“For the planet, time is running out and solutions have to be put in place now, starting from what is already available and within our reach.” – Leonardo DiCaprio
The recent documentary Ice of Fire (2019, HBO) directed by Leila Conners and starring Leonardo di Caprio premiered this summer. The actor and narrator had already let us see his concern about the climate crisis in Before the Flood (2016, National Geographic) where he showed the devastating effects of CO2 emissions on climate change. He has an official role as “Messenger of Peace” of the United Nations and travels the world while talking with scientists, activists and world leaders.
Ice on Fire focuses on the details of how CO2 and methane are generated from fossil fuels and other processes (e.g. livestock, food and waste). All of this affects the climate: the polar ice caps melt at a previously unknown rate and this generates changes in sea currents and atmospheric flow, producing unusually high rainfall, increasingly devastating hurricanes, fires or enormous droughts.
The process of climate change seems faster than the implementation of solutions, and the existence of world leaders messages, agreements such as the Paris agreement (COP21) or the Sustainable Development Goals are all very laudable. But the truth is that few actions have been taken. Studies and political decisions move slow and many governments recognize that they will not be able to achieve the objectives set in terms of reducing CO2 emissions.
The most important thing is that the Earth’s atmosphere has a limit on the amount of CO2 it can take and methane is also a major problem, according to scientists. The way we produce and consume energy is a key factor.
Many solutions in search of the great solution
The solution to reverse the climate crisis is not unique, but as it’s told in the documentaries maybe “the fruit of many solutions in parallel”. Among them are renewable energies, including offshore and onshore wind energy and solar energy. The Sun is the largest and most inexhaustible resource we have. Although it used to be an expensive type of energy, things have changed and now that it has begun to be used massively in many parts of the world. It has also become cheaper, to the point of being cheaper than the fossil fuels.
A combination of solar and wind energy could generate enough electricity for all kind of uses, assuming that energy could be stored for those moments when there is no sun or wind; it could be switched to using batteries or other alternative energy sources. This is where other technologies come into play, such as batteries or small local electricity grids.
Among other solutions –which today are considered local, not on the scale of the climate change problem– the documentary mentions developing methods to “sequester” and store CO2, turning it into rocks. It’s also said that there are more realistic options such as changing habits and human consumption: the type of food (less abundant in red meat, whose production consumes excessive resources and generates CO2 and methane), recycling, the purchase of local products to avoid unnecessary transport, and so on. Just a matter of changing habits.
As DiCaprio states in the documentary: “for the planet, time is running out and solutions have to be put in place now, starting from what is already available and within our reach. There is no other option.” It’s a task in which scientists and the existing energy solutions have a lot to say.