 strategies the world can adopt to limit carbon dioxide emissions by 1 gigaton per year. The paper claims that at least 7 of the strategies must be adapted to keep emissions steady. Although the paper was written in 2004, the improvement in green technology still makes the plan viable. This explanation makes the mitigation of climate change tangible.

There are many more operational details of each bullet point below, but this is the gist: 

1.  Efficient vehicles: Increase fuel economy for 2 billion cars to 60mpg.

2. Reduce vehicle use: Decrease car travel for 2 billion cars (at 30 mpg) from 10,000 to 5,000 miles per year.

3. Efficient buildings: Cut carbon emissions by 25% in all buildings and appliances.

4. More efficient coal plants: Increasing the efficiency of coal plants from ~40% closer to 60%.

5. Switch coal power plants: Switch 1400 GW of coal plants with natural gas plants. That is equivalent to the US’ current natural gas power generation.

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Graph shows yearly change in energy production. Photo: eia

6. Carbon storage: Increase carbon capture and storage (CCS) in 800 GW of coal plants. The US has 1,100 GW of coal power, but already widely uses carbon capture and storage. CCS works in 2 stages described below:

“(i) precombustion capture of CO2, in which hydrogen and CO2 are produced and the hydrogen is then burned to produce electricity, followed by (ii) geologic storage, in which the waste CO2 is injected into subsurface geologic reservoirs.” Sceince Magazine

7. Add nuclear power: Add 700 GW of nuclear power. The average nuclear plant producing 1 GW, and the US currently produces 99 GW of nuclear.

18. Add wind power: Add 2 million new wind turbines (@ 1 MW each). The US currently has about 96 GW installed.

9.  Add solar power: Add 2000 GW of peak solar power. The US currently has about 50 GW of installed solar power. 

10. Reduced tropical deforestation and afforestation: Cut tropical deforestation to 0 hectares per year, and replant 300 million hectares of lost forest. Brazil alone has lost 42 million ha in the last 40 years.

11. Conservation tillage on all cropland: A soil management technique in farming used to reduce soil erosion. Carbon is stored in the soil, and eroded soil from poor farming reduces storage capacity.

A solution is clearly not simple. A lot has to be done to curb emissions and it certainly will not be cheap.