Fighting the Climate Crisis

The climate crisis is the single biggest collective problem facing humanity. If we fail to direct attention and resources to fighting it, the climate crisis will make the transition from the Industrial Age worse than the transition into it, which involved two world wars. This may sound hyperbolic, but the climate crisis represents an existential risk for humanity.

Every day, unimaginable amounts of energy hit the Earth in the form of sunlight. Much of this energy is radiated back into space, but greenhouse gases reduce the Earth’s ability to shed heat and instead keep it trapped inside the atmosphere. To get a sense of how much heat we are talking about, we can express it in terms of Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs. Compared to pre-industrial times, how much more heat would you guess the Earth is retaining? The equivalent of one nuclear bomb per year? Per month? Per week? Per day? The reality is that the extra heat being trapped amounts to four nuclear bombs per second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Imagine for a moment that alien spaceships were dropping four nuclear bombs into our atmosphere every second. What would we do? We would drop everything else to fight them. This is, of course, roughly the plot of the movie Independence Day. Except with the climate crisis it’s not aliens, it’s ourselves, and it’s not bright explosions, it’s all the molecules in the atmosphere and in the oceans wiggling a bit harder (that’s what it means for something to heat up).

There are many ways to fight the climate crisis. They include making personal changes such as switching to electric heating, voting for politicians who are committed to tackling the problem, and becoming active in movements such as Extinction Rebellion. As with mindfulness, research and entrepreneurship provide crucial avenues for action. For instance, there are many questions in how to make nuclear fusion work (which would provide a clean source of abundant electricity) or how to most effectively draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. There are companies to be founded that will further the adoption of solar power, not just here in the U.S. but in the developing world.

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