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Climate Solutions to Focus On
Ignore the tiny changes, we need to make big changes now
tl;dr The single biggest thing we need to do to address the climate emergency is to stop burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas). If that’s the only thing you remember from this newsletter, I’m happy.
Climate change is a complex phenonemon and how we address this problem is also complex. So much so that even educated people who are paying attention don’t know what solutions are the most important.
I’m making it the focus of my career and just did my own research and I still find the answer is quite complex. But since I’m a good designer I’ve done my research and will try to communicate it clearly.
First, you can ignore the “10 Easy Things You Can Do to Make the Planet Greener!” articles. Individual actions such as recycling paper, plastic, and metal are nice and might make you feel better, but they are not going to save us. The same can be said for tiny design and technical changes like having your website’s fonts load locally rather than from Google’s servers. That doesn’t really matter. We need systematic change.
I found many reputable organizations with prioritized lists of climate solutions but most of them don’t agree with each other and lack sufficient rigor in their approach. I tried asking ChatGPT and received the usual impressive but unsubstantiated answer.
The one source that is backed up by the best science is Project Drawdown, particularly their Table of Solutions (click to sort it by Scenario 1 or 2 to see the solutions ranked by effectiveness). For those of us that prefer pretty pictures they also communicate the solutions in graphic format:
There’s a lot there, but you can see among the three big areas in the center, the “sources” is the largest area to focus on. The largest source is electricity generation. And the biggest solutions for electricity generation are wind and solar.
So the short, (over)simplified answer to “What Climate Solutions Should We Focus On?” is: help shift our electricity generation from coal, oil, and gas to wind and solar. For designers, even within this narrow focus there are many ways we can contribute, from clearer maps that help us decide where to put wind turbines and solar panels to better software user interfaces for power utilities.
Where else can designers contribute? I have a longer answer to that question that I’ll get into next week.
the words have come and gone, I sit ill. the phone rings, the cats sleep. Linda vacuums. I am waiting to live, waiting to die. I wish I could ring in some bravery. it's a lousy fix but the tree outside doesn't know: I watch it moving with the wind in the late afternoon sun. there's nothing to declare here, just a waiting. each faces it alone. Oh, I was once young, Oh, I was once unbelievably young!
–“So Now?” by Charles Bukowski