A new undergraduate course, “Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions” follows the interdisciplinary nature of UC's groundbreaking report Bending the Curve: Ten scalable solutions for carbon neutrality and climate stability, as well as the university's Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which seeks to reach operational carbon neutrality for the UC system by 2025. Designed by Veerabhadran “Ram” Ramanathan from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and taught on 6 UC campuses, the course hopes to attract students from various academic backgrounds and fields of study to have them work together in identifying and exploring solution-focused projects related to climate change.
Fifty-two cities, sixty-three businesses, and several universities have become living laboratories for ambitious climate mitigation programs. By 2050, the total annual emissions for the fifty-two cities will reduce by 407 MMTCO2e (million metric tons), compared with their base period (ranging from 1990 to 2013) emissions, which is equivalent to making the entire state of California, the sixth largest world economy, nearly carbon neutral. Case studies reveal that between 2000 and 2014, California and Sweden grew their Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) by nearly 30% while their CO2e emissions declined by 5% and 24% respectively. Such reductions employ a multitude of action plans, which we place in the context of the Ten Solutions for Carbon Neutrality and Climate Stability published by the University of California. The technologies deployed by the living laboratories include: improving end-use efficiencies; conversion to renewably generated electricity; solving intermittency of solar and wind power with batteries, fuel cells, and hydrogen; developing micro-grids for distributed power generation; expanding use of electric vehicles; recycling reform; capturing agricultural/landfill emissions for conversion to gas; and food waste reduction. The living laboratories have demonstrated that scalable technologies are available now to drastically reduce world-wide carbon emissions. However, doing so requires fundamental behavioral changes.
Climate change is an urgent problem. Because it is causing new weather extremes and fatal catastrophes, climate change is better termed climate disruption. Bending the curve to flatten the upward trajectory of pollution emissions responsible for climate disruption is essential in order to protect billions of people from this global threat. Education is a key part of the solution.
This textbook book lays out ten solutions that together can bend the curve of climate warming below dangerous levels. These solutions fall into six categories: science, societal transformation, governance, economics, technology, and ecosystem management. Four themes emerge from the book:
* There is still time to bend the curve. The time to act was yesterday, but if proper actions are taken now, there is still time to avoid disastrous changes. We have to pull on three levers: The carbon lever to achieve zero net emissions of carbon dioxide before 2050; the short-lived climate pollutants lever to drastically reduce concentrations of other major climate pollutants; and the atmospheric carbon extraction lever to remove massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
* Bending the curve will require interdisciplinary solutions. Climate change requires integrating approaches from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, so this textbook—unlike most on climate change solutions—does just that, with chapters written by experts in climate science, social justice, economics, environmental policy, political science, energy technologies, ecology, and religion. Bending the curve also requires preservation and restoration of ecological systems.
* Bending the curve requires a radical shift in attitude. This shift requires change in behavior, change in our attitudes towards each other, and change in our attitude towards nature. Climate justice has to be an integral part of the solution.
* Technology, market mechanism and policy need to be a part of the solution. New market mechanisms and other policies are required to spur technological innovations and to scale clean technologies globally.