A Short Recipe to Achieve a Healthy Climate by 2050

By Peter Fiekowsky

This article first appeared in Brain Science and Climate Change

Let’s say you wanted to leave your children a planet with a healthy climate by 2050. How might you do it?

Given that the climate is already messed up, we need more than just ending fossil fuel emissions. At best that will leave us with two degrees of warming–three times worse than now: We already have 60 million refugees and frequent 500 year droughts, 500 year floods and superstorms.

If we also remove the excess carbon dioxide that we added in the last 50 years, and remove the excess heat that has accumulated, then we can end up with a healthy climate again. We can do this by 2050, spending less than we spend now each year purchasing fossil fuel. This is the “three-legged stool for a healthy climate”: Energy transition, CO2 removal, and cooling. Leave out any leg, and we don’t get a healthy climate. We can’t say how much of each will be needed, because there are too many variables and too much unknown. We do know that we need all three.

Here’s the recipe for achieving that healthy climate by 2050:

Define a healthy climate. Likely: “Restore the polar ice cap to its 1990 size.” This simple, vivid measure gives us stable sea level and the normal weather patterns from before 30 years ago.
Jan 1, 2016

Have some experts such as Dr. James Hansen and the president of the Sierra Club say they want a healthy climate goal. A healthy climate would be better than the two-degree bad climate we speak of as a goal now. Really. Have them publish op-eds in a few papers, and call for the President to declare a national goal of a healthy climate before 2050. Build the demand for a good outcome: a healthy climate.
March 30, 2016

Have a million people sign a declaration / petition asking for a healthy climate national goal. Promote it on social media and in letters to the editor in newspapers around the country.
May 1, 2016, after Earth Day

Have President Obama declare a national goal of a achieving a healthy climate by 2050, and establishing a Climate Solutions Council which will ensure the integrity of climate solutions research–their efficacy and side-effects. This may operate like the FDA, doing no research of its own, being accountable to Congress.
June 13, 2016–Obama often makes climate speeches the week before the CCL DC conference.

Start the Climate Solutions Council, staff it
Oct. 2016–a few months after Obama’s speech.

Institute a steadily increasing carbon fee and dividend to encourage a rapid transition to clean energy, especially as crude oil prices drop due to shrinking demand.
March 1, 2017 (after the election)

Develop a US funding mechanism for carbon dioxide removal (CDR). I have a former US Treasury economist setup to work on this when we’re ready.
Dec 1, 2017

Have the National Science Foundation, DARPA, CIA, and other institutions fund research and testing for carbon dioxide removal and cooling

Now with the serious science being done, fossil fuel usage dropping, and financing for CDR in place, we watch while people develop rapidly improving technology for achieving a healthy climate by 2050.

***Updated March 14, 2016. We’ve had progress and learned a lot; I’ve updated dates.