Climate change poses an existential threat.
The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it’s too late to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. At this point, our best-case scenario is to develop technologies to adapt to an altered climate rather than prevent it entirely.
By expanding our space budget to match defense funding, we can develop technology such as synthetic farming, hydrogen-based fusion power and advanced carbon-capture systems.
The first space race launched the single greatest leap in technology humanity has ever seen using only 5% of the federal budget. By creating another leap — this time with over 30% of the federal budget — we may hope to find a technology to save civilization.
It’s time to return to the stars — not to leave our planet but to save it. The real threat of climate change is not due to a lack of solutions, but because we can’t stop it.
All our current climate change proposals bank on the idea that if we switch over to renewable energy and reduce consumption we can save the world. This idea is naïve.
Consider the clathrate gun hypothesis. Clathrates are a solid ice-like form of methane, a major greenhouse gas frozen in the arctic. When oceanic temperatures rise, these clathrates melt and release more methane that further warms the ocean, creating a positive feedback loop.
It gets its name because, like a fired gun, it cannot be stopped. The last time the earth experienced a methane excursion of this magnitude was during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) — when global temperatures were 8 degrees Celsius higher than today, and 96% of marine life went extinct.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research identified rapid methane release in the arctic, similar to what occurred during the buildup to PETM. Other research has identified evidence that the clathrate gun was “fired” in the last two decades, meaning that the ocean is now on an irreversible path to acidification and warming.
Scientists have warned that we have until 2030 to completely end carbon emissions and prevent a 1.5 C increase in global temperatures.
The only problem with this goal is that it assumes all positive feedback loops will decrease their emissions output — or cease entirely — once carbon dioxide emissions end.
In addition, some climate scientists are saying that the 2030 deadline is arbitrary, since our opportunity to avoid catastrophe has already passed.
"We don't have 12 years to prevent climate change — we have no time.” according to Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA. “It's already here."
Ben Ferlo is a Junior from Gardner majoring in economics and political science.