Climate Change Solutions

The first step is admitting that you have a problem. After decades of denial, most of us now realize we are addicted to fossil fuels that create vast quantities of carbon dioxide, and that this addiction also extends to a wide variety of industrial and agricultural practices that create a whole host of other global warming gases. We are fundamentally changing the planet we live on. We know we have a problem, so what now?

Many and varied solutions to climate change have been proposed, including individual frugality, energy conservation measures, renewable energy, and carbon sequestration. Which is the solution? Most likely, all of them. There are champions for each, but in the end we may need to use every trick we know to get us out of this one. Because carbon dioxide is mostly emitted from the consumption of energy from fossil fuels (for lighting, transportation, manufacturing, etc.), changing the way we produce and use energy is our starting point in trying to reduce emissions.

Energy conservation will show the earliest payback in terms of CO2 reductions - in many cases an investment in energy conservation made this year will show CO2 reductions this year, and every year thereafter. Because we've been living in a world of artificially cheap energy for decades, there are huge opportunities for energy conservation.

Renewable energy including energy from wind, solar, wave, biofuels, etc., substitutes directly for fossil fuels and eliminates CO2 emissions entirely. A small note of caution is needed - in a few cases, most notoriously certain biofuels, a large amount of energy input is required to create renewable energy, in some cases even exceeding the resulting energy output. Most renewable energy, however, is extremely efficient, and is poised to grow in importance due to the rising costs of fossil fuels. In many places where governments have stepped in to help this process along, renewables are already playing an important role.

Sequestration, or the long-term trapping of carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere, is an intermediate step along the way, but is not a solution in and of itself. Carbon dioxide can be sequestered as a gas by pumping it underground or into the ocean, or it can be sequestered by plants - however carbon sequestered by plants is, in most cases, quickly released to the atmosphere again. The global carbon budget of plants can be changed to sequester a greater amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, but so far we have been doing the opposite - cutting and burning forests for instance has released vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, and poor agriculture has resulted in CO2 being released from the soil. Some of these changes are reversible in the long run.

What can you do? There are many ways that you can make a difference, such as driving less, insulating your house better, changing your voting priorities, buying organic food, eating less meat, buying fuel efficient appliances and vehicles... consult our guide to reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, which includes links to a number of other resources.

Just for fun, we tried to imagine what the twelve step program for getting off fossil fuels would look like. Here it is:

The twelve step climate change program

  1. We admitted we were powerless over fossil fuels—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Gaia as we understood her.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to Gaia, to ourselves, and to other human beings the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to become a conscious part of Gaia, and make sacrifices for the greater whole.
  7. Humbly asked her to remove our destructive behaviours.
  8. Made a list of all species we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct changes in our lives, such as investing in energy conservation, using renewable energy, buying local organic food, and driving, flying and consuming less.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through time spent quietly in nature to improve our conscious contact with Gaia as we understood her, seeking for understanding of our place in nature.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to fossil fuel addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs, including voting.