Why you should care
A new climate change report sets serious deadlines for humanity to save the planet from catastrophe. But in every corner of the world, people are doing their part.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
The bad news is that a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rocked the world this week with a dire, science-backed pronouncement: Earth has already warmed to a worrying extent, and to prevent further, catastrophic planetary shifts humanity’s carbon emissions have to be cut in half in the next 12 years. While 100 companies cause 71 percent of global emissions — and real change has to start there — smaller players are already making positive changes. OZY’s series The New Frontiers of Climate Change focuses on those people and teams around the world who are coming up with ways to fight climate change and to protect us from its effects.
The good news is that from Bangalore to New York City, there are revolutions happening in renewable energy, reforestation and water usage. Keep reading to learn about some of the big ideas and success stories of climate warriors around the world.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
Seed money. Want to create a new forest? The traditional way involves thousands of people digging and reseeding by hand, but as Asia struggles with massive deforestation, some are placing their hope in drones. Teams in Myanmar, Thailand and India are working on programs that use drones to drop enormous quantities of seeds, and then monitor the new forest’s progress. High winds and battery life currently limit what drones can do, but as technology advances, they’re likely to play an growing role in fighting deforestation.
Dry death. Islands and coastal regions are often considered most vulnerable to global warming. But the most vulnerable nation is actually landlocked Chad, where 87 percent of the population lives in poverty and decreasing rainfall could devastate the agriculture the country depends on. The population has long depended on Lake Chad for water to survive droughts, but it has lost 90 percent of its volume since the 1960s. Now the country is fighting back, not with technology but with agroforestry and water-saving strategies that it hopes can revive the lake and stave off disaster.
Past is prologue. Fiji and other Pacific Islands are on the front lines of climate change, with oceans rising, seas becoming more polluted and extreme weather like hurricanes being an ever-present threat. Many islanders are looking to the past for a solution, turning to traditional methods to create weather-resistant homes, to grow bananas and to build solar-powered canoes to replace fossil fuel-dependent ships. Unfortunately, officials across the region say much of this knowledge has been lost — or that younger generations aren’t interested in passing it on.
Game on. In the 1960s, South Africa had three game ranches. Now it has about 12,000 — and while farmers caution that their primary motivation is still profit, the number of wild animals has also increased. As prices for livestock like antelope and buffalo rise, and hunting tourism continues to boom, game farming has grown more popular. That’s good for the environment too, as game farming is better than traditional agriculture at protecting the soil, maintaining genetic diversity and adapting to climate change.
If the cab fits. Sri Lanka, an island nation of 21 million people, has about 1 million tuk-tuks — three-wheeled vehicles used mostly as taxis across South Asia. Professor Sasiranga De Silva doesn’t want to get rid of them, but he does want to improve them with his conversion kits, which can turn a gas-powered tuk-tuk into an electric, battery-operated vehicle of the future. The problem is the process costs thousands of dollars, and there aren’t many charging stations on the island, which means De Silva will have to convince skeptical drivers that the change is worth it.
WHAT TO READ
Courage Before the Thaw, by Miranda Weiss in The American Scholar
“Most Americans think that global warming will harm other people but not themselves. In Alaska, the consequences are already personal.”
The Country’s First Climate Change Casualties? by Elaina Plott in Pacific Standard
“As the Miamis and Manhattans of the country face the increasing threat of sea-level rise, Congress will be forced to reckon with what makes some places more valuable than others. Is it history? Culture? Economy? The sheer number of residents?”
WHAT TO WATCH
Why We’re Heading for a ‘Climate Catastrophe’
“The good news is: Climate change is anthropogenic. Human activity is causing it. And that means we have the capability to stop it.”
Watch on BBC Newsnight on YouTube:
The World’s First Climate Change Refugees
“She said ‘I can’t blame Americans for wanting products, for wanting cheap things … but for you Americans to have your nice things … that all has an effect. And you might not feel the effect in America, but we will feel the effect here.”
Watch on CBS News on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Solar survivor. The frontiers aren’t just geographical, they’re also economic. While renewable energies like solar have long been thought of as something only wealthy individuals could afford, nongovernmental organizations in the U.S. are working to subsidize solar panels and get them into low-income communities that can benefit greatly from the tech and energy cost savings. It’s not just the hardware getting distributed either — solar firm GRID Alternatives has trained nearly 38,000 people to be part of the solar workforce in jobs like solar panel installation and maintenance.