During these last warm days of summer, how about some climate cooling? This unusual idea is being proposed by David Keith, professor of public policy and applied physics at Harvard. In an article in the MIT Technology Review, Keith says that reducing carbon emissions alone won’t be enough to stave off the arctic ice melt or loss of crops due to higher temperatures. He says that “geo-engineering” is one way to do this. This idea’s not without risks, however, and of course it is still untested.
The issue of climate change though is quite serious, and according to Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C World Must Be Avoided, a report by the Potsdam Institute commissioned by the World Bank, the scenario of a world warming to 4°C is likely in this century. It should be noted that a warming of 2°C is considered by many to be the “tipping point” for irreversible environmental damage.
While the effects of climate change will happen over time, here are the things that we know that are most likely: Greater droughts, loss of farmland, food crops will be affected by hotter summers, and oceans will rise. And what’s more, as noted in this blog post by the Washington Post, poorer countries will be hit the hardest and this situation can reverse many of the development gains we’ve seen so far.
So faced with this more certain and difficult reality, can cooler heads prevail and suggest some actions that developing countries can take to avoid some of these consequences of climate change? About 59 cities, under the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, have taken steps to cut their carbon emissions – Rio, where the Latin America Carbon Forum is being held this week, August 28-30, is one of them and has been trying a variety of innovative approaches under its Low Carbon City Development Program, which is the first of its kind in the world. It is a city-wide climate change mitigation program that covers multiple areas, such as urban forestry and transport, and allows Rio to plan, implement, and monitor low carbon projects and policies city-wide.
This program has inspired other cities to come up with their own plans, and while we wait for “blue sky” ideas like geo-engineering to take shape, these efforts can help stave off the worst effects of climate change—a challenge that needs urgent action now.
Photo Credit: flickr user Tony Fischer Photography