Climate Action

5 solutions you may not know about that could help address the climate crisis

Governments and individuals can help combat climate change and solutions could range from taxing livestock emissions to spraying Arctic ice with glass.

Governments and individuals can help combat climate change and solutions could range from taxing livestock emissions to spraying Arctic ice with glass. Image: Unsplash/Markus Spiske

Stefan Ellerbeck
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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The Net Zero Transition

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  • Two new reports from the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) show the climate crisis is accelerating.
  • The UN says there is currently no credible pathway to limiting global warming to 1.5C, and the WMO says greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at record levels.
  • Governments and individuals can help combat climate change and solutions could range from taxing livestock emissions to spraying Arctic ice with glass.

As world leaders gather for crucial talks at COP27 in Egypt, the seriousness of the climate crisis is becoming clearer. Two new reports paint a stark picture of the urgency of the situation.

The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report 2022, says the world is falling well short of the Paris goals “with no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place.” It adds that “only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid an accelerating climate disaster.”

The report projects a 2.8C rise by the end of the century if current climate policies remain in place. If emission-reduction pledges, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are implemented, this will only bring temperature rises down to between 2.4°C and 2.6°C.

Responding to the report the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “We are headed for economy-destroying levels of global heating. We need climate action on all fronts - and we need it now. We must close the emissions gap before catastrophe closes in on us all.”

climate change GHG emissions gap global warming
Current emission policies will only limit global warming to 2.6°C by the end of the century. More needs to be done to combat climate change. Image: UNEP.

Greenhouse gases reach record levels

The UN’s warning comes as new data shows that atmospheric levels of the three main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide reached new record highs in 2021. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says between 1990 and 2021 the warming effect on the global climate by long-lived greenhouse gases rose by nearly half. Carbon dioxide represented around 80% of that increase.

The WMO adds that methane concentrations in the atmosphere saw the biggest year-on-year jump since systematic measurements began nearly 40 years ago. Methane is the second biggest contributor to global warming and its concentration in the atmosphere has risen dramatically since 2007.

A graph showing methane mole fraction levels from 1985-2020 climate change crisis
Levels of methane in the atmosphere have risen dramatically since 2007, pointing to a scaling climate change crisis. Image: WMO.

5 unusual climate change solutions

Countries around the world are investigating possible solutions to help mitigate as well as adapt to the effects of global warming. Here are some ideas that could make a difference.

1. Livestock taxes

The government of New Zealand is proposing a scheme to make farmers pay for emissions emanating from livestock. The plan will include methane, which is produced when sheep and cows expel excess air into the atmosphere, Reuters says. The country has around 36 million sheep and cattle, and nearly half of its emissions come from agriculture, mainly in the form of methane.

The proposal will provide financial incentives for farmers to use new technology that can reduce these emissions. The money farmers pay will be reinvested into the agriculture sector. The plans have faced criticism from some farming groups and are currently in a consultation period prior to going before parliament for approval.

2. Carbon permits, not carbon offsets

Carbon offsetting has become a popular way for companies to invest in environmental projects to compensate for their emissions. However, this means they can continue emitting, and the amount of transparency around the practice can vary due to the different rules and standards of carbon registries.

Non-profit Climate Vault has adopted a different approach. It buys carbon permits with the help of donors to ensure major emitters can’t use them. “Because the number of permits is capped, keeping them off the market decreases CO2 emissions and provides a quantifiable, verifiable offset,” the organization explains. It is also investing in carbon removal technology companies to tackle climate change.


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

3. Portable utilities boxes

Climate change is affecting the availability of quality fresh water both for drinking and irrigation. More than two billion people worldwide don’t have reliable supplies of safe water, and nearly a billion lack access to energy.

OffGridBox is on UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s open innovation platform that creates bridges for entrepreneurs to connect to the investors, corporate partners. The project uses technical innovation to provide clean water and renewable energy to populations experiencing the worst effects of climate change.

The portable all-in-one system can pump water, desalinate it for drinking and irrigation, and use solar energy to power agricultural systems and equipment. It can also be used to help agroforestry projects working to combat desertification and provide food for local communities.

OffGridBox provides clean water and power to communities impacted by climate change.
OffGridBox provides clean water and power to communities impacted by climate change. Image: WEF

4. Protecting Arctic ice from climate change

The California-based Arctic Ice Project has spent more than a decade researching solutions to slow the Arctic ice melt. The non-profit group is developing hollow glass beads that can reflect the sun’s rays away from summer ice.

“By spreading a thin layer of reflective, ecologically stable hollow glass microspheres in strategic areas of the Arctic where ice is formed and where it begins to melt, we can slow the melt and help stave off the worst of climate change risks while the rest of the world decarbonizes.”

5. Making more of mining waste

Researchers in the United States are exploiting ways of using mineral waste from mines to suck CO2 out of the air. The MIT Technology review says this could include the most common form of asbestos, Chrysotile. When this reacts with CO2, it produces materials like Magnesite which can lock away the gas.

MIT says the carbon-capturing technique could also work with the magnesium and calcium-rich by-products of copper, nickel, diamond and platinum mining.

“Decarbonizing mines in the next decade is just helping us to build confidence and know-how to actually mine for the purpose of negative emissions,” Gregory Dipple, a Professor at the University of British Columbia, told MIT.

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