Mouth of the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska. Image credits: Sbork / Wikipedia.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report foretells an inhospitable Earth unless we drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Globally, people are already subjected to hardships caused by extreme weather events, such as blizzards, droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. Combined with the havoc overpopulation creates on finite disaster recovery resources, these problems are going to get significantly worse without immediate action.

Climate change is a natural event unnaturally exacerbated by humans, especially since the industrial revolution. There are dozens of high-profile causes such as agriculture, fossil fuel powered manufacturing plants and deforestation. However, the main culprits are 100 fossil fuel companies.

Outside of political intervention or attacking these companies’ bottom lines, it’s unlikely we’ll effectively curb that 71 percent. However, there are meaningful methods we can use to address the other 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Grow More Trees

Every minute, about 27 football pitches’ worth of forests are destroyed, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. The blatant destruction of forests, grasslands and mangroves creates significant amounts of greenhouse gases while simultaneously reducing nature’s capacity for capturing and storing CO2 and methane. The solution is simple: stop rampant deforestation and plant more trees.

The consequences of planting more trees are significant. Like most photosynthesizers, trees offer carbon sequestration and storage. With enough trees, we can achieve 37 percent of the greenhouse gas reduction target by 2050. That’s because one tree stores nearly 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in one year, according to a recent study by Scientific American. Furthermore, forests can store enough carbon dioxide emissions to equal the entire CO2 output of countries like Peru and Colombia, the Scientific American article states.

Image in public domain.

Carbon Capture Storage

Carbon capture storage is a necessary method to achieve the global greenhouse gas reductions needed by 2050. With carbon capture facilities, we can achieve 14 percent of the IPCC’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. That’s because carbon capture allows industrial manufacturers to prevent more than 90 percent of their carbon dioxide emissions from being ejected into the atmosphere.

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Green Cities

By 2050, medium-to-large cities will likely contain two-thirds of the planet’s human population, according to a National Geographic article. Currently, urban areas account for 76 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions, with buildings being responsible for approximately one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, the article states. These figures are likely to get worse as the population huddles together. However, cities committed to transitioning toward 100 percent renewable energy sources, such as San Diego, can significantly reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Plus, the National Geographic article theorizes that cities that “go green” and tackle climate change initiatives will also reduce pollution, improve infrastructure, and make their cities more attractive to residents and businesses. These energy renovations include solar panels, growing roof gardens, incentivizing electric and hybrid vehicles, and retrofitting buildings with triple pane windows and energy-efficient HVAC systems.

Stratospheric Aerosol Injection

A controversial climate change solution is stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI). Most climate solutions target CO2 at its source to prevent greenhouse gases from clogging Earth’s atmosphere.

Stratospheric aerosol injection takes the opposite approach by focusing on preventing solar radiation from warming the planet. The practice mimics what happens after strong volcanic eruptions, like the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

During an eruption, sulfur dioxide spews into the stratosphere and reflects sunlight back into space. In the aftermath of Pinatubo’s eruption, the Earth cooled by about 0.5°C.

The natural scenarios of SAI are limited in scope and scale, making it difficult to predict how a wide scale implementation would affect the world. For example, a Dezeen report points out that implementing SAI in one area improperly can trigger rain and extreme weather conditions in neighboring territories.

Despite these concerns, SAI has a high predicted success rate and the international climate research community is considering its implementation.

Eat Less Meat

Eat more veggies!

At an industrial scale, livestock production is among the largest culprits related to greenhouse gas emissions, air quality degradation, waterway pollution, deforestation and land use, according to the study “options for keeping the food system within environmental limits,” which is published in the journal Nature.

The study states that western countries must cut beef consumption by 90 percent to stave off the ill effects the agriculture industry has on climate change. In the average Western diet, meat and dairy provide 18 percent of calories and 37 percent of protein, according to a report by The Guardian. To produce enough livestock to meet this demand requires 83 percent of farmland and produces 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, by replacing meat with beans and legumes, we can drastically reduce the required agricultural resources while preventing more CO2 emissions than the entire transportation industry combined.

Climate change affects every single person on the planet. Soon, it’ll affect nearly every aspect of our lives. An unwelcoming climate affects access to clean air and water and harms biodiverses ecosystem that provide us with food. Add in overpopulation, deforestation and weak-willed politicians and we’re in for a challenging fight — but the fight can be won.

We each must make difficult sacrifices to promote a green lifestyle and hold toxic companies and governments accountable. Together, we can create a sustainable world. Our future depends on it.

This is a guest post by Morgen Henderson.