I have updated Climate Watch, and I am publishing part of the update here because it departs significantly from previous updates in that includes practical ideas that can be used right now to make significant and useful changes that will affect the climate for the better over the next ten years. We are going to have some hard years ahead. But we can change things if we stop arguing and pretending that it isn’t happening, and get on with the simple, inexpensive process of changing things.
Here are some inexpensive and practical things that we can do right now worldwide to save a lot of lives, and maybe prevent an almost unimaginable catastrophe.
1. We can increase the reflectivity and heat management of our cities. First, making sure that roofs, concrete and asphalt expanses are reflective rather than dark in color can dramatically reduce their heat signature. Second, emphasis on and expansion of green spaces, insofar as this is possible given water shortages, can help.
2. Just 1,500 of the 29,000 coal-fired power plants worldwide emit 73% of all electrical generation pollutants. They can be converted to natural gas. It is still polluting, but far less so than coal. This single act, not even very expensive, would massively reduce carbon emissions.
3. Oil and gas extraction causes methane leakage. A worldwide effort to fix these leaks can drastically reduce human-caused methane release into the atmosphere. This is important because methane is a vastly more dangerous warming agent than carbon dioxide.
4. There are smaller, less expensive, more efficient and safer nuclear power plant designs available right now. These plants should be built, and even smaller modular reactors considered for the near future.
5. We can get serious, on an international basis, about the plant a trillion trees proposal. If we plant in areas that still have viable ecosystems, we can expand those ecosystems and recover our planet’s lungs.
6. There should be an international consortium devoted to building desalinization plants wherever they will help. This should include loans and grants for countries that cannot afford this technology.
7. A worldwide education campaign should be instituted so that people have all the knowledge tools, from arid farming techniques to heat and other extreme weather survival strategies that they need.
8. Changes in livestock breeding to emphasize the breeding of lower-flatulence animals, and increasing use of plant-based nutrients in diets.
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Thanks for beating the drums on this issue. You’ve been at it a long time and I’m sure you’ve influenced those who have an open mind.
The biggest problem, IMHO, is our concept of economics and constant growth. It’s just not sustainable at any level. We need some kind of core change in our culture to live in harmony with this planet, not exploit it. I fear what that is.
I’d like to add our diet as a change, which is also broadly covered in your point on education. We over tax our environment with how much meat we eat. I’m not saying go vegan or vegetarian but just cutting back how much meat we eat is a step in the right direction. We don’t need it 5-7 times a week. I also believe embracing this way of life contributes to our spiritual life and reverence for the planet. Keep it coming Whitley!
Excellent suggestion. I’ll look into this right away and add it. I went mostly vegan about a year ago. I just found that I felt better and lost weight doing it.
Now, without really making a decision about it, I can’t clearly remember the last time I ate meat. I didn’t consciously give anything up. I just find the meals I make satisfying enough.
I think that most people will have a similar experience if they try making the change.
Stan the Man has Nailed it again! Capitalism is based on infinite resources and growth, and well… that is just not sustainable.
Our society is about selling us the next new thing we cant do without.
Resources are finite.
Meat: 110% agree.. Fish with omega- 3’s sardines salmon anchovies way better for longevity also. Meat lowers your spiritual frequencies I have been told but that may be pure speculation. Not to be a food Nazi but also grilling is bad for the carcinogens and the 2 usually go hand & hand. (drool!) I always had a hard time digesting meat anyway so no loss for me. I enjoy the impossible burgers and beyond meat “fake” meat too.. Bacon also. If you are a carnivore, you wont be happy eating dinner at our home.
I think someone ,somewhere published a visitor/alien interface where they asked ” Why do you eat the meat of living creatures?” It is bad for your health. Cant recall where I read that.
Excellent focus. I was talking with a friend over lunch last Saturday about the health issues eating red meat causes. White meat has far less of an impact on our health and as you suggest, cutting down on that too could reap health benefits.
Until last December I frequently undertook long journeys across Europe and eating just salad sandwiches and fruit for several days left me feeling much clearer mentally as well as trimming the waistline a bit. It’s not hard to do if your busy either. I recall rolling into St Moritz in Switzerland, chomping on a apple, wondering why everyone was waving at me. I was taking another bite when I realised it was a one way street…
Potential SOLUTIONS! I love it, and I’ll never quit on us.
They are practical and doable NOW. So what’s stopping us? They have been known for years, but not a finger has been lifted.
I think that what’s stopping us is an excessively ambitious agenda. We simply don’t have time to wait for nuclear fusion, game-changer vehicle batteries, mass scale atmospheric carbon capture and the like. NOW is what matters!
You said it, mi amigo.
Whitley , thankyou for mentioning de-salination . I had a sort of epiphany whilst at the seashore last week .It’s common sense for a country like the UK to implement .
When I holidayed in Gran Canaria the y had these operating and there was a plentiful supply of water for irrigation and to keep tourists satisfied . I was impressed to learn about this .
Maybe the expanded use of desalination will result in a smaller shark presence at the surfline, as higher concentrations of saline are released into the ocean in the areas that use desalination plants. It could happen.
Kudos to all who migrate toward a more plant-based diet. Our family’s current favorite is a vegetarian lasagna, to which we sometimes add slivers of soy cheese (Trader Joe sells bags of that in cheese section). With extra added vegetables in the lasagna like mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, it’s a satisfying meal, and leftover servings can be frozen for later meals. One caution: Almost none realize the need to minimize refined sweeteners on a mostly vegetarian diet; meats are highly alkaline, sugars highly acidic. Our family uses more natural sweeteners like organic maple syrup, barley malt for cooking and baking, and granulated monkfruit sweetener. For example, we’ve become pear eaters after finding an excellent pear dessert recipe – steam de-seeded pear 10 minutes, cool, cover w/ spoonfuls of topping made from 2 TBSP barley malt, 2 TBSP maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla flavoring. Works best w/ Bosc and Bartlett pears.
We have to re-roof this year, so we’ll be sure to ask the roofer to include a reflective roof in his estimate.
Thank you very much, Whitley, for these recommendations, and for all you have done to sound the climate-change alarm for so many years. Thank you to the other commenters here too. Sure hope enough people are waking up to the risk of inaction, while also being hopeful and creative enough to work on changes so we can steer toward a kinder, safer world while we still have time to survive and thrive.
This is brilliant Whitley, just brilliant!
It seems to me that every politician in the world has an agenda, but that agenda never includes the survival of the human species. That’s why they don’t do any of these things. They want to prolong the issue either in the negative or the positive in order to get votes and support. And as for the dictators, the one thing they don’t care about is the environment. We need a revolution of the good and the humble. The meek and nobody else can save this earth.
The Biden administration has already addressed methane. Of course there is resistance politically from the GOP. In fact this a carry over from Obama that Trump over turned. This is a political argument pure and simple. https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/us-sharply-cut-methane-pollution-threatens-climate-and-public-health
This is a great list Whitley… and practical. I work in an ER in Philly and every heatwave we have many patients. Why? rowhomes are brick with black membrane roofs. A simple white or silver roller paint will reflect 15-20% of the heat back. So simple!
I read with interest Bill Gates book on defeating climate change. Cars & power centers are only partial.. what shocked me was the that concrete manufacturing is a huge emitter!
I know its probably minor but our house hold of 4 has down these minor adjustments: ( probably doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of CO2 emissions , but its something:
1) Pescatarian is our only meat , we do all the fake meats and love them.
2) All our weeders, hedge clippers and mower are Green works brand battery operated stuff. No gas anything.
3) We recycle, compost and mulch and we have a small victory garden to augment our food bill. ( Really its all for the killer tomatoes!)
4) we take our leaves and weeding over flow to the township in brown bags for mulching… but most of it goes into the garden and composter.
5) Went to green energy on our electricity bill.
6) My girls don’t go for “Fast Fashion” and buy a lot at the Goodwill.
Now the last thing is our 2017 suby forester and Sienna Mini Van 2013… IM driving them into the dirt and looking at an EV purchase. They need to straighten out the adopters and charging stations.
I m an early adapter and was in line for a tesla back when the Obama era tax credits made it affordable. I got my 1k back when all the tax credits went away. Now I’m waiting to see what shakes out. I hope they get it all figured out by the time my gas pigs break down. I really don’t want another gas car or a hybrid- We need to go to electric.
Any more insights and ideas from subscribers is appreciated!
Using charcoal as a soil amendment in your garden is a great way to sequester carbon that will not respire off co2 for at least centuries. Don’t use the briquets, use the real lump type, making sure it’s just charcoal. Preferably put it in compost first. I feel this is the easiest and biggest impact an individual could make. It has huge potential if it catches on.
Hi Stan , as a keen gardener I think this sounds a great idea , bonemeal is also good for soul enrichment . Enhancing the usual compost and garden soil this way would be a great thing to do.
Last I heard, small modular reactors (SMRs) have no containment structure around them; I would not want to live downwind of a SMR.
The physics society online at phys.org has an explainer for World Overshoot Day, which this year was on July 28th … different day each year, per their calculations:
My family and I only purchase needed manufactured items between January 1st and World Overshoot Day each year. If that type of thinking becomes a trend, and does not terrify corporations, I don’t know what will. We buy only needed things the rest of each year (like food). Our gifts include flowers, which are not strictly speaking a manufactured item.
There’s a multitude of different types and designs of SMR, and needless to say a containment vessel is mandatory for any nuclear reactor, including SMRs, although what you heard might allude to the reactor module itself not incorporating a containment building into its design, but rather being installed into one upon arrival at the site.
The diagrams for the BWRX-300 SMR that is being installed at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station further along the lake from where I live definitely show a containment structure; there’s no way the CNSC would allow a reactor to be installed without such a fundamental (and simple) safety measure.
Hitachi’s sales pitch:
A more detailed diagram can be found here:
INDY – Thx for the world overshoot day information.. a real eye opener and I never heard of it before .
It is estimated that 50% of the forest on this planet has been cleared since human civilization began. So, thank you for including trees on your list!
I would add that we absolutely need to strengthen democracy in order to ensure these things get implemented. If ordinary folks can’t mandate their own government to secure a better future for their children, then none of these steps will be taken. Politicians in power have been captured by those with unlimited money and influence. As long as they work for them, nearly guaranteeing their job security, they would rather sell their dear grandmother to an eternity of hell than go against them. They are cowards. We need to re-empower the meek.
Oops, instead of typing “World Overshoot Day” above, I *should* have typed “Earth” Overshoot Day, which is the actual correct title.
Replace all paper made from wood with hemp paper. This would be huge and doable. Issue is the hierarchy cannot figure out how to roll all the money up to themselves. Also it destroys smoking marijuana and so drug money lobbies against it.
Today’s Bloomberg Green news channel has an in-depth analysis of the more recent negotiations that led up to today’s White House signing into law of the first major US climate change legislation. (That law’s formal name is the Inflation Reduction Act.) Apparently Bill Gates and a number of others were major deal-makers behind the scenes. Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2022-08-16/how-bill-gates-lobbied-to-save-the-climate-tax-bill-biden-just-signed?
“What’s stopping us?” — I immediately think of the usual suspects, as in Wall Street, hedge funds, any kind of investment group. The list of names also includes the top 300 international corporations, listed in the recent book Giants by retired Sonoma State University professor Peter Phillips:
Since reading that book, my family and I avoid any products associated with any of those folks.
There’s a brief reference in the topic section for this UC page to concrete. If you did not yet see, here’s an explainer on the original formula for Roman concrete, recently discovered:
For the last two years, natural gas has replaced coal as the chief fuel source used to produce electricity in the U.S. So there is some movement there.
And you’re right, it’s not necessarily clean. But it is cleaner (than coal) and might serve as an important bridge fuel to meet current demand until we can perfect solar, wind, etc.
But there’s a huge pushback against natural gas right now. It’s even been banned in some municipalities across the country for home use.
Many people don’t know that even though they can’t use it at home (if it has been banned in their area), it’s still being used to produce their electricity, in many cases. And it’s actually more efficient when burned directly at home for, say, heating, versus when a power plant burns it to create electricity for the same purpose.