We Can Reverse Global Warming

We Can Reverse Global Warming

by John M Repp

We know now that ExxonMobil spent millions of dollars to create doubt about the science that tells us our planet is warming due to human activity. They designed their disinformation campaigns after what the tobacco companies did to create doubt about the link between cigarette smoking and cancer. The fossil fuel effort to sow doubt has resulted in many climate activists doubling down on efforts to convince their fellow citizens of the reality of climate change and the gravity of our situation. Today polls show that the majority of U.S. citizens now believe that we have a climate crisis, although one of our two main political parties, the one which has the most power countrywide, remains in full denial. In the face of this denial, we cannot seem to get to talking about what we must do to reverse global warming.

The international team of climate scientists, the IPCC, told us late last year that we have just a dozen years before the heating will become runaway and compounding due to feedback loops. So, what can we do to reverse global heating and save our civilization? Here are a few things.

Not much talked about are the subsidies the fossil fuel companies receive to produce coal and oil. Worldwide, according to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) the fossil fuel sector receives 85% of all subsidies and the total amount is almost 6% of global GDP (gross domestic product)[1] Rolling Stone reported that fossil fuel subsidies in the United States are larger than the Pentagon budget![2] In the United States these subsidies are embedded in tax law, so fossil fuel companies pay less tax than other industrial sectors. Reducing or eliminating these subsidies would lower our global carbon emissions and increase government revenue. If you do an internet search for “fossil fuel subsidies”, you can see many reports about this problem. The corporate media is mostly silent about this, despite the fact that these subsidies contradict the concept of a free market. Removing the fossil fuel subsidies will speed up the transformation of the energy sector to wind and solar.

There is a new report from scientists stating that the planting of one trillion trees all over the world could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that cause the warming.[3] The Guardian Weekly in the July 12, 2019 issue summarized the report. The scientists estimate that there are now 3 trillion trees in the world. Before the rise of civilization they estimate there were 6 trillion. The new trees would be planted not on urban land, not on agricultural land, and just a few per field of grazing land. There they would help the sheep and cattle. The cost would be $300 billion. The report says that forest restoration at that scale is the most effective and least expensive strategy to deal with the climate crisis. The six largest nations, Russia, Canada, China, the US, Brazil and Australia contain half of the forest restoration sites. All the trees planted would be ecologically appropriate to the area where they will be planted.

Project Drawdown[4] is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing global warming. They published the book Project Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming in 2017. The project is ongoing. The term “drawdown” refers to the moment in time when global greenhouse gas emissions start going down. A large team of researchers, writers and scientists worked almost three years, calculating the cost of each solution and the amount of greenhouse gases that would be drawn down or not emitted. Surprisingly, their number one solution has to do with refrigerants, the gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators. A few years back, the world banned one type of refrigerant because it was destroying the ozone layer. The problem with the refrigerant used now is that it is a very, very potent greenhouse gas. We can replace it with more natural refrigerants like propane or ammonia. The global cooperation in saving the ozone layer can be a model for what we need to do now to deal with the much bigger problem of the climate crisis.

Project Drawdown lists a hundred solutions, eighty of which could be deployed now. Twenty are called “coming attractions” where the cost and amount of greenhouse gases removed or not emitted has not been calculated. One of the twenty coming attractions is “industrial hemp”. Ellen Brown, who usually writes about the financial system and public banking, recently wrote an article about industrial hemp.[5] Brown summarizes the report about planting one trillion trees in the first few paragraphs of her article and then reminds us that “trees grow slowly”. The full potential of planting one trillion trees would not be realized for fifty years or more. But industrial hemp can grow to thirteen feet in one hundred days. The laws constricting the growing of hemp have been recently changed and it is now legal to grow it anywhere in the U.S. Hemp is very versatile product and could replace petrochemicals in the production of plastic, wood in the production of paper, and cotton in the production of cloth. Hemp can be made into a bio-fuel as well.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and changing refrigerant regulations will require changes in law. Planting one trillion trees and lots of hemp would be part of a Green New Deal, a proposed government project[6]. The fossil fuel companies want to blame global warming on all of us equally and limit solutions to individual actions like changing light bulbs and eating less meat. To be sure, individual actions matter. However, to reverse climate change and achieve drawdown, we need our governments to help us. We can’t do it alone.

[1] https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2019/05/02/Global-Fossil-Fuel-Subsidies-Remain-Large-An-Update-Based-on-Country-Level-Estimates-46509

[2] https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/fossil-fuel-subsidies-pentagon-spending-imf-report-833035/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions

[4] https://www.drawdown.org/

[5] https://ellenbrown.com/2019/07/25/the-cheapest-way-to-save-the-planet-grows-like-a-weed/

[6] https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109/text