Good News About Climate Change

In a recent post, I suggested a story setting: a future where Earth, ravaged by a runaway greenhouse effect, has transformed into a clone of Venus. Today, I’d like to suggest an alternative: a future where Earth’s climate stabilized, more or less, thanks to the efforts of resourceful human beings.

Of these two possible futures, I think the latter is more believable. I say that partly because I’m an optimist when it comes to human nature, and given recent developments, I think my optimism may be justified.

  • The ozone layer is recovering: in the 1980’s, chlorofluorocarbons (or C.F.C.s) were banned due to their effect on the ozone layer. Now, decades later, the ozone layer is showing the first hints of recovery. Click here for more information.
  • We can have solar power at night: solar power isn’t perfect. Among its many problems is the rather obvious fact that it doesn’t work at night. But new facilities like the Solana Generating Station in Arizona can store excess heat collected from sunlight, and that heat energy can continue generating power for up to six hours after sunset.  Click here for more information.
  • Global Carbon Emissions Flatline: carbon emissions tend to drop only when the economy slumps, but in 2014, for the first time since we started tracking these things, the economy grew without the usual increase in carbon emissions. If this trend continues, maybe we can save the planet and have plenty of money in our bank accounts. Click here for more information.

The situation is far from ideal. Some of the chemicals that replaced C.F.C.s harm the environment in other ways. Solana still struggles with energy production during the winter. Projections still show the planet will warm slightly, even though we’ve curtailed our carbon emissions somewhat.

But we’re making progress. As a global community, we’re making smarter decisions about energy production. I think one of the reasons climate change is such an uncomfortable topic is that most of the time, the situation seems hopeless, but we now have a few good reasons to be optimistic.

Believing a problem can be solved is the first step toward solving it. With climate change, the problem is starting to look solvable. So maybe Earth in the distant, Sci-Fi future won’t look like another Venus after all.

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Today’s post is part of Earth month for the 2015 Mission to the Solar System. Click here for more about this series.

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