Climate prescription

Solutions abound for fixing climate. Not all of them are good but they deserve a hearing.

Denis Pombriant

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Of the four issues that drive climate change — energy and infrastructure, population, carbon absorption, and water abundance and distribution — it’s tempting to identify “the one” on which all others depend and solve it. But all of the challenges have to be solved together. Like solving a Rubik’s Cube you can’t solve one side at a time. The solutions outlined below are detailed in “The Age of Sustainability” though they are not presented in any ranking order.

Energy

We’ll start with energy because it might be the thorniest issue. We’re conditioned by almost 250 years of dependence on fossil fuels that began in the Industrial Revolution. Many people see renewable alternatives as interesting experiments that might contribute to providing energy abundance but not to solving the twin issues of climate change and dwindling petroleum supplies. Coal still appears to be abundant but its highly polluting nature means that we’ll die of asphyxiation before we use it all. A true Hobson’s choice.

The knock against renewables that we often hear is that they’re good when the sun shines or the wind blows but that they are too intermittent to make a dent in the energy budget. Some companies are bringing large battery arrays to market to smooth out the peaks and troughs but there’s an even better approach because we shouldn’t limit our perspective on renewables to solar and wind. It’s geothermal energy and it will have to make a strong contribution to the planet’s energy diet if we ever expect to get off the fossil fuel carrousel.

Briefly, geothermal energy relies on harvesting heat from the earth’s crust to boil water and create steam that drives conventional steam power generators — without the emissions of a coal, oil or natural gas burning plant and without the radioactive waste of nuclear plants. A broad zone of geothermal activity belts the earth running up the coasts of South and North America, around the Pacific (the so-called ring of fire) across southern Asia and through the Himalayas, through the Mediterranean and into the Alps.

If you think this is too exotic so is building a huge dam across a big river and making…

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Denis Pombriant

Researcher, author of multiple books including “The Age of Sustainability” about solutions for climate change. Technology, business, economics.