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    • Last week, I was invited to an event about climate change. Part of it was a panel discussion with experts in the field, started off by a presentation held by one of them. In her presentation, the expert mentioned among other things that technologies that not only prevent carbon dioxide and equivalents from entering the atmosphere in the first place ("carbon capture"), but actively remove existing particles ("carbon removal", "carbon negative emission"), play a big role in all expert calculations an what we'd need to do on a global scale to not miss the major goal of a temperature increase of less than 2°C.

      At the same time, these technologies that need to be in effect around the world in ten years or less, don't even exist yet!

      Comparing myself to friends, acquaintances and colleagues, I'd say that I have an above average awareness when it comes to this whole topic of climate change or crisis. Still, this was news to me, and the matter-of-fact way with which the expert explained not only this but also the consequences of a potential temperature increase beyond 2°C really hit me - and, to be honest, I've had a rough time since.

      Since then, I've seen this mentioned both here on Cake and elsewhere, for example in the recent panel conversation with @DrJamesDyke: "I think most people would be surprised - perhaps shocked - at how much we are relying on future Negative Emissions Technologies to ensure we stay withing 2°C. All policy makers effectively gave up on reducing emissions in time, so the fall back position has been we will have to figure out how to suck out potentially huge amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere for many decades. Given the urgency to develop this, you may assume that governments and private organisations were all over this, but the progress has been very limited with some pilot projects demonstrating viable approaches, but nothing like the scale that is needed."

      Or, just today, in a conversation request by @apm: "Carbon capture technology is probably less than a decade away from being scalable if they can get the price down to $50 a ton. The real problem is what do you do with it? According to the MIT Technology Review (Mar/April), “converting 20% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into carbonate rock would generate a layer of rock 50 centimeters (20 inches) thick covering a million square kilometers (390,000 square miles)—an area the size of Egypt.”"

      In both cases, I tried joining the discussion but didn't because I wasn't quite sure what to say. I've deleted two attempts at starting this conversation for the same reason - and I'm still not sure what I even want this conversation to be. So, to make my above rambling even worse, here's a list of random questions that keep popping up in my head since last week:

      1. Generally speaking, what can I do to help with this situation? I understand the common suggestions are to eat local and mostly meat-free, but I also wonder about raising awareness and other things.

      2. Why aren't technologies to capture or remove CO2 ready yet? Why is artificial photosynthesis not a thing? What are the current areas of research, and how long really before any of it gets implemented?

      3. What if it doesn't work? As the expert in her presentation put it, we're not in the position to either radically change our way of life or don't - the position we're actually in is one of having to radically change our way of life one way or another, and we can either choose what that new way is now, or have that decision be forced upon us if we don't and end up living in a +3°C (or even worse) world.

      4. At what point will someone have to start deciding undemocratically, and who will that be? With nationalism and right-wing craziness on the rise, can we really expect someone to be there to do this, or will we eventually end up in some sort of Mad-Max scenario?

    • One perspective about negative emissions technologies: they were invented in order to allow policy makers to claim that they have credible plans to avoid 2°C. That they do not exist at anything like the scale required, plus the absence of major funding initiatives supports that view. But if we aren't careful, that can lead to doom, gloom, an inaction.

      Bottom line is - what sort of a world do we want to leave to our children and future generations? We are making this world *now*. Either by action or inaction we are deciding the legacy. Resistence to climate change mitigation is huge, because CO2 emissions are *still* tightly coupled to economic growth as measured by GDP, and GDP is *king*.

      My humble opionion, is that we need to get GDP's grip off of policy. We need to remember what makes a good life - now and in the future. We need to share that vision with others, bring them to our cause and then make it happen. In short - we need a social movement. This movement *will* include technology like solar, wind, and negative emissions.

      Final thought: climate change is often framed as less. Less meat, flying, consumption. i.e. less of many of the things we have grown up to belive makes a good life. And people wonder why climate-friendly policies are hard to sell... Our response to climate change should be about *more*. More community, more quality public space, more time for friends and family, more transport options, more work-life balance, more fairness in wealth and income.

    • 1. Generally speaking, what can I do to help with this situation? I understand the common suggestions are to eat local and mostly meat-free, but I also wonder about raising awareness and other things.

      Lets dispell some myths first. Myths are harmful because they lead people into a false sense that they are doing their part for the environment when they are not. Buying a Prius or a Tesla, eating local, going vegetarian, and recycling will not make any difference. What could slow down, but not reverse, the rate at which carbon is dumped is mass market of Chindia (China-India) priced electric vehicles and a massive, global-scale deployment of nuclear electric power with a correspondingly widespread electrification of agriculture. What rich americans (us) do matter little to climate change because it does not scale.

      2. Why aren't technologies to capture or remove CO2 ready yet? Why is artificial photosynthesis not a thing? What are the current areas of research, and how long really before any of it gets implemented?

      There is a lot of hype in this sector of tech. Every week there is a new revolutionary technology for carbon capture, and the same was true 10 years ago. It does not reach the market because: 1) Advanced nations do not have an adequate price on dumping carbon onto the environment, 2) It really is a very hard problem (at scale)

      3. What if it doesn't work? As the expert in her presentation put it, we're not in the position to either radically change our way of life or don't - the position we're actually in is one of having to radically change our way of life one way or another, and we can either choose what that new way is now, or have that decision be forced upon us if we don't and end up living in a +3°C (or even worse) world.

      This is the wrong way to frame this problem. We all change our way of life all the time. Adapting to climate change will only work if it makes economic sense. The idea that we will suddenly give up our way of life to become luddites in the Amazon jungle is naive and inane. There are several paths that can be built that are both decarbonizing and economical, its up to us to find them and try.

      4. At what point will someone have to start deciding undemocratically, and who will that be? With nationalism and right-wing craziness on the rise, can we really expect someone to be there to do this, or will we eventually end up in some sort of Mad-Max scenario?

      Hopefully never. By the way, I would also be worried about left-wing nutjobs who already killed sensible carbon tax legislation during the Obama era.

      The technology to decarbonize the world already exists and is called nuclear power. If you do the math, you will see that actual risks are small compared to the risk of climate change damage. The main barrier here is people. People are very poor judges of probability and risk, and we are making a huge mistake right now.

    • Chris, what I do know from talking to people from TerraPower is that no new nuclear plants can be built in US soil due to public fears. Simply put, its political suicide. We know the same is true of other parts of the world, especially advanced countries after Fukushima. The plants that already exist in US soil are drawning in a tight noose of regulation and monitored by US armed forces around the clock. TerraPower has been on lean cash burn mode for several years due to how toxic nuclear power is to american politics. If people were aware of the actual risks, development would be much faster.

    • It’s sad but decades ago when I was an undergrad, I decided to change my major to nuclear from geophysics because, I told my friends, “Oil is a dirty, dangerous fuel.” They and my professors talked me out of it because of the fear of public opinion.

      We believed it was the Jane Fonda/Michael Douglas/Jack Lemmon film The China Syndrome that changed public perception of nuclear forever.

      Here we are all these years later in the very same position. Now it’s the new HBO series scaring the Hell out of everyone.

      So... wind and solar? Impossible burgers?

    • So... wind and solar? Impossible burgers?

      I believe failure to handle such major, visionary welfare for the species, is due to human's inherent nature, whereby immediate needs and reward of being satisfied do prevail by and large. Yes there are regional and culturally diverse grades of success on the planiglobe. But everyone lives a finite life, most persons able to judge and act on anything crucial like this are either not empowered to do so, or have not enough time and energy left in their life. Politics, impacting exactly the realm of leadership which should be operationally responsible for putting into practice these plans, actually makes everything worse, mudding waters forever. And so.. the classic quote perpetuates.

    • @kiko @Chris I have some reservations about nuclear power myself, I saw 2.5 too many of these "safe" energy providers explode and wreak havoc in my lifetime. Still, I understand that at some point even the craziness of sacrificing some thousand km² every other decade might become the lesser of two evils - and that new technologies like the TWR might be safer than that. I don't think we need to discuss these technologies in here.

      However, a discussion about the discussion of these technologies elsewhere might be interesting, because this brings us back to one of the random questions I posed. If nuclear power is the best thing in the world, but no one wants it, then it either must be implemented undemocratically, or it won't be implemented at all, or the populace of the world needs to be convinced, and fast.

      Similarly, @DrJamesDyke brought up GDP, and how policy makers across the globe rely on it. From their point of view, this is a sensible thing to do because a striving economy is what gets them re-elected in 3-5 years, while setting back the economy because "some invisible gas will kill us by the end of the century, for real this time" is the sure-fire way to be voted out and be replaced by someone who will roll back all the good things they started. Again, something like this might be attempted by some hypothetical benevolent dictator but probably not by democratically elected representatives, unless this becomes what the people want.

      So, a "social movement" as suggested by Dr. James Dyke is a great idea in theory - but what can each and every one of us do to make this happen? I've seen one suggestion in this conversation that has since been removed (feel free to bring it up again if you like ;)), but perhaps there are others? Also, it would need to be something that scales well and fast, rather exponentially than linearly - so it would need to be something that people are enthusiastic about and not something that people just consider to be some grim duty (framed as "more of something good" instead "less because we need to").

      Bottom line: Dr. James Dyke has all the right ideas - thanks for joining the conversation. Just... How?

    • When it comes to social movements, we don't have to reinvent the wheel :)

      https://350.org

      for example. What's important is connecting with like minded people - ideally in your neighbourhood, or at least online. Collectively you can have an impact.

      You may be surprised to learn how many people share your ideas, concerns, and values. I think the most pernicious thing we need to push back on, is that we are just consumers. That our roles in society is to just buy stuff and turn up and vote once in a while. We should be engaged citizens. I also think that means we have to be political in the sense of understanding the political process and applying pressure where we can.

      So find out who represents you and tell them what your concerns are and ask them to explain to you what they are doing about it.

    • I've seen one suggestion in this conversation that has since been removed (feel free to bring it up again if you like ;)), 

      Thank you for the kindness, @Factotum . Both for giving me the green light to re-post as well as for respecting my privacy should I choose not to. I sometimes will post something and then doubt it’s merits and delete it.

      The below may be rubbish, but if it facilitates further conversation on your original request for practical steps to take, then it’s served it’s purpose.

      ****************

      We need to share that vision with others, bring them to our cause and then make it happen. In short - we need a social movement. -@DrJamesDyke

      Bringing people to our cause, I think, is one of the things that @Factotum would like to do.  So I’m going to suggest one specific thing anyone can do this month to make a difference.

      Let’s focus on Memorial Day Weekend, when people will be sharing a meal with family or friends.

      If you normally eat meat at this outings, do something different and only eat vegetarian.

      If friends or family ask why you’re not eating the hamburgers/steak, tell them that you’re trying to cut back on your beef consumption.

      It doesn’t sound judgmental, like “I’m trying to save the planet”.

      If someone wants to know why you’re cutting back on beef, be prepared to share information that you think would help them to make an informed decision.

      Obviously, you need to know your audience: you don’t want to end up offending someone, but I wouldn’t shy away from a spirited debate if the person can disagree without being disagreeable.

      What we’ve learned from the anti-vaxxer discussions on Cake is that people often form their beliefs based on the opinions of family and friends.

      My two cents anyway, FWIW.

    • 1. Generally speaking, what can I do to help with this situation? I understand the common suggestions are to eat local and mostly meat-free, but I also wonder about raising awareness and other things. - @Factotum

      Speak to your municipal representative/town council rep about adding more electric and hybrid vehicles to their fleet.

      Post a request on Next Door asking people to call the mayor and tell him/her to replace vehicles with hybrids/electrics. Your town will be able to get a fleet discount and it should be a few bucks extra in tax dollars per person if you do the math (depending on the population).

      That’s a greater environmental impact than if you just bought a Tesla for yourself.

    • If nuclear power is the best thing in the world, but no one wants it, then it either must be implemented undemocratically, or it won't be implemented at all, or the populace of the world needs to be convinced, and fast.

      I wonder if technically speaking a remote, such as out on the orbit, placement of nuclear power plants would not be feasible, with power then being transmitted via energy beam. Of course other than Chernobyl when I was much younger, and closer, I haven't experienced life in relative vicinity of these major failures everyone is afraid of. Today I live twenty minutes away from such a power plant and every time I pas by it's park like setting in the natural beauty of the place can't stop being amazed how clean and healthy everything is all around it, farms, deer, etc.. And to my mind, they still seem very rare occurrences, I wonder if internet isn't over inflating such worries. Yet I agree with what is being said here, that profit is the driving force, rather than safety or concern for environment. And the only things that can be done are acting via democratic channels, which basically means raising voices over and over. in the hope of being heard.

    • I think our fear of nuclear preceded the Internet. We humans seem to fear what rarely happens but is terrifying when it does. Air travel terrifies us, but not cars. Vaccines terrify is but not pain killers. Mountain lions, guns not so much. Nuclear, not meat.

    • And I think the graphic understated other things, like the prominent role dairy plays in breast cancer, or that soy plays in returning nitrogen to the soil so we don’t use as much chemical fertilizer.