Climate Change

Posted Feb 15, 2016 by: Bob RooksClimate Change

At last October’s 31st Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water and Energy at the University of Massachusetts, I saw a fascinating talk about fighting the effects of climate change. The talk was given by Ellen Moyer, Ph.D., a frequent speaker and blogger at Huffington Post. In her talk, she laid out five things that we can do NOW to slow the pace of climate change. These all make sense to me.

End subsidies for power generation – government support for power generation is paid for by our taxes while we also pay the retail price for energy. There’s less funding available for alternatives (like wind and solar, which leaves them MORE expensive to the public, less attractive to investors, and less able to compete. We pay all the way around while burning of fossil fuels continues.

End subsidies for food production – modern agricultural practices still have huge environmental impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Most subsidies go to big ag, when we all know that the healthiest food is local and organic. Ending the unfair treatment of big ag would result in a healthier diet, lower greenhouse gas emissions, healthier soil, fewer pesticides in the food chain, lower health care costs, and stronger local economies.

End deforestation – US forests remove 12% of all US greenhouse gas emissions. Preserving and restoring forests can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat. There are plenty of ways that this can be done responsibly without impacting the timber industry, but subsidies of this industry are not part of the environmental solution.

Provide access to modern contraception – Shockingly, the world population growth in 2012 was equal to the number of unwanted pregnancies (80 million); therefore, world population would have been stable if these unwanted births were prevented. Population growth is a major source of global carbon emissions. Stabilizing the population would result in improved health, economic growth (women in the work force), reduced pollution, and gentler human footprint on the planet. As pointed out by Thomas Friedman in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the planet can hardly sustain the current projections for population growth.

Promote energy efficiency – This one is self-explanatory, but bears repeating. If we waste less energy, there’s less that needs to be made (see End subsidies for power generation, above). There are countless ways that energy consumption can be reduced, most of which will have little to no impact on the quality of daily life.

If the US can end the senseless political fighting about climate change, and citizens can unite in the fight, we can make a huge dent in this problem. And if it proves that the problem was overstated, we benefit from a better quality of life, access to alternative (and less expensive) energy sources, and economic growth. This just seems obvious.