Earlier this month, the third installment of the IPCC report made one thing abundantly clear: in order to combat the environmental impacts of climate change and limit global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial revolution levels, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is key.
But despite rising awareness and pledges made by world leaders to curb CO2 emissions, humans continue to produce massive amounts of climate change inducing greenhouse gasses. Changing that will require more than good intentions and global-stage declarations.
On this Earth Day edition of the Less Edit, we’re diving deep into the world of carbon emissions, offsets, captures and more. There's no doubt left: in order to solve our climate crisis, we must adopt solutions and we must do it quickly. So how do we do that? And what’s the cost if we don’t? Read on to find out.
Carbon footprint calculator
We’ve all heard cheeseburgers are worse for the environment (and your health) but how does your diet really impact your carbon footprint? And how about all of those miles you drive to work, the propane you heat your house with and the flights you take on holiday?
This calculator from the EPA puts a rough number on your carbon output. Use it to find information on where you can cut back, and if you choose to offset, just how much you’ll need to contribute to do so.
Planet Money Podcast: Emission Impossible
Can you buy your way out of your own carbon emissions? At first glance, carbon offsets appear to just be an opportunity to do that. The basic premise: you (or a larger entity like a corporation) calculate your carbon emissions from certain activities and then sign up for a service that allows you to pay a dollar amount for each metric tonne of CO2 you produce. The money you pay is then transferred to carbon reducing projects like reforesting the Amazon or supporting a methane capture operation in an abandoned coal mine in Montana.
But how well do these programs work? To find out, the journalists at NPR’s Planet Money podcast headed out into the world. In their ‘Emission Impossible’ episode, they interview a forest boss in Indonesia, the head of an offset project verification company and an offset analyst with a climate change research group. So, do carbon offsets really work? You’ll have to listen to find out.
A Guide to Carbon Sequestration, UC Davis
Among the solutions posed to rid the earth of excess carbon dioxide, carbon capture and sequestration rank high in their potential impact. But how much impact they have depends on how widespread they’re adopted, and on the public’s understanding to support them. This informational outreach by the University of California Davis explores and explains different approaches to carbon sequestration.
There are two different kinds of sequestration: biological and technical. The earth naturally sequesters CO2 through soil, trees, ocean waters, grasslands and rocks. And humans have devised their own methods of sequestration including giant turbines that ‘scrub’ CO2 out of the air, and using CO2 to create compounds like graphene that can be used in cell phone screens. In many circles, carbon sequestration is considered the last great hope for removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Learn about carbon sequestration
What Climate Change Looks Like From Space, The New York Times
If a picture says a thousand words, a timelapse could be considered a book. This image essay on the NYTimes calls upon satellite timelapses captured since the 1970s that illustrate climate change’s effects on land formations across the globe. The most notable impacts appear on ice; you can even watch a Chilean glacier retreat 8 miles between 1985 and 2017. Also shown are less obvious land changes, like disappearance and degradation of land in the Gulf of Mexico due to rising sea levels and oil and gas operations.
The short collection of images make one thing clear: climate change is doing more than making summers longer and hotter, it’s also shifting the very earth beneath our feet.View the essay
Six key lifestyle changes can help avert the climate crisis, The Guardian
Spend enough time following climate change and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Despair around climate realities has prompted a rise in eco-anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders. To combat this, a group of researchers formulated a list of six impactful things anyone can do to have a positive impact on climate change. At the top of the list: eat a plant based diet, hold onto your electronics for at least seven years and curb your airplane flights to once every three years.
The study prompted a climate movement campaign geared specifically toward more affluent people (who produce a disproportionate number of CO2 emissions) to make “The Jump” and sign up to practice the six pledges. Said Tom Bailey, co-founder of the Jump campaign: “…what this research shows is that there is a role for a new joyful climate movement which can help lead the way to less stuff and more joy.”
This Earth Day, that’s something we can all get behind.