Urgently sought – ways out of the climate crisis
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Urgently sought – ways out of the climate crisis

Urgently sought – ways out of the climate crisis
> We have known for decades that the Earth’s atmosphere is warming and the climate is changing, and that this is caused by our emissions of greenhouse gases. Our mindsets, however, have remained unchanged and precious time has been wasted. Only now, with dramatic impacts becoming increasingly obvious, are leaders starting to make serious efforts to find solutions. They are forced to recognize that merely reducing greenhouse gases is not enough to keep climate change within tolerable limits.
Code red for people and nature fig. 1.4: Annie Spratt/unsplash

Code red for people and nature

> Climate change is now a daily reality. At least half the world’s population is already suffering the direct effects of global warming. Wells are drying up, heat levels are becoming unbearable, storms and flood waters are sweeping away goods and property, and already ravaged ecosystems are increasingly failing to deliver their services. The climate and nature make no compromises. For humanity, therefore, everything is at stake, for the change that we ourselves have set in motion is proving to be a potentially lethal risk multiplier.

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Solutions to the greenhouse gas problem? fig. 1.18: Perfect Lazybones/Shutterstock

Solutions to the greenhouse gas problem?

> Climate change is man-made and undeniably a consequence of the unchecked emission of greenhouse gases. Stopping emissions is thus the only way out of the climate crisis. There is presently an abundance of suggestions for how human societies can avoid a large portion of their emissions. However, it will certainly not be possible to eliminate all emissions by the year 2050, even if a great effort is made towards that end. Residual amounts will thus have to be compensated for by the deliberate removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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There is only one solution to the climate crisis –
greenhouse gas neutrality

With their emissions of greenhouse gases over the past 120 to 170 years, humans have caused global surface temperatures to increase by around 1.15 degrees Celsius. Because of this warming, many components of the Earth’s climate have been changing at rates that our planet has not experienced in thousands of years. The consequences of climate change are harming humanity and nature to an increasing degree and are slowly depriving people of their basic needs. Foremost among these are health and physical integrity, along with sufficient water and food.
All regions of the Earth are being affected by climate change. The magnitude of the changes and the consequences and risks for people and nature, however, vary from one region to another. The increasing occurrence of extreme events presents a particular danger. If heat waves, heavy rains, severe storms, droughts or floods occur simultaneously, the overall risk is multiplied and it becomes more difficult for people and nature to respond effectively. Climate change also magnifies the risks of other man-made stressors such as environmental degradation, resource over-exploitation and urbanization, further curtailing the adaptive capacities of all inhabitants of the Earth.
Every additional tenth of a degree of warming provides climate change with more momentum. This means that the magnitude and the extreme rate of the changes, as well as the consequences and risks, increase with every added temperature rise. Escalation of the climate and biodiversity crises can only be addressed through effective adaptive measures, along with avoidance of any further greenhouse gas emissions (greenhouse gas neutrality).
Even with very ambitious climate policies, climate scientists assume that the international community will still be emitting residual greenhouse gases in the middle of the 21st century including carbon dioxide residues, but especially methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO2). These hard-to-eliminate residual emissions are generated by cement and steel production, aviation and heavy-duty transport, but also by agriculture and the burning of waste.
To stop global warming, the residual emissions will have to be offset. This will require equal amounts of carbon dioxide to be removed from the atmosphere, and feasible ideas exist for achiev- ing this. They focus either on the expansion of natural carbon sinks or are based on technological approaches. Furthermore, the capture methods are classified according to the time frame in which the carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and by the scale at which they can be applied.
In many cases, however, the possible risks associated with a given method are not clear, particularly the costs and whether the necessary technology is sufficiently developed and ready to be employed. Thus, elementary knowledge is lacking for measures that will soon need to be carried out at industrial scale to achieve the goal of greenhouse gas neutrality in the future. One thing is certain: Measures to remove carbon dioxide can never be used as an excuse to continue the avoidable emission of greenhouse gases because, ultimately, every single tonne of carbon dioxide avoided counts in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises.