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Dealing With Climate May Not Be What You Think It May Be

The discussions of climate change are shifting from denial to what to do about it.

The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration reports that there were 22 natural disasters each costing more than $1 billion in 2020. Costing the US in total $95 billion and taking 262 lives. Climate change is making these disasters more frequent, more damaging, and more costly. The Federal Reserve, for the first time, named climate change as a risk to U.S financial stability. In its biannual financial stability report, the Fed said banks should be more transparent about how their assets are vulnerable to frequent and severe weather. Climate change is real, it is happening all around us, has become very costly, and it is a real and present threat to our health and prosperity.

Two thirds of Americans (67%) have stopped the misplaced denial and think the US government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change according to Pew Research. The discussion is shifting to which solutions are the most cost-effective.

One group of scientists got together in 2014 and asked that very question. Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization that has emerged as a leading resource for information and insight about climate solutions. Drawdown refers to the two-part nature of the climate change problem; we first have to stop adding heat trapping gases to the atmosphere and then we must drawdown those we already put there. Their vision is that stopping global warming is not only possible but can be done using plain old Yankee ingenuity with existing solutions if we work together. Their method for finding the best opportunities is conducting rigorous assessments of existing solutions by applying accepted scientific methodology to measure those with the biggest bang for the buck. They have created the Top 100 List of technologies available today or practices that don’t even require complex technology that when applied, will achieve drawdown. You will be happy to know eliminating windows or hamburgers are not on their list.

What is revealing about their list is how practical and non-threatening the most effective solutions are. For example, number one is eliminating food waste. Thirty percent to 40% of the food grown is discarded and all of the energy of growing, harvesting, preparing, and transporting is wasted. Adjusting our current food systems to reduce waste doesn’t sound all that bad. Number two is educating young women, mostly in developing countries. Women with more years of education tend to have fewer, healthier children, and join the workforce, improving their families well-being. Over time this will reduce population growth.

We’ve all heard those scary claims about making hamburgers or air travel illegal. Well, shifting to a diet rich in plants is number three on the Project Drawdown list but it is merely recommending what your doctor already recommends, not outlawing anything. Making aviation more efficient (not eliminating it) is pretty far down the list and involves promotion of high-efficiency jet engines and cleaner jet fuels. Two more solutions that should not send shivers down the spines of conservatives are #4 Refrigeration Management and #7 Refrigerant Alternatives to replace the use of fluorocarbons in air conditioning and properly capturing and reusing them when refrigeration units are decommissioned.

All 100 solutions will be needed and there are a few solutions that will be of local concern; #6 Onshore Wind Turbines and #8 Utility-scale Photovoltaics. Honest research, however, demonstrates that these newer technologies are not only cleaner and better for the environment (despite the propaganda funded by the fossil fuel industry) but create more and better paying jobs – just asked Republican Senator Grassley from Iowa.

Now that we have a federal administration that understands science and uses a science based approach to address the true needs of the country we need to put aside the silly, factually incorrect fear-mongering and get to work making a better, cleaner future for everyone. You can review the complete list and their methodology at Drawdown.org.

Tom Meara is a Jamestown resident.

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