opinion | In tackling climate change, don’t let perfection become the enemy of the good

Suspension

“It was much hotter.” So it opensMinistry of the futureThe disturbing novel by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. Its opening chapter begins in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, depicting a heat wave That kills millions across the Indian subcontinent and spurs people to radical action.

Such dire warnings may seem far-fetched today. But the heat waves we are seeing now will go wrong. This, of course, will have dire consequences. Exodus is more likely than mass death. as such Bill Gates points, the area around the equator can become too hot for people to work outdoors; It could mean a decline in cultivation, and Most popular profession in low income countries. Under heat stress, water shortages, and a lack of jobs, millions of people can begin to move from these regions to more temperate climates in the north: Europe and the United States.

Many climate activists often focus on pledges to reach net-zero emissions by a distant date or insist that every new source of energy must be entirely environmentally friendly.

But the reality is that we need to cut emissions now, not promise to do so by 2030. And the only way to do that now, and at scale, is to make some hard choices and trade-offs. We do not have environmentally friendly technology, such as clean nuclear fusion and long-term battery storage, that could completely replace fossil fuels today. We might have them — in 10 or 15 years, maybe, if we’re very lucky.

But we don’t have it right now, and hopefully we do is part of what’s causing an energy crisis around the world. Investment in fossil fuels has declined over the past decade, while green technology has not been able to bridge the gap. Germany reduced nuclear power and Ended up burning more coal. California Phasing out of nuclear weapons And the natural gas inhibition But it is now facing a sharp increase in the number Wasted Diesel Generators Used for backup power.

Let me suggest some practical ways to make progress in the next five years with the technologies we already have.

We can start by converting the most polluting coal-fired power plants to natural gas It emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal upon combustion. A study surveyed 29,000 power plants around the world and found that 5 percent generate 73 percent of all emissions in the electricity generation sector. In other words, replacing about 1,500 coal-burning plants would make a significant reduction in emissions, a significant reduction on a par with the boldest plans being discussed today. Which coalition will fund this effort across the planet?

Then there is the problem of methane leakage from natural gas extraction, agriculture and landfills. This can technically be resolved and only needs strict smart regulations.

We must extend the life of nuclear power plants and start building smaller, safer ones. Nuclear power raises bleak pictures, but the facts speak for themselves. In the 21st century, just a bunch of People Died from nuclear accidents around the world, while more than 1500 people were killed in the oil and gas extraction operations in Iraq The United States alone from 2008 to 2017. Much more people Dies every year from lung disease Due to coal pollution, with some estimates reach millions This is without taking into account the effects of climate. We must continue to work on development New modular reactors Which have safer designs and are less likely to experience the same kind of breakdown issues that others have experienced in the past. And let me remind you, nuclear power plants produce nearly zero emissions.

Plant a trillion trees. The science is simple: Trees absorb carbon dioxide. We all liked Greta Thunberg, but what about her Felix Finkbeiner? It’s a young German ecologist who, at the age of nine, proposed that every country commit to planting a million trees, then at the age of thirteen, upped the ante, and proposed at the United Nations that we target a trillion trees by 2050. Let’s start by reducing deforestation and planting as many as possible out of the trees as fast as you can.

And yes, all solutions have their drawbacks. Planting trees You may not do much good As some scholars initially claimed. Nuclear power is expensive up front. Natural gas emits some carbon. But the crucial point is that such measures would cut emissions a lot – and we can all do it now. We don’t have to choose between half-measures now and full-measures later when we have the technologies to do so. There are other proven technologies, ranging from weathering buildings to electric cars, and we should create incentives for all of them.

As the saying goes, the perfect should not become the enemy of the good. This should be the motto of every environmental group that wants to see real and positive change today.

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