I spent most of last week or two reading about climate change and came across a path for cutting US emissions that I really liked: https://medium.com/otherlab-news/how-do-we-decarbonize-7fc2fa84e887.
“The beginning and the first half of decarbonization will most likely look the same: a commitment to solar and wind [zero-carbon electricity], batteries, electrification of homes, heat pumps, electric vehicles [electrification]…” The author, energy inventor Saul Griffith, then shows this needs to be done on a massive scale in the US: just focusing on 3 key steps, we need 200m+ electric vehicles, electric heating systems for 120m+ homes and 5m+ commercial buildings, and 2 TW of zero-carbon electricity production (mostly solar/wind because they’re cheapest, with variation based on locale).
I don’t think this is new, but seeing that a large fraction of emissions could be reduced by just a handful of steps was extremely clarifying. I think parts of this approach are already happening in the US (growth in number of solar rooftops to about 1m), although maybe not at a fast pace. I also haven’t looked into the negative consequences of this path (not just carbon but other environmental impacts of e.g. producing so many electric vehicles).
If this is a good path, it seems likely that policy, operations, engineering and financing elements could help, including potentially large workforces to manufacture the cars, heating systems, batteries, solar panels and wind turbines; and definitely large workforces to install, maintain and connect these elements. Operations, engineering and financing might be grouped into centralized businesses like SolarCity (which “markets, manufactures, and installs residential and commercial solar panels”), but they don’t have to be (e.g. many local contractors around the country). Owners might just pay for these electric vehicles and heat pumps like they pay for their current vehicles and furnaces, but financing (or straight up donation?) might be important for big solar/wind projects and for people unable or unwilling to switch to electric appliances. Policy seems like it could help by providing such financing (e.g. a Fannie Mae for these clean techs), by requiring zero-carbon electricity (e.g. renewable portfolio standards) and/or electrification, and by making sure local regulations are compatible with solving climate change (e.g. building codes).
Now, what can individuals or small groups additionally do to accelerate this? I know I’m focused on pandemics with most of my time now, but if this is a good path, I want to spend some time on this.