Introducing the Utilitarian Climate Blog

We're in a precarious state. The global economy is hurtling us toward an altered planet where fires rage, species vanish, hurricanes roar, and countless lives are affected. The Utilitarian Climate Blog proposes some ideas for a green and equitable future.

From an energy standpoint, the Earth absorbs heat from the sun and then radiates that heat back into outer space. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) trap the outward-radiating heat to warm the planet, reduce rainfall, and make weather events more extreme. We can only stop climate change by eliminating GHG emissions, which will require systemic overhauls in transportation, electricity, heating, material production, manufacturing, and agriculture. Countless technological innovations will be required. The human element makes global investment in education, health, and awareness just as important.

We haven't even begun to reduce annual emissions, yet are already close to many “climate tipping points". This is made worse by the reality of climate inertia, which causes a delay between GHG emissions and resulting climate effects. Cataclysmic tipping points, like ice cap melting or permafrost thaw, could accelerate climate change and forever alter the natural planetary balance.

Beyond drastically reducing our emissions, we need negative emission technologies (NETs) that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Some alluring NETs are actively removing carbon from the air, but these tools will be difficult to deploy at the necessary scales. Tree planting is an oft-cited biological NET, though a better approach is to more stringently protect and preserve all current ecosystems. Other ecological NETs might seek to enhance the carbon-capturing ability of the soil and the ocean, which play key roles in the planetary carbon cycle.

In a world where we do not get our act together, we will be forced to choose between living with the consequences or lowering global temperatures by any means necessary. Such last-ditch efforts would require fantastical operations like brightening/seeding clouds, distributing opaque aerosols, or laying out massive terrestrial or space mirrors. Any temperature reduction plan would be deservedly controversial and decidedly untestable. That these ideas are even being studied is recognition that we are not fixing things at the necessary pace.

In this blog, I will propose climate solutions that achieve sustainable goals along with co-beneficial outcomes. These ideas all build new perspectives on proven solutions and do not require new technologies for implementation.