Some Optimism about Global Warming

Thinking about global warming puts a lot of my friends into a gloomy mood. That’s understandable; It’s going to be a massive challenge for us to deal with. But I have to admit, whenever I read about all of the advances and breakthroughs for addressing it, I can’t help but feel excited about human ingenuity and resilience. There are so many creative projects out there!

For example, scientists are trying to bring back woolly mammoths in Siberia to fight climate change. Really! The plan is to re-introducing mammoths to trample the tundra and help turn it back into a grassland, which would help prevent the permafrost from thawing and releasing massive stores of carbon. Even if they fail to bring an exact woolly mammoth specimen back from extinction, they can breed elephant hybrids with mammoth traits to begin the work. This isn’t just some speculative idea. It’s already in motion and it’s happening as we speak. How wild is that?

Or how about this one? One method for sequestering carbon is to use… whales. Yup. Whales. Whales eat phytoplankton, and phytoplankton absorbs massive amounts of carbon. When whales die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean, taking the carbon with them and pulling it out of circulation for millennia. What a bizarre idea for fighting global warming. I love it!

Then there’s the idea to reduce global warming by feeding seaweed to cows. Livestock burp up a lot of methane, and as a greenhouse gas, methane is about twenty five times as potent as carbon dioxide. The methane released by livestock is responsible for something like 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But putting a seaweed additive in the food supply may reduce their methane output by 80% and produce healthier cattle, to boot. Cool!

Ok, I’ll move on from weird animal solutions. Of course I’m excited about all of the typical global warming tech solutions. There are so many incredible milestones getting hit for solar, wind, and electric vehicles. It’s fun to see the prices continue to plummet over the years. It’s fun to see keep an eye on the potential battery breakthroughs that could change everything about the energy sector. I love reading about prototypes of nuclear fusion reactors – the holy grail of energy production.

Outside of the obvious ones, it seems like there are lots of promising technological efforts. This makes me interested in the potential for advanced geothermal energy. Project Vesta and its attempt to use accelerated weathering to capture carbon and transform it into stable minerals sounds exciting. Iron fertilization in the oceans to stimulate the growth of phytoplankton may be an option. Efforts to bring the costs down on carbon capture technologies look ripe for innovation. Ideas like a space sunshade seem far-fetched, but are fun to read about all the same. Planting a billion trees each year sounds challenging, but perhaps we can plant trees by using drones that launch seed pods into the ground?

There are way too many ideas to list them all here. How can you read about all of these cool projects without getting fired up and excited about the future? Maybe all of our efforts will fail. Maybe global warming will be catastrophic. But when I read about all of the projects and ideas, I honestly can’t help but feel excited and optimistic. I think we’ll solve it. And if not? I think we’ll apply some of the same ingenuity and creativity to the task of adapting to climate change. We’ll make it work. We’ll find a way. One way or another, humans will persist.

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