How Climate Change Can Help With Climate Change

How Climate Change Can Help With Climate Change

Are you retro-fitting the solution, or are you rethinking the problem?

Whatever your position is on climate change, there is no denying that change is always happening. But, is climate change really the problem or the solution. I want to challenge you to think different about your approach when looking at problems. I am not taking sides, that’s not the point, but merely providing a different perspective. I think if we break down the climate change debate, it gives us really interesting lessons to be learned on how we can approach other problem in business and in life.

Understanding what is causing the perceived problem will give natural bias to the perspective of how we come to initial conclusions. If someone were to tell you, “I have a problem,” and then tell you a story, you may be able to come to your own conclusion of what the problem is versus their view. If someone tells you, “my problem is (insert problem here).” Then you are naturally drawn to start solving for the potential or perceived problem instead of solving for what might be the real problem. Problems tend to be very selfish in nature and are by design relative. Just because you have the same problem as someone else, does not negate its relevance, it just makes it just reinforces the commonality of the effected.

Example: Climate Change

The Perceived Cause:

  • Strength of the Sun
  • Cutting Down Rainforest
  • Burning Fossil Fuels
  • Changes in Earth’s Orbit, Axial Tilt and Precession
  • Quantity of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere
  • Plate Tectonics and Volcanic Eruptions
  • Change in Land Cover
  • Meteorite Impacts

The Perceived Problem:

  • Increased Temperature
  • Arctic Ice Caps Melting
  • Changes in Ocean Currents
  • Increased Forest Fires
  • Increase Hurricanes and Tornados

The Perceived Solution:

  • Electric Cars
  • Solar and Wind Energy
  • Geothermal Heat
  • Hydroelectric
  • Ocean (Thermal/Mechanical)
  • Biomass
  • Reduced Waste / Recycle
  • More Efficient Processes

The Perceived Argument:

In March 2020 Frontiers in Microbiology published an article with their findings of a plastic eating bacteria. (source). In 2017 Maritime Executive published an article about bacteria that ate the oil that spilled in the Macondo Explosion (source). Is it science that is helping to clean our world or is it nature in spite of science. The definition of science: to know, in a general sense, knowledge; the comprehension or understanding of truth or facts by the mind. There are so many unknowns in this world and in the universe that just like the bacteria that helped clean up the oil spill was not known but still happened, one has to think that we may be solving for problems we were never meant to solve. Or maybe, and this is my big idea, is maybe the problem is the solution.

We say we want change, but change is happening.

Will events happening today create innovation that solves future problems that are actually worth solving. Again, I am not saying that climate change is not worth solving, I want to be clear. But, I am saying that we should look at all opportunities to innovate and to create a better future.

Let’s look at wind and solar. All sources of energy have limits that can be exceeded. The maximum rate at which the suns photons can be converted to electrons for solar is about 33%. We are currently around 26%. FOr wind the max is 60% and we are around 45% with current technologies. Wind and solar are great, but what happens at night or during a calm day? Maybe batteries? Tesla has built the biggest battery factory in Nevada. It would take 500 years to make enough batteries to store enough energy to supply 1 day of energy for the United States.

To continue, electric cars are typically made up of more plastic to be lighter and like solar panels, most of the parts including the batteries are non-recyclable. Additionally, with the increase of elements like lithium, cobalt, copper, iridium, etc., the mining will increase exponentially causing more side effects for our planet, not to mention the human rights concerns of countries that will be involved in mining these elements.

The same affects can be said of fossil fuels, nuclear, and every other energy source known and unknown.

Newtons third law becomes very apparent here. Everything we do (or action) has an equal and opposite reaction. Science tends to deal in what is known but what about unknown reactions. We have seen this in AI advancements with machine learning, where under controlled conditions, models tend to work well, but under diverse and uncontrolled environments it collapses. Case and point, Microsoft’s AI Chat Bot. (source)

A Different Idea!

The 4 big questions we should begin with are:

  • Is it a real problem?
  • Are we solving the right problem?
  • Will solving the problem cause more problems?
  • Is it a problem worth solving?

Once we change our perspective, we may be able to change the outcome. It is hard to argue that any one would not want to do their part to be less wasteful, more efficient, and to overall take care of our planet, it is the only one we have. My challenge to you with taking on this somewhat controversial topic is not to pick sides or to get into the politics, but to start asking the right questions and to use this as an example of how we can use this methodology in other areas.

Turning problems into solutions is not a new concept. Everyone has seemingly heard of the sticky note story at 3M, (source) and many more like it. As access to data increases, the need to sift through the information becomes more complex. Having access to information does not make you a scientist no more than, recycling your bottle of water makes you a climate change activist. We have to know more than we do, to change more than we see. Big thinking and solving real world problems takes teamwork. We can’t improve what we don’t measure, but we can’t change what we don’t understand.

Climate change, like many other topics, can be hard to talk about or even research with the amount of disinformation there is, but we have to go deeper and not create more problems than we solve. Think big and think often and ask lots of questions. The only way we can solve problems is making sure we solve the right ones.

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