This week, we’ve witnessed several impactful developments across two high-contributing factors to climate change: mining and garbage. The UK has taken a firm stand against deep-sea mining, acknowledging its potential impact on our warming oceans. At the same time, U.S. state officials have called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to bolster waste management initiatives.
Navigating the deep sea dilemma
Due to the depths of our oceans, there is a delicate balance between extracting necessary minerals from the seabed and protecting an environment largely shrouded in mystery. While we've mapped 100% of the ocean floor, it still eludes our current climate knowledge and the impact of deep-sea mining.
The UK recently joined 20 countries, including Germany, Brazil, and Canada, in calling for a moratorium on commercial deep-sea mining. Car manufacturers like BMW and Volvo have also voiced their opposition, pledging not to accept minerals like nickel and cobalt sourced from the deep sea.
However, the difficulty lies in the pivotal role these minerals play in our transition to renewable energy. With on-land mining supply lagging behind growing demand, the question becomes: How can we accelerate climate action without jeopardizing the marine ecosystem?
Addressing land-based issues: Methane from landfills
Shifting focus back to land, a letter penned by 56 city officials from 18 U.S. states to the EPA underscored the significant contribution landfills have on the nation's emissions, which are responsible for about 14% of U.S. methane emissions. Of note: The letter pointed out that methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The call to action has two main asks:
- A plan to phase out organic material in landfills by 2040.
- An update to landfill standards to incorporate advanced technologies for detecting and mitigating methane leaks.
While many local governments have made strides in reducing food waste through composting programs, the leaders urge the EPA to expand grant funding, making these initiatives more widespread and accessible to the public, thereby addressing a substantial contributor to climate change.
Striking the balance
From the ocean's depths to our backyards, pursuing sustainable solutions requires a delicate equilibrium. As nations and industries grapple with the urgency of climate action, the tug-of-war between traditional environmentalism and rapid renewable expansion becomes apparent.
In addressing these concerns, the UK's stance against deep sea mining emphasizes caution, while U.S. officials' appeal to the EPA underscores the necessity of immediate waste management action.
1. Gov.UK, "UK supports moratorium on deep sea mining to protect ocean and marine ecosystems," https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-supports-moratorium-on-deep-sea-mining-to-protect-ocean-and-marine-ecosystems Accessed October 30, 2023
2. Reuters, "US EPA needs to phase out food waste from landfills by 2040 -local officials," https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-epa-needs-phase-out-food-waste-landfills-by-2040-local-officials-2023-10-31/ Accessed October 31, 2023
3. Environmental Protection Agency, "Landfill methane local government letter," https://static1.squarespace.com/static/642ee16eb411be5d2ab91e50/t/65400b3785e53c09bbe9c311/1698695991416/Landfill+methane+local+government+letter+with+signatures.alpha.pdf Accessed October 31, 2023