Tackling Climate Change Incrementally

Len Rosen's picture

December 16, 2013 - By now if you are a regular reader you know I write a lot about climate change. I talk about how we need to curb carbon emissions. I talk about the lack of success with carbon sequestration. I talk about energy companies who in the future will have to alter their balance sheets to show unburnable assets.

I have often written about the need for a carbon tax or cap and trade system, or a combination of both, to be put in place in every country on the planet. But it seems that for most political leaders the future is not as important as the near present and the next election cycle.

That's why what is being proposed in this week's journal, Environmental Science and Technology, may make a lot of sense. A paper by an assistant professor and three MIT graduate students from the Engineering Systems Division and Department of Urban Studies and Planning, talks about a segmented approach to carbon emission reductions using smaller initiatives and policies rather than chasing the global agreement that seems to be very much a pipe dream these days.

In their paper they talk about the "various drivers of emissions and how influencing each can affect overall emissions." They also talk about combining segmental and global policy around carbon. In their view a hierarchical approach may be in order, one "that would involve capping carbon dioxide emissions, but then using these segmental policies to address particular areas of concern, where the market alone may not have sufficient foresight."

In reading the paper it made me start thinking of how to make the cause of carbon reduction sexier to more of society so that government doesn't look like the heavy in trying to institute a carbon tax or cap and trade policy. Although government would have to take a leadership role, other segments of society could also become forces for change in dealing with the challenges we face from a warming atmosphere.

So here are some of my ideas for initiatives that may keep political leaders in office while enacting policies that meet the challenges we face:


  1. Identify corporate players, NGOs and other community organizations that express interest in tackling greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Encourage them to meet and come up with their own strategies for GHG reductions through whatever means works best for them.
  2. Encourage those industry segment leaders already on board with GHG reductions to talk to others in their segment to show them how to make carbon-focused initiatives work.
  3. Have industry develop score cards on GHG reductions that become a measure of a company's success making them attractive to investors.
  4. Similarly develop score cards for individuals, families and small business to calculate and track their current and future carbon footprints.
  5. Create an "Academy Awards" and cash prizes for leaders within industry segments, and for individuals and NGOs who successfully tackle GHGs.


Through policies and initiatives like these we may put a dent in GHGs. Our politicians may sleep easier knowing they don't have to fear losing the next election because large segments of society will have accepted GHG reduction responsibility. And by backing initiatives with prizes and money, the old "greed is good" approach, we may create a groundswell of actions that will percolate across the planet.


Investing in climate change


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Thanks and please look at www.sustainabilityforever.org

Thanks for all your work, Len, and please look at www.sustainabilityforever.org for some innovative suggestions, I spent a year in Edmonton, and 31 years in Europe, where residents use on average only 20% of the energy/year that we do in the USA. During the course of that 31 years, I went from my heart stopping for 10 minutes while my forehead was being repaired under a general anesthesia at the Nairobi General Hospital, to a position on the faculty of the Swiss campus of Pasadena's Art Center College of Design only 9 years later.
To regain the abilities to walk, speak, remember, play tennis, ski, etc. I staggered, walked and jogged the 3.6 miles home from my first job in England (the accident had happened just outside Nairobi, Kenya) 92 times (=332+ miles), and used the oxygen-rich blood flow that resulted to rewrite how we might imagine the future, as seen on the website above.
How much time do we have to create the world's first 100% sustainable global infrastructure? Where will the components of our genes, life's only form of eternal life in our infinite, non-big bang universe, be in 50, 500, and 500 million years if we do not shift off of fossilized carbon as our prime energy source? Can we all please stop fighting over petroleum resources, and shift our attention to the real battle, that of ensuring a perennially reliable energy supply to future generations, and our own genetic components, for as long as the Sun shines?

Quite the story and very inspirational

I am in agreement with you about getting humanity focused on the issue of a sustainable future and less on sacrifices in the present. I too experienced a life-changing event at the age of 20 when I sustained two broken legs and an 18-day long coma, waking up a day after I turned 21. It took me more than a year to get back on my feet but in the interim I spent the time re-evaluating what was important in my life. I think cathartic events make you realize the difference between existing and existence.

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