No wealthy nation is doing even close to enough to address our environmental crisis. The scale of it is beyond what we can fit in our human minds. And survivor bias only makes it more extreme: the 12.6 million people around the world who die each year due to their environment — including from famines, poor air quality, droughts, floods, heat waves, toxic chemical exposure, and natural disasters — are no longer around to tell us how bad it is.
The number one worst human activity is obviously extracting and combusting fossil fuels which increases carbon levels in the atmosphere and oceans (plus a variety of knock-on effects), but we're also destroying the planet through polluting rivers, deforestation, hyper consumerism, reckless waste management, and mass extinction among many, many other awful addictions. To reverse the effects of all of this will require a humongous amount of work. That means jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Most of it will fit nicely within our current economic system, but some of the work that needs to be done will not have inherent market value in our current economic system. The most expensive example is likely the need for artificial carbon capture and geologic sequestration; that is, using machines powered by non-emitting energy-generation sources to pull carbon out of the air and water and store it deep underground where we got it from in the first place. This is technology that already exists (though it still needs more research and development). Wealthy governments around the world (including the US) need to put forward the resources to address these problems. If we don't pay up today, we'll pay a much higher price tomorrow. The summer when no food grows is coming a lot sooner than we think.
But that’s just the point. We crossed the critical threshold a long time ago. The world-wide reliance on burning fossil fuels has too much inertia. It’s not unreasonable that huge portions of humanity will be forced to live and produce necessities like food and potable water primarily or entirely indoors within a few decades. This is a problem the masses have yet to begin grappling with and a problem many, many environmental scientists are in grief counseling over. In addition to massive, sustained resources and effort from wealthy nations to restore the planet to pre-industrial health, we’ll simultaneously have to find ways to survive in the interim. This will require moving entire communities to higher ground and food and resource rationing. Hopefully hydroponics will help, but we need to get far better at rainwater collection, dehumidification, and desalinization to ensure we have enough usable freshwater in the first place. I wish I had more to give on this topic of survival, but little work has been done on scaled solutions in this area. We quite literally don’t know where to start because the conversation has hardly begun.
On the logistics of reversing the damage we’ve done, there are far too many specifics to cover, so I’m keeping things big picture here. If you have questions about my stances on certain technologies, philosophies, or approaches, feel free to contact me privately or publicly, but I am generally in favor of all of the main legislative approaches: carbon taxes, Cap and Trade, Quantitative Easing (i.e. paying companies not to emit carbon), standards (regulations), investment in decarbonization and new technologies, and justice (jobs programs and investments in communities most affected by our environmental crisis); all of these approaches have problems but all have been shown to work in a variety of countries around the world. I additionally want to recognize the power in giving land back to indigenous tribes everywhere, which is more rightly understood as restoring our land to preindustrial health through the traditional (and highly effective) practices of land stewardship by indigenous peoples.
To address a particular concern in Texas, for every job in the fossil fuel industry, there is an equivalent or better job in the same geographical area that needs to be filled, and we can give priority for those jobs to people who currently work in the fossil fuel industry. Texas is actually a global epicenter for renewable energy; for example, between 2020 and 2024, Texas will install more solar panels than California.
Beyond that, we'll have millions of jobs that need to be filled and fast. And we can't stop there. The US only makes up ~15% of yearly global emissions. We have to develop and manufacture clean energy production equipment at a scale that will allow us to sell it to industrializing nations around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. If necessary, we'll subsidize this equipment to undercut Chinese coal plant prices. This doesn’t just mean rooftop photovoltaic solar cells, wind turbines, and lithium battery storage; it also includes domestically-produced small modular nuclear reactors, residential geothermal, and alternative energy storage in the near-term and investments in thorium nuclear reactors and alternative solar panel tech with a higher potential efficiency than photovoltaics for the long-term. Economically riskier investments in researching biofuels and solid-state wind energy are worth it in my opinion as well.
We have to use every tool at our disposal: economic incentives, regulation, jobs programs, funding for basic research in material science, biology, energy generation, chemistry, agricultural science, marine science, environmental science, etc. If you're looking for a traditional, jobs-based economic stimulus, saving the planet is the best one I can offer.
From right to repair enforcement to free insulation retrofits for older commercial and residential buildings, every consideration is on the table.