No matter where you stand on the climate change debate, we all want clean air, land, and water. Just in time for Earth Day on April 22, Bill Pekny shares five shifts in thinking that can help us to better fight pollution and create a cleaner world in ways we can all get behind.
There’s no better time to think about preserving the beauty and wonder of our natural world for future generations Than Earth Day. While progress is often stymied by polarizing debates, clean air and water should be a priority for everyone. That’s why Bill Pekny is so determined to bring people together, despite potential disagreements, to work toward some common environmental goals.
“We all want to pass on a clean and healthy world,” says Pekny, author of A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary. Weather and climate are complex and easily misunderstood and misrepresented concepts. So, my goal is to help people gain a greater understanding of our incredible Earth-Atmosphere System and its miraculous ability to nourish all life.
The first step is to shift our thinking on some big-picture issues,. This will set us up to take productive actions that get positive results. Armed with a better understanding of climate terminology, let’s move forward from the debates and gridlock. Let’s focus together on positive approaches to realistic use of all energy sources and combating pollution with positive discussions. Here are five discussion ideas:
- Focus our efforts on pollution mitigation. All too often, we get caught up on reducing “carbon emissions” in the abstract, and it can distract from other more meaningful and realistic ways to fight air pollution. We’ve done a great job over the years to reduce the primary fossil fuel pollutants—soot, carbon monoxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and other volatile organic compounds—from vehicles and industry. Now, given our steadily increasing population, we need to do more to further reduce these pollutants.
- Acknowledge that carbon dioxide (CO2) is an invisible, clean, and non-toxic “greenhouse gas” of life. This airborne fertilizer greens our planet and generates food we eat and oxygen in the air we breathe. We need it to live. Water—which covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface—is a primary controller of the amount of CO2 in our air. Our oceans absorb (remove) CO2 from the air when it’s cold, and emit (release) CO2 into the air when it’s warm.
- Embrace research and development of alternative clean energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal fracking. But also be open-minded and critical about them until proven. What are the long-term environmental costs of these sources? While wind and solar are popular today, they are also intermittent sources of energy. As such, they must be backed up by traditional, continuous sources of energy or batteries. In either case, that adds enormous environmental and monetary cost to wind and solar energy.
- Recognize that nuclear and fossil fuels are a necessary part of the energy mix. By far, they are the most abundant, dispatchable, safe, flexible, continuous, and reliable forms of energy we have available to us right now. And most importantly, from a “cradle-to-grave” life cycle standpoint, they are also the most affordable forms of energy for keeping us cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold.
- Discuss a “big-picture” approach to managing Earth’s natural resources. For example, we must do everything possible to protect our forests and wildlands by minimizing wildfires and resultant smoke (PM2.5) pollution. While acres burned are down five-fold over the last century, they still remain a serious problem, as humanity further populates our landscape. We should conduct more controlled burns, manage logging operations better, and preemptively thin and remove underbrush that fuel wildfires. These are wise steps, since trees usually leave the forest in only two ways—lumber or smoke!
THE BOTTOM LINE: Humanity’s focus should be on using our energy sources wisely while reducing true pollutants on land and in our air and water. The natural beauty of our planet is incredible. My hope is that everyone will gain and enjoy a greater understanding of how we can work together to preserve this natural beauty for future generations.
About the Author:
Bill Pekny is the author of A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary. He holds physics M.S. and B.S. degrees from Georgia Tech and DePaul University, plus graduate study in physical meteorology and numerical analysis at Florida State University and the University of Utah.
For more information, please visit: https://twoclimates.org/.
About the Book:
A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary (Two Climates LLC, 2020, ISBN: 978-1-73493-960-6, Earth Day Sale Price: $24.59) is available from major online booksellers. A signed hardcover copy is available directly from the author (firstname.lastname@example.org).