Asking better questions is a skill that can lead to deeper understanding, improved communication, and more effective problem-solving. Here are some strategies to help you ask more insightful questions:
Do Your Homework: Before asking questions, make sure you have a basic understanding of the topic. This allows you to ask more informed and specific questions.
Be Clear and Concise: Formulate your questions in a way that is easy to understand. Avoid overly complex language or convoluted constructions.
Open-Ended Questions: Use open-ended questions to elicit a more detailed response. Start your questions with “how,” “why,” or “what do you think about…”
Focus on the ‘Five Ws + H’: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. These are powerful question starters that can lead to a wealth of information.
Ask Follow-Up Questions: Show that you are engaged and interested by asking for additional details or clarification.
Encourage Storytelling: People often reveal more when prompted to tell a story. Ask questions that require a narrative to get a fuller picture of the situation.
Avoid Leading Questions: Try not to ask questions that suggest a particular answer. It’s better to remain neutral and open to whatever response you receive.
Prioritize Listening: Be an active listener. Sometimes, the answers given will open up new avenues of inquiry that you hadn’t considered.
Be Patient: Give the other person time to think and respond. Don’t rush to fill silence if it looks like the other person is contemplating their answer.
Reflect and Clarify: If you’re not sure you understood, repeat back what you think you heard and ask if that’s correct.
Be Empathetic: Understand the emotional context of your question. If the subject could be sensitive, frame your inquiry in a way that shows respect and understanding.
Use the Socratic Method: Engage in a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions.
Avoid Yes or No Questions: Unless you are seeking confirmation or denial, try to formulate your questions in a way that requires a more detailed response.
Timing is Key: Ask questions at the appropriate time. Posing a question when someone is rushed, distracted, or in the wrong setting can affect the quality of the answer.
When short on time: reduce scope and complexity by asking what’s working, and what’s not.
Consider Your Audience: Tailor your question to the person you’re asking. Experts might appreciate and expect more technical questions, while you’d want to avoid jargon when talking to someone outside the field.
By following these guidelines, you’ll not only improve the quality of information you receive, but you’ll also foster better dialogue and understanding with others.
23% strongly agree that they trust the leadership of their organization. 23% strongly agree that they get the right amount of recognition. 20% feel connected to their organization’s culture. 51% of workers say they are actively seeking a new job. 37% of workers are interested in a new job but not actively searching. 53% say they don’t feel prepared to work with AI, robotics, or other technologies.
As a curious layperson, I decided to explore the problem and well-known solutions. To be clear, there have been five mass extinction events on Earth related to climate change, but man nor primates were around to cause or survive them.
From 1980 to 2023 (as of August 8, 2023), there have been363 confirmed weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each that affected the United States. These events included 30 drought events, 41 flooding events, 9 freeze events, 180 severe storm events, 60 tropical cyclone events, 21 wildfire events, and 22 winter storm events. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 15,971 people and had significant economic effects.
According to the Global Carbon Project, the United States is the world’s second-largest carbon dioxide emitter, after China, and 5th in per capita emissions. The United States is responsible for 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions, with each person contributing 15.74 tons on average.
A report by the United Nations and several climate organizations found that governments still plan to increase coal production until 2030 and oil and gas production until at least 2050.
Transportation and Power Stations are not the only contributors to Global warming, and not all greenhouse gases are equal. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) was developed to allow comparisons of the global warming impacts of different gases. Precisely, it measures how much energy the emissions of 1 ton of a gas will absorb over a given period of time relative to the emissions of 1 ton of carbon dioxide. The larger the GWP, the more that a given gas warms the Earth compared to carbon dioxide over that time period. Let’s start with carbon dioxide emissions, which represent most greenhouse gases caused by humans; it is not the most potent, but carbon dioxide has a half-life of about 120 years, methane’s half-life is 10.5 years, and nitrous oxide’s is 132 years. However, due to its structure, methane traps more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide, making it 80 times more harmful during its atmospheric lifespan. While we measure known methane sources, we only have a vague idea how much is being released by the melting glaciers and permafrost.
The United States has recently reduced its reliance on coal, while crude oil and natural gas are still a significant source of greenhouse gases, and our overall climate action rating is deemed insufficient.
Well-known Approaches that Theoretically Scale
We can consider placing an upper limit on the amount of carbon dioxide we will allow ourselves to emit into the atmosphere within a given timeframe. Not a proven tactic globally after 25 years of International negotiations, nor are carbon offsets or credits.
We can also improve our monitoring of the planet and detection of the most harmful greenhouse gases to capture, fine polluters, or stop them with judicial oversight and criminal enforcement.
We can build massive Carbon Dioxide or Direct Air Capture and storage systems. Sure, given enough time and capital, but what about the other greenhouse gases? To hit its net zero targets, the world relies on a controversial technology pioneered by the fossil fuel industry that will cost $4.5 trillion this decade.
We can drive electric vehicles instead of those that burn fossil fuels. In 2022, about 134.55 billion gallons of finished motor gasoline were consumed in the United States, an average of about 369 million gallons per day. Sure, EVs will help, but EVs are not 100% green and still have a carbon footprint from the fuel required to charge batteries, along with an environmental impact cost of the chemicals for the batteries. More importantly, at the current rate of 3.2% per year or 442,000 EVs out of the 13.75 million car and light truck vehicles manufactured in 2022, it is nowhere near the scale we require. In perspective, there are now 1.7 million EVs on the road in the U.S. compared to 285 million gasoline-powered vehicles. It also does not address the other 5% of trucks responsible for 25% of transportation emissions better served by hydrogen-powered engines. Biden calling for half of all new vehicle sales to be EVs by 2030 doesn’t cut it. In my opinion, the EV industry and our government also missed a significant opportunity to accelerate consumer adoption by providing standardized removable batteries that could be swapped out with precharged batteries at any updated gas station in just minutes instead of building thousands of charging stations where you can wait 6-12 hours to charge your vehicle.
We can switch to renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind) to power our homes and buildings. Sure, this also helps, but consider the horrible economics, efficiency, and insufficient materials on the planet for the batteries required to store the power until it’s needed because reliance on renewable generation alone is an incomplete solution for grid-supplied energy. We will require multitudes of large Pumped Hydro Storage, or MegaWatt storage systems, with billions of inverters and batteries that require periodic replacement. Even the best Nickel-hydrogen batteries only last for 30,000 charge cycles.
We could improve mass transit instead of driving our cars. We have been working to expand mass transit outside of our metropolitan cities since the seventies. This is a complicated and complex opportunity we have yet to solve. We may be better off leaning into the four-day workweek and work-from-home initiatives.
We can switch to renewable energy sources such as geothermal or hydro, where we have lakes, rivers, and can build damns. Sounds reasonable if we can do it without destroying fisheries, marshlands, or environmental ecosystems.
We can conserve energy by better insulating our homes and buildings, replacing windows and doors, investing in heat pumps, and replacing older appliances with more energy-efficient models, including gas stoves, water heaters, and HVAC systems.
We can support more businesses that use and promote sustainable, climate-smart practices like those listed above. Sure, in theory, but most consumers will not educate themselves or make the tradeoff unless the product or service is taxed or incentivized; please see our history on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, the ten states with bottle deposit laws, and any initiatives to reduce single-use plastics.
We can draw down carbon by planting trees and stop cutting down our forests.
One of my most hopeful technology-driven approaches is the reinvention of 1960/70 nuclear fission technology from TerraPower, which uses a Natrium reactor that reuses spent uranium materials, of which we have 88,000 metric tons. Has no chance of a meltdown and is more environmentally friendly regarding water resources and harmful emissions. Once proven, it could safely and cost-effectively be used for new U.S. power plants until nuclear fusion proves feasible to replace all existing power plants. Approval to build the first Natrium reactor was granted for Wyoming. Multiple companies are looking to re-engineer nuclear fission and find a breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology, so keep a hopeful eye on this space.
I am unaware of any significant initiatives that scale in the agriculture, petrochemicals, or industrial/construction industries, but I will post any updates when I find some.