By now you know that global warming is one of the most serious threats we face. So what the heck are we supposed to do about it?
According to an announcement from the UCLA Newsroom, for the first time, scientists ranked all the various strategies that could slow down climate change.
The study, which appears in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, narrowed the vast list down to the top five approaches based upon feasibility, cost, risk, public acceptance, governability, and ethics.
Here are the top five, ranked from least to most effective.
Stimulate the growth of algae in the ocean. This means adding iron to the ocean to promote the growth of carbon-consuming underwater plants. It’s ranked as the least viable approach because it’s not very efficient and letting algae grow wild could harm sea life.
Create more shade with solar reflectors in outer space or artificially increase the earth’s cloud cover. Injecting more water droplets into the atmosphere to create more clouds reduces the amount of sunlight hitting the planet. Sounds neat, huh? But, as Daniela Cusack, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of geography at UCLA says, “Cloud seeding sounds simple but we really don’t understand what would happen to the climate if we started making more clouds.” (Perhaps we shouldn’t take that risk then.)
Confine carbon by converting CO2 into liquid form and pumping it underground. This however, could be prohibitively expensive or dangerous due to leakage. “No one wants to live next to a huge underground pool of carbon dioxide that might suffocate them or their children — no matter how small the risk,” Cusack says.
Sequester carbon by leaving it up to Mother Nature’s all-natural CO2 suckers: Plants. We’ve got to leave our precious forests alone. And we have to promote regrowth and planet-friendly agricultural practices, too.
Cut emissions. It’s really the most obvious solution. While the Obama administration recently announced a historic push to cut harmful carbon pollution from power plants — the biggest source of CO2 — it’s only a start.
As Grist puts it, cutting carbon means conserving energy, improving efficiency, and curbing our reliance on fossil fuels by adopting renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
Besides, the authors found that using all the technology we already have could reduce seven gigatons of carbon per year (humans release nine gigatons of CO2 a year). “We have the technology, and we know how to do it,” Cusack said. “It’s just that there doesn’t seem to be political support for reducing emissions.”
Now if we could only get everyone — regardless of political affiliation — on board.