The end of humanity is near!…or so hyperbolic media outlets VICE and Complex would like you to believe. A recent report from Climate Central, an organization that monitors climate change, found that Earth’s atmospheric carbon level breached 400 PPM. This number gets cited as the threshold for major global warming trends even though its largely symbolic. The current carbon crisis should not be thought of as a harbinger of apocalypse but a challenge for innovators.
Economic analysis emphasizes substitution as a possible solution to change outcomes. The first step towards ameliorating our atmospheric carbon problem relies on the act of substitution. A classic example of substitution occurred with tinfoil, which was quietly replaced by aluminum when the cost of tin cut too heavily into profit margins and an alternative was needed.
Carbon intensive energy consumption is gradually being phased out. Environmentalists may argue that it’s not fast enough but regulation and cronyism are further slowing that transition. Alternative energy sources like wind and water do exist and are continuing to grow their market share as technological advances make greater energy production viable.
Substitution is already in process in many countries as a means to reduce our carbon footprint. The next step is to look toward innovation, not just in reducing our footprint, but in cutting existing pollution levels. Enter a multitude of private firms whose futuristic technologies read like a page out of an old science fiction novel.
According to the Guardian, documents show technologies harvesting atmospheric carbon from the air to reuse in everything from soda to new energy sources. Other technologies include a new kind of concrete that sequesters, or captures, carbon which would completely revolutionize one of our most environmentally damaging and polluting industries: construction.
Across many industries, there are constant new innovations and discoveries being rolled out to reduce the negative impact of humanity on the environment. Too many people underestimate innovation, leading to undue faith in political agendas. An entrenched pessimism within the environmental movement has been betting on human failure for well over a century. Ever since 1798, with Malthusianism (the idea that humanity will outstrip its resources and perish), these ideas get continually proven wrong as humanity continues to prosper.
Throughout the 1990s, many environmentalists warned of impending doom because of the hole in the o-zone layer. However, a National Geographic article reported that innovation, shifts in technology, and public pressure to stop producing CFC’s contributed to healing. There are many environmental problems but, to date, innovations have helped us out of many of the most severe.
Some may argue that innovation is not enough and that what is needed is state regulation and intervention to solve this perceived crisis. So far, however, these policies have been failures. Consider Beijing’s largely ignored driving ban, or the US foisting “Clean Coal” during Obama’s first bid for president,which was built on cronyism and political donations from the coal industry.
Yes, without a doubt, our climate is changing. But the fear behind it is not always warranted. The distinctly human capacity for innovation reduced hunger and poverty and greatly expanded our life expectancies greatly since the Industrial Revolution. Many industries may have contributed to the problem of atmospheric carbon, but a new industry will be what solves it.
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