The 4 Most Effective Ways To Combat Climate Change
The information contained in this article is not intended to be interpreted as any form of financial or investment advice or recommendation.
When we talk about combating climate change, it can conjure up a huge variety of images in our mind.
Electric vehicles on our roads, wind turbines in our fields and seas, cardboard straws in restaurants and vegan sausages in our supermarkets. All of these innovations are important as each one improves a different system or process we need to exist happily and healthily on planet earth. That’s why at GreenGrowth we like to break things down into 4 main categories, or themes, clean energy, sustainable agriculture, circular economy (material goods) and water supply.
Each category represents a certain industry or group of companies working towards solving a similar climate-related problem:
We are in the midst of one of the largest tipping points in history. Clean energy is becoming and in many cases, has already become, cheaper than energy generated from fossil fuels. Economics is making the clean energy transition inevitable.
Affordable, reliable and abundant renewable energy is the cornerstone of a low-carbon economy; so many climate change solutions depend on it. We need it to charge our electric cars, produce our hydrogen fuel and power homes and industry. We could all have electric vehicles, but if we charged them with electricity generated from fossil fuels, it would completely defeat the purpose, we would only be kicking the can further down the road.
For example onshore wind power has one of the greatest potentials out of any solution for reducing total atmospheric CO2e emissions, by a colossal 84.6 gigatonnes, and can deliver net savings of $8.2 trillion to the world economy within the next 50 years.
What’s on your plate isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the causes of global warming. Global food production systems are immeasurably vast, and are the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind fossil fuels. Livestock emissions alone (CO2, NO2 and methane) account for 18-20% of GHG emissions annually.
It’s not just greenhouse gases that are the issue; excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides from factory farming cause biodiversity loss, water stress, pollution, and dead zones in the ocean where nothing can live.
However, with careful thought, agricultural technologies and techniques can be implemented that can help store carbon in our farmland, not release it, and enhance biodiversity, rather than destroy it.
For example, technologies like smart and timed drip irrigation systems have helped prevent water shortages in areas of California, hit by climate-change induced droughts. Improved irrigation technologies as a whole have the potential to reduce total atmospheric CO2e emissions by 1.33 gigatonnes and save $429.7 Billion over the next 50 years.
The Circular Economy
The earth is one big circular ‘economy’; nothing is added to our planet (except for the odd small asteroid) and nothing is taken away, out into the depths of space. All of the finite material that makes up the planet’s resources, water, rock, minerals, air, plants and animals, remains inside this closed system, but they simply change their form over time. As a simplified example, when CO2 from the atmosphere is combined with sunlight inside a leaf, the carbon (C) becomes a solid oak, and oxygen (O2) is released. When that tree dies and is burnt or decomposes, carbon combines with oxygen and is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, and thus the process is circular. It is baked into nature, but we humans have been breaking this natural cycle for centuries.
We use and use and use resources, for example transforming oil from the ground into plastic bottles, coffee cups, supermarket packaging and plastic bags. The trouble comes when they stay in that form, clogging up our rivers and oceans, and depleting finite resources. The goal of the circular economy is giving these once used materials another life, putting them back into the value chain to ensure we can use as little energy as possible, to make them reusable again and again and again.
While that is the ideal, we must start by minimising waste and maximising reusable resources. Innovative companies are redesigning and reimagining the everyday materials we use in products and structures across the globe, as well as improving how the materials themselves can be reduced, reused and recycled.
Globally we produce 310 million tons of plastic each year, the vast majority derived from fossil fuels, but experts estimate that 90% of them have the potential to be made from plants or renewable feedstock instead. Bioplastics are set to become a booming industry, with the world’s best material scientists working hard to make ever more biodegradable products. They have the potential to reduce total atmospheric CO2e emissions by 4.3 gigatonnes over the next 50 years.
Water supply in itself is not a climate change solution, but water shortages and droughts are a symptom of climate change. Water is a basic human need and essential for a functioning environment, but extreme weather conditions like drought are becoming increasingly frequent as our planet warms. This not only leads to problems with the availability of drinking water for people but also prevents us from irrigating crops, leading to food shortages, price fluctuations and economic loss.
Preventing water losses, leaks and improving the efficiency of water distribution systems can reduce emissions by 0.9 gigatons of CO2e and save the global economy $903 Billion by 2050. These small improvements to existing infrastructure could save 215 quadrillion gallons of water over 30 years.
Sources: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming (2017) / https://www.drawdown.org/