Solutions to Mitigate Climate Changing
“For decades scientists have warned that rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels risk adversely affecting the climate” (Economist). This is an affect we are starting to see grow more rapidly as time goes on with no true solution to the problem being implemented globally. For example, according to Space Daily residents in the Andes mountains and the Tibetan plateau are starting to have water shortages because they rely on the natural glaciers for their water. Climate change in the form of increasing temperatures are melting the glaciers more rapidly than ever before leaving the residents with low water supplies. Climate change is also affecting thousands of species worldwide, including the polar bear, which relies on an icy climate for its survival. For these reasons, worldwide political and scientific leaders needs to quickly find an achievable solution to curtail the effects of this global shift in our climate.
Scientists in the late 19th century identified two theories for the cause of observed, historical global warming and cooling periods. They theorized that “lower levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere caused ice ages, and that higher levels led to the much warmer temperatures”(History). Greenhouse gases are naturally occurring gases in our atmosphere including, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide and other fluorinated gases.
How it works
Climate change is defined by google as a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a trend of increasing global temperatures that became apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards. Building off of the theories identified by the 19th century scientists, the currently changing climate has been attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the prolific use of fossil fuels in the 20th century. This global issue, which affects millions of people each year and thousands of different species, such as the inhabitants of the Andes and polar bears, is a major problem because “summer temperatures are projected to continue rising” (NASA). This, in turn, causes a reduction of soil moisture, which makes heat waves worse (NASA).
The impacts of climate change seriously affects people that rely on glaciers and snow packs for their water supply. It is a simple matter of supply and demand. Because of the increased temperatures causing premature melt of the glaciers, ‘supply is down, but demand is up because of growing populations'(SpaceDaily). Communities at risk will suffer water shortages because “glaciers there supply critically needed water for people, crops and livestock”(Climate). And, in areas such as the Andes, enough infrastructure does not exist to hold the melt for use.
No one at the moment has implemented a satisfactory solution for the problem at hand. However, there are research teams that are “hoping that by studying the glaciers,… they will find answers to slow glacial retreat – or to provide new water sources to at-risk areas”(Climate). Some of the possible solutions being considered, and even implemented to some extent, are (1) reducing and changing refrigerant use, (2) increasing the use of solar energy, and (3) restoration of tropical rainforests.
One solution to try and mitigate climate change is to manage refrigerant use, which means to control and reduce the use of refrigerant. Refrigerants are chemicals used in many of life’s conveniences and necessities, such as air conditioners and refrigerators. The original, and most commonly used refrigerants are made from fossil fuels. “Refrigerants, specifically chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), were once key culprits in depleting the stratospheric ozone layer” and still are a problem because extensive quantities of CFC’s and HCFC’s remain in circulation. Also, “refrigerants currently cause emissions throughout their life cycles, but 90 percent of emissions happen at disposal”(GreenAmerica).
The challenge in tackling the global use of CFCs and HCFCs as refrigerants is that they remain plentiful and cheap in comparison to the proposed alternatives. And the use of refrigerants is not going to go away as long as people require refrigeration for their food and seek to live and work in places like Phoenix where air conditioning is both desired and necessary. However, progress is being made. In 1987, global leaders reached an agreement, called the Montreal Protocol, that committed the world to reducing and eliminating the use of CFCs and HCFCs. More recently, in 2016 more than 170 countries agreed to also work toward eliminating hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), by signing an amendment to the Montreal Protocol called the Kigali Deal (because it was signed in Kigali, Rwanda). With the signing of the Kigali Deal ”the world will begin phasing HFCs out of use” starting in 2019(GreenAmerica). This world commitment was made possible by the development of new options that can be used in place of HFC’s. For example, “natural refrigerants such as propane and ammonia”(GreenAmerica). The concern is that lower income countries may try to continue using the cheaper HCFC’s, but, for those signing it, “the Kigali deal is mandatory, with specific targets and timetables”(GreenAmerica). It is estimated that, if the countries who signed it actually follows the Kigali Deal, the global community should be able to achieve “89.74 gigatons (GT) of reduced CO2-equivalent… by 2050”(GreenAmerica). However the benefits of the Kigali Deal don’t end with just a reduction of greenhouse gases; it will also have a “$902.8 billion net savings” after it’s been established (GreenAmerica).
Another possible solution to help mitigate climate change is the increased use of solar power by implementing solar farms to generate the power. “Solar farms are large-scale arrays…of panels that achieve generating capacity in the tens or hundreds of megawatts”(GreenAmerica). Arizona already has several solar farms set up due to its climate and vast quantity of empty land.
Opponents to the widespread use of solar farms cite the loss of wildlife in and near the farms, weather impacting the generation of solar power, and the challenges of storing solar power. However, increasing the use of solar power is a possible solution because “solar farms are cheaper to install than fossil-fuel alternatives”(GreenAmerica) such as dams and coal power plants. This solution is something we should look at more seriously because the “International Renewable Energy Agency already credits 220 million to 330 million tons of annual CO2 savings to solar”(GreenAmerica). It also “will soon become the least expensive energy in the world”(GreenAmerica) such that it is predicted that the global community could see savings of $5.02 trillion (Green America). The switch to solar is able to be carried out because we have all the technology we need to get more solar farms online and producing clean energy. If society were to implement solar rather than fossil fuels for power it would result in an estimated “36.9 GT of reduced CO2 by 2050”(GreenAmerica). This solution would help solve climate change because solar doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases thus not adding to the problem.
Tropical forest restoration is a third possible solution to reduce the effect of climate change. Tropical forests are essential to reducing carbon emissions because the plant life absorbs the carbon dioxide. However, they “have suffered extensive clearing, fragmentation, degradation, and depletion of flora and fauna” in recent times (GreenAmerica). At one time, natural forests once covered upwards of 12 percent of the world’s land. Now, due to development of the land by humans, they only cover just five percent of the earth’s land masses (GreenAmerica). If some of the world’s forests could be restored, they would act as natural scrubbers, removing CO2 from the atmosphere. For example, it is estimated that, if the tropical forests could be restored, up to 62.1 gigatons of CO2 could be eliminated by 2050 (GreenAmerica). This is a possible solution to help reduce climate change because “restoration of tropical forests, both passive and intentional, is now a growing trend” (GreenAmerica). But, challenges lie in needing the cooperation of the governments of the countries in which the tropical forests exist. Many of these countries are considered developing nations with weak economic structures and opportunities for their citizens. Land development is an attractive option for these governments when looking to provide opportunity to their people. Even so, tropical forest restoration would be a big step in the right direction for effort to stop climate change.
Climate change is a far reaching problem with many proposals for how to curtail its effects. There have been attempts in the past to help mitigate the effects of climate change, but it wasn’t enough due to the constant use of fossil fuels. It has been an uphill battle, but now that more people are realizing that CO2 emissions are harmful to the environment, they are coming around to the fact that we need to find a solution to the problem. Three such solutions are discussed in this paper: managing refrigerant, solar farms, and tropical forest restoration. Of the three, managing refrigerant usage and levels would be the best solution to focus on first.
HFC’s are horrendous for the environment, but with the proper disposal of existing HFCs and replacement with greener options, we can help reduce the CO2 emission by a projected “89.74 gigatons” by 2050 (GreenAmerica).This is a larger reduction in CO2 by the year 2050 than the other two proposed solutions. There are already steps in place to start managing it properly and to start phasing it out of service. New options have already been developed that can do the same job, without being as harmful to the environment. And, this is also something every person can choose to do him or herself simply in the choice they make in purchasing and maintaining equipment (refrigerators, etc.) they own and use.
- ‘Harvesting the wind is a win/win solution to climate change.’ Rochester Business Journal, 19 Nov. 2018. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A563033293/ITOF?u=azstatelibdev&sid=ITOF&xid=760a6a57. Accessed 4 Feb. 2019.
- ‘The temperature rises; Climate change.’ The Economist, 13 Oct. 2018, p. 14(US). General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A557756561/ITOF?u=azstatelibdev&sid=ITOF&xid=3267d61f. Accessed 29 Jan. 2019.
- “History of the Study of Climate Change in Field of Environmental Science.” EnvironmentalScience.org, www.environmentalscience.org/history-climate-change.
- “Global Climate Change: Effects.” NASA, NASA, 28 Nov. 2018, climate.nasa.gov/effects/.
- “Top 10 Solutions to Reverse Climate Change.” Green America, www.greenamerica.org/climate-change-100-reasons-hope/top-10-solutions-reverse-climate-change.