Leaders worldwide continue to debate the cataclysmic projected future effects of the Climate Crisis — What exactly can we do about it… now?
The Met One Instruments, Inc. team is excited to present our findings after many hours of examining the most recent scientific studies and data available about the current prognosis of our future as it relates to Climate Change –– which begets Air Pollution. As a leader in the air quality instrumentation industry with air quality monitors installed worldwide, we felt compelled to dive deeper into this topic.
➡️ It is no secret that climate change is threatening air quality across the globe…
There is plenty of information available on the internet explaining the effects and consequences of climate change. In fact, you are probably sick of hearing about it. Why? Because the information communicated to our society about what is going wrong is dire, compounded by “solutions” offered, which are generally vague.
For instance, did you know that a recently published study titled “The Mortality Cost of Carbon” projects that between now and 2100, 83 Million people are expected to experience untimely deaths due to the rise of temperature on our planet? The idea of somehow preventing the projection of 83 million deaths is overwhelming. Where do you even start?
This article will provide a brief overview of the most current understanding of how climate change and air pollution are intertwined. Further, we would like to present the two most viable, sustainable solutions to combating climate change and air pollution that our team reviewed. The solutions we are highlighting are not only capable of tackling climate change, but they also can reverse the course. With one caveat — they should be enacted in conjunction with one another.
A little known fact; even if we could snap our fingers to net-zero carbon emissions at this very moment, humans have pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, the Earth’s temperature would continue to rise. The result translates to catastrophic ecological effects that persist for decades, if not centuries. Understanding that fact is critical (more to be discussed on this later). Another problem that needs consideration is that scientists in different disciplines have been so narrowly focused on their studies about this huge issue, many haven’t had time to look at the big picture.
How can these different scientific disciplines communicate or correlate their findings to solve climate change and air pollution, two subjects weaved together with no end in sight? A holistic approach is needed to conquer the most significant global dilemma that humanity has ever faced. Let’s get started.
⚖️ Climate Change & Air Pollution: How Do They Affect Each Other?
“Global warming is the rise in average global surface temperature caused primarily by the build-up of human-produced greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the lower levels of the atmosphere.” –– NASA
It seems obvious now, but for decades the subjects of climate change and air pollution were almost treated as separate issues. Climate change impacts air quality, and conversely, air quality (pollution) directly influences climate change. Why?
Greenhouse gases trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere. The main offenders are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Do not forget that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a natural part of our planet cycling through the atmosphere, ocean, plants, animals, and soil. For instance, humans are composed of 18% or so carbon. It is a building block of life on Earth. However, CO2 is the main greenhouse gas offender, emitted into our atmosphere artificially due to human activity.
During the Industrial Revolution, which began in 1760, humans went from handmade production methods to utilizing machines for the first time in history. We were unaware of the consequences creating devices that require the combustion of fossil fuels would impart. Society quickly innovated from the first machines designed for producing textiles to gas-powered automobiles and power plants that use fossil fuels to create electricity.
If we are to rebalance our climate, our society must switch to renewable energy options. Unfortunately, that is not enough to solve global warming. The Industrial Revolution left us with what modern scientists refer to as the “Legacy Load of Carbon.” Did you know that since 1750, one billion tons of manufactured CO2 have been emitted into our atmosphere? All of that excess carbon has remained trapped, which poses another problem.
➡️ How does excess man-made carbon released into Earth’s atmosphere affect us?
Carbon dioxide contributes to the greenhouse effect by trapping radiation at ground level. This event, coupled with airborne particles reacting to each other with high summer temperatures, results in what is known as “ground-level ozone.” High-altitude ozone protects our planet from ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. Ground-level ozone is harmful to our collective health.
“Ground-level ozone is chemically equivalent to high-altitude ozone but is not formed naturally. Rather, it is a byproduct of two pollutants (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) that react in the presence of heat and sunlight. Emissions from chemical and industrial plants, electric utilities, refineries, exhaust from cars and trucks, and increasingly wildfire smoke and oil and gas extraction are sources of these pollutants.”– Climate Central
As the reactions from excess carbon trapped in our lower ozone progress, it causes the stagnation of our air and creates heat domes. In turn, this affects our air quality, and the vicious cycle continues to repeat. Polluting our air with excessive carbon creates ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone produces air pollution. Decades of this have resulted in the position we are in now.
“Exposure to high levels of ozone has long been known to have serious health consequences, especially for children, the elderly, people with cardiovascular or lung diseases, and for those who work outside. Recent research also shows that low levels of ozone exposure can be hazardous for anyone spending time outdoors. As our climate heats up, increasing numbers of the U.S. population could be exposed to unhealthy ozone days, leading to more hospital and emergency room visits, missed school and work, and long-term health risks.”– Climate Central
🆘 Did you know that there are currently 124 million U.S. citizens living in counties that are not in alignment with the national air quality standards for ozone?
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in 2021, communicates the most disturbing warning yet of the consequences carbon emissions could have on Earth if we continue on this path. Warming the planet to 2 degrees Celsius or more will have tragic effects on the Earth’s ecosystems and our way of life, garnering severe climate reactions.
We’re already seeing it now with unprecedented wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and heatwaves. Climate pledges are falling short, and unfortunately, the UN predicts that the globe could warm by a worrying 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
⏳ …Where do we go from here?
If you would like more information about how climate change affects air quality, please visit our reading list at the end of this article! Let’s move on to talk about the two meaningful, practical, and sustainable solutions we can implement to confront global warming head-on now.
What Practical Sustainable Solutions to Address Climate Change & Air Pollution are Available In 2021?
“In the runup to World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enlisted the entire US economy in an effort to scale up production of war material. All of the country’s resources were bent to the task. In 1939, the US had 1,700 aircraft; in 1945, it had 300,000 military aircraft and 18,500 B–24 bombers… A similar mobilization will be necessary for the US to decarbonize its economy fast enough to avert the worst of climate change.”–– How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy quickly
💡 Electrify Cars & Homes
A non-profit known as “Rewiring America,” whose goal is to develop and advocate for policies to decarbonize the United States via electrification, produced an eye-popping report last year. Why was it so notable? They have a thoroughly researched, sustainable agenda that includes thoughtfulness in crucial areas overlooked by most of the projects we examined, such as earning bipartisan support. Most ideas presented to address carbon emissions in the United States are dead on arrival because they lack the bipartisan support needed to pass in Congress.
➡️ Rewiring America published the results of polling their efforts to create legislation offering Federal support to Electrify American households — which shockingly has unequivocally received bipartisan support in the United States.
Further, their report states that “the total government share of the expense is likely only $250-350 billion per year, with the total public and private sectors spending over 20 years at about 20-25 trillion dollars.” A crucial element of this is to not overburden the federal government with funding the entire project. The idea is that government start-up capital will captivate private capital and investors. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” worked similarly, creating novel ideas to fund WWII.
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”–– Franklin D. Roosevelt
Their research concludes, not only could we eliminate 70-80% of US carbon emissions by 2035 through implementing existing technology to electrify cars and households; Rewiring America also shows a report that this type of FDR inspired war-time effort would create 15 million – 20 million jobs over the next ten years.
Using existing technology is paramount. We do not have time to develop new innovations to reverse the damage to our environment. This is not to say we shouldn’t continue to break new ground with technology designed to solve our climate issues. Simply put, we have a significant part of the solution solved through electrifying not only cars but our homes in mass, and we have renewable energy options to make it happen. Why wait?
Rewiring America’s idea is in step with the Senate’s bipartisan $1 Trillion US infrastructure bill recently passed. Their report offers a level of planning and implementation currently lacking in the infrastructure bill, which is still up for debate awaiting a vote in the House chamber. The non-profit organization is also currently working on a “Zero Emission Homes Act 2021,” with over 20 members of the House and Senate in support. Read their 50-state report on US home electrification “Bringing Infrastructure Home.”
They are also in tune with the average American that may be concerned about giving up their way of life if we go all-electric. You can keep your truck or SUV; it’s just going to become electric, with more torque, and will probably be more fun to drive! If you’ve never experienced driving an electric car, imagine simply plugging in your vehicle at home and never going to a gas station again. Judging from their national polling, it appears most Americans can get behind slashing their energy bill every month if their home is equipped with solar power or other renewable energy options.
➡️ The project is spearheaded by Saul Griffith –– a physicist, engineer, researcher/inventor, and Alex Laskey the co-founder of Opower.
If the United States enacted Rewiring America’s plans, we would cut the country’s energy needs by half and save consumers significant sums of money currently spent on energy costs powered by fossil fuels. Most importantly, America would be doing its part to contribute to the 1.5-degree celsius pathway to fight climate change laid out by the United Nations Paris Agreement.
“Some of Griffith’s conclusions run contrary to conventional wisdom in the energy space. And they are oddly optimistic. Despite the titanic effort it would take to decarbonize, the US doesn’t need any new technologies, and it doesn’t require any grand national sacrifice. All it needs, in this view, is a serious commitment to building the necessary machines and creating a regulatory and policy environment that supports their rapid deployment.”–– How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy quickly
Saul Griffith’s work on taking the United States electric is one of the most meaningful reports we have seen. How did he start his model? First, Griffith and his team examined the plethora of energy data America has collected since the 1970s. No one has ever gathered the United States’ various energy data catalogs about generating, transporting, and using energy.
Rewiring America spent years reviewing the information to create a single database. They have tracked where each unit of energy enters the economy and how it is utilized as it passes through. Creating a single database has given them the ability to create a model of what needs to happen if America is to decarbonize. Down to determining how many and what type of renewable energy machines should be built and how quickly.
“Where most studies look at decarbonization in specific individual sectors such as transportation, the electricity grid, or buildings — and mostly only on the supply side,” the Rewiring America report says, “we build a model of the interactions of all sectors, both supply and demand, in a rapid and total decarbonization.”–– How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy quickly
The main reason meaningful legislation hasn’t been passed to address climate change or air pollution is that proposals before the United States Congress have worthy, innovative goals for a renewable energy renaissance and rapid decarbonization but no concrete roadmap. Rewiring America has presented a systematic proposal on how to accomplish substantial decarbonization of America by 2035.
“For so long, we’ve been sold the lie that we have to choose between a livable planet and a thriving, equitable economy,” says Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement. “The Rewiring America Plan puts that lie to rest once and for all. We can achieve a just transition to a better world out of the wreckage of this economic crisis.”–– How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy quickly
Read the 145-page PDF book detailing their blueprint to decide for yourself. Rewiring America’s proposal and strategy is compelling, but it’s not the complete answer to our carbon emission troubles. There is a significant component of their plan that is overlooked.
Remember, even if we went net-zero carbon emissions across the world this instant, there is still the “Legacy Load of Carbon” to contend with, which brings us to the next section of this article. Whether we electrify or not, we have to remove carbon from the atmosphere to reach carbon emission goals. Is it possible with existing technology? Yes.
💡 Did you know it’s possible to “drawdown” carbon from the atmosphere? This process is also known as “Carbon Sequestration.”
“Project Drawdown conducts an ongoing review and analysis of climate solutions—the practices and technologies that can stem and begin to reduce the excess of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Our work shows the world can reach drawdown by mid-century if we make the best use of all existing climate solutions. Certainly, more solutions are needed and emerging, but there is no reason—or time—to wait on innovation. Now is better than new, and society is well equipped for transformation today.”–– Drawdown.org
The book “Drawdown –– The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” was written by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer. Their work details one hundred of the most substantive ways we can reverse global warming. They guide how it is possible to naturally draw carbon out of the air via agricultural and forest conservation methods. In summary, we haven’t given Planet Earth enough credit for its ability, if properly fostered, to heal from the excess of carbon and other pollutants that have been emitted into the atmosphere.
Similar to Rewiring America in their attitude, the authors stress that we do not need innovations to solve our problems with rebalancing Earth’s atmosphere. What is important is taking the tools they have identified to solve our climate change challenges right now. Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer illustrate society’s capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through innovative land-use practices, regenerative agriculture, and agroforestry.
The book “Drawdown” features their thoughts on “Biosequestration” –– using plant life on Earth to capture and store carbon which is ultimately stored in the soil. It sounds almost too simple. Why aren’t our forests and farmland able to do that now?
➡️ We have had a significant problem to face with the way agriculture has been conducted since WWII.
After the war, the United States discovered a process for making “Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilizer” that increased food production. Simultaneously, the United States also found chemical poisons invented in Germany. Both the synthetic fertilizer and the poisons were created by a scientist named Fritz Haber. The poisons Haber invented were used as the first chemical weapons in history, and the poisons used in the gas chambers during the Holocaust.
Haber’s synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and chemical poisons were brought back to the United States after the war ended. The poison was rebranded as a “Pesticide” for killing pests in farm crops. This toxic introduction brought about a fundamental shift in farming.
Instead of understanding natural processes fundamental to keeping our ecosystems balanced, the majority of farmers used synthetic nitrogen fertilizer alongside pesticides to produce high-yielding crops temporarily without taking care of the soil. Farmers of this era did not realize what they were doing was destroying the soil and the vital microbes that live within it.
🎥 The Documentary titled, “Kiss the Ground” details the history of agriculture and how that is still impacting the balance of Earth’s atmosphere today.
A detrimental aspect of modern farming that is not discussed enough is the disastrous effects of “tilling” the soil. We’ve all seen farmland with long rows of indentations from machines that till the land. This practice, coupled with the widespread over-use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides, destroys farmland soil.
Even more troubling is that this knowledge is not new. “The Dust Bowl” was one of the first man-made environmental disasters caused by farmers tilling soil across American farmland. Leaving the ground exposed on this scale in the 1930s resulted in 200 million acres of land becoming permanently damaged. In response, FDR created the “Soil Conservation Service“ to combat the problem. Today that department is called the “Natural Resources Conservation Service” (NRCS).
🆘 To date, we have lost ⅓ of the Earth’s topsoil and ⅔ of the Earth is currently “Desertifying,” meaning the land is turning into a desert.
This desertification is the result of creating too much bare land. Tilling is a prime example contributing to this problem and is still the standard method of farming. The result is damaged soil that releases carbon into the atmosphere, instead of sequestering it if left undisturbed or with holistic farming practices.
“Our long-term prognosis on this planet if current practices stay the same is that our soil has only 60 years of harvests left.”–– Carbon Cycle Institute
That is quite the sobering number –– 60 harvests left before crops fail on a global scale. Sadly poetic considering 60 million Buffalo used to roam much of the US that was taken over by industrial agriculture. Did you know that 70% of America’s farms grow animal feed such as corn, soy, and hay?
Animal feed is primarily used to supply feed-lots that are unsustainable and contributing to greenhouse gases. The majority of the farms growing animal feed are not profitable and are subsidized by the government. Farmers are incentivized and given price guarantees for growing certain unsustainable large-scale crops. The result is our land turning to dust.
💡 How can we reverse course and change our farming practices?
For one, we can successfully use no-till-drills that do not damage the topsoil to produce crops. In other good news, we have all the knowledge we need to utilize living plants, whether on farms or in forests, to capture the excess carbon in our atmosphere and sequester it into the soil. There are prime examples that practices of regeneration can rebalance the climate. The Earth has the capability of restoring the integrity of the land.
For instance, John D. Liu is an ecologist and the founder of the Commonland Foundation. His massive undertaking began in 1994 to re-establish the ecosystems of the Loess Plateau, which was once the fertile cradle of Chinese civilization before turning into a desert.
The Loess Plateau was ecologically destroyed and called the most eroded place on Earth, covering 640,000 kilometers. Liu spent the years from 1994 to 2009 working to restore the plant life in this region that was essentially a complete dead-zone. The results are fascinating. After 14 years, 34% of the Loess Plateau was teeming with plants and wildlife. Since then, it has recovered further, and it is only a matter of time before the entire region is restored.
➡️ Chernobyl is another example of what is possible.
The area was abandoned after the apocalyptic level incident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR Soviet Union in 1986. To date, it is the worst nuclear accident in history. 35-years later, Chernobyl is an extraordinary example of nature’s ability to heal. David Attenborough’s documentary film “A Life on Our Planet” features the incident and resurgence of plants and wildlife on the Chernobyl site.
“Researchers have found the land surrounding the plant, which has been largely off limits to humans for three decades, has become a haven for wildlife, with lynx, bison, deer and other animals roaming through thick forests. This so-called Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), which covers 2,800 square km of northern Ukraine, now represents the third-largest nature reserve in mainland Europe and has become an iconic – if accidental – experiment in rewilding.”–– UN Environment Programme
💡 What more evidence do we need to understand that it is possible to rebalance our ecosystems and stop global warming?
At this very moment, leaders worldwide are speaking about the climate crisis at the 76th United Nations General Assembly. More people than ever are becoming aware that climate change can be not only addressed but reversed. Educating the public about this topic is vital if society is to overcome the most significant challenge we have ever faced. Now that we know the answer to solving climate change, the only question left is what are we going to do about it?
With the use of our precision airborne particulate monitors and samplers, Met One Instruments Inc. is dedicated to assisting scientists worldwide to understand the effects climate change and air pollution have had on one another. Thank you for joining us in our in-depth look at the latest news about Climate Change in 2021 and the practical, sustainable solutions available now to decide our outcome.
➡️ Would you like more information? Check out our reading and watch list below!
🎥 Watch “Kiss the Ground”
🗞 Read “Rewiring America” Book
🗞 READ OUR ARTICLE ABOUT HOW HEATWAVES– AN INCREASINGLY COMMON EXTREME WEATHER EVENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY– AFFECT AIR QUALITY.
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