The most sci-fi moonshot project going on right now isn’t the hyperloop—it’s the Great Green Wall. They are literally fighting a battle to hold back the desert with a gigantic created forest that cuts all the way across Africa. It’s like the Wall in Game of Thrones, but with heat and not cold. The African Union has been building it since 2005 (I don’t know how to get across how huge it is) and I love it and will always post news stories about it. Hats off to Senegal particularly.
Tag: climate change
Interesting new book for solarpunk peeps and environmentalists which talks about carbon drawdown strategies (because 100% renewable energy, even if it could be achieved, would not pull out the stuff that’s already in the air)—Drawdown, by Paul Hawken. Haven’t read it yet, but here’s some of what came up in the Vox.com interview.
Top of the list for reducing emissions isn’t cars or planes or making things last—it’s disposing of refrigerators and air conditioners when they get too old. 90% of CFC and HCFC leakage happens when the coolant system is starting to conk out and die. No big loss to get rid of that machine, which was already breaking down. If we can convince people to do that instead of trying to stretch it out (maybe because of cost, maybe because of a laudable but in this case misplaced desire to conserve), and can dispose of it safely, that keeps 90-100 gigatons of CO2 equivalents out of the air between now and 2050.
A carbon capture strategy I hadn’t heard of before is Silvopasture, which is farming trees and grazing animals simultaneously. In other words, your pasture has trees on it (sylvan). This makes you more money if you want to sell the trees. It keeps your animals healthier (cows for instance like the shade) and your land healthier. And it sequesters carbon. If you’re writing optimistic SF, maybe include domesticated animal herds in managed forests. (There are other direct carbon capture mechanisms being explored, but the the only method that is currently reliable is photosynthesis.)
Finally, peace has a carbon dividend. Wars are terrible for the environment, and not just in a “they’re bombing the land to pieces” way. Sometimes cynical people think “well, at least this is decreasing population” and think they’re being analytical and brave to say something so horrible. But they’re wrong. Wars use a lot of energy. Wars destroy ecosystems. Wars grind through every resource you can think of, even to move the soldiers and fleeing people around. Peace is much better for preventing global warming.
The next Massachusetts gubernatorial election isn’t until November 2018, but candidates on the Democratic side have started fundraising and forming exploratory committees. (On the Republican side, it’s assumed incumbent governor Charlie Baker will be the candidate.) One of the early declarers is Bob Massie.
There is probably nobody in the U.S. with more experience combatting climate change through legislative and business initiatives. (Executive director of Ceres for almost two decades.)
Also, he has had hemophilia from birth, so you know he cares about protecting people with pre-existing conditions. (Also, he was on the ethics advisory committee of Boston Children’s Hospital. Also, he’s an Episcopal minister, and this is core Episcopalian stuff.)
Also, he’s a Fullbright scholar who wrote the go-to history of U.S.-South Africa relations during Apartheid.
This guy, I’m telling you—check him out. His face is boring, but his biography is not. If anything, Governor of Massachusetts seems like too small a job for him.
Sonya says: I’ve heard him speak. Not a lot of flair, but solid intellectual content, which right now I am much more for than style. Also, that biography is ridiculous.
Romie: Yeah. If he was in some SF I was editing, I’d tell the author to split him into three characters. And even then, tone some of it down.
“Blood from human babies makes brains of elderly mice young again” (Alice Klein, New Scientist)
Are were sure this was scientists? Stealing the blood of Christian babies to inject into animal familiars so that they become ageless? Has climate change led to a loss of habitat for the witches who live in the woods and driven them into cities to rummage through our unsecured garbage cans and scientific journals?
Provocative headline aside, the thing that’s been discovered is that the enzyme TIMP2, which is present in umbilical cord blood but can be synthesized in a lab, might be able to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimers. My usual caveat: MOUSE STUDY. But this could be great news, and does not require vampires out for young blood.
The new film works by a process called radiative cooling. This takes advantage of that fact that Earth’s atmosphere allows certain wavelengths of heat-carrying infrared radiation to escape into space unimpeded. Convert unwanted heat into infrared of the correct wavelength, then, and you can dump it into the cosmos with no come back.
— “How to keep cool without costing the Earth,” The Economist
The Economist article explains the materials science in greater depth, and layperson-friendly vocab. But if you don’t have time to geek out (maybe skip getting dressed to free up a few minutes, geeking out is the best), the short version is, Ronggui Yang and Xiaobo Yin of the University of Colorado have figured out how to make rolls of 50-micron-thick polymethylpentene with 8-micron glass beads in it, and the way they interact with infared can not only reflect heat away from a building but can suck interior heat out, and turn it into a wavelength that can pass through the atmosphere and back into space.
“The team estimates that 20 square metres of their film, placed atop an average American house, would be enough to keep the internal temperature at 20°C [68°F] on a day when it was 37°C [98.6°F] outside.”
It requires no electricity. It’s passive. The manufacturing cost is 50 cents a cubic meter. That means that if you buy $10 worth of this film, you might be able to throw out your air conditioner. The Economist estimates that 6% of U.S. electricity generation goes directly to cooling systems.
They need to do more in-the-wild tests. But this could be huge.
THE UNCARING EMPTINESS OF SPACE COULD BE OUR FREON
I am a woman. Who is a feminist. Who is queer with straight privilege. Who is simultaneously a race traitor and an appropriating colonizer. Who is both an atheist and a Christian. Just last week, I literally advocated for a transition to full communism. A few months ago, you may recall I tried to help overthrow the U.S. electoral system.
However, the thing that consistently makes angry strangers appear to shout at me and demand I leave the internet is when I post about the scientific consensus on climate change and the need for legislation to deal with it.
I have to assume they know on some level it’s a real problem.
I have to assume they have faith that as long as they maintain control, they can keep me in the kitchen or out of the bathroom or whatever, and so I’m not scary. But the only way to get around climate change is to do the thing I’m saying.
Berta Caceres was murdered last year by a Honduran paramilitary squad, but you know what her dying didn’t change? Climate change happening. According to Global Witness, 185 environmental activists were murdered in 2015 alone – three people a week butchered as they tried to stop illegal logging and mining and drilling. People with money and guns didn’t like that. You know what’s still with us after their deaths?
Bullets can’t stop it. Screaming at strangers to leave the internet won’t stop it. There are no alternative facts. There is no spin that can save you. My conspiracy beats your conspiracy on account of being real.
If you think nobody knows what to do to stop climate change (and therefore you can sit tight not doing anything), you are deliberately ignorant. Here are some of the plans that have been in the news the past couple of years:
1. The Paris Climate Accords
2. The Global Climate Change Initiative
3. moratorium on drilling on federal lands
4. fuel efficiency standards
5. carbon caps
6. investment in clean energy
7. research into carbon sequestration
8. tighened EPA standards
9. funding for climate science programs at NOAA and NASA
There are literally hundreds of plans, and they have been well-publicized, including by “fuck Obama” types who hate them because Obama. They aren’t pie in the sky dreams of a science fiction utopianist; they are things that have been hashed out by politicians and by scientists in the agencies that would enforce them.
You’ve heard of these plans.
If you say you don’t remember, it’s because you’ve chosen not to. Also, I think you’re a liar.
Also, the guys getting rich off your stupidity aren’t going to share any of their benefits with you when you drown or your house gets knocked down or you can’t afford food.
Kate says: Thanks for being passionate about this. Apathy is tempting because it feels like a big impossible problem, especially for one person to face alone. It helps to be reminded that huge swathes of intelligent experts have plans upon plans upon plans and that millions of people recognise the importance of the work and want to support it. It’s so much easier to solve a problem when people are on board with the fact that it is a problem and there are workable solutions.
Romie: I appreciate your saying so. We will get big and loud together. Even if climate and the fate of all humanity weren’t involved, I think I’d be furious merely on the grounds of smug dudes trying to get away with making everybody else do the work while they coast. I’m not doing your damn dishes for you, dudes. I’m going to get the government to mandate you do your dishes.
Kate: Yes! DOWN WITH SMUG DUDES (which I typo-ed as ‘duds’ which is also appropriate)
Craig says: The Renewable Fuel Standard ratified in 2005 was created to reduced the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. However, the Renewable Program has faced a host of problems because it’s managed under the honor system. Hence, creating an environment suitable for credit fraud. I’m in the middle of creating a computer program to reduce or stop this type of fraud. However, trump is going to cut the EPA by 31%, this proposal is starting to have effects on the Renewable Program. A cut this deep will seriously cripple or destroy the program.