By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Most aspects of our lives involve tech that makes carbon emissions. In order to reduce those emissions to net zero, drastic changes will need to be made. This week on Wondrium Shorts, see the bigger picture.
During its entire existence, Earth has faced climate changes due to natural phenomena, and now is no exception. However, since the rise of humankind, our use of fossil fuels has released a tremendous amount of extra gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, leading to man-made climate change at a level that’s unsustainable for Earth to correct naturally.
In Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations, Wondrium partners with Bill Gates to examine how we got here and what we’ll need in order to course correct.
A Dilly of a Pickle
“Right now, we’re confronting one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced: Our climate is changing,” Gates says in the docu-course. “The overwhelming consensus among scientists is that, if we are to prevent the worst effects this could bring, we’ll need to lower greenhouse gas emissions to effectively zero by 2050.”
This, Gates acknowledges, is a huge task. However, it should be possible with innovations in technology, governmental policy changes, and worldwide cooperation.
Human-related activity currently adds approximately 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere every year, and it will only get bigger without change. Effective change will require us to alter virtually every activity in our lives in some way, since just about everything we do releases greenhouse gases.
Clean energy, transportation, building materials, food production, shipping, air-conditioning, heating, and governmental policies will have to be developed and implemented—and not just by one country. Every nation will have to do its part.
“We’ll need bold, innovative solutions across many areas to succeed,” Gates says. “This doesn’t just mean inventing new technologies; it also means thinking in new ways in many areas. The problem of climate change can be solved.”
The Bathtub Analogy
Haven’t greenhouse gases like carbon emission always occurred naturally? Yes, to an extent, but since 1750 or so, the additional gases we’ve released into the atmosphere have outpaced Earth’s ability to handle them naturally. One way to visualize this is the bathtub analogy.
Pretend the Earth is a bathtub with a faucet that pours in one gallon of water per minute and a drain that allows one gallon of water per minute to be drained from the tub. This scenario shows the Earth in equilibrium, with nature able to handle the natural amount of gases being released into its atmosphere.
Human activity has opened the faucet more, causing more water to pour into the tub than can be drained out naturally. Even if we slow the faucet a small amount, eventually the tub will overflow and water will spill out over the rim. This is the analogy’s equivalent of a climate disaster. If we can completely eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions—or return the faucet to its natural opening—we can stop the water from overflowing.
If we can arrive at a net-negative amount of emissions, we can even let the tub drain back to its natural levels.
Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations is now available to stream on Wondrium.