The Impracticality of Solving Global Warming

Andrew Kim, Staff Writer

For the past few decades, political activists have become more radical with the likes of the “Just Stop Oil” campaign which has taken activism to the extreme by throwing food at art, capturing the world’s attention. Although they may be fighting for the right “side,” it is these actions that completely undermine their campaign. And now, what these climate activists are fighting for, stopping the burning of fossil fuels as their names imply, may not be at all a realistic or attainable goal for a world that has dug itself too deep into the dependence on such fuels.

Going straight to the point, global warming is likely not a directly solvable issue as many smaller problems indirectly account for many causes of global warming. As EnergyPost suggests, “The problem is worse even than its scale alone suggests. It would be simpler to deal with emissions if they were all in one place, whether Manhattan or elsewhere, and in solid form. Instead, emissions are dispersed across billions of individual sources around the world. And they come from many different types of activity, from transporting food and powering electronics to heating and cooling homes and offices.” The scale at which global warming has become global, no pun intended, is massive, and even the wealthiest and most influential governments could not possibly have the resources to take care of such a problem. Junior Allison Herd states that she believes global warming and climate change are “pretty costly and I do not think it is possible to completely reverse.” While more optimistic, Sophomore Eric Coulon says, “I think it is possible to reverse, but it takes a lot more dedication by governments. Adding on to the unlikeliness of solving such a massive problem, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, stated in a CNBC interview, “You can have a cultural revolution where you’re trying to throw everything up, you can create a North Korean-type situation where the state’s in control. Other than immense central authority to have people just obey, I think the collective action problem is just completely not solvable.” He also said that “most individuals are not going to change their individual behavior in ways that make them less comfortable for the benefit of a global problem.” Gates notes the human side in attempting to solve such a significant problem that leads to more issues on the logistical side of solving a wide scale problem without the support or cooperation of the billions of people who are the main cause of that problem. Herd notes that “many people aren’t worried about climate change because none of its effects are being truly felt as of now which makes it so that we don’t have many efforts going into the future.”

Besides just scale, the root cause(s) of a problem must first be identified and addressed to have a chance at being able to solve it in a reasonable and efficient manner. Yet Freshman Chloe Chan and senior Zachary Bi have highly varying views on the true specific cause of climate change. Chan states that “pollution is the most significant cause of global warming” while Bi states that “rich people are the leading cause.” Even though scientists and experts may agree that the burning of fossil fuels is the most significant cause of global warming, it is so broad that any attempt at addressing this cause is immediately met with the overwhelming amount of varying subcauses like those mentioned by Chan and Bi. As EnergyPost stated earlier, there are too many technologies contributing to the burning of fossil fuels that replacing any single one will have a barely noticeable effect on the overall impact of global warming. And even these impacts are so interconnected that it makes it nearly impossible to mediate the impacts of global warming and climate, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stating that “the impacts of climate change on different sectors of society are interrelated. Drought can harm food production and human health. Flooding can lead to disease spread and damages to ecosystems and infrastructure. Human health issues can increase mortality, impact food availability, and limit worker productivity.” Without a sure root cause and 100 percent known impacts of global warming, it is pretty unlikely to be able to find a solution or to even begin attempting one of the most complex problems man has ever faced, yet ironically caused.

Even in the small chance that a specific root cause is able to be identified or at least agreed upon, solutions that have been proposed are not at all easy or simple. Some solutions include transitioning to renewable energy sources, implementing carbon pricing and taxes, increasing energy efficiency, and investing in research and development for new technologies. However, these solutions require significant investment and cooperation from governments, businesses, and individuals. Additionally, they may not fully solve the problem, as global warming is a complex issue with many interconnected causes. Another solution is geoengineering, which is the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract the effects of climate change. Examples of geoengineering include increasing the reflectivity of the Earth by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere, or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using artificial trees. However, geoengineering is a relatively new and untested field, and it could also have unintended consequences. According to NOAA’s Climate, “such methods could work, in principle, but many climate scientists oppose undertaking geoengineering until we have a much better understanding of the possible side effects. Additionally, there are unresolved legal and ethical issues surrounding geoengineering.”

Global warming and climate change are complex and challenging issues that cannot be solved easily or quickly. While various solutions have been proposed, they require significant investment and cooperation from various stakeholders. Overall, the problem of global warming may be too large and complex to fully solve, and it may be too late as the time window to possibly reverse its effects gets smaller and smaller.