Today’s solar eclipse provides a stellar example of how we humans are connected with the universe and our environment, and demonstrates how fortunate we are to have accumulated such cosmic knowledge and awesome predictive power. Scientists can tell us precisely when the moon will begin and end blocking the sun and exactly where it will happen. As science’s predictive power relates to climate change, well, if you are still wondering, the jury is also out.
The good news is that in spite of the doom and gloom predictions, there are both significant market movements towards a clean energy future and pathways we humans can take to stabilize the warming atmosphere.
In layman’s terms the problem is that heat-trapping gases produced by human activities have accumulated in the thin atmosphere that has previously contained enough heat-trapping gases to keep our planet warm as it glides through frigid space. Once released, much of the heat-trapping gases stay present for decades. So the challenge is not just capping our current release of these gases, but in removing the gases that have been released decades ago.
Where do we begin thinking of actions we can take to help solve our climate change crisis? Certainly, the advice we receive about everyday steps we can take are valuable, such as recycling, taking shorter showers, eating less meat, etc., but compared with the seemingly overwhelming problem (human-related activities release over 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent [CO2e] every second), these steps may leave you feeling a bit hopeless. And in fact, if we took only these steps, we would just be kidding ourselves and not addressing the problem at hand: removing CO2e from the atmosphere.
Fortunately, there is a better way, and a working group with many researchers and headed by Paul Hawken has determined significant focus and solution areas. The initiative (and book) is called Project Drawdown. “Drawdown maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. For each solution, we describe its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world.”
You will hear much more from me about Project Drawdown, specifically as our site delves into many of the solution areas. Here they are listed in order of their potential capability to draw down and reduce CO2e from the atmosphere.
Unless you were sleeping, the world has been divided into people who are part of the climate change solution and everyone else. More bluntly, you are either part of that solution or part of the global warming problem. It wasn’t always like that; that is, most of us were very content living in our own worlds with an ignorance is bliss perspective. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, so we went about being good global citizens by being, first of all, good human beings. We would help and not hurt others, take care of our families and communities, and we lived with the values our parents and faiths instilled in us.
But one day recently we awoke to a new reality. It likely may have started like a hazy vague notion that something in our world was not quite right – out of balance. That feeling turned into a dull ache or an intermittent uncomfortable or painful feeling upon hearing an unsettling story or news afflicting our friends, family, and the environment: a farmer enmeshed in persistent drought, a friend engulfed in the floodwaters of a hurricane, a cousin concerned about the rapid decline of the honeybee, and your child heartbroken about the portent extinction of the polar bear.
That feeling wouldn’t go away. It only grew larger and larger into a sort-of hopeless realization that our way of life has been put in jeopardy caused by forces seemingly out of our control. This crisis felt like it snuck up on us because it seems so incomprehensible, its scale beyond our human capacity to measure. Since our individual responses seem so inconsequential, so ineffective, we just chose to ignore the chatter, the now false debate occurring over climate change. The truth is that, unfortunately, global warming has been a known phenomena, and human induced causes have been occurring since the Industrial Age.
The question now is, after you’ve taken that deep breath, become aware of the crisis before us, and truly realized its severity: are you part of the solution or are you part of the problem?