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Ask HN: What can I do to actively fight climate change?
57 points by throwaway53459 30 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 150 comments
I work as a software engineer at a big company and want to actively and directly in some way help fight climate change. Volunteering part time, maybe working full time on whatever it is if I can support myself. I feel like my skills could be useful but I’m not sure what problems specifically are important and relevant to my skillset.



Ignore the crunchy comments saying don't eat meat, don't have kids, and don't drive. You have no impact as a consumer or influencer.

What you can do is:

* a) find someone working on climate change, and help write software for them part-time as a volunteer

* b) brainstorm an idea for a site/app, and build it yourself (and of course post it to HN)

* c) quit your job, join an organization focused on climate change, and do some work

* d) start researching more about climate change until you can make a better choice about a or b or c

If you can't commit a big chunk of time to it, then research good orgs focused on climate change, and donate money to them (or angel invest in them). That's the next best thing you can do.


Not sure why not having kid is such controversial. I guess people just can't be not selfish, they will find any excuse. People will do anything that does not change their lifestyle, basically all of which are useless compared to what is going on in climate crisis.

Not having kid is the most effective thing anyone can do.

You can just adopt instead, raise them to be ethical. It should not be so controversial. You can be a parent without giving birth.

Also bringing a kid without their consent to this dying planet and then make them fix it (which due to their ancestor's screw ups and comfort) looks like a punishment by parents, pretty selfish. These kids already have jobs to perform before even born. I sure don't want my kids to suffer this disaster and without their consent.

Data conclusively indicates real-world climate change is tracking RCP8.5, the IPCC’s “worst case scenario”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fliCxyAwBWU&t=719s


> People will do anything that does not change their lifestyle

Clearly you don’t have children if you think having a child doesn’t change your lifestyle.

> Also bringing a kid without their consent to this dying planet and then make them fix it…looks like a punishment by parents, pretty selfish

Here’s a tip, don’t use this line on a first date.


It's not about dating. It's truth that you didn't want to hear. Because accepting truth is difficult, so fight it, deny it instead.

Regarding lifestyle, I chose wrong word, not my first language. It's what and how you want your life that you don't want to compromise for climate crisis.


I don't think not having a kid is, itself, controversial. I think that telling others who want children not to have them is the controversial bit.

On the one hand, it is a very effective way to reduce your carbon footprint if you can do it. On the other hand, for many people it conflicts with one of the most basic human desires, which is life-defining for lots of the population.

As an analogy, if you asked people to be celibate you could guarantee that no new babies would come along even if birth-control-methods failed; a huge net positive! Despite that, sex is a basic human experience that many see as integral to their vision of a life, and it'd be controversial to seemingly impose that restriction on others.

tl;dr: no controversy in you doing you, sometimes controversy in you asking others to similarly do you


"Ignore the crunchy comments saying don't eat meat, don't have kids, and don't drive. You have no impact as a consumer or influencer."

Yet each of these actions can be quantified in terms of CO2 no emitted or resources preserved. There is an impact, and that impact becomes apparent given sufficient scale and time.

One's choice not to have kids could very well provide exponential savings when compared to one's personal lifetime emissions/consumption when looking over generations.


If you’re into AI, there is Climate Change AI which is a “global initiative to catalyze impactful work at the intersection of climate change and machine learning.”

- https://www.climatechange.ai/


More content:

- Just found this: https://workonclimate.org/


I did just c) - I'm joining https://normative.io as an engineer at the beginning of next year for this particular reason. The company helps other companies decrease carbon emissions by generating sustainability reports.

I'm _very_ excited to be a tiny part in helping humanity solve one of our biggest problems.


Yeah, all of this but also — stop eating meat


Yes. Parent commenter effectively says votes don't matter. Sure they don't individually, but they signal. If enough people reduce their meat, dairy and egg consumption this will change the market. Fewer industrialized farms, greater scale in vegan alternatives which brings to price reductions which further increases the popularity of vegan alternatives.

Individual action matters a lot. Yes corporations are those that need to carry out the ultimate change. So the thing where corporations "blame" individuals for climate/pollution is bogus. But as consumers and as employees we have a strong impact on the environment and should advocate for that.


And moreover, certainly don't get on message boards where people are genuinely looking for things they can do, and say "don't do crunchy". A few misplaced comments like that can result in a huge missed opportunity.

It even rings a bit hypocritical if subsequently you say support organizations that put the onus elsewhere.


I would slightly amend this:

Eat meat, but only meat that is sustainably raised. Depending on the size of your lawn, you probably can raise a couple meat or egg chickens on the natural flora/fauna in your yard and table scraps. There are CSAs that raise only pastured eggs/chicken/hogs/beef without fossil-based grain inputs.

Meat is healthy, but yes, it is fossil-intensive in the modern era. But it doesn't have to be. There are zero-fossil options.


10 to 1 the person you will be helping will get you to develop software that tells everyone not to eat meat and not to have kids. There are very few serious people in climate science.


Getting people not to eat heavy-carbon-usage-meat at scale might be impactful... like found a lab meat company or something.

I just don't think being a vegetarian has impact... it's something you do to keep consistent with your worldview or morality, not to mitigate climate change.


How can a "no impact" activity like not eating meat scale to be impactful?

An individual's actions does have an impact, albeit a small one. It is measurable (CO2 savings from not eating that meat). Discouraging individuals from participating in individual efforts will prevent the group from achieving scale.


I'm not discouraging an individual from eating meat... I'm encouraging an individual to not buy into the idea that not eating meat will achieve their stated goal.


Isn't the stated goal to reduce their contribution to climate change through eliminating meat related CO2 emissions? Seems like it works.


Doesn’t sound measurable. The whole “don’t eat meat, save the environment” debate should be centred around corn fed beef to begin with


How is it not measurable?


As consumer you have an impact, at least it sets an example and gives credibility. This reminds me of "climate activists" who fly around the world in private jets to preach!


Your biggest impact is as a worker. Most of us produce more than we consume (where the excess usually becomes investor profits). We really need to produce less or our consumption won't make a difference.

In the past, workers formed unions and collectively bargained with governments and employers to reduce working hours down to the standard work week we know today. We could reduce this further to a 4- or a 3-day work week.

We could also use collective worker power to demand many other things, such as stricter environmental standards in the workplace, just as we bargained for stricter health standards in the past. Or better environmental standards for children in schools or for public spaces, just as we bargained for children's rights and other standards in the past. (All these modern standards were fought for, they were not handed out freely)


My work laptop uses like 50 watts. My personal consumption just from breathing is way higher.

Unions are bad for environment. They block progress and force subsidies on old, inefficient and dirty technologies. Soviet Union had horrible environmental record.


You are confusing soviet propaganda with soviet reality. There were no worker unions in Soviet Union.


It really grinds my gears when people bring up effigies that does not exist at all in the real world. Very few people fly around the world in private jets. Of those who do, none are environmentalists.


It is a common snipe at Leonardo DiCaprio, typified by headlines like: "Leonardo DiCaprio took an outrageous 8000 mile trip in a private jet to pick up an environmental award" [0]. Really I think being a hypocrite is a good strategy to get the press to write about you.

[0] https://qz.com/690321/leonardo-dicaprio-took-an-outrageous-8...


All your points are great, but please don't discourage others to make ethical personal choices. Our culture needs to change and become more compassionate, sustainable and wise in terms the long-term impact of our actions.

How does a culture change? It starts with a courageous minority [1], composed of many individuals, who have "no impact as a consumer" but collectively they do have the power to influence the majority.

[1] https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...


[flagged]


Ending your own life would be even more helpful, I’m surprised no one has suggested that yet /s


Jerry Springer had guests of this persuasion on the episode "I want to join a suicide cult." The group is being satirical but honestly they make some pretty salient points.

https://youtu.be/C_TtTEw9w4s

https://www.churchofeuthanasia.org/coefaq.html


It creates huge suffering to kill, not having own kid does not. You can just adopt instead and be a parent. Simple.


People who are consious about climate change are the kind of people who should have kids, and propagate those values. The world will be worse off if filled by mindless drones instead.


It's possible to adopt kids and still pass on those values.


The tough part with these arguments is that's it's not "if you didn't have kids", rather, it's "if a very large number of people didn't have kids".

If a small group of like-minded people decide to not have kids in the name of the planet, the effect would probably pale in comparison to the masses that don't hear and/or don't care about these climate change messages. I imagine the "real" solution would have to be one that doesn't require people to willingly change their way of life.


I suspect most of these arguments come from people who prefer to be vegan or not have kids, trying to change someone else's way of life. As a form of activism, it would probably be more effective if it didn't feel so biased.


> in comparison to the masses that don't hear and/or don't care about these

By that logic anything you do is useless. But personally not having own kid is the single most effective thing anyone can do. People can just adopt instead.


This is SUCH a stupid comment, man. Not having a kid will do absolutely NOTHING to change long term climate change. You’re falling for the PR and lies of the big carbon producing industries that make you believe that you, as an individual, have any impact on climate change at all. You don’t. Sorry if that hurts your “I can change the world” attitude.

Adopting a child is totally different than having your own kid(s) and I’m guessing based on your comments that you don’t have a child.


1800: 1 billion people

2021: 8 billion

2050: 10 billion

Resources are finite. The world is not only ours, what about the animals and plants? Are we giving them enough space to thrive? Killing them will kill us, and our children too.

What PR and lies have you fallen for, to say individual actions don't matter? Actions have consequences. Each action is a vote. One vote doesn't matter, a lot of votes do. What are you voting for?

Giving love and safety to children who need it now is a noble act. Totally different? Maybe. But love is love. All humans come from the same source. No need to discriminate, let's spread love to all.


Dow Jones in 1906: 14

Dow Jones in 2022: 34,000

Maybe the Dow Jones is causing climate change!

Countries participating in the Olympics in 1896: 27

Countries participating in the Olympic in 2021: 197

No wait, the Olympics are what’s causing climate change!


Oh wow you're right! Fossil-fueled industrialisation and athletes jetting around to participate in sporting events have released more carbon into the air, contributing to climate change! This is such an eye-opening insight!


"Stupid" comment (taking from your comment up).


Amount of carbon 1 person uses is more than what you can minimise, so it not NOTHING.

> totally different than having your own kid

Why? Why does one need one's genes to care for a child and to be a parent. Your comment is just complete character attack "stupid". If it's so big issue, than may be don't kid yourself about doing anything that will reduce actual climate crisis.


Work remotely and advocate for it. I can't understand how moving around a third of population of the planet every day, sometimes with 1-2h commute, is acceptable in terms of wasted resources and time.

We've done it due to Covid and it mostly worked OK. Now it has to be improved and expanded.


I feel the same way. My current company almost runs itself, so I've been spending a lot of time exploring ways I can help with climate change. Here is what I have been doing:

* Reading a lot! I recommend Bill Gates' "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster" and Paul Hawken's "Drawdown". The path to zero carbon emissions seems impossible, but the more I read, the more the solutions seem intertwined, which gives me hope.

* Writing down my ideas and the information I learn. Helps me to organize my thoughts and find the holes in my thinking. Here is a link to my blog (this is the first time I've shared it with anyone other than my wife): https://simpleclimatefixes.herokuapp.com/

* Talking to people. I have a few friends that work in sustainability and in the energy sector. I have also been calling and meeting with local solar panel installers and manufacturers. Trying to understand the challenges they face.

* Coming up with ideas and trying to build them. I'd be happy to help other businesses (probably part-time, but potentially full-time), but I think I'll be more useful if I have a better understanding of the landscape and there is no better way to be acquainted with an industry than trying to start a business in it.

I'm currently in the early stages of vetting an idea in the residential solar panel industry. I'd be happy to share it if anyone is interested. Love to hear feedback!


My cousin installs solar panels mostly for SMB's manufacturing plants or warehouses with large roof space. His company pays them either 1) rent for the roof or 2) share the revenue on electricity sold. This kind of business is popular in my country where we get lots of sun shine and lots of SMBs.

Interested in hearing more about the idea you are vetting.


In some states, there are solar farms that people and businesses can "subscribe" to that allow them to purchase solar credits that they can use to reduce their own energy bills. The way these credits are passed are through something called virtual net metering.

My idea is to allow homeowners to sell their excess inventory using virtual net metering. At least in NY, energy companies buy the excess solar inventory from homeowners at the end of the year, but it is at slightly more than the wholesale price of the energy, which is less than half of the true cost on someone's energy bill.

My hope is that if a homeowner could capture 100% of the value that their solar panels generate, they would be encouraged to maximize the number of solar panels they add to their home. Otherwise, homeowners tend to limit the number of panels they add to the amount of energy they expect to use, which adds complexity since the amount of energy someone uses can vary over time.

I still need to understand a lot more on how virtual net metering works, but that's the crux of it.


TIL about virtual net metering. It's time for me to read up.


As long as you need a market-rate salary, go work for a company that is carbon-negative if you can (e.g. carbon capture or clean energy). One that is vocally pro-enviroment and carbon-neutral would also be an accomplishment.

If you need less money, work for a nonprofit focused on environmental issues or research. Working for a politician's campaign might be a good way to apply tech, marketing, or management skills.

Don't volunteer. The vast majority of the value is for the volunteer, not for the nonprofit.

When you're a (very) part-time volunteer, you'll never get deep enough into their problems that your contributions will outweigh the cost to manage/train you.

It's better to advance your own career and donate money to full-time people who are able to devote all of their work time to the issue.

(Source: ran a nonprofit for a few years that sourced skilled volunteers for other orgs)


The main issue now is how little time we have left. We're already past the tipping point, and there's about a 30-50 year horizon before it's too late to do anything at all.

This means that the following are going to take too long:

- "Doing your part", i.e. the regular "don't eat meat", "consume environmentally friendly things", and all those things that will only work over a horizon of 100+ years.

- Accumulating a ton of wealth and then using it to lobby. This would have worked 50 years ago but we need people to use this kind of big money NOW.

- Helping activists set up their websites and other tech things. We're past the point where activism alone will save us.

Our world has just started runaway heating, and Arctic methane is now being released, which is 100x worse than carbon. The ONLY thing that can save us at this point is a hail Mary shot of sequestration of greenhouse gases and at the same time, active cooling of the planet. Build this kind of tech, or join others building it. There are a few companies coming out that do this kind of thing. We need breathing room above all else, because even with tech 50 years is very little time.

Edit: Aaaand now the downvotes. I don't know why I even bother contributing here.


Maybe the "too late to do anything at all" line is setting people off? I don't think it's hyperbolic in the least. There's a very non-trivial chance that some hammer falls in some way that too much damage is done too fast to prevent a snowball effect of war/famine/disease before we manage some big tech geo-engineering solution.

We are very reliant on industry/automation as an efficiency multiplier for sustinance. Really, anything that disrupts our ability to automate in the long term (power/water/comms/logistics/chip fab), disrupts our ability to farm industrially, which lowers Earth's carrying capacity. Which risks a large die-off, which risks more of the above.

Humans are really bad at anticipating cascade failures.


I don’t think you deserve downvotes, but you’re giving the human ingenuity and technology gains too little credit to fix this in the future with your “it’s too late” apocalyptic prophecy.


Activists are long on ideas but short on technical know-how. Someone like you, willing to volunteer your skills even part-time, would be a God send.

I would suggest focusing on work that motivates and scales, just as people do in the for-profit sector. Activism that puts political and economic pressure on the large corporations who are the worst polluters provide the biggest bang for the buck. As just one example, there is a movement to divest from fossil fuel companies. Better software might help activists reach more people and mobilize them to pressure the boards of the universities they work for, etc.

Another issue we currently have in the country is that corporate interests collect huge amounts of data to sway elections, while activists without those same deep pockets are outmatched and outgunned. So any software that helps support voter turnout, voter equity, etc., would also indirectly help address climate change and other injustices.


> Someone like you, willing to volunteer your skills even part-time, would be a God send.

Lots of people have this idea, including me in the past.

It doesn't work. Nonprofit professionals aren't stupid. They know volunteers disappear as soon as something else comes up (paid work, kids, just wanting to relax, etc.) Most of them won't waste their time with "skilled volunteers."

If you want to help a cause, you have to get into the mud. It needs to be your focus. These are complex problems with lots of stakeholders that are highly tuned to whether you actually give a shit or whether you're a tourist trying to make yourself feel better about working for a big corporation.


I do:

1. Run a small solar array on my balcony, with recycled lithium batteries for storage. I've made ~100kW of power which I use to basically charge all my devices.

2. Growing Algae two do two things- producing biomass to convert into bio-fuel down the road, and remove carbon from the air.

Rooftop solar & going electric (and destroying your gas car so you're taking it off the road) is the easiest to do, followed by helping others do the same. Off the top of my head, if you own your house see if you can work out a group deal with your neighbors and subsidize their cost. https://ecologi.com and https://www.arcadia.com can give you a feeling of doing something (while actually doing something, even if it's very small.

None of these things really move the needle. If you want to do something, the cold reality of it is some constructive destructive actions need to be taken against the largest polluters- energy companies, major food conglomerates that consume large amounts of plastic, commercial shipping, and others. Pick your poison.

Yoooo. So here's an actual, legit idea I have. A community platform to raise money to donate roof-top solar systems to public schools. Has to be focused, where it's clear the goal and the target area. "We're raising $1,000,000 to fund a solar system in this region. Here are our candidates and our local contract partner." Once that's accomplished, you find a school and get the green light. You work with the contractor to secure an actual cost, and then fundraise for the rest. Then it's installed. Target schools and districts in areas of high coal/dirty power and fund-raise for a full roof-top system for them with some energy storage.

This does two things- allows the schools to spend money elsewhere which helps improve the quality of life in the are (and I'm sure it will be known where the money comes from, but also removes a fairly large consumer of municipal energy.


As someone who also grows algae, I can tell you that unless you're running circulating pumps / aerators with solar it's sort of an uphill battle to make things "carbon neutral". Even if you don't construct the bioreactor from clear pvc and use natural sunlight. In high school I did a lot of work with UTEX [0], a portion of the plant science dept at UT Austin with a sole focus on algae (they operate the third largest repository in the world!).

In high school, I just thought it was cool because I could have as much free algae as possible, which otherwise would be $125 each.

Lately I've been primarily growing Chlorella (gold standard of hardy algae), an endemic strain to my current location, and Haematococcus pluvialis - a strain that produces large amounts of the anti-oxidant astaxanthin[1]. h

[0] - ttps://utex.org/ [1] - https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/SSS...


NYC has begun installing solar panels on the schools. https://solstice.us/solstice-blog/nyc-solar-schools/


Begun. The way for us to actively make changes is to do donation projects today. The speed of government is not an advantage here.


What algae do you grow? What kind of aquarium is needed for that?

You make your own biofuel?


I don't think my skills are super applicable to working on climate change directly, so instead I work for big tech and donate to charities from this list. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/12/2/20976180/climat...

If you're not totally set on doing direct work for climate change, you could consider a similar strategy. In my case, I think it's probably more impactful than I could be if I tried to pivot into a climate-related career.


Rather than donating to charities (who are typically constrained to operating according to the rules that got us into this mess), I would suggest donating to groups like Extinction Rebellion, who try to put real political pressure on governments using civil disobedience tactics, in order to get policy changes made.

This, or starting/joining a worker's union that can similarly exert political power through the labor force. We need radical change right now and that will need radical tactics.


Probably coding a website to make it easy to lobby for nuclear reactors in the US.

Ironically enough, even though Chinese is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases right now, they're likely going to be the least in a few decades, considering how much engineering they're putting into nuclear reactor research and experimentation.


I wish there were more people lobbying for nuclear power out there. I might look into this option myself as I want to see the US become less of a nuclear power house on the weapon side of things and more on the domestic power and service side of things.


Let's not forget that electricity represents only a third of total electricity consumption. China, by with its energy intensive industry (steel, cement), will remain de facto one of the largest greenhouse vases contributor


Good point. I didn't consider that.


Write up a proposal to become your company's environmental officer if your company doesn't have one, if they do, contact them and as how you can help lead the effort.

Lobby your company to create eco scholarships to fund ecological degrees.

Work on 3d modeling and help design devices which can change how we build homes and lower energy costs through passive designs.

Find ecology centric open-source projects and donate your skills.


The comments here seem to think that children raised by what appears to be an intelligent, service-minded individual will not be a net asset in addressing the problems the future holds. I disagree.


Have/raise multiple kids. High-income, high-education parents generally have similar children, which makes them disproportionately likely to live low-consumption lifestyles and to do work that is important to future societal problems like climate problems (future in that obviously the ramp for this is decades long.)


since when do high income children live low-consumption life styles?


Climate change can't be fought on a personal level. That's just propaganda to shift responsibility onto the individual consumer and there are plenty of bleeding hearts out there that eat it up and conjure up guilt for something out of their control on a macro level


>That's just propaganda to shift responsibility onto the individual consumer

But it's the individual consumer that's ultimately responsible for all of the emissions? Corporations aren't emitting carbon for their own enjoyment.


Individual consumers? I shouldn't think that's true

> Just 100 of all the hundreds of thousands of companies in the world have been responsible for 71% of the global GHG emissions that cause global warming since 1998, according to The Carbon Majors Database, a report recently published by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)...


Fine, but a cultural shift away from eating meat for 3 meals a day would have a big impact and how does that happen except at an individual level?


> how does that happen except at an individual level

I can see changing subsidies around to make meat more expensive as a matter of public policy being more effective at changing individual behavior than trying to convince them on moral grounds.


And I can see making meat a luxury item only attainable by the wealthy having... unintended consequences.


It's not like meat was always cheap, it probably does more harm than good from a public health standpoint. In countries without subsidized steak people just have a different diet, use the meat for flavor, not calories.


This may be true when it comes to consumption, but we must definitely do something as individuals for anything to change systemwide. Participating in direct action for system change is still worth doing as an individual, where it's a contribution to a collective movement.

It won't happen by buying different stuff, but by spending our time working on projects with others that are not supporting the current system but are building a different one that is not as destructive for the climate.


Don't be discouraged by posts in this thread. Yes, you can make a difference. I've been driving a biodiesel for 20+ years. I hardly drive these days anyway. As a dev you're in a good position to pull it off. Just stop driving(walking/cycling is good for you and good for the earth), don't fly, and no more babies. Do you really want to bring a child into what's coming down the pike?

I looked into the vegan vs locavore tussle and it seems to me they fought to a standstill. So I still eat meat(I'm low carb for health reasons). I buy from the farmers market and I'm lucky to have access to a local bison farm(carbon negative - look it up).


If anyone is curious, I looked up how bison farms could be considered carbon negative, and it appears to be because of their grazing habits (they produce roughly the same methane as cows, but they don't overgraze, which helps plants grow). Curious to learn if there is actually a net benefit and the amount of land needed per bison for it to be viable, but still interesting. https://regenerationinternational.org/2017/12/24/bison-lates...


Write good, unbloated code that doesn't wear out parts faster, so that people don't feel like throwing away their perfectly fine laptops because it's gotten "too slow"


I enjoyed this episode of "Ologies" talking to an artist, Andy Hall [0] working on what he calls the "The Drawdown Design Project" - creating inspirational posters and raising money to go towards the rainforest coalition.

Basically he had the same question, talks about the themes in the posters, empower - engage - cultivate - electrify. When asked what the average person can do, his answer was basically 'donate money to elect democrats' and honestly I agree. You can spend thousands of dollars or thousands of hours of volunteering, but its the politicians that are deciding how to spend trillions. Outside of that, I can recommend the book "Climate - a new story" by Charles Eisenstein, it argues against focusing on a single metric of CO2 ppm (and includes an aside on the war-analogy we default to when we decide to fight something ;). Basically it suggests we focus more on creating a healthy biosphere, explains the connections between weather, chemistry, and life. It's got me convinced that planting trees is the right approach, but not just to sequester carbon, but to increase the amount and variety of life on earth.

[0] https://www.alieward.com/ologies/drawdowndesignproject


Working at Tesla, or another car company working on EVs, is one of the most direct ways to immediately have a big positive impact.

But working for "the next Tesla" would be the most potential positive impact, given that Tesla has already achieved its goal of forcing the car industry towards EVs.

You could make a list of the most harmful industries and work at a company trying to force them into change, like Tesla is doing with the auto industry.


Write your senator and politician first! It’s easy and they actually do count the letters and calls they receive and use those to make decisions.

Next I’d say decarbonize your life! Most people emit everyday carbon from a small number of big things: transport, home heating and cooling, etc. Luckily, all the fossil fuel powered machines that do these things have electric replacements that actually save money in the long run! Electric cars already have the lowest cost of ownership of any car and heat pump space and water heaters are waaay more efficient than burning gas or oil. So replace you car with an electric the next time you need a car, replace your furnace with a heat pump, replace your gas stove with an induction stove, etc. Pretty much everyone in America needs to do this ASSP if we have any chance of hitting 2 degrees and your example would influence those around you.

You can also donate to Rewiring America which is the only organization I’ve found with an actual concrete engineering-based plan to meet climate goals: https://rewiringamerica.org


Biggest problem about climate change is political correctness. We're too afraid to talk about the real problems and solutions because of "votes". Instead, we focus on small wins without any real impacts because it's "safe" and make people happy, like recycling.

Real problem and solutions:

  - energy -> Need hydro or nuclear. Everything else is just marketing bullshit. Windmills aren't reliable, you still need a way to store the energy and have a backup. If you factor in the cost of that backup and other solutions, you soon realize that hydro (or nuclear if hydro isn't possible) is way more cost efficient.

  - transportation -> Living in a suburb should have a penalty cost. Just compare the environmental impact between an apartment in a city and a mansion in a suburb with 5 cars. One is killing the planet much faster, there should be a penalty for it. I'm not saying forbid living in a suburb, I'm saying there should be an additional cost to living in a suburb because of the environmental impact.

  - greenhouse gases -> penalty cost in proportion to the damage caused (for instance, buying meat from livestock should be WAY more expensive.)
I'm not a climate change expert, but I do know that people react to incentive. And right now, there's no penalty to killing the planet so we can't blame people for making the decisions they're making. And policy makers can't set real policies because of fear (rightfully so) of not being elected.

It seems like we'll need to wait until the Earth is almost doomed before implementing these policies, but then it might be too late. Maybe another way is to have a "bad guy climate change" that all political party would need to take into account as part of their mandate, so the votes would be about who can best solve these issues rather than whether they should be tackled.


This isn't accurate. Wind is very consistent in deeper seas and high altitude. It's also consistent when it's spread out. This means smart large scale grids can deliver a lot of electricity and ideally sell surplus to neighboring states/countries (another important option). There are plenty of storage options, batteries are some of them but moving water around is another important storage option which helps later on for generating with hydro.

Furthermore, mixing solar, wind, hydro, geo thermal etc provides an additional level of reliability and scale. These are all very reliable when combined together and need fewer storage options.

And yes, some storage makes sense. Not a lot, but the value here is the fast response time for peaks/lows in consumption.

Notice I'm not against nuclear which is a valid option. But right now the financials don't back nuclear as much as it did 5 years ago. Building a nuclear plant is expensive and slow. The costs didn't drop since you need a completely different level of security/reliability. The cost of renewables dropped like a stone. You can build them almost instantly since objections are low by comparison. So you'd end up solving things much faster with renewables than you would with nuclear, no PC involved.


> Real problem and solutions: - energy -> Need hydro or nuclear. Everything else is just marketing bullshit.

Agree in general, yet from what i've read most of the worlds hydro (read: river) resources are already being tapped extensively. Although hydro makes up a healthy chunk today, can it expand and grow along with our increasing energy demands when we've already tapped the largest rivers? I am curious if you have sources that show hydro can grow.

I recall reading this counter to hydro in a Smil book (Growth I believe) although I will have to double check which one.


Work for a PR firm or something similar that supports government action to fight climate change. I know that political marketing probably feels like the dirtiest profession out there, but the biggest obstacle to fighting climate change in the present day isn't can't, it's won't. And recent elections have shown the unreasonable (although frankly dangerous) effectiveness of data science in modern politics. As long as we can't beat 'em, we might as well join 'em.

If you don't want to do politics, it seems like something related to modeling and/or controlling machinery is probably relevant. Solar concentrators for high-temperature manufacturing (particularly cement/aluminium), ultra-high-temperature electrolysis of steel, and better heat pumps to replace gas heaters, all come to mind as important carbon-reducing technologies that might require a software component, although I can't say exactly how.


I know you'll hate what I say, but us, engineers, we are basically useless for the climate change. Maybe just harmful.

We are trained to build a carbon intensive world. Our tools, our philosophy and our expectation require ssomehow more clusters hidden on a fancy new cloud architecture. Our optimization will be not compensated by the rebound effect.

Personally, I am totally a part of it. My neural networks require 64 V100 GPUs to be trained. And that's the optimized version!

I think we should seriously reset our way of life and create a new fun life that is sustainable and inspiring.

I believe that the agriculture is the area with the highest leverage effect. So my plan for the next 3 years is to sell all the shits I invested in, buy a farm, grow vegetables without chemical fertilizers, and invite my friends in joining this journey. What not adding some visual based monoriting tools or, some small robots, to automatize and scale this permaculture approach. That's fun and I am not so bad at it.


I feel like I agree. And the dumb thing is that all our work does is make it more efficient for everyone to go about wrecking up our planet.

I mean, we think of PCs, internet, tech, as the start of a new revolution of efficiency, which sounds like a good thing. But this just makes consumerism so much easier: products are there when you want them to be, you can make hundreds of impulse purchases a day without leaving your home, etc., which is the demand source of all these problems.


The highest leverage in that case might be to buy the farm and let it revert to nature. IMHO, the future of food is fermentation.


1. Vote for representatives who believe in climate change or run for office yourself.

2. Have less kids or no kids.

3. Drive an EV or don't own a car at all (if possible).

4. Avoid air travel.

5. Eat less meat or no meat.

6. Work for companies who are growing rapidly in the EV, renewable energy/energy storage, carbon sequestration, and lab grown ag space. Push out fossil fuel usage for electricity and transportation.

(in that order)

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/12/want-to-...

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541


Read up on biology and engineer a virus that creates a worldwide pandemic. It'll shut down cities, keep people from leaving their homes, decimate air travel industry, shut down manufacturing, and create an international supply chain crisis.

If that doesn't work we're fucked.


Emissions only 8 % lower last year. Yet everyone still seems to think behavioral change will solve this. Nope.

Geo-engineering, co2 capture and other tech are the only solution.

The strange part is that even on HN people seem to think technological solutions are immoral. As if humans need to be punished for their ‘climate sins’ by lowering their living standard and comfort instead of just fixing the problem with our brains.


I wanted to disagree, that if we all do our part then it could accelerate and provide the change we need. Then I did a reality check.

If you look at the raw numbers here: https://www.worldometers.info/co2-emissions/co2-emissions-pe...

Even if we get the whole world down to India per capita averages, at 2 tons per capita, that's a global reduction of 60%. And it's maybe just barely enough? But I don't see a future where the world volunteers to go down to India living standards. And it's definitely not going to happen by a few people going vegetarian.

I think you're right. Fixing it in a way that doesn't require much lifestyle change is the only way out. Though finding anyone willing to pay for the fix is still a problem.

(That said, I'd happily encourage lifestyle changes too).


> But I don't see a future where the world volunteers to go down to India living standards.

Nor a future where developing countries choose to stop growing to save the planet.

I also think most people would rather pay a bit more taxes to pay for climate tech than change their whole lifestyle. We’re betting on the wrong horse.


I feel like the biggest problem with climate change is one of collective action.

Lets start with the assumption that it is possible to make a meaningful impact on climate change by significantly reducing our consumption, this requires significant sacrifices to an individuals lifestyle.

I'm talking big pictured stuff like not eating meat, no more international travel, no personal vehicles, less spend on medicine reducing life expectancy, limits on number of children.

Lets say we have credible evidence that if these things are done the situation will improve.

Now whether you take the perspective of being an individual, member of a community or even a country, why would you make those sacrifices if you have no guarantee that everyone else will. It's a big price to pay to 'set an example'.


I think, in all seriousness, this isn't something you solve by asking random internet strangers for blurbs. You need to get in the habit of reading up, educating yourself and commit to finding an answer that makes sense to you.

I wish it were easier. I don't believe it is.


I run a climate/weather data site (https://oikolab.com) and if you'd like to give feedback on the API design and the service, it would be much appreciated.

Happy to relax restrictions for you to access data if you'd like to poke around and interested in understanding how climate has changed in various locations around the world.


Convince policy makers to drive and guide innovation and policies .

We won't make it with individual contributions of consuming a bit less. Of course it makes sense to do it at some degree.

Go to every climate strike out there. Including 24.09.2021 is the next global climate strike. Make sure to be there and take your family, friends and colleagues with you.



I think just _reducing_ meat consumption can go a long way. We don’t all have to be vegetarians. Maybe if we treated meat like most treat alcohol - maybe something we do on special occasions like holidays or a unique restaurant. But why have your default lunch be the deli counter mystery meat ham?




I have this nihilistic thought experiment that's it's already too late, and we should otherwise prepare for the inevitable. I hope I'm wrong, but nonetheless, maybe we can't fight it.


Stop eating meat.


Tito can’t be on HN 24/7, I suppose.

Join Airminers! Carbon capture is really the only solution at this point. https://airminers.org/


Carbon capture is necessary, but it's orders of magnitude more expensive than just not releasing the carbon in the first place.

Preventing carbon release is a political problem, and OP could work to support pro-environment politicians.


Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

did a great video on this earlier today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiw6_JakZFc


Stop eating meat and make it easy for people to find out why and how.


Congratulations, you have effectively done nothing by following this advice.



Perhaps start researching what this "climate change" actually is. If you understood what it is you would probably know what to do to actively fight it.


I’m a big fan of effective altruism. To be honest, the best way a software engineer can help climate change is to make a lot of money and donate a lot of it.


Idea of hot having kids is socio-pathological ideology. Not having kids means more selfishness. Maybe more money. Big companies can profit from it. Familly with 5 kids probably wont need or even be able to buy Lamborghini. Also this idea is dead by itself, because basically just deny natural life.

Of course we don't need eat meat every day but stop eating meat completely sounds like hypocrisy for me and could be dangerous for health, especially for kids.


What do you mean “could be dangerous for help”? It’s the contrary [1] and with so many people not eating meat there sure would be a lot more people lacking nutrients, right? If someone is very nervous about lacking nutrients you can get tested for your nutritional values, too.

[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/red-meat-and-...


You'll probably make the biggest impact by working at a hedge fund and use your excess disposable income to lobby for change


A lower cost solution here is just to call your congressman. Not many people do it and it can actually make a significant impact. This site walks you through all the steps to do it (which are not many): https://www.codered4climate.org/


True but nobody wants to hear it.

Hell of a lot more effective than punishing yourself to reduce global meat consumption by .00000001% .

Or just come to terms with the fact that for good or bad you just don't matter and try to live your life without doing unnecessary excessive harm.


It is not punishing to stop eating animals. It may seem that way if you're not used to it, but it is a fulfilling and healthy way to live with compassion for our planet and fellow living beings; who have consciousness, personality, love for their families and desire to live just like us.

Yes it is not effective if you're the only one in the world doing it, but it has always been about convincing others to drastically reduce or stop completely, whether through word of mouth or policy change.

Producing animal products is unsustainable and come with enormous environmental impacts [1][2]. We need both top-down and bottom-up approaches. So it's worthwhile what individuals and companies/governments choose to do. It's not one or the other.

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food [2] https://ourworldindata.org/land-use


I respect people who choose not to eat meat. It doesn't affect me at all. To me it would certainly be punishing myself though.

But you aren't going to convince me that it's fixing any problem.


If you don't want to be convinced then you won't be convinced regardless of any ethical arguments or data-backed evidence. That's fine, not everyone can be rational and open-minded, but please don't discourage others from making compassionate choices.


Nope, an individual not eating meat doesn't affect the bigger picture in the slightest meaningful way. It accomplishes 0 when framed in terms of any end goal. And meat is one of the things that I love in life.

I'll continue to be honest.


What about at scale? Meaning many individuals?


Let's say it was a million individuals you were directly controlling (whereas in reality I doubt you could effect the eating habits of more than 2 or 3, but let's say a million)

At that scale it really doesn't matter at all. It's a percentage of a percentage. The reverse of orders of magnitudes.

I guess when you are running a G20 country let me know and then at that point I would still say you're in for a struggle. I won't hold my breath.

So yeah. Your and my individual actions don't mean the slightest thing for climate change regardless of how you frame it. I'm sorry if that narrative doesn't make you feel good.


Thank you. No need to be sorry. Not everyone needs to spin a narrative to justify their actions to make themselves feel good.

Looks like you do agree that at real scale it would have an impact. But whether you're an individual or a G20 leader, none of what we do matters?

I do agree we're locked into a web of incentives that discourages us from making sustainable choices. It's not any single person's fault. A few individuals giving up meat won't slow down climate change. At the same time, consuming more and more meat like we do now certainly helps accelerate it. Not to mention what we eat is only a small part of the equation. Now we're looking at changing our behaviours in many other areas too.

It's a predicament indeed. What can people actually do? They can continue business as usual, or worse, double down and consume even more, or they can change their behaviour. Each action is a vote. Just like in elections, one vote doesn't matter, a lot of votes do.

Yes it may not matter. Yes they might be hypocrites and just doing it to make their egos feel good. Or maybe they just want to be more compassionate and do what they can to contribute no matter how small. And in a violent world like ours, if there are people wanting to make compassionate choices, we should encourage them.


Or if you're more into the arts than math, you can become a famous actor and frequently host yacht parties with bikini-clad models to call attention to the cause, periodically breaking to fly (via private jet of course) to various events to give speeches about climate change.



To those who suggest "don't have kids": if everyone who cares about saving the planet followed your advice, what would the voting population look like a couple decades from now? I say instead, have children and raise them to be the kind of ethical, courageous, well-educated leaders our future so desperately needs.


> what would the voting population look like

Less humans will surely make more effect than any of other things you do. You can just adopt instead and raise them.


what about heavily promoting contraception?


Just promote education and economic opportunity for women. They will consequently have less kids and later in life.


> To those who suggest "don't have kids"

I would also accept "pay people to not have kids", similar to how some countries pay people to have kids [1] [2] [3] [4]. Not having kids has value, and hence those who choose not to should be compensated appropriately.

EDIT: @EForEndeavour: People who have children receive tax credits and benefits simply for having them (US centric) and their future impacts are externalities.

[1] https://qz.com/200728/what-countries-around-the-world-give-t...

[2] https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carte_famille_nombreuse

[3] https://www.france24.com/en/20130611-why-french-women-make-m...

[4] https://www.vhemt.org/bbbounty.htm


In a way, people are already "paid" not to have kids, since kids consume enormous amounts of time and money.


Convince people to have less children would be the biggest lever in that fight. Do what you can to advance and promote wind, solar, and nuclear power, and electric transportation. If you do the latter without also addressing the former, you fall afoul of Jevon's Paradox.


There are two things you can do.

1. Think about how many kids you want to have and then have at least one less than that number (assuming your number was greater than zero to begin with).

2. Give these two answers whenever you are asked this question in the future.


Until we solve the problem of regulatory capture, there is nothing that can be done on the individual level that will make a big enough dent in reality.


Petition for reducing the national debt. As I see it, this money eventually gets turned into carbon in some way or other. This means you may need to let go of some special interests, no matter which side you're on.

But additionally I'd say it's something that conservatives and liberals can agree on. We'll disagree on what to cut, but I think lots of people see the national debt as a problem. To make any dent in this whole thing we'll need support from both sides. It's no help to communicate in an echo chamber.


don't procreate. stop eating meat. vote.


if you don't procreate, your political opponents will eventually outnumber you. you need the next generation to vote too.


> don’t procreate

This is stupid. Choosing to not have a kid will have absolutely no effect on climate change and would make life less fulfilling.



I was framing it in the “I want to have a kid but won’t because I want to help stop climate change”. Those people will be un-fulfilled because their individual action will not have any effect on climate change, but would affect their life tremendously.


"I want to ___, but I won't because ____"

You can fill in the blanks with anything and still have a fulfilled life.

I want to be a billion, but I won't because I'm poor.

I want to travel to 100 countries, but I won't because climate change and lack of time.

I want to eat steak every night, but I won't because climate change and impact to my health.

These compromises don't make me unable to have a fulfilling life.


If you want to visit 100 countries and don't, then part of you is unfulfilled. Otherwise you didn't really want to do that. And go ahead and visit them...you traveling to 100 countries won't stop the climate crisis one iota, and would actually probably help it by spreading your money around the world where people can put it to better use.


My grandparents had 5 kids. Each of those kids have had 4 kids. that is 25 people having a non-zero pollution footprint. Better to just stop the chain and let the earth heal.


Go nuckelar, and carbon extraction


Stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy. No ocean cruises. Limit flying.

Look up "effective altruism" and find some recommended charities to donate to.


Eggs, really? How does a significant portion of my food coming from grazing backyard chickens, and not transported thousands of miles, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions?


Do you think that is the case with the overwhelming majority of people?


Depends on the timeline. Long term unsexy answer is don’t have kids. Compounding matters.


How "don't have kids" is any different than "kill yourself now"?

Surely that'll help even more, since it includes everything at once - no meat consumption, no travel, no cars, etc.


Create The Matrix(1999). As a SWE it is your best bet. Everything from eating to travel can all be done from within cyberspace.

Edit: This guy eats meat without any greenhouse emissions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO-LFVHpA4s




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