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.
Toggle ItemWeek 12: Project Drawdown. An ecologist's global plan to stop climate change.
This week, we are going to take a look at the global scale of how to solve 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:
- Watching: (1 hour 7 minutes) Summary of the Drawdown Review by Dr. Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown.
- Reading: The Drawdown Review by outlines a comprehensive global plan for reducing emissions 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.
We also have a guest speaker this Friday. Dr. Clark Pixton from the Marriott School is a specialist in global supply chains and business. He asked us to read the following short articles:
- Reading: Walmart’s newest sustainability initiative: CEO article and infographic
- Reading: Summary of a Harvard Business School conference on roadblocks to sustainability: article
- FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) report on Global Food Losses and Food Waste
- WRI (World Resources Institute) working paper on Reducing food loss and waste
- A nice nontechnical summary of the WRI report from Supply Chain Dive
- Great paper on transforming the global energy system over the next decades by Bogdanov and others.
- Two quantitative papers dispelling the myth that renewables can’t currently supply grid-stable energy for the globe (PDFs in shared folder):
- “Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’,” by Brown and others
- “Status and perspectives on 100% renewable energy systems,” by Hansen and others
- “Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes,” by Jacobsen and others
Questions to guide (or at least to start) your reading:
- What is Project Drawdown (who started it, what are their goals)?
- What is meant by “drawdown”?
- What values does this proposal contain (what explicit or implicit moral positions do they make)?
- What is the general approach they are proposing?
- How do they view technological innovation (e.g. is it emphasized, de-emphasized, ignored)?
- They use the phrases “Reduce sources,” “Support sinks,” and “Improve society.” How would you describe each of these overarching goals?
- What are the most important technological, societal, and ecological changes they propose?
- How much of a difference could these proposals make?
- What is the timeline of this proposal (e.g. when do things need to get done)?
- What are the costs of implementing the changes they propose?
- What are the benefits of the changes they propose?
- What political changes (e.g. governance, regulation, treaties) would need to take place to make this a reality?
- How does this proposal make you feel?
- Based on your reading of the proposal, how would you characterize the environmental ethic of Project Drawdown?
- What parts of the proposal were most surprising to you?
- Do you disagree with any of the proposals?
- How justified do you find the scientific and political parts of this proposal?
Toggle ItemWeeks 13/14: Rewiring America. An engineer's view of how to fix America's energy and transportation.
These two weeks, we are going to read one of the most comprehensive national plans to stop all greenhouse gas emissions from the United States. We are focusing on Saul Griffith’s new handbook entitled “Rewiring America.” I find this report especially important (and exciting) because of three factors. First, it is technologically realistic; it’s a “no miracle” technical solution based on already existing machines. Second, it is financially feasible; it integrates economics and financing in its considerations. Third, it is largely non-ideological, which could make it more broadly appealing in our polarized country; who doesn’t want cleaner air and more high-quality jobs? Consequently, this is a very broad-ranging report that integrates technical knowledge of finances, economics, and power production, transmission, and storage. I found the handbook to be quite readable, but it was helpful to listen to the podcast first and review with some of the bonus articles and video afterward. As for most good proposals, there is plenty to debate, so don’t be afraid to disagree. As always, take your time and ask questions in and out of class.
- Listening: (67 minutes) How to decarbonize America—and create 25 million jobs. This interview with Saul Griffith of Otherlab on the Ezra Klein Show provides an overview of Griffith’s analysis and proposal.
- Reading: Rewiring America Handbook by Griffith. This is the actual 145-page handbook. Pay special attention to the figures and summaries of each section.
- Reading: Article in “Medium” by Griffith called How do we decarbonize
- Watching: (11 minutes) Video on Griffith’s analysis
- Reading: Skeptical Science page on “The true cost of fossil fuels”
- Reading: Skeptical Science page on “Can Renewables provide baseload power?”
- Reading: Skeptical Science page on “Renewable energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels”
Questions to start or stimulate your thinking:
- What are the most common criticisms you’ve heard of renewable energy?
- What is Griffith proposing to do?
- According to Griffith, 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,” and why does Griffith not include them in his proposal?
- 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?
- 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 much more electricity would we need to make to achieve this goal?
- How many jobs per kilowatt hour does renewable energy create compared to fossil fuels?
- What does Griffith propose to do with fossil fuel companies and their workers?
- What aspects of this proposal 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 this proposal?
- Based on his plan, what do you conclude about Griffith’s environmental ethic?
Toggle ItemWeek 15: The end, the beginning
I wanted to end the class with two practical and inspiring readings. I finally settled on the two choices below, from two leaders in environmental stewardship and humanitarian service.
- 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.
- 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.
- Peer reviewed article by Bergquist and others on how bundling policies (e.g. climate action and minimum wage) tends to increase public support: Combining climate, economic, and social policy builds support for climate action in the US.
- News article by Hertel-Fernandez and others on the disconnect between voter preference and legislator perception: Congress has no clue what Americans want.
- Nontechnical coverage of Levin’s research on “super wicked” environmental problems and how to address them: Climate change is a super wicked problem.
- A compilation of essays in the book All We Can Save.
- An animated Sankey diagram showing the history of US energy use (summary of key points here)
- We read several transition reports already (e.g. Drawdown and Rewiring America), but here are two additional ones: