Can We Give Our Children a Healthy Climate by 2050?
For CIW Board Member and Founder of the Healthy Climate Alliance Peter Fiekowsky that question can easily be answered with a resounding YES. The more interesting question is of course the question of HOW.
This question can be answered on two levels:
On the first, according to Peter, it is simply a matter of engineering – with solutions already in the making and many more coming – to lower the CO2 levels from the current 410 ppm (parts per million) to 300 ppm in our atmosphere by the year 2050.
On the second and deeper level it is a matter of capturing the public imagination.
According to a recent article on Forbes about him called The Man With The 300 / 2050 Vision, “Peter states…
…that 300X2050 is a second moonshot. We need to set the goal first (3oo ppm) and achieve it, some way, somehow, and very soon, by 2050. All our efforts need to be engineered to that outcome. But Neil Armstrong only stepped on the surface of the moon July 20, 1969 because it captured the public imagination, because there were so many stories to tell along the way, because we were with him, and the scientists of NASA the whole way. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” As a child, I built toy space ships. We played ‘astronaut,’ and followed each satellite and Apollo launch. Now today how do we inform and inspire the world on what will be our most important journey: to a sustainable planet, our gift to all who will follow? The science will be there. The money is there, trillions across the world now sitting on the sidelines. We lack only the political will, which will come if We the People take the lead and are ready to dream as big as we need to, given the scale of the problem — and the opportunity.”
On September 18, Peter Fiekowsky was part of a breakfast event at the UN SDG MediaZone, just outside the UN headquarters in New York City, to announce the launch of the 300×2050 online funding platform and an initiative to identify, fund and achieve a new climate goal—true Climate Restoration.
“To Peter Fiekowsky, a serial entrepreneur and futurist, and his colleagues, the key fact to understand is this: over many millions of years, as we and the ecosystems that support us have evolved, the CO2 level has remained around 300 ppm, and the Earth was, overall, by average temperature, cooler as a result. Their thesis is that we must return to this climatological ‘sweet spot,’ and that the 2 degree temperature rise already ‘baked into’ the Paris goals of 450 ppm is already too much. The collapse of a number of ecosystems — insect, amphibian, reptile, fish and mammal populations are plummeting while seagrass, marshes, coral reefs, shellfish beds and kelp forests vanish before our eyes — is evidence enough that we are outside of the bounds of sustainability already. Their goal is nothing less than Climate Restoration. They also believe that we already have the means to achieve this goal and that, as the scientific community focuses more on this goal, others will emerge. I write of them because they offer something that’s in very short supply these days — hope for the future. We are decimating this planet, and we are next — “Unless,” to quote The Lorax.
Fiekowsky began by presenting the challenge to his colleagues as an engineering problem: How would you restore atmospheric CO2 gases to pre-industrial levels, to 300 ppm, from its current level of 410 ppm by 2050? How could we remove 1 trillion tons of carbon from the atmosphere by then? What would be the economics of this? How much of the world’s GDP would each proposed method require? Intriguingly, how much economic activity would result from the effort? How much more valuable would a restored climate be, economically?
There is no price we could put on the cost of our collective survival, nothing as valuable as this blue marble. But what if our investment in restoring the earth represented the largest economic opportunity man has ever encountered, even as humanity faces what is an existential crisis?”
“In the coming years, new ideas will come to the fore as the future continues to barrel down on us, and the challenge of building a sustainable planet becomes ever more acute. All these ideas, however, will need funding. Many will pay for themselves, and that will certainly ease matters. But make no mistake, trillions will be needed, even while that would in turn yield trillions, whether in further economic activity or in the cost avoidances we’d realize in this grand restoration.”
“That is why Peter Fiekowsky and 300X2050.com, with the assistance of social investor Terry Mollner, Chair of Stakeholders Capital, Inc and Founder of The Calvert Foundation, will be launching an investment platform that would fund these massive projects, whether from investment institutions, philanthropists, or through crowd funding. Terry offered that the funds would be for the public good, so that in many cases the investments would be made to a tax exempt organization that would, in turn, fund the most promising initiatives.”
At the Center for Integral Wisdom, we understand imagination as one of the Faces of Eros – see the recently published think tank book A Return to Eros. As CIW President Dr. Marc Gafni often reminds us: “Every crisis is at its core a crisis of imagination.”
“Stories are the catalysts for action. People wonder how science fiction so often predicts the future–and the answer is that fiction is the scaffolding on which we create the future. Fiction and myth provide the narrative that we riff on, modify, and improve on.
For years I told the moonshot story in which President Kennedy declared that we would land a man on the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade. It was difficult in 1961 and, as Kennedy said, that is why we did it. My listeners agreed that we should similarly restore the climate, but they were not inspired into action. Eventually I realized that although I could tell them, as a physicist, how we could do it, my narrative was intellectual, not emotional, not moving.
Kennedy got help from Jules Verne, who in 1865, wrote a beautiful and popular novel about going to the moon, which was turned into a successful movie. When Kennedy proposed that adventure a hundred years later, the narrative for doing it was already alive in our cultural history, and the action took off like a proverbial rocket.
The narrative does not need to be realistic in order to activate our creative thinking. Bible stories show that, and Jules Verne does too. He shot us out of a canon, clear up to the moon. That was impossible without a doubt, yet it left us with an emotional narrative of going to the moon, which story we later realized in just eight years.
What cost is too expensive to provide a safe planet for our grandchildren? The US spent 40% of GDP to win WWII. Dr. James Hansen said in 2008 that it would cost 1% of GDP to remove our excess CO2 in 30 years, and with improved technology it may be less now.”