We're Going to Fix Global Warming - Here's How

Nearly all scientists agree that the Earth's climate is changing. The burning of fossil fuels has caused the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to rise by large amounts. This, in turn, has caused the average surface temperature of the Earth to rise by about 1°C since the year 1900, with much larger effects on polar regions.

Furthermore, solving the problem is a lot more complicated than simply "cutting back".

What if the United States, Europe, and every single developed nation on Earth immediately cut their carbon use to zero? What would happen?

This would not be even close to enough. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been rising since the start of Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s. To prevent them from rising further, we'd have to cut back to pre-industrial levels of carbon output. This would entail a 90% or greater reduction in worldwide carbon use.

But even that is not enough. If the whole world stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, we'd still have to deal with all the carbon that we put in the atmosphere from the last 200 years. The climate would likely continue to warm for centuries before the carbon was gradually removed from the atmosphere due to natural processes.

Mainstream environmentalists are approaching the problem of climate change the wrong way. Many ordinary people tend to make small steps which are completely inadequate to solving the problem. It doesn't really matter if you recycle your yogurt containers or if you drive a Prius instead of an Ford F150. The fact remains that nearly all people in the developed world, and most people in undeveloped countries, are consuming far more than can be sustained. There are only two carbon neutral countries in the entire world: Suriname and Bhutan, neither of which are exactly thriving modern economies. Reducing consumption does help, but it is not even close to a real solution.

We can't rely on governments to solve the problem. Yes, a carbon tax is probably a good idea and will help reduce emissions. Incentives for renewable energy such as solar and wind power will help as well. But keep in mind that, even in the year 1800, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was increasing. Cuts of 10%, 20%, 50%, or even 80% won't be enough. And reducing emissions requires the whole world to cooperate. Current agreements such as the Paris Agreement have been an abject failure. There are practically no countries who are meeting their commitments.

Unilateral Action to Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere

Despite all this, I think there is a way to prevent and eventually even reverse global warming: unilateral action to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Unilateral: (adjective) done or undertaken by one person or party.

In other words, unilateral actions are things that are done by a single person or group that don't require cooperation or compliance from others. Any agreement which requires universal compliance is doomed to fail. Instead of begging for consensus, we should take unilateral action to solve the problem, ignoring people and nations who are too selfish to act.

Here's a tiny example of unilateral action. Since 2017, donations from JetPunk have enabled the planting of over 100,000 trees. Each tree will eventually absorb and sequester over 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. All told, these 100,000 trees are equivalent to about 50 times the lifetime carbon output of a typical American. This is obviously just a tiny drop in the bucket, but we are a small website. What if every company devoted a similar percentage of their revenue to the problem. We'd have global warming conquered in a hurry.

How many trees do we have to plant to offset the entire world's carbon production? According to the World Bank, all the humans on the planet emit about 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. To offset that, we'd have to plant about 36 billion trees every year. That sounds like a lot, but it's only about 5 trees per person per year. The Earth already has an estimated 3 trillion trees, so we really only have to increase this by a little more than 1% per year.

How much would it cost to plant 36 billion trees? Actually not that much. Currently, organizations such as the Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. National Forest Service are planting trees for about $1 each. In other countries, it's much cheaper. But assuming we pay full price, we could offset the world's entire carbon emissions for about $36 billion per year.

Here's some other things which are worth about $36 billion.

  • Twitter's market cap ($31 billion) - actively making the world a worse place
  • Harvard's endowment ($41 billion) - I'm sure they need another building instead
  • Jeff Bezos's divorce settlement ($38 billion)

But seriously $36 billion is only about 0.04% of world GDP. We can afford it. And we don't need China to help. Nor do we need the government to get involved. Nor do we need everyone to agree. We just need people who care to take direct action now.

Problems and Future Developments

Obviously, at some point, planting trees will no longer be a viable solution to climate change. Trees get old and die, and eventually release some of their carbon back into the atmosphere. New forests absorb much more carbon than old ones, and there is only so much land on which to plant forests. We will probably only be able to plant enough trees to offset climate change for about 100 years before we run out of space. And this ignores the challenges of acquiring land on which to plant, preventing deforestation, etc...

So while planting trees is one of the best thing we can do right now, in the future we will have to rely on other methods to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Fortunately, these are being developed.

Carbon Capture

A Canadian company is currently developing technology to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into fuel. Obviously, when fuel is burnt, it releases carbon back into the atmosphere. But this would prevent the need to drill for more oil, and could provide a sustainable substitute for jet fuel and other petroleum products for which there is no ready alternative. Furthermore, it's possible that this process or similar ones could be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it underground.

Other companies are pursuing technology to sequester carbon dioxide using algae. And while I'm a little skeptical of this personal sequestration tank, I think it's possible that we could use algae to sequester carbon at a much lower price than planting trees. All that's needed is a way to process or bury the algae in a way that prevents carbon from being released back into the atmosphere.

Update October 2020. Project Vesta is another project that aims to remove carbon from the atmosphere, this time using green sand beaches!

Ultimately, I am confident that one or more of these technologies, in addition to reforestation, will enable us to remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to return us to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. So stop wringing your hands about Trump, China, or that jerk speeding down the highway in a giant truck. If everyone who cared donated just 1% of their income and time to the problem, we could solve it. JetPunk is doing it. Why aren't you?

+14
Level 50
Aug 23, 2020
This is an interesting perspective- but sadly for every tree we plant, dozens are cut as well. With huge forests being destroyed, the overall effect is negated.But nevertheless, we still must try.
Also, I would like to mention a Bangalore based project Kaalink here. It can be directly attached to automobiles and generators, where it traps the carbon emissions and converts it into ink.
+1
Level 56
Aug 23, 2020
tbh i think global warming is the least of our concerns
+40
Level 50
Aug 23, 2020
Nope, if climate change carries on the way it is, the planet will become too dangerous to inhabit within a few hundred years, seems to be a big problem to me.
+1
Level 56
Aug 24, 2020
What is the point of trying to change something that almost no one cares about? Climate change and global warming are inevitable.
+4
Level 16
Aug 24, 2020
@TheRealGrantma It would at least keep the world inhabitable for longer.
+4
Level 53
Aug 24, 2020
We also don’t have thousands of years. We have ten before it’s too late.
+2
Level 49
Aug 25, 2020
Global warming spooks me. I imagine that in a few hundred years that most of the world is submerged by the sea.
+1
Level 70
Oct 14, 2020
While global warming and climate change are certainly important issues, some of the comments here don't seem to be anything more than fearmongering. Significant effects of climate change won't be felt for probably hundreds of years, not ten. Even the most extreme predictions put sea level rise at less than a meter over the next hundred years, and even in the most extreme scenario where there is no ice left on earth the vast majority of current land is still above water. And while sea level rise may be an issue in the future, a much more immediate concern is extreme weather events and climate shifts, much of which we've already begun to see: stronger hurricanes occurring more often, large wildfires, or desertification of previously tropical and densely populated places.
+22
Level 57
Aug 23, 2020
and what is the most important problem right now for us according to you?
+1
Level 56
Aug 24, 2020
Look at my reply to BanMeAlready's comment
+26
Level 67
Aug 23, 2020
tbh I think us caring for what you are saying is the least of our concerns.
+18
Level 68
Aug 23, 2020
Now that's a lotta damage
+4
Level 16
Aug 24, 2020
I didn’t understand this comment at first. Now I do and I agree lol
+15
Level 50
Aug 23, 2020
TheRealGrantma is incorrect in his subjective opinion , global warming and climate are one of the top problems, but the ad-hominem attacks by some jetpunkers aren't acceptable either.
+6
Level 71
Aug 24, 2020
You can't be incorrect in a subjective opinion
+10
Level 61
Aug 23, 2020
Do you want your descendants to suffocate in a couple hundred years?
+3
Level 49
Aug 25, 2020
Yeah, do you want the human species to go extinct?
+6
Level 16
Aug 23, 2020
It isn't the least of our concerns but it may be for you. What are your biggest concerns?
+1
Level 56
Aug 24, 2020
I think our biggest concerns right now (at least in America) are China, abortion, the upcoming election, the protests and the riots that are currently going on, and mental health.
+5
Level 16
Aug 24, 2020
I think climate change is worse than those. (And maybe the first one)
+2
Level 61
Aug 24, 2020
Hey, China is much less of a problem than global warming. If the polar ice caps melt, the human race is pretty much done for.
+3
Level 16
Aug 24, 2020
I know but I was comparing it to his other examples.
+2
Level 61
Aug 24, 2020
I was replying to TheRealGrantma...
+1
Level 56
Aug 25, 2020
Oh and also rape / sexual abuse and assault, those are also huge problems.
+3
Level 16
Aug 27, 2020
@ChineseChen Oh ok
+13
Level 58
Aug 30, 2020
@TheRealGrantma what do you mean with abortion being a concern? If you are so strictly pro life, why are you pro death concerning our planet?
+1
Level 56
Sep 3, 2020
@Nathaniel how am i pro-death about the planet? lol
+8
Level 48
Sep 4, 2020
Cuz u don't care about global warming
+6
Level 55
Aug 25, 2020
@theRealGrantma can't tell if you are being serious.....
+1
Level 56
Aug 25, 2020
I am.
+8
Level 49
Aug 25, 2020
You can't be
+1
Level 56
Aug 26, 2020
Why not?
+5
Level 48
Aug 27, 2020
Because if we don't do something about global warming we are dooming our future generations!
+3
Level 61
Aug 27, 2020
Hmm, focusing on our problems and dooming our descendants. Not a very good idea.
+3
Level 16
Aug 27, 2020
This should be on an unpopular opinion subreddit (preferably not the main one).
+4
Level 16
Aug 23, 2020
Great blog to plan against global warming!
+7
Level 57
Aug 23, 2020
Awesome blog QM sama. I'm really glad to see people caring about Global Warming and Climate Change so much. I'll make sure to share it with my school, class, family members and others so that they not feel like their actions isn't going to do any change.
Where I live, people aren't really concerned about Global Warming and stuffs because they don't have enough time to. In a nation with over a billion people living on less than $1 a day, surely can't give 1% of there income to plant a tree, though surprisingly a lot of people have done that. But I think more and more people should do.
My parents don't bother about climate change and says that even if we plant thousands of trees still we alone can't do anything. Listening to the same thing again and again, I've also started believing the same but this blog again brought hope in me. Hopefully we will be able to tackle climate change and Global Warming before it's too late.
+8
Level 50
Aug 23, 2020
People: India isn't concerned about global warming
India: Increased Area under Forest by 8%(of total area) since independence
2.42 billion trees planted in the Kaveri delta
Jadav Payeng , who lives with under $2 day planted 1,360 acres of forest alone.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
+6
Level 37
Aug 23, 2020
And what about this hahahaha
+6
Level 50
Aug 25, 2020
Interesting that @PakistanPunk could only find a 4 year-old news article, with little to no relation to global warming and climate change. Meanwhile...
+1
Level 37
Aug 28, 2020
@king eureka This is saying about deforestation in India and your link is about deforestation in Pakistan. Deforestation is increasing in all the world. I didn't appreciate my country but you did
+1
Level 56
Aug 29, 2020
I love the India-Pakistan wars lol
+1
Level 49
Oct 3, 2020
India Rules!
+6
Level 48
Aug 23, 2020
Really cool blog QM!
+6
Level 17
Aug 23, 2020
"Jetpunk is doing it. Why aren’t you?" *cries in broke*
+2
Level 61
Aug 23, 2020
What if the US spends their entire GDP to plant trees
+4
Level 51
Aug 23, 2020
No
+4
Level 50
Aug 23, 2020
They'd probably plant in excess of seven trees.
+21
Level ∞
Aug 24, 2020
If we look at U.S. government spending we would see that the priorities of the U.S. are, in order.
  • 1: Extending the lives of the extremely old
  • 2: Wars
  • 3: University administrators
  • ... a million other stupid things
  • 1,000,004: Fighting climate change
+13
Level ∞
Aug 24, 2020
But don't laugh. Your country is probably even worse.
+1
Level 61
Sep 3, 2020
The US government should work on extending everyone’s lives by plating trees instead of just worrying about millennials who will die anyways in a couple of years.
+2
Level 51
Sep 4, 2020
Why? What's the point of living longer? Once you get really old, you'll start to have mental & physical problems and won't be able to do much. I would want to die at 65
+3
Level 70
Sep 6, 2020
@Pandora49 come back when you're 64, we'll see if your opinion stays the same.
+1
Level 48
Sep 6, 2020
Pandora49 not necessarily. If you exercise and eat well, you can be very active later in life. I know someone who is at least 80 and they just painted their house. They also go golfing and bowling regularly.
+1
Level 49
Oct 3, 2020
Like Anthony Fauci
+1
Level 51
Oct 18, 2020
yeah I guess my number was too low, 80 maybe.
+5
Level 73
Aug 24, 2020
This might be a good moment to mention that most trees are cut or burned down for the meat industry. So there's another unilateral action you can take.

By the way, algae are awesome and will save our butts one day. We just need more time.
+1
Level 52
Aug 24, 2020
I heard somewhere that if global warming gets hot enough, (which, by the way, will be way before we start to suffer), it will reverse itself naturally. What do you all think of that?
+5
Level 82
Aug 24, 2020
Do you have a source for your dubious assertions? In any case, people around the world are already suffering from the effects of climate change.
+1
Level 52
Aug 24, 2020
Oh, and by the way, I also read somewhere that the 1990-2005 CO2 tests were inaccurate, and that the estimated rise in those fifteen years was O.4 degrees instead of 1.
+2
Level 61
Aug 24, 2020
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening.
+2
Level 58
Aug 30, 2020
Oh, and by the way, I read somewhere that the earth is actually a zucchini shaped plain. #flatzucchinisociety
+4
Level 76
Aug 24, 2020
Tbh I don't have an income...but I'm playing a lot of Jetpunk quizzes for the trees ;)
+3
Level 61
Aug 24, 2020
That’s the way broke people save the Earth ;)
+1
Level ∞
Sep 21, 2020
Only if you click on the ads...

Just kidding...

Kinda...

+1
Level 60
Aug 24, 2020
Where are Jetpunk's trees being planted?
+5
Level 61
Aug 24, 2020
Africa
+6
Level 78
Aug 24, 2020
The Missouri Department of Conservation sells numerous one-year old, bareroot tree and plant seedlings each year from Sept. through April. The costs range from .22 through .90 cents each, with discounts for bulk orders. In state shipping is $8, out of state is $10. You can download the catalog from https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/tree-seedlings/order-seedlings. Many families in my state earn money in the fall by collecting seeds to sell to the state nursery or local buyers - my kids used to collect red bud seeds, hickory nuts and walnuts, and acorns. Please don't plant nuisance or invasive species such as Bradford (Callery) pear, black locust, autumn olive, or gray dogwood. Some of them colonize and can eventually kill native trees and shrubs. Every time we find a Bradford pear on our property, our beekeeper friend cuts it and grafts a limb from our Bartlett pear onto it, providing flowers for his bees and fruit for wildlife (and humans) from a tree that doesn't spread.
+5
Level 78
Aug 24, 2020
Forgot to add that many other states have similar programs, too, and offer trees that do well in their particular regions, but we've always had good luck with buying from the Missouri state nursery and the website is easy to navigate and offers planting instructions.
+4
Level 48
Aug 31, 2020
Well, I have to disagree here. Even though 5 trees per person is not much, and these 36 billion trees is just over 1% of all trees, but these trees need to be planted somewhere, don't they? And you need this space for farmlands, pastures, houses. Also remember that not every vacant space on Earth is suitable for trees. You can probably plant 100 thousand trees, but 36 billion every year? I don't think so. And all this hassle just to keep carbon dioxide at current, already quite high level. Sorry, had to write that.
+1
Level ∞
Sep 21, 2020
You don't think that we can increase forest land by 1% by year? Of course we can. We just don't have the political will.
+1
Level 32
Sep 11, 2020
The sad part about this is that is wouldn't be possible for everybody to donate 1% of their income. People may not care, have money, or just don't know about it. The sad truth is that the people that don't have those issues should donate 5% of their income to make up for that loss. EpicQuizer123 is doing so why don't you.
+1
Level 49
Oct 8, 2020
If Jeff Bezos spent just 19.21137575421485% of his money, nobody else would have to pay.
+1
Level 17
Oct 20, 2020
Unfortunately, hes Jeff bezos and not bill gates
+1
Level 49
Oct 22, 2020
Well still, if Bill Gates does donates the money, it will be roughly 32.72727272727273% of his net worth.