This posting is the first installment of a three-part series on the what, why, and how of Climate Restoration and my involvement in projects to advance it. Here are “friend links” to Part 2 and Part 3.
These days I’m galvanized and energized about climate advocacy and activism. In the past two years, I feel I’ve gained a new climate identity. I’ve joined a growing movement to restore our climate.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Climate Restoration, you’ve come to the right place. What exactly does it mean? Why is it the goal we need? How do we achieve it?
Online, we often encounter “tl;dr” — shorthand for “too long; didn’t read.” I hope this three-part posting is “gl;gr” — good length; good read!
We’re catching up to and renaming our crisis
From 2005–2015, I woke up every morning feeling isolated, fearful and grieving about our climate prospects. I wondered, “Where is everybody?” I was looking especially to young people, who have the most to lose. (Their absence hit me hard. During the Vietnam War, I took a year off from college to organize draft resisters.)
I kept saying, “Why aren’t kids in the streets every day?” Now, millions of young people from around the world, from elementary schoolchildren to recent grads, are striking weekly. They’re demanding attention, holding signs that say “End Business As Usual!” and “This Is About Our Future.”
They call themselves “Youth Climate Activists.” YCAs in the Sunrise Movement and Global Climate Strike, and activists in groups like The Climate Mobilization and Extinction Rebellion have prompted the media to start talking about our Climate Crisis and Climate Emergency.
Our sense of urgency finally matches the scope of our challenges. But our ambitions and actions fall far short of what a mobilized world can hope for and work for.
Must we dread our future?
As YCAs lead the way, they ask us to think ahead to what their world will look like in 2050 and beyond. But when we listen closely to the future envisioned by many climate advocates and activists, public and corporate leaders, and now presidential candidates, we hear them “responsibly” limit their goals. They say, if we do all we can, we might “avoid the worst consequences of climate change” or “slow the arrival of catastrophic impacts.” How motivating is that?
In fact, if we reach the milestones in Paris Climate Agreement, our future in a 2°C, or with a stretch, a 1.5°C world, will be pretty unlivable. We will experience hundreds of millions of climate refugees, nation-state failures, accelerating species extinction. Just one example: along with the loss of most coral, most of the fish that feed over a billion people will be gone.
It’s no surprise so many climate messages often evoke feelings of doom and gloom — even desperation.
The Apex: September 2019
This month marks the culmination of the climate movement’s indefatigable campaigns to:
- Recognize the urgency of our crisis and the need for an end to Business As Usual.
- Acknowledge that those who have contributed least to change our climate are starting to suffer the most severe impacts: indigenous people, island nations, and youth.
- Understand how our energy and climate actions intersect with inequality, justice, health, ecosystems and so much more.
- Commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (we are actually advancing on many) to ensure broad prosperity and begin to close the inequality gaps that climate change continues to worsen.
- Insist that carbon emissions be priced to reflect their damaging impact.
- Appreciate the opportunity the climate crisis presents to positively transform society.
- Reflecting all these priorities, mobilize every part of society in every country to switch from fossil fuels to renewables ASAP.
Each of these campaigns keeps bringing front and center the Paris “decarbonization” targets for 2030 and 2050. Unfortunately, that focus has effectively kept more ambitious goals off the main stage.
Hope moves in from the sidelines
Nevertheless, many innovators and leaders keep asking, “Can humanity can actually save itself?” Answers to that question are emerging, with both natural and engineering solutions — many of which use biomimicry to intentionally recreate biological and chemical processes.
The most significant way to get there is to remove over a trillion tons of excess CO2 that we’ve heedlessly dumped into our air. It’s useful to think of our atmosphere as a giant bathtub, almost full with CO2. Of course we need to turn off the spigot. But we also need to create drains for the tub.
We have many ways to capture carbon, then store it or use it. Continuing its tradition of innovation, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to many of these initiatives.
- Project Drawdown has inspired readers everywhere to devour the first mainstream book about how to “Reverse Global Warming.” (I carry copies around and so far have given away over 150.)
- Drawdown’s first international conference, Research to Action, is in Pennsylvania Sept. 16–18.
- The first VERGE Carbon conference, from Greenbiz, happens in October 2019 in Oakland, CA.
- Airminers is a global directory of projects and companies for both carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and “Carbontech” — using removed CO2 as a valuable raw material.
Climate Restoration is about reversing global warming as quickly as possible. As we turn off the bathtub spigot (which currently spews 40 billion tons per year), we can open many drains and widen them. If we scale up to remove an additional 50 billion tons a year, today’s 415 parts per million of CO2 will go back down to 300 by 2050. In other words, we can return our air and water to the safe and healthy state in which humanity and our natural world evolved and flourished — perhaps even with 0°C of additional warming over pre-industrial levels!
The Foundation for Climate Restoration (F4CR, along with the Healthy Climate Alliance) focuses primarily on the most promising market-based solutions that can scale up to remove over 25 billion tons of CO2 per year. Many others globally are advancing solutions, especially within the broad umbrella of “regenerative agriculture.” The world’s 500 million farmers can change their practices to rebuild carbon in soil, using methods that can remove and sequester many billions of tons of CO2 per year.
At the same time, we can use biomimicry solutions to rebuild Arctic ice, which protects global weather patterns while preventing vast releases from the permafrost of methane, a heat-trapping gas many times more potent than CO2. And along with these two Climate Restoration priorities, we can take steps to protect threatened ecosystems and species diversity.
Not yet convinced we can do all this? Read on at Part 2 Quick clicks to get up to speed on Climate Restoration