In order to slow down global heating we need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we release into the atmosphere and also think of ways to capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. All these solutions to the climate crisis have already been thought of or already exist, we only need to accelerate their implementation.
Keep fossil fuels in the ground
In 2018 89% of the emissions came from fossil fuels and industry. If we want to have the best chance to keep the global mean temperature rise below 1.5°C we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. That means we shouldn’t make any new investments into fossil fuels: no new searches of fossil fuel reserves, no new fossil fuel drilling, no new fossil fuel power plants and a bold plan to phase out usage of fossil fuels as soon as possible.
Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Fossil fuel divestment is an attempt to reduce global heating by removing financial investment in companies involved in extracting fossil fuels. This movement started as a student grassroots campaign in United States campuses in 2010. On 9th September 2019 “Fossil Free“ project announced that 11 trillion dollars were divested from oil, coal and gas companies fueling the climate crisis.
The power sector is the sector with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, followed by industry and transportation. Fossil fuels plays a major part in worldwide electricity generation. In the last few years, the competitiveness of renewable sources for electricity generation has continued to increase due to the price evolution and the efficiency improvements of these technologies. In order to accelerate the switch to renewable energy sources we need policies that encourage clean energy development. This also means taking away subsidies from fossil fuel industry and channeling them into renewable energy.
In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically we need to also look at our energy efficiency and reduce the energy consumption in different sectors like heating, lighting, transportation, appliances, etc.
Carbon capture and storage
We do not only need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions but also to capture and store carbon dioxide that was already released into the atmosphere. The best solutions we have at hand now for carbon sequestration is to use the biological processes existent on the planet, to preserve, restore and increase these natural carbon sinks like peat bogs, forestry, oceans and wetland.
In order to accelerate implementation of solutions that reduce carbon emissions we need strong global and national policies that encourage investments in clean energy, improvement of energy efficiency and protection and restoration of natural carbon sinks. At the same time banning of subsidies for fossil fuel industries would help renewable energies to get more market share and reduce CO2 emissions.
Transition towards a circular economy
Circular economy is a sustainable economic system proposed as an alternative to the linear economic system. In the current extractive industrial model we use up resources through a take-make-waste linear process, without looking at the impacts our economic development has on the finite global resources we are depleting and the energy intense processes we use in order to have economic growth. According to Ellen MacArthur Foundation: underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems. Circular economy can play a major role in solving the climate crisis: by designing out waste and expanding the life of the products the demand for new materials (virgin steel, aluminium, cement, and plastics) decreases, thus reducing massively the carbon emissions from the production and transport of new goods.
Climate crisis is a complex problem that we now have to face. It requires solutions to be implemented in multiple sectors like electricity generation, transport, land use, materials, buildings and cities, food and education.
Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization and coalition of scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs, and advocates from across the globe that is mapping, measuring, modeling, and communicating about a collective array of substantive solutions to global warming, with the goal of reaching drawdown (Climate drawdown is the point at which greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere level off and begin to decline on a year-to-year basis). They ranked the first 100 solutions to tackle climate change by either avoiding emissions or by sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.