April 27, 2017

During his lecture and discussion on climate change, Professor Bateman brought up three key issues regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation. Two of these issues can be significantly aided by open source design. However, the third cannot. First, climate change is a time sensitive phenomenon that requires the immediate development of mitigation and adaptation technologies. Second, climate change is an issue that affects everyone and will require mitigation efforts on behalf of all individuals. Third, the problem of climate change is ultimately so widespread and daunting that it will require broad intervention from the American electorate. Individual acts alone will not be enough to solve the problem overall.

First, as we learned from Professor Bateman’s talk, climate change is an immediate problem and only open source design can help meet the pressing time constraints of the issue. Climate change is not a far off eventuality. Instead, as Professor Bateman pointed out, it currently has very real effects on the earth and will be one of the greatest problems my generation has to face. Because the temperature of the earth is rising at a historically unprecedented rate, we must begin implementing mitigation and adaptation solutions immediately. Open source design can help with this immediate implementation by making knowledge about climate mitigation and adaptation technology open to everybody. Under a system of intellectual property, ideas for climate change mitigation can take years to develop. Occasionally, companies will even drop mitigation ideas after taking years to develop them. For example, Google shut down their RE<C project, aimed at finding renewable energy electricity sources, because they did not feel that the project was “on track to meet its target” (Spectrum). Open source design prevents this issue because collective knowledge leads to quicker solutions and ensures that projects with potential do not go unfinished.

Photo Source: BBC

Second, Professor Bateman emphasized the importance of implementing means by which to combat climate change in our own lives. Open source can help this effort by making sustainable products more affordable for everyone. Climate change is a problem that effects and personally involves every single person on earth. Therefore, as Professor Bateman pointed out, everyone should contribute to climate change mitigation or adaptation in some small way. Open source can help this effort because it makes products more affordable and available to everyone. Intellectual property products automatically involve a higher price because they require research and development costs and sometimes patent protection and defense costs. The extensive resources and personnel that Google devoted to the RE<C project are evidence of this increased intellectual property cost (Spectrum). However, open source design products do not have any R&D or patent costs. Instead, open source products can be developed cheaply or even for free in situations like the POC21 project (Shareable). Thus, open source products can be sold at a lower price. Because open source products do not involve the same level of cost as intellectual property products, open source helps mitigate climate change by making sustainable technologies and products more affordable for all.

However, the last and most important issue Professor Bateman raised regarding climate change cannot be helped by open source design or intellectual property. Climate change is an incredibly large issue that will require extensive cooperative acts like the Paris Agreement and large-scale technological investments (UNFCCC). Therefore, individual contributions to mitigating climate change can help, but ultimately will not solve the problem. As Professor Bateman emphasized, everyone must take the time to vote for representatives committed to climate change solutions as well as actively promote those organizations fighting against climate change. These representatives and organizations are the only people who have the ability to fund programs and investments like cap and trade that will work to solve climate change on a large scale. Thus, while open source design is a valuable tool in the fight against global warming, only the greater American and global electorate can solve the problem once and for all.