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Sunday, April 22, 2018

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Hart Cunningham’s Climate Change Doctrine

An overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the planet’s warming trend is the result of human activity since the mid-20th century, around the time of the first industrial revolution.[1] This warming results from human emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. Humans collectively own approximately 2 billion cars and trucks, consume billions of tons of coal, oil, natural gas, and spew nearly 40 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.[1] Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases rise each year, climbing past 400 parts per million in 2016, compared to 280 before the Industrial Revolution.[2]

Combating climate change requires widespread implementation of technological initiatives to reduce and reverse emissions. Already, advances in clean energy, such as wind and solar, are creating viable alternatives to traditional fossil fuels. Agricultural renewables, like biomass fuel, are also an increasingly attractive option. Crucially, we must transfer our power reliance to electricity, away from fossil fuels. Electricity used to be seen as a “dirty fuel” as well, but with the advent of reliable renewables and carbon capture systems for coal and natural gas, electricity is the cleanest mass-power option available.

The Cunningham Administration will focus on shifting everything, from cars to heating, away from gas and toward electricity. Once everything is electric, any increase in the cleanliness of the grid is an increase in the cleanliness of every device that runs off of its power. No matter how efficient gas-powered automobiles become, they cannot compete with the cleanliness and efficiency potential of electricity. For this potential to be realized, Cunningham recognizes that his future administration will need to intervene, and provide governmental support. The Cunningham Administration will also make a funding commitment for power grid infrastructure upgrades, as well as additional sustainability research and development.

While governments need to continue to advance the adoption of clean energy through subsidies and research grants, the reality of the situation is that, in order for climate change objectives to be met, there has to be a reversal of the current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. This requires advanced technology that has yet to be deployed on a large enough scale. One such technology is called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This is the preferred method of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). BECCS resembles the technology of coal-fired power plants, but uses recently grown energy crops instead of fossil fuels. The BECCS technology also captures all CO2 emitted through combustion. Because the crops (such as fast-growing trees and switchgrass) capture atmospheric CO2 as they grow, when they’re burned, these power plants are capable of removing CO2 from the atmosphere, while simultaneously creating energy. The only problem is that no such facility currently exists.

Other promising technologies include genetic engineering to increase the amount of CO2 that plants and trees are able to extricate from the atmosphere. These types of modifications can enhance the photosynthetic ability of plants and increase their growth rate, removing greater emissions while also creating higher yields of food, fiber, and fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy is leading research in this field, and has developed the program known as PETRO, or Planets Engineered to Replace Oil.

Although new technologies are promising, the Cunningham Administration will take further action in preventing catastrophic planetary change. There must be accountability for Big Oil and large corporations that have willfully emitted dangerous gases for decades. The government must lead the way by making all government infrastructure, including the military and schools, carbon-neutral by switching to renewables. There must be intervention in the automotive industry to require higher emissions standards, higher miles per gallon, and more electric and fuel cell vehicles. There must be a carbon tax to force heavy polluters to pay for their environmentally damaging activities. Cunningham is committed to exploring any viable governmental options to further the fight, because every course of action is needed to reach success. He plans to pursue a “state of emergency” type of approach to bypass bureaucratic red tape and get to work immediately in the fight to save our planet. One certainty is that the fight against climate change must be an international effort.

Individual countries do not have the resources or ability to fight this on their own, especially if other countries continue to pollute and emit at increasing rates. The Paris Climate Accords, although not comprehensive enough, were a significant step toward global unity. It is indefensible that our current administration is choosing to ignore the issue of climate change, and is actively working against the best interests of humanity. Withdrawal from the Paris Accords, or even the indication that withdrawal is a possibility, will prove a serious obstacle in maintaining partnerships with other reluctant countries, such as China or India. A piece from The Economist illustrates: “Yet the most damaging thing about America’s renewed spasm of climate-change rejection may not be the effect on its own emissions, which could turn out to be negligible. It is the cover America has given other countries to avoid acknowledging the problems of the agreement America is abandoning.” [5]

The Cunningham Administration will make a concerted effort to create a united country and an international alliance focused on reversing global levels of emissions. Cunningham plans to extend his “state of emergency” approach to his diplomatic negotiations with other countries. He plans to lead the United States in committing serious funding to a global effort, while simultaneously requiring that the rest of the world do the same. Cunningham is committed to doing whatever is necessary to reverse climate change. He recognizes that this is not just the issue of a generation or a country, but the issue of all of humanity. Without immediate and drastic action, there will be severe and irreversible consequences for the entire planet. Do not let another politician beholden to lobbyists and corporations lead the country and the planet toward environmental collapse. Use your vote for Cunningham in 2020 as your first step toward fighting climate change.

[1] NASA

[2] Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

[3] EPA

[4] National Climate Assessment

[5] The Economist