Climate Change is a big, huge, very serious issue that virtually everyone is now essentially numb to. The oceans are going to rise. Temperatures will soar. Huge swaths of species are going to go extinct. *cricket sounds*
But there’s a growing problem I’ve seen more and more over the years in the general media, the idea that to “fight” or “solve” Climate Change we need some huge, outlandish Moonshot idea.
There’s countless pieces around the web with all sorts of ideas, from aspiring Presidents proposing space mirrors, ocean seeding and stratospheric aerosol scattering to entire geoengineering projects and even – somehow?? – using Mammoths?
These plans, whilst making for great headlines, do a great disservice to the actual Climate Change cause. This is because we already have all the tools fully developed and at our disposal right now. We don’t need crazy new plans… we just need to do the actual work!
The Actual Work
While the below is far from a 100%, final solution “solving” Climate Change completely isn’t actually needed. The planet has a huge ability to deal with excess CO2 such as trees, land and even the ocean which all absorb it.
That being said we’ve obviously greatly exceeded those capabilities and continue to do so. But if we can cut the vast majority of our carbon emissions the remaining problems shouldn’t be too challenging to fix.
As a quick overview of the existing solutions that are already well developed and coming online rapidly we have:
Power: Obviously renewables from Solar to Wind to Bio/Hydro with the help of cheaper and cheaper Batteries are already getting built out at an enormous rate. In another 10 years it’s not hard to see virtually all power being generated by renewables not because they’re CO2 free, but simply because they’ll be cheaper than even keeping an existing coal or gas plant open. As such, hopefully all but a fraction of coal and gas plants will be closed by 2030 or so.
Transport: Huge switch to BEV’s, powered by cheap, renewable electricity. While this will take multiple decades to convert all fossil cars to BEV’s there’s also TaaS which is predicted to move 80%+ of driven miles to fully autonomous, all electric miles by 2030 or so. Other forms of transport like boats, trucks and busses are also rapidly converting due to the huge reduction in operational costs already.
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Food: This one is only just kicking off now and so will likely take a bit longer than 10 years but it seems to be happening fast. Clean Meat that’s made in a lab or the new Impossible Foods meat substitute made out of plant based products cuts land and water use by up to 90%. It also means fewer cows and other live stock contributing to pollution. Again cheaper prices, healthier products and simply better quality along side Climate concerns should propel this solution into the mainstream, potentially eliminating the majority of traditional livestock and land use issues that contribute considerably to the Climate problem.
Flight: Battery electric plans are already a thing but due to current battery weight it will likely be another 10+ years before we start to see big, commercial 747 style planes flying around. There is the possibility for carbon neutral bio fuels though which are already being produced.
DAC: Direct Air Capture (DAC) of CO2 is spooling up to become big business too. These already fully existing technologies can pull forests worth of CO2 out of the atmosphere and either do nothing with it, turn it into stronger, carbon friendly cement or use it to feed crops. It’s not hard to see that as the technology progresses and more money is made out of it that it will scale up hopefully world wide. There’s even the potential to rapidly plant billions of trees with drones too.
That last idea does start to cross into the teritory of “Moonshots” but still seems quite reasonable as the company with the technology states that with just 2 people controlling 10 drones over 400,000 trees can be planted in just one day.
Taking this to a bit of an extreme with a bit of math, that would mean you could theoretically plant the equivalent of the entire Amazon rain forest in just 1 year using: 2,740 groups of 2 people with 10 drones each. To put that into context, if you did that for 2 years in a row, creating 2 more Amazon’s it would suck up more carbon each year than humans emit and completely stop climate change in its tracks.
If we combined these new forests with the above progress in CO2 reduction over the next 10 years it could even reverse the CO2 levels.
Moonshots Need Not Apply
While the total eradication of all pollution sources is probably never going to happen we already have tools that can make significant impacts right here and now.
We could plant 2 Amazon Rain Forests in a few years. We could replace the entire power industry with renewables in 10. We could replace virtually all driven miles with BEV’s again in those same 10 years. Food could be even quicker removing huge amounts of animal suffering and wasted water / land use at the same time as reducing methane/CO2.
There’s just simply no need for crazy, Moonshot ideas of putting mirrors in space or geoengineering the entire planet. Like so many other things humans do we love to focus on the crazy and weird whilst at the same time not actually doing the work.
People will read diet articles and never exercise. They’ll spend hours writing comments debating how to invest well but never actually save money.
Unfortunately with the climate we are not going to get a second chance here. While you might have been numbed to future implications let me try one last time. Below are what the IPCC classifies the various temperature rises as and what we can roughly expect in 1st world countries.
2025 – DANGEROUS RISK (1.5°C+):
Climate Refugees Intensify, Increased Crop Failure And Fires, Food Prices Sporadically Surge, Emergency Services Periodically Fail, Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks Begin, 50°C Summer Days
2035 – DANGEROUS RISK (2°C+):
Climate Refugees Intensify, Increased Crop Failure And Fires, Water/Food Prices Extremely Volatile, Emergency Services Continuously Fail, Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks Intensify
~2050 – CATASTROPHIC RISK (3°C+):
Outright Chaos, Major Coastal Cities Gone, Billions Of Climate Refugees, Huge Crop Failure And Fires, Water/Food Prices Skyrocket, Emergency Services Collapse, Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks Skyrocket, Tipping Points Likely, 15% Ecosystems Loss
~2075 – EXISTENTIAL RISK (4°C+):
Human Life All But Eradicated, 80%-90% Global Human Population Loss, Adaptation Likely Impossible, Devastating To Majority Of Ecosystems, High Probability Of Climate Being Unstable, Carbon-Cycle Feedbacks Accelerate, Tipping Points Certain
Let’s get to work people!
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