Climate Sense: Sharing a little optimism about climate change

One of the most optimistic stories I’ve read — and listened to — about climate change comes from Dan Charles, National Public Radio’s food and agriculture reporter. In a three part-series, Dan takes us on a trip to the year 2050, imagining a time when the world has solved the climate change problem.

Also in my readings this week, I’ve stumbled on some stories about scare tactics in Congress and how to turn back the clock on climate emissions.

Item 1: Visiting the future with NPR

Forget the doom and gloom about climate change for awhile. I feel incredibly encouraged by a new three-part series by NPR’s Dan Charles.

Dan Charles
Photo: Maggie Starbard/NPR

Dan divides each of his three stories into two parts. The first part considers innovations taking place in the world today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move us closer to more stabilized climate. In the second part, he pretends to be in the year 2050, when the world has solved its climate problems and global warming is a thing of the past.

Themes of the three parts are 1) mass electrification and everyday living, 2) urbanization and transportation, and 3) agriculture and the food we eat.

Here’s the link to the written version: “It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change.”

Here are the audio versions:

Item 2: Scary cost figures undermine Green New Deal

Zack Colman of Politico tracks down the origins of the $93-trillion estimate of what the Green New Deal might cost, a figure that has taken on a political life of its own. The cost has been tossed around to scare a lot of people. His story is headlined “The bogus number at the center of the GOP’s Green New Deal attacks.”

“There’s a race for think tankers, analysts and academia to be the first to come up with a number, and you can see why — look at how many people latched on to that $93 trillion number,” says Nick Loris, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who was quoted in the story.

Item 3: Turning back the clock on carbon

The headline from the news department at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology caught my attention: “Climate rewind: Scientists turn carbon dioxide back into coal.”

By using liquid metals as a catalyst, researchers at the university say they can convert carbon dioxide gas into a solid form at room temperature.

“While we can’t literally turn back time, turning carbon dioxide back into coal and burying it back in the ground is a bit like rewinding the emissions clock,” said Torben Daeneke, a RMIT researcher and fellow at the Australian Research Council.

Only time will tell if this basic research holds up to scrutiny and leads to practical applications to address climate problems.

Item 4: Taking carbon removal to new levels

Craig Welch of National Geographic looks at a variety of ways to capture and store carbon in his piece “To curb climate change, we have to suck carbon from the sky. But how?”

“You are a pessimist if you work on the science of climate impacts, because you see little action,” said Stephen Pacala, a Princeton professor who Craig quoted in the story. “”The people who know the most are the most freaked out. They’ve seen emissions go up and up and see a train wreck coming.”

But scientists studying negative emissions “have seen the most spectacular technological achievements in energy technology in the last 10 years,” Pacala continued. “We’ve gone from having no tools to do this, to just seeing this unrelenting progress.”

Pecala oversaw a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report titled “Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration.”

“Climate Sense” is my attempt to share some of the important research, political developments, fascinating viewpoints or inspiring opinions that I come across during my reading. For a further explanation, read my first Water Ways post of 2019: “Climate Sense: I would like to share what I learn during this coming year.”

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