Connect with us

Sustainability

Is Geoengineering The Last Resort to Mitigating Climate Change?

Austin Wang

Published

on

geoengineering

As the threats of climate change loom nearer, proposals to stop global warming have grown more extreme. One potential solution: dump billions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere. Many scientists have considered geoengineering, engineering the planet to stop climate change, as a very real possibility.

Traditional Climate Change Policy

When it comes to stopping climate change, there are two basic approaches. We can either reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere or reduce the amount of sunlight absorbed by the Earth. Obviously, current policies focus on the first option. However, current policies are not on track to stopping us from suffering the worst effects of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, preventing global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius entails halving our carbon output. Chances are, that’s just not happening.

The History of Geoengineering

Instead of changing our own habits, geoengineering essentially focuses on changing the planet’s processes. Of course, re-engineering the planet is a costly, difficult, and dangerous endeavor. But time is running out if we want to save future generations from the disastrous effects of climate change.

As ridiculous as it sounds, geoengineering efforts are scientifically sound. Scientists observed the potential of geoengineering on the planet’s climate during volcanic eruptions. In the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption, enormous clouds of sulfur decreased global temperatures by as much as one degree Celsius. The enormous cooling effect of the Mount Pinatubo eruption sparked interest in using atmospheric injections to stop global warming.

Geoengineering Strategies

One of the most popular geo-engineering strategies involves creating massive amounts of sulfur aerosols in the stratosphere. Theoretically, these sulfur aerosols would reflect some sunlight and cool the Earth.

In practice, governments would likely need to coordinate and send planes to drop sulfur or sulfuric acid into the air. A study by the Institute of Physics estimates that such an effort would only cost a few billion dollars a year. However, their calculations use specially designed planes and are based on a multi-year ramp-up approach. Using existing planes, if we want to inject enough aerosols to decrease global temperatures by one degree Celsius in two years, it would cost at least a trillion dollars. Furthermore, high amounts of sulfur in the atmosphere could cause acid rain and many health problems.

Other geoengineering strategies include painting large parts of the world white to increase reflection, creating clouds over the ocean, and creating gigantic parasols to shade parts of the earth. Ultimately, these proposals are extremely expensive, require cross-country government cooperation, and have a variety of potential environmental consequences.

The Future of Climate Change Policy?

Obviously, reducing carbon emissions is a safer choice than geoengineering the Earth. Unfortunately, our planet is in such dire straits that international bodies are actually considering geoengineering strategies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change plans to consider geoengineering in its 2021 report.

As policymakers begin to think about geoengineering, scientists are also ramping up research efforts. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and researchers have already planned efforts to study geoengineering strategies. Researchers at Harvard are also planning on conducting geoengineering experiments in New Mexico.

Hopefully, we won’t have to resort to drastic geoengineering efforts to fix our planet’s climate. Sadly, it seems like scientists and politicians are already planning for the worst. Over the next few decades, we may see our whole planet change to accommodate our carbon-heavy habits.

8 Comments

Sustainability

Ecotourism: How Marketers Can Ethically Promote Travel Amid The Climate Crisis

Grit Daily

Published

on

2020 has definitely been off to a shaky start — literally. Since January 1st, there have been over 950 earthquakes in Puerto Rico alone. But in today’s new age of climate change, natural disasters like this are only becoming more and more common. So how can the tourism industry survive without harming our environment further? The answer may involve ecotourism — an opportunity for both marketers and destinations.

Your first thought may be to simply limit travel. But we often forget that many of the countries most affected by climate change-related disasters also rely on tourism to fund their recoveries.

Take a look at the Bahamas, where tourism brings in an annual $4.3 billion — 47.8 percent of their GDP. Without their tourism industry, the Bahamas’ complete recovery from Hurricane Dorian would be dramatically delayed.

And as Australia’s wildfires have merged into a 1.5 million acre “megafire,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison petitioned U.S. leaders to stimulate tourism by downgrading the urgency of their travel warnings.

Luckily, just a few days ago, the U.S. heeded Australia’s Prime Minister Morrison’s pleas to water down travel warnings to ‘Down Under,’ which has now been set to “normal.”

The bottom line? When climate-induced disasters strike, tourism can provide necessary economic boosts.

So as climate change continues to interact with tourism, marketers have an ethical responsibility to present tourism and travel brands within the context of our shifting climate reality.

But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. After all, we’re talking about an $8.27 trillion global industry with a compound annual growth rate of 2.9 percent. So we’re going to need some creative solutions.

Choose Ecotourism: Don’t Encourage Tourism Where It’s Harmful

To start, marketers should be cautious about where they’re sending tourists. Promoting vacation packages to the Australian Open when Melbourne is shrouded in smoke puts your customers at risk.

Yet marketing other trips could put the destination itself at risk. Take Antarctica, where several new cruise lines have popped up in the last year to shuttle tourists to Antarctica — while it’s still there.

“Climate change is a chief reason for the increased interest in visiting Antarctica,” said cruise travel planner Mary Curry. “We truly don’t know if the region will ever be as magnificent as it is now.”

According to the New York Times, Antarctica cruise bookings have seen a 53 percent spike since 2015. But cruises aren’t helping the environmental situation at all.

A Norwegian cruise ship is about to hit shore in Antarctica, where the cruise industry has seen a 53% boost since 2015. Image from http://pix-now.com/main.php.

As these cruises flood into Antarctica, they bring environmental troubles with them. A day at sea produces just as much soot as a million cars. And cruises dump toxic raw sewage into the open sea. It’s safe to say that cruises are not doing Antarctica or its wildlife any favors.

Let’s not forget to add that at other port city destinations, cruises also squeeze local economies with bullying tactics that create dependency.

So while cruises are still growing in popularity, environmentally and socially conscious marketers should look towards ecotourism and consider driving tourism where it helps instead of hurts.

Instead of Antarctica, why not promote midwinter trips to the Bahamas, where tourist money is needed to rebuild?

Or instead of a cruise, why not promote the ferry from Fort Lauderdale?

Let’s Rethink the Carbon Footprint of Each Trip

Travel marketers are in a unique position of power. They can encourage travelers to think about their trips in terms of the carbon footprint attached. In doing so, they can normalize the practice of choosing travel plans with lower carbon emissions.

Take a trip from London to Western France. A study by Responsible Travel calculates these five days would produce 183.5 kg (404.5 lbs) of carbon dioxide. That’s broken down into food (77 kg), accommodation (26.5 kg), and transportation (102 kg per flight).

The flight for a trip like this, from London to Biarritz, takes about five hours, give or take an hour depending on your layover time in Paris.

That’s comparable to a flight from New York to LA. But going by train, you can get to Biarritz in a little over 7 hours. It costs a couple of hours more — or affords you some extra work and nap time if you present it that way.

It’s a small time difference, and it saves your customer a few bucks: $121 for a train compared with $150 for a flight.

But more importantly, the train ride cuts the carbon cost of transportation in half, bringing the total carbon footprint of the trip down by 51 kg (about 112 lbs) of CO2.

It may not seem like a lot, but that saves the same amount of carbon emissions that the average US citizen produces in a normal day.

Sell Ecotourism For All It’s Worth

Now, let’s be real about something. Climate change is a much, much bigger problem than can be solved by having travelers take trains instead of airplanes.

Nevertheless, knowing that efficient rail travel effectively halves the carbon cost of a trip means that responsible travel marketers should be putting everything they’ve got into pushing rail service over flights.

It’s an easy sell. Trains are roomier. You can get up and walk around. They won’t dump jet fuel on a schoolyard full of children like a Delta flight did this week in LA.

There’s a lot to like. And better marketing can encourage the development of cleaner, cheaper, more efficient rail systems. It’s these systemic changes that have the power to combat climate change.

Tourism has certainly contributed its share to the climate change emergencies we’re now facing, and as the climate bites back, we need to rethink what it means to market travel responsibly.

People aren’t going to stop traveling. But let’s look more towards ecotourism and make sure we’re being mindful of the environment with every trip.

Note: This article was originally posted at Grit Daily by Tina Mulqueen and edited and syndicated with permission.

Continue Reading

Sustainability

There’s Hope: Effective Forest Management Can Still Save Our Biodiversity If We Act Now

Brian D'Souza

Published

on

We know how critical forests are to life on Earth, yet, at large, our actions often don’t reflect that. Industries destroy forests constantly for their lumber and companies constantly clear land to make room for construction and agriculture.

It makes sense to treat trees as an easily renewable resource, but unfortunately, it is much harder to renew a true forest.

Unperturbed forests consist of a wide array of plants, trees, and animals of different species and ages, and if handled irresponsibly, this diverse balance can easily fall out of place.

Deforestation and wildfires in the Amazon and Australia have made it clear that we need better forest management. As we approach a critical tipping point, the time to act truly is now.

Here’s what you need to know about deforestation tipping points and how forest management can play a role in making sure we don’t lose our coveted biodiversity.

Forest Tipping Points

Several countries have strict laws governing how forests can be treated by industry. These laws set a strict precedent on how to replant and renew wildlife in order to maintain balance. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

The Amazon Rainforest, in particular, has lost 24,000 square miles over the past year due to environmentally regressive policy. It is estimated that 20% of the original forest has been cleared since 1970, meaning it is approaching a “tipping point”.

Scientists believe that the Amazon Rainforest is dangerously close to its tipping point.
Photo Credit: João Laet/AFP /Getty Images
Scientists believe that the Amazon Rainforest is dangerously close to its tipping point.
Photo Credit: João Laet/AFP /Getty Images

A recent study from the University of Cincinnati explained the concept of forest tipping points.

A team of ecologists and geographers surveyed every square mile of the Earth digitally year by year in order to understand the progression of deforestation.

Researchers divided the world into small “blocks” of land and studied how the blocks changed individually over time. The complex study uncovered a simple truth.

They found that “deforestation occurs comparatively slowly … until about half of the forest is gone. Then the remaining forest disappears very quickly.”

This is because wildlife wants to be one uniform biome, and as ecosystems fragment, it becomes harder to continue. 

Wildfires and the Amazon Rainforest’s Tipping Point

Understanding how deforestation impacts the environment can allow us to set preventative measures.

Politicians must understand the concept of deforestation tipping points and integrate it into political action.

Scientists have concluded that the Amazon Rainforest is dangerously close to its tipping point.

Carlos Nobre of Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo and Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University recently proclaimed that: 

“Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.” — Carlos Nobre And Thomas Lovejoy, Science Advances

Scholar Carlos Nobre emphasizes that the time to act is now.
Photo: Photo: Volvo Environment Prize 2016
Scholar Carlos Nobre emphasizes that the time to act is now.
Photo: Photo: Volvo Environment Prize 2016

In fact, the entire world is approaching its tipping point.

The same University of Cincinnati researchers discovered in an earlier study that “22 percent of the Earth’s habitable surface has been altered in measurable ways, primarily from forest to agriculture, between 1992 and 2015.”

Forests have shrunk, and so have the ice caps, and reefs. The rate of destruction of these delicate biomes has increased exponentially and will likely continue to do so.

The outlook does look bleak but it is certainly not hopeless.

The Importance of Forest Management

Australia gets flamed for its climate inaction
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with other political leaders, have been responsible for regressive environmental policy. Something needs to change.

The problem of environmental destruction needs to be responsibly and proactively managed. Environments in Alaska, Brazil, and Australia have deteriorated due to regressive politics.

On the other hand, reefs and forests have benefited greatly from technological advancement and active management.

Recently, researchers discovered that underwater speakers, among other measures, could counteract reef decay.

The solution is less clear for forests, but active forest management can certainly make a difference. 

It may seem rather unremarkable, but forest management is an incredibly effective tool.

Forest Management Could Have Been Beneficial to California and Australia

Wildlife rescuer Simon Adamczyk carries a singed koala from the smoldering remnants of gum forests on Kangaroo Island on January 7.
We continue to see that better forest management would have been incredibly helpful in reducing the damages associated with fires in Australia and California.

The increased occurrence of wildfires in areas like California and Australia directly correlates with a decrease in preventative forest management.

Controlled burns generally prevent a larger wildfire from occurring, and Australia had drastically cut the number of controlled burns it performs prior to the wildfire crisis.

California suffers from a similar problem and has elected to pursue preventative measures, specifically forest thinning, in order to create more stable forests.

Currently, the privately-owned Forest Resilience Board can be contracted to manage healthy forests, and a government-wide forest management board could certainly help states like California and countries like Australia. 

We Need To Vote Leaders Out If They Won’t Help With Forest Management

Trump and Congress agree to sign the PACT Act into law.
Environmental issues should not be partisan. We need to work together.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Unfortunately, the management of biomes cannot make a significant difference as long as politicians have no interest in the solutions.

Citizens are becoming more and more aware of climate issues and this has been reflected in voter priorities.

As our environment reaches a tipping point, we need to elect politicians who want to make a difference.

Only through doing so can we must pass the laws and preventative management necessary to ensure the usage of the Earth’s resources is sustainable for the years to come.

Continue Reading

Business

This Restaurant Giant Is Making An Ambitious Commitment To Sustainable Packaging

Avery Maloto

Published

on

With 12 Taco Party Packs and refreshing Baja Blasts, there is no question as to how Taco Bell attracts over 40 million customers each week in the United States. Unfortunately, each of these orders presents a more pressing issue: sustainable packaging. 

Each year, only 29% of all fast-food containers and packaging are recovered. The rest accumulates in landfills, unable to serve another purpose in their lifetime. Fortunately, Taco Bell wants to address the issue of sustainable packaging.

Kicking 2020 off with a bang, the fast-food giant recently released a plan promising a sustainable mindset. Here’s what its plan is all about.

Sustainable Packaging: Recyclable, Compostable, and Reusable Products Only

Last week, Taco Bell announced its goal to make all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025 world wide. 

With 7,000 stores open across the globe, the company sits as one of the largest fast-food corporations in the world. However, with this comes great environmental responsibility. Fortunately, Mark King, Taco Bell’s CEO, is already preparing for the company’s future.

In his own words, “As Taco Bell expands its footprint, our responsibility to drive positive impact increases.”

Taco Bell CEO Mark King emphasizes his company's increased focus on sustainability. 
Credit: Washington Speakers Bureau
Taco Bell CEO Mark King emphasizes his company’s increased focus on sustainability.
Credit: Washington Speakers Bureau

King adds, “Our business growth in the last decade has positioned us to create change for good and implement creative solutions for our planet, our people and our food. We’re excited to shake things up and make 2020 even more about what matters most: our purpose”.

Fast-Food Giant Eliminates Chemicals and Adds In-Store Recycling Opportunities

In order to achieve its goal for sustainable packaging, Taco Bell is altering many of its products. 

Moving forward, several things such as fountain drink cups to paper bags will no longer have PFAS, Phthalates, and BPA. Despite being found in many food packaging, there is an unsettling link between these chemicals and multiple negative health effects.

For example, research suggests that BPA, or bisphenol A, may cause cancer and affect brain development in the womb.

By doing so, the brand strives to increase its products’ ability to be recycled, compostable, or reusable. Taco Bell did not release any information on what materials they will be using in its future packaging.

In addition to this, Taco Bell will also be offering sustainable in-store options in the near future. As of right now, these changes include implementing recycling and/or composting bins into all restaurants (where infrastructure permits).

However, there is a possibility that the restaurant will soon be supplying reusable food baskets for dine-in meals.

Taco Bell’s Previous Actions On Sustainable Packaging

In 2019, Taco Bell banned plastic straws from all of its locations in Romania and Moldova. Unfortunately, the company does not have any official commitments on bans involving plastic bags or foam containers.

Reducing Its Carbon Footprint

There is no doubt that Taco Bell is ringing in the new year with ambitious goals. However, this is not the first time that it has tried to implement sustainable goals. 

In 2019, the fast-food giant publicized 7 of its prioritized goals. Surprisingly, almost half of them can be attributed to reducing its carbon footprint.

For example, Taco Bell vowed to work to ensure that all its beef is sustainable, as well as to improve recycling efforts and include menu diversity for those leaning towards a plant-based diet

Although already having successfully launched new favorites like the Black Bean Crunchwrap, it seems like Taco Bell hopes to continue this momentum.

As another one of its 2020 goals, the company is currently striving to be the number one QSR for vegetarians.

Needless to say, environmental activists, vegetarians, and flexitarians around the globe are all happy for these announcements.

It’s Time For All Fast-Food Brands To Use Sustainable Packaging

With its efforts, Taco Bell is one of many fast-food restaurants to begin adopting a greener mindset. Working with similar ideas, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway have already made sustainable commitments. However, there is still room for improvement in this industry.

Although there are many options for companies to reduce their environmental footprint, there are a few ideas that should be implemented as soon as possible:

  1. Reduce packaging or use of plastic wherever possible.
  2. Ditch hard to recycle materials such as polystyrene.
  3. Like Taco Bell, offer in-store recycling opportunities.

By doing so, monumental change can quickly occur.

Continue Reading

Trending

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap