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Where to find big ideas for addressing climate change

Posted on 4 July 2019 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by SueEllen Campbell

Sometimes we all need a boost of optimism about our prospects of staving off the worst kinds of climate disruption. We also need to see big thinking and big ambition in practice – or, we might say, to see how ideas can be scaled up, even way up.

Here are some excellent places to look for this kind of inspiration.

  • Project Drawdown. As the project guru Paul Hawken says in a NYT interview, “a primary goal” of this research, book, and website “is to help people who feel overwhelmed by gloom-and-doom messages see that reversing global warming is bursting with possibility.” What are the 100 most effective ways to bring down atmospheric carbon dioxide? The surprising data-driven answers here can help us direct our collective energies where they will count most.
  • Rocky Mountain Institute. With its mission to transform “global energy use,” the Rocky Mountain Institute deploys all kind of smart ideas about new technologies and radical efficiency. Watch the TED Talk by director Amory Lovins, and then look at the website page about the book behind that talk, Reinventing Fire. This is a kind of futuristic optimism even a cynic may find encouraging.
  • This short piece by Ben Brown (communication specialist for PlaceMakers, an urban planning firm) offers an overview of some places where climate action is happening now, especially in towns, cities, and regions. Drawing on the work of Jim Fox, director of the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center, and on Brown’s idea of “Leveraging ‘The Biggest Little Things,'” this blog entry reminds us that “The best strategies are the ones that can be implemented.”
  • Finally, if your bent is less technological than personal and humanistic, take a look at a pre-Drawdown essay by Paul Hawken in Orion Magazine, “To Remake the World.” This heartening piece is also about scaling up – but on a quite different front, that of the astonishing number of small grassroots organizations around the globe.

This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. I found this TED talk rather interesting in that context.

    Alan Savory has a notion about stopping desertification.  Looks useful.

    Needs work to get it to happen though.

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  2. As this is your first post, Skeptical Science respectfully reminds you to please follow our comments policy. Thank You!

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  3. Wow! Thank you for this post! I had never heard of Rocky Mountain Institute before and am loving their, "Solutions Journal." Love this quote from the Spring 2019 issue, "“In the face of today’s climate challenge, both despair and complacency are equally unwarranted.” Truth. I'm glad to see some Gen Z recognition whenever I can . . . "Young social activists
    and student and nonprofit leaders are helping to accelerate the energy transition from the ground up." However, my all time favorite quote from the Spring 2019 issue is this: “We may be avocado-toast eating,
    big-box-retail destroying, collegeindebted millennials, but we also are
    the most connected and globally conscious generation in history.” 


    B R I L L I A N T 


    "The wizarding world needs you, Hailey!" Bahahahaha. <3 <3 <3

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  4. @1 bjchip,

    Yes, Savory has a big idea with even more potential than the other "Big Ideas" mentioned in this article. It is also included in a more limited way as part of project drawdown as well. So there is that as well.

    In my opinion there is no solution to AGW that doesn't include this at least in part, because it is the only current technology both scale-able enough and also fiscally sound that humans have available in their tool kit at the moment.

    Otherwise the evidence suggests even 100% elimination of fossil fuels won't be enough and the legacy carbon will continue to heat the surface for decades at minimum and maybe even 100's of years. We have about .5c thermal inertia of the oceans: climate inertia; and we also have 1.5c loss of albedo from melting ice as a feed back: 
    Hansen and Sato Estimate Climate Sensitivity from Earth's History, and likely another 1c from various other reinforcing feedbacks like methane releases from melting permafrost and vegetative die off of areas due to climate zones moving faster than biomes can adjust.

    So somewhere around 1.5-3.0 c additional warming if emissions went to zero today.

    The only technology capable of reversing this is in fact what Savory proposed, and is indeed beginning to do on 10's of millions of acreas already through his worldwide network he set up.  


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