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PWS 180: Section 4

What can we do about it?
The worksheets, slides, and other materials for this section can be found in the Box folder (link in syllabus).

For the rest of the class, we will be focusing on how to solve climate change! Over the following weeks, we will carefully consider several proposals made by climate change policy leaders, including researchers, engineers, and organizers. This is a rapidly evolving field, and your creativity, passion, and knowledge will be central to making this part of the class as up-to-date and relevant as possible. Like always, be curious, skeptical, courageous, and charitable as you interact with the information below and your peers.
  • This week, we are going to do a deep dive into global-scale solutions to climate change. We are focusing on Project Drawdown's proposal of how to solve climate change while improving the quality of life of all humans. As always, take your time and ask questions in and out of class:

    1. Watching: (4 videos totaling 1 hour) Watch Units 1-4 of the Drawdown Roadmap. They are the four first videos in the VIDEO GALLERY part of the link above.
    2. Reading: The Drawdown Review contains the details for two comprehensive global scenarios that would mitigate climate change while elevating human society and conserving the ecosystems we all depend on. You can download the review from the Project Drawdown website or access the pdf in the shared folder. The report is 104 pages, but it is largely photos and figures.

    Bonus readings:

    Questions to guide (or at least to start) your reading:

    1. What is Project Drawdown (who started it, what are their goals)?
    2. What is meant by “drawdown”?
    3. What are the differences between "Scenario 1" and "Scenario 2" in their goals and methods?
    4. What values does this proposal contain (what explicit or implicit moral positions do they make)?
    5. What is the general approach they are proposing?
    6. How do they view technological innovation (e.g. is it emphasized, de-emphasized, ignored)?
    7. They use the phrases “Reduce sources,” “Support sinks,” and “Improve society.” How would you describe each of these overarching goals?
    8. What are the most important technological, societal, and ecological changes they propose?
    9. How much of a difference could these proposals make?
    10. What is the timeline of this proposal (e.g. when do things need to get done)?
    11. What are the costs of implementing the changes they propose?
    12. What are the benefits of the changes they propose?
    13. What political changes (e.g. governance, regulation, treaties) would need to take place to make this a reality?
    14. How does this proposal make you feel?
    15. Based on your reading of the proposal, how would you characterize the environmental ethic of Project Drawdown?
    16. What parts of the proposal were most surprising to you?
    17. Do you disagree with any of the proposals?
    18. How justified do you find the scientific and political parts of this proposal?
  • There are no readings this week because we have the second midterm.

  • This week, we are going to explore how to replace all fossil fuels with clean electricity.

    When considering solutions to air pollution and climate change, I think it is really important to focus on three factors:

    1. How technologically realistic and ready is the proposed solution? In a high-stakes situation, I favor “no miracle” solutions that are based on already existing machines.
    2. How financially feasible and economically efficient is the proposal? There can be a lot of missed opportunities and well intentioned but counterproductive plans when economics and financing aren't considered.
    3. How culturally and ideologically acceptable is the proposal? If it is largely non-ideological, it could be more broadly supported in our polarized world (e.g., who doesn’t want cleaner air and more high-quality jobs?).

    WARNING: There are few topics that spark more pseudoscience and misinformation than renewable energy (here's one from the political left and here's one from the right). People have really strong opinions about many of these topics that often have more to do with ideology than evidence. That said, there are plenty of questions left to resolve, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and disagree. As always, take your time and ask questions in and out of class.


      Bonus readings:

      Questions to start or stimulate your thinking:

      • What are the most common criticisms you’ve heard of renewable energy? Which do you think are justified partially or completely and which are disingenuous?
      • What is clean electrification?
      • How long do we have to halve our emissions to stay on a 1.5C warming trajectory?
      • What are “committed emissions”?
      • What are “negative emissions”?
      • How does Griffith view energy efficiency and conservation?
      • What are the major machines that we will need to decarbonize the economy?
      • How much would this decarbonization cost relative to the U.S. GDP? How much does that translate to per household or per capita?
      • Why does it cost less to transition quickly rather than gradually?
      • What would be the economic impacts of this transformation?
      • How much more electricity would we need to make to achieve this goal?
      • How many and what kinds of jobs would this proposal destroy or displace? Where are those jobs located?
      • How many and what kinds of jobs would this proposal create? Where are those jobs located?
      • How many jobs per kilowatt hour does renewable energy create compared to fossil fuels?
      • What should we do with fossil fuel companies and their workers?
      • What aspects of these proposals do you find most feasible and likely to be implemented?
      • What aspects of this proposal do you find most far-fetched and unlikely to see the light of day?
      • What weaknesses or blind spots do you see in these proposals?
      • Based on his plan, what do you conclude about the author's environmental ethic?
      • What differences are there between the plan for the U.S. and the plan for the globe?
      • What energy storage options are there, and how much storage do you need to provide grid-stable electricity?
      • How is the renewable revolution affecting U.S.-China relations?
      • What ideological conflicts could renewable energy bring to the surface in the U.S. and abroad?
      • How does clean electrification affect the global electricity and primary energy demand?
    1. As you go through the assignments below, think about how you can enhance your understanding and influence on topics of environmental importance. As always, take your time and ask questions in and out of class.

      1. Reading: Doctrine & Covenants Section 121. This revelation was given to Joseph Smith when he was a prisoner in Liberty Jail. It lays out some very clear and powerful guidance on what we should and shouldn't do as we seek to influence others.
      2. Watching: Cognitive Obstacles to Truth. This is a lecture by cognitive neuroscientist, Tali Sharot. She has done pioneering research on why we are persuaded by some arguments and skeptical of others.
      3. Listening: Breaking Down Climate Misinformation. This podcast by Amy Westervelt explores interactions between truth, critical thinking, and free speech when it comes to climate misinformation. Remember that you can find the same podcast on different platforms (Google, Apple, Spotify), if you have a favorite way to listen to podcasts.
      4. Reading: How Religion Intersects With American's Views on the Environment. This research by the Pew Foundation explores how people with different religious affiliations view environmental issues. Think about how this reflects you and those you know, and what it means for talking with friends with different beliefs.

        Bonus readings

        Questions to think about:

        • How much attention are we paying to the information versus the informant (i.e., person or group delivering it)? Should we be putting more weight on one of these, or does it make sense to consider both the claim and claimant?
        • What cognitive biases do advocates often exploit to spread their beliefs?
        • How does the Lord want us to share our beliefs about the Gospel (including our responsibility to care for creation)?
        • How much of the patterns in religious affiliation and environmental belief are causal versus correlational?
        • What things have you found to be effective and counterproductive when trying to correct misinformation?
        • When have others been effective at persuading you and why?
        • What are you going to do this week to better connect with those around you?
      1. You are now experts in global ecology and climate change. I have been deeply impressed by your mastery of such diverse content (atmospheric chemistry to behavioral economics!) and more importantly by your application of this learning in compassionate and Christlike ways.

        The following readings aren't required, but they are practical and inspiring. These readings cultivate hope in creating a community where we are less lonely and anxious. Our Heavenly Parents have commanded us to create a Zion society where we live according to the Celestial Law of the Earth to cherish and lift up all creation. Each of you has unique and sacred gifts that you can develop and share as you work toward this goal. Let us all prepare and work diligently while being careful not to run faster than we have strength. We are not alone. Indeed, those with us are more numerous and powerful than those against us. May we all cultivate affection and love for one another as we work toward a bright future.

        1. Reading (19 pages): Wendell Berry’s 2012 Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities entitled It all turns on affection. I felt the Spirit so profoundly as I read this essay, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and reactions. I added an afterward at the end of the PDF in our shared folder.
        2. Reading (9 pages): Leah Stokes’ chapter from the book All We Can Save, entitled “A Field Guide for Transformation.” I really like how Dr. Stokes brings together the practical, personal, and political power we each have to combat climate change. A PDF of the chapter is accessible in our shared folder.
        3. Watching (75 minutes): President Sharon Eubanks’ address and forum discussion at the LDS Earth Stewardship fall forum in 2020. President Eubanks brings her incredible spirituality, wisdom, and uplifting perspective to environmental stewardship. Additional insights from environmental leaders in the LDS community from around the world.

        Bonus readings


        1. Who have been examples of sustainable living and Christlike love to you? How did they influence you, and what characteristics did they have?
        2. Why do you think we so often use our wealth (our time, influence, and resources) for personal satisfaction rather than communal good? How can we change that tendency?
        3. What is the difference between “boomers” and “stickers” in Berry’s essay? Which of these groups is dominant now and do you see a trend toward one or the other?
        4. According to Stokes, how do personal action and policy interact?
        5. How can we expand our hearts to encompass all the human family and all creation?
        6. How do moral responsibility and affection interact to create or undermine an environmental ethic?
        7. How can we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints work together to reduce inequality and encourage sustainability?
        8. What does Klein mean by “sacrifice zones” and how can we eliminate them?
        9. In the face of such immense problems, how can we make a meaningful difference without getting overwhelmed?
        10. What are you feeling inspired to do today to begin magnifying your environmental stewardship?