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Decimal Digest
26 May 2017

Complex Problems RequireSimple Solutions

If the climatologists and IPCC are to be believed, the world is facing a global warming crisis. The rise in greenhouse gases is supposed to be the main culprit, with the global CO2 levels at 400 ppm. The temperature increase as a result is the main cause for concern as it will affect various ecosystems around the world which are already under stress.

The mitigation of the effects requires freezing carbon emissions to the present levels. This does not seem to be the trajectory we are on as, we need to reduce carbon levels rather than just freeze them.

For us to make the right decisions, we must realize that with the rise in carbon dioxide also opens other opportunities. We will be able to recognize these opportunities, if we abandon our Newtonian thinking and adopt a systems perspective which says that ecologies are complex systems. The important insight we gain from the study of complex systems is that it requires simple rather than complicated solutions.

As we try to pursue solutions we also must keep in mind that we have limited resources and we have other challenges that also have to be tackled.

The world is shifting to renewable sources of energy like solar energy, which is making the price of electricity drop. As the price of electricity drops and better storage solutions for solar energy are developed, we must think of exponential change rather than incremental change.

One of the main reasons of ecological damage on earth is commercial agriculture. The long-term effects of this form of agriculture is that it leads to loss in organic matter of the soil due to disruption of nutrient cycling process. The logistical cost and wastage of food in this process is also high and unsustainable.

Vertical farming which uses significantly less water and fertilizers and can be implementable anywhere, becomes a feasible option for providing food to the cities. Lab grown meat can also be a very attractive option for taking care of the protein requirements. However, more R&D will be required in both as vertical farming does not grow grain crops currently and the lab meat will have to be made indistinguishable from actual meat for it to pick up. As the energy costs come down, the cost for vertical farming will be substantially lowered and the logistic cost reduction will ensure decrease in carbon footprint. At the same time the land freed from large scale agriculture should be converted into forests. The flourishing of biodiversity and thereby flourishing of organic matter in the soil will allow for increase in forest cover in a natural sustainable manner. As CO2 levels increase, it will allow for faster growth of plants and thus we will get the carbon sink mechanism back in place. Already we can see that new dryland forests ( 467 million hectares ) have been discovered which has been attributed to the fertilizing effects of CO21.



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