How to reverse climate change is possibly the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Fortunately, there are amazing brains around the world tackling the problem from every angle.
Here are 6 of the best (and most unusual) solutions from the BBC series “39 Ways to Save the Planet.”
1. Educate girls
Worldwide, there are 5.5 million more girls than boys of primary school age who are not receiving an education (Source: UNICEF, March 2020) (Photo: Amelia Flower @ameliaflower)
Improving education around the world might seem like an obvious proposition. But increase particularly girls’ access education not only brings social and economic benefits, it also helps combat climate change.
This is partly because young women start having children later if they stay in school longer. If all girls completed secondary school, by 2050 there would be 840 million fewer people in the world than is currently forecast.
It’s true that when it comes to climate change, the issue of population can be contentious – people in poorer countries leave a tiny carbon footprint compared to those in rich countries. But with the planet’s resources under pressure, population growth is a big issue.
Studies suggest that increasing the number of women in their nations’ legislative bodies can result in stricter climate policies and fewer emissions. (Photo: Amelia Flower @ameliaflower)
However, girls’ education is much more than a population statistic. Women who get involved in work, business and politics could be the secret to pushing for climate protection.
Studies suggest that putting more women in charge could result in better climate policies. How? Women leaders tend to heed scientific advice, as evidenced by the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, many charitable organizations are providing significant funding for education – and they are paying off. Around the world, the proportion of girls in education is increasing, with countries like Bangladesh increasing girls’ school enrollment from 39% in the 1980s to almost 70% today.
2. Bamboo: not just food for pandas
Bamboo is actually a herbaceous tree. (Photo: Rohan Dahotre @rohandahotre)
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world. It can grow up to a meter a day and absorbs carbon from the atmosphere much faster than other trees. Engineered bamboo can be stronger than steel.
All these qualities make it a super ecological material for the construction of furniture and buildings.
In China, bamboo used to be considered “the wood of the poor”, but now its image is being transformed. Bamboo-based products can serve as a sustainable, low-carbon alternative to steel, PVC, aluminum, and concrete.
Planting bamboo can prevent erosion and reduce the risk of flooding. (Photo: Rohan Dahotre @rohandahotre)
Planting bamboo also has other ecological benefits: tends to be resistant to pests as well as improve soil fertility, prevent erosion and reduce the risk of flooding.
Arief Rabik runs the Indonesian Bamboo Environment Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to reclaiming land and sequestering carbon with its 1,000 “bamboo villages” program.
Each settlement will be surrounded by about 20 square kilometers of bamboo forest, mixed with crops and livestock. Rabik seeks to expand the idea to nine more countries.
“In combination, they will absorb and remove one billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year,” he says.
3. Laws to combat polluters
Weather allies can be found in the most unexpected places. (Photo: Rohan Dahotre @rohandahotre)
More and more climate advocates are turning to the strong arm of the law to combat climate change. In fact, the legal system is one of the most powerful weapons available to maintain control over polluting companies and governments.
Recently, a court in the Netherlands ruled that the oil giant Shell is legally bound to reduce its emissions and align its policies with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, a case that set a precedent.
And it’s not just environmental laws that come to the rescue. Crafty lawyers are getting creative, based on human rights laws, labor laws and even business laws to combat climate change.
In 2020, an investment group with just $ 35 in assets managed to stop the construction of a coal plant in Poland. How? The environmental group ClientEarth used its assets in the Polish energy company Enea and the power of corporate law to challenge the company’s decision to support the construction of the Ostroleka C coal-fired power plant.
The court ruled that the opening of the new coal plant was simply illegal and bad business.
4. Lurking for gaseous refrigerators
Safe disposal of old appliances can have extraordinary effects. (Photo: Dandy Doodlez @dandydoodlez)
Every refrigerator, refrigerator, freezer, or air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants – such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
But the cooling power that makes HFCs great for refrigerators tit also makes them nefarious for the world.
What’s more, HFCs are such powerful greenhouse gases – far more than CO2 – that in 2017 world leaders agreed to phase them out.
That measure alone is predicted to reduce global warming by 0.5 degrees.
However, the number of refrigerators and air conditioning units in stock is massive. As most refrigerant emissions occur at the end of the life of these appliances, disposing of them in a safe manner is critical.
Fortunately, all over the planet, there are teams of specialists who track them down and destroy dangerous refrigerant gases.
María Gutiérrez is the director of international programs for Tradewater, a company dedicated to finding, isolating and treating gases safely. They often inspect old warehouses and garbage dumps to find the faulty refrigeration units.
“Some people say that we are the equivalent of ‘ghost hunters’, but of refrigerants,” says Gutiérrez.
5. More slippery boats
Scientists are experimenting with robots that specialize in disintegrating barns. (Photo: Kingsley Nebechi @kingsleynebechi)
When it comes to world trade, a very small critters can be a drag.
Marine transportation is vital to our global economy -90% of all world trade travels by ship and this method of transportation is responsible for almost 2% of all human-generated emissions– and that number is expected to continue to rise in the coming decades.
Because we are so dependent on these ships, a small stowaway sea creature – the glans – is causing a big problem.
Ships with barnacles, limpets and other mollusks embedded in their hulls can dispense 25% more dirty diesel than “slippery ships” with smooth surfaces – which increases emissions and adds a whopping $ 31 billion a year to cost made out of fuel.
Robots that fight barnacles could help reduce emissions. (Photo: Kingsley Nebechi @kingsleynebechi)
To reduce all this friction caused by the ballads, experts are finding ingenious ways to make ships more slippery. These range from a special ultraviolet paint to low-scale electric chlorination, and robots that groom helmets.
The key idea behind all these strategies is simple: “prevention is better than cure” – that is, reduce the accumulation of silt and sea creatures Before they become a drag
After all, we brush our teeth regularly to prevent plaque build-up, so why not use the same strategy for boat maintenance?
6. Create a super rice
Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population. (Photo: Sarina Mantle @wildsuga)
Did you know that growing rice leaves a high carbon footprint? In fact, rice has the same ecological carbon footprint as aviation!
That’s because most of our rice is grown in paddy fields flooded with water to drown out rival weeds. But this water does not allow oxygen to reach the soil, creating ideal conditions for methane-producing bacteria.
Methane is a gas that, for every kilogram, can cause 25 times more global warming than carbon dioxide.
To combat this climate threat. scientists are advancing a rice revolution. They are breeding new varieties of rice crops that can thrive in dry fields, saving water, helping farmers and reducing methane emissions.
They have studied 650 new varieties from the International Rice Research Institute and are using the best strains in their breeding program.
It is expected that within a decade, most of our rice will be grown in a way that emits much less gas.
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The illustrations for this article were commissioned as part of the BBC’s Climate Solutions project and partnership with The Open University.
The artists are: Amelia Flower (@ameliaflower), Rohan Dahotre (@rohandahotre), Dandy Doodlez (@dandydoodlez), Kingsley Nebechi (@kingsleynebechi) and Sarina Mantle.
The article was adapted from the 39 Ways to Save the Planet series – which you can listen to here.
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