• Thomas Schwarzenfeld

I am not afraid of the future!

Updated: Feb 29

Humanity is facing its biggest challenge: Climate change!

...but I am not afraid!

The world is fine. We are the ones who are going to be extinct!

When scrolling through social media and listening to politicians like Donald Trump or, if you are German, to Angela Merkel or Christian Lindner, you might conclude that jumping off the next bridge would be the best answer to coping with the doom of humanity.

The scale of the challenges we face and the need to find solutions in the coming decade or two seems to be so unimaginably gargantuan. At the same time, the ignorance, selfishness, and stupidity of our fellow humans seem to make finding a solution impossible.

But I am not afraid. And I am not less scareable than everybody else.

For me the biggest challenge humanity faces is climate change.

All other challenges like inequality, erosion of democracy, plastic pollution of the seas and the decline of insects and other species are irrelevant if we don’t solve climate change. If your house is on fire you don’t start fixing the broken doorbell.

Climate change will cause the most direct threat to everybody’s life and I am not talking about milder winters and hotter summers. More than one billion people will lose their homes due to rising sea levels, destruction of arable land and other effects of climate change. And with their homes and food sources, they will also lose trillions in wealth and their livelihood. That will lead to involuntary mass migrations of poor people.

We, the richer New Yorker, Berliner or Scandinavian, will be able to deal with most of the effects of climate change with a little adjustment if we would stay among ourselves. And I also don’t think that climate change will bring us, the rich in the northern hemisphere, much food shortage. We know how to build greenhouses and the land we lose in California and the midwest will be gained in Canada and Alaska. For the Europeans, who will lose Spain, southern Italy, and parts of East-Germany it will be Siberia that will open new land for agriculture.

Mass migration and its consequences will be the greatest threat to us posed by climate change. This will tear societies apart, fuel xenophobia and nationalism. It will severely limit the livable space for each of us and drive the cost of living to unimaginable heights.

The next decades will test our humanity in an unprecedented way. Already today, tens of thousands of refugees die every year on their way to Europe in the Mediterranean sea and south of the US border while we, the people from the north stay silent.

And today we see a few million refugees, not the billions that are going to come.

Congratulations! You managed to read a lot of devastating things without giving up and you might be asking yourself: why is he still not afraid?

The reason I am not afraid, what doesn’t mean I am not concerned, is history and my trust in the ingenuity of our species.

History not only teaches us what worked well, what went horribly wrong and the signs of foreshadowing doom. History also teaches us about the incredible creativity and resilience of humankind, the dominating mammals on planet earth.

It took us almost 30 million years to come up with the first tools and another 10 million until we started to use fire. It still took one million years to get dressed, but only ten thousand years from the first clothes to the first boat. And from the first time we used iron to the invention of the wheel it only took us 500 years.

Since then we have invented uncountable things and technologies at an ever-increasing speed. Concrete, religion, writing, electricity, guns, cars, airplanes, abstract art and in 1982 the IBM PC.

And from there on things only got faster again. We invented GPS, the CD-Rom, PowerPoint (not humanity’s best invention) and the Internet before the millennium - which started us off on horseback and without central heating, came to an end.

In the last 10 years, humans invented such things as cloning mammals, smartphones, self-driving electric cars, reusable rockets, crisper and artificial intelligence.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to save humanity from extinction. Just for clarification: the earth doesn’t need to be saved. She’s recovered from much worse things than the human-made climate disaster. She will be fine and start over again with evolution once we’ve finally managed to drive ourselves to extinction.

Climate change is a symptom, not the cause. The cause is excess CO2 in the atmosphere. And it makes not difference if you believe it's manmade or not. It’s irrelevant who caused the problem.

The question is: what’s the solution?

Stop the emission of CO2 and remove the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.

Today renewable energy production is cheaper than any other form of energy production. Until 2025 the amount of energy produced from renewable sources will double while their prices will decrease by 45%. (www irena.org)

If we keep up this pace, we can produce far more renewable energy than we need within the next 15 to 20 years. That would solve the core issue, by almost completely eliminating further CO2 emissions, but it does not repair what is already damaged. In order to buy ourselves time (20 years is a long time after all), and to reverse the worst effects of the already emitted CO2, we need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

The technologies we need to come up with to stop climate change and stabilize the world climate are:

  1. A source that can provide renewable energy at night, in winter and when there is no wind, for under 2 US Cent per kWh. This could be either a cheap and large energy storage systems. Or a baseload electricity production device, using renewable energy sources like currents, waves, ocean tides or thermal energy. Sources that are not directly influenced by weather, sunlight or seasons.

  1. A technology that can capture CO2 from the air and store it, or even better transform it back into an energy source like fuel. Doing this does not need to be super energy efficient, as renewable energy is already almost free at certain times and the more we produce the more free surplus energy we will have.

By solving these two problems within the next 10 years we can solve all the other problems that come with climate change.

Instead of waiting for governments around the world to get their act together and instead of trying to change the behavior of billions of people, all of which first need to be educated to understand why they should change, I suggest we start inventing.

Creativity and ingenuity have always been the strong side of the homo sapiens. So let’s use the advantage of our species and get shit done.

In the next post, I will lay out a plan, detailing how we can accelerate the speed of innovation in order to achieve the goal of solving the climate change problem within the next 20 years.

Please let me know, in the comments below, what you are working on that could contribute to the goal of solving the climate change and what kind of help you need.

And if you have any ideas for technologies we might need, or if you heard about new research results of technologies that could help us reach our goal please let me know.

And here are some interesting and some how related reads:

#climatechange #earth #UNSDG #renewableenergy


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