This page lists the most important climate change and ocean change solutions and global warming remedies that are especially important for healthcare and other professionals to understand, adopt and promote.
The science is absolutely definite that only by reducing carbon emissions to zero (virtual zero) can we keep the global average temperature, climate disruption and ocean acidification from continuing to increase. Only zero emissions will stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (and ocean acidification) (IPCC AR5 2014). (see onlyzerocarbon.org)
This means that the most important climate change solution must be a total conversion from highly polluting non- renewable fossil fuel energy to safe, clean, zero-carbon, everlasting energy sources (sun, wind, waves, tides, geothermal). It is also necessary to keep using zero carbon nuclear energy.
For many years many reports on renewable energy have published showing we have many times more than enough renewable energy from various zero carbon sources to provide the today's world energy use. The 2013 latest is study published in Energy Policy – co-authored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and UC-Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi – analyzing what is needed to convert the world's energy supplies to clean and sustainable sources. It says that it can be done with today's technology at costs roughly comparable to conventional energy. But converting will be a massive undertaking on the scale of the moon landings. What is needed most is the societal and political will to make it happen.
Great population health benefit The population health benefit in cleaning the ambient air pollution would be great, and a great economic benefit.
Fossil fuel subsidies are US$Trillions a year (IMF). Achieving this conversion means our governments must stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industries, and redirect those funds to the burgeoning alternative energy sector.
Investments At the personal level, healthcare professionals can influence the shift to zero-carbon perpetual energy technologies through their investments. Moving capital out of destructive investments and into constructive, ethical and healthy investments will help build the political will necessary for shifting government energy subsidies.
Charge polluters pollution costs Supporting a tax shift — especially a carbon tax, which economists such as Sir Nicholas Stern believe is the most reliable way to put a price or "levy" on carbon — is another way that individual healthcare professionals can use their influence to help safeguard the health of patients and populations.
Most proposed carbon taxes are revenue neutral, meaning the additional revenues derived from taxing fossil fuels are applied to citizens as a reduction in their income taxes. Hence, taxes on destructive aspects of our society (such as fossil fuels, cars, carbon-intensive foods such as meat) are increased while taxes on the things we want more of (employment, family income, bicycles) are lowered.
What is the most readily available action for individuals and families to take that will most immediately improve personal health and the health of the planet in general?
Healthy Diet Healthy Planet
The answer is to improve our dietary choices and habits. A plant-based (vegetarian, or preferably vegan) diet is good for our health and good for the planet's health.
The benefits of the vegetarian diet to human health have been known for a great many years. Health professionals are well aware of the impacts of diet on personal well-being, but might not be fully aware of the impacts of diet on the environment, including its contribution to global warming. Global warming and climate change make the conversion from a meat-heavy diet to a plant-based diet essential.
Global warming, climate change and ocean acidification are the greatest sources of damage to the health of the planet (specifically, the life supporting biosphere) and they have a multiplying effect on other ongoing, pre-existent, global environmental degradations.
The basic science of greenhouse gases and global warming makes our approach to mitigation fairly straightforward. The science dictates that emissions of carbon dioxide must stop. In fact, all anthropogenic sources of all GHGs must be progressively cut.
The three main greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — are all long lasting in the atmosphere and, because of their sources, they are constantly being emitted. It follows that to stop global warming, it is necessary to virtually stop our industrial age emissions of these three greenhouse gases especially.
The greenhouse gas that everyone knows about is CARBON DIOXIDE. What we forget about CO2 is that over 30 percent of industrial carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the oceans, which have undergone rapid acidification as a result. Carbon dioxide is non-reactive in the atmosphere and about 20 percent of CO2 emissions will last in the atmosphere, radiating heat, for 1000 years. Global warming therefore cannot be stopped without stopping the emission of carbon dioxide — what we call "zero carbon emissions."
METHANE (CH4) is chemically reactive in the atmosphere and lasts only about 12 years, but over this period of time its heating capacity is approximately 100 times that of carbon dioxide. (The IPCC figure is 72 times the heat-forcing effect of carbon dioxide over 20 years.)
To add to the importance of methane, the global warming caused by methane emissions does not stop at 12 years because it is oxidised to other greenhouse gases: water vapour, ozone and, notably, carbon dioxide. In order of importance, the sources of methane emissions are wetlands, fossil fuels, landfills, ruminant animals, rice paddies and biomass combustion. Therefore industrial and agricultural emissions of methane have to be controlled in order to stop global warming.
NITROUS OXIDE lasts in the atmosphere for over 100 years, and is approximately 300 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Atmospheric levels of nitrous oxide have risen by more than 15 percent since 1750, and about a third of current N2O emissions are anthropogenic, stemming from synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, the chemical industry, the manure of cattle feedlots, fossil fuel burning, and fugitive emissions from the natural gas industry. Nitrous oxide also causes ozone depletion, and is now considered the single most important ozone-depleting substance.
Ozone depletion exacerbates global warming, and vice versa, which is a potentially deadly synergy.
Generally speaking, and to make things simple, there are two broad sectoral origins of greenhouse gas emissions, both of which emit the three main greenhouse gases.
1. Fossil Fuel Energy Production
The sector that immediately comes to mind is the production of energy by fossil fuel combustion. This, of course, involves heating and air conditioning for homes and buildings, energy for the various forms of transportation, and energy for industry and manufacturing. Fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) emit carbon dioxide and to some extent methane and nitrous oxide in their production and combustion.
2. Food Production
The other sector in this broad division, which receives little attention, is industrial food production. After fossil fuel combustion, another significant source of carbon dioxide emissions is deforestation. Most of the deforestation nowadays results from clearing forests for livestock pasture. The industrial food production system is also a major direct cause of carbon dioxide emissions from, for example, transportation, the slaughter industry, refrigeration. A big source of methane is the gut of ruminant livestock, with cattle very much predominating. Animal manure emits ammonia, which is converted in the air to the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Furthermore, industrial chemical-intensive agriculture relies on nitrogen fertilizers, which are a big source of nitrous oxide.
This situation persists unabated as the Western habit of a meat / animal-based diet becomes globalized.
The two largest sources of chronic diseases in industrial civilization (fossil fuel pollution and poor diet) are the same two sectoral sources of the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. This "coincidence" allows physicians and other healthcare professionals to take the lead in promoting a plant-based diet as one of the best climate change solutions.
Although the majority of citizens in the developed nations of the world acknowledge the reality of global warming and the seriousness of climate change, a very large proportion of citizens remain poorly informed and confused on the science. Therefore leadership on climate change solutions is urgently required — and this opportunity is salient for all of the professions and all leading institutions.
The healthcare professions have the greatest natural opportunity to assist in the response to global warming and climate change.
By happy coincidence, the factors for improving personal and population health (not to mention ecosystem health and sustainable economic prosperity) are also the factors for mitigating against global warming and climate change. What is best for our health is now essential for the health of the planet. And what is best for our health is now also essential for the survival of huge populations of the most climate change vulnerable and for the survival of future generations.
Please promote the above solutions for reaching zero carbon and an end to global warming, climate change and ocean acidification.
We need to broadcast the fact that in all aspects of all measures to mitigate global climate change,
CLIMATE HEALTH IS HUMAN HEALTH.