We must turn upside down our approach to fighting Global Warming
because time is of the essence.
Instead of regulating GHG to a level that may be acceptable to the public, we must reduce GHG to the maximum that could be technically and economically implementable,
Preface: GW is unlike any other technical issue because we have no previous human experience of this magnitude and it is natural to minimize its significance.
Our culture is based on hope, progress, improvements, and we reject what does not fit our image of the future. Not only that, as we see the sun rising and one beautiful day after another it is natural to inwardly reject that GW is posing a serious danger to the stability of our climate and even, possibly, to human survival. Even most serious scientists, technologists, and decision makers who understand the danger of GW have difficulties accepting GW internally.
- Most proposed cuts in GHG are based on IPCC AR4. However, we can not rely on the AR4 to set limits to GHG emissions since it was politically constrained, ignored potential catastrophic events, and some of its negative predictions were already exceeded. We now have more relevant data and more insight.
- The just released US federal report: “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” describes considerable current impact on US weather and related economics. It also predicts more significant impacts with time, depending on global GHG reduction. This report states the obvious, that the earlier and the larger the reduction of GHG emissions the lower will be the magnitude and cost of mitigations – less human suffering.
- We do not know at what level we must stabilize GHG to prevent the more severe harm to the world population because the complexity of global climate is beyond our actual knowledge. Modeling, at best, is approximation. If we err, we must err on the safe side.
- The natural self interest of most people distorts their ability to cooperate and follow the need of the larger society. Therefore, there is considerable uncertainty how the laws enacted will effect the actual GHG emissions in the US. And we are one the most law-abiding nations.
- The self interest of nations and desire for power of the influentials would severely distort the compliance with global GHG regulations. Think of the oil exporting nations, as a minimum.
- There is some low, but not insignificant, probability that increased levels of GHG could trigger catastrophic, massive, releases of GHG that could cause significant increase in global temperatures. That possible temperature increase, beyond 10 or even 20 degrees C, could cause severe, unmitigated damage to the global climate that could render our Earth essentially uninhabitable.
- Because this is the only home humanity has, we can not take the risk of destroying our climate. Risk is the probability times the magnitude of the event. Even with low probabilities, the potential immense magnitude of the damage to our globe, makes the risk massive and unacceptable. We must dedicate a high percentage of our global resources to reduce GHG as fast as possible and the largest reduction possible.
- Humanity has never encountered a danger to its existence of this level before. We can not truly grasp the seriousness of GW. Even with all the high levels of scientific and technical powers we have, we are unprepared. We do not know what we do not know or understand.
- We still operate by “we vs. them” laws. This simply can not work. Global cooperation beyond any previous level is mandatory. We depend on one another, especially the US and China.
- We, the US, will have to “give” more than other nations. We took the “most” to date. US is 4.5% of global population, occupying 1.9% of Earth surfaces, and emitted to date 30% of all GHG.
- Internationally we would not be able to cover up superficial regulations and inaction by bluff and public relation superficiality, so common in our culture. Foreign governments are not likely to buy into that kind of reasoning that much of our own public does. We have to be more honest and forward in our international dealing re. GW or we will not get the crucial international cooperation required.
- The complexity of global climate, the significant gaps in our knowledge, the uncertainty of GHG laws, their compliance, global cooperation required, and potential high risk to our survival, put us in a dangerous territory. We do not know what the results of all GHG curtailment laws and effort would achieve. Therefore, we can not use the usual American approach: “don’t worry, everything will turn up right in the end.” We must err towards minimizing global human suffering and maximizing the chance for human survival.
- The initial GHG reductions that we should take now must be decisive, based on proven technologies and real knowledge, not experimental or unproven; that may or may not work. We can not take the risks since the CO2 that was not cut will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. After we accomplish significant GHG reductions, then we can bring proven new approaches on line too.
WE MUST CURTAIL GHG TO THE MAXIMUM LEVEL WE CAN POSSIBLY MANAGE ASAP.
Discussion: ITEM ONE ONLY IN THIS DRAFT
- Most proposed cuts in GHG are based on IPCC AR4. However, we can not rely on the AR4 to set limits to GHG emissions since it was politically constrained, ignored potential catastrophic events, and some of its negative predictions were already exceeded. We now have more relevant data and more insight.
- The starting point for most regulatory activities against global warming are based on the 2007, IPCC-AR4 findings and recommendations. We owe immense thanks and respect to IPCC and the many excellent scientists that worked with great dedication to discover the data and develop this information. They did a good job alerting us to the danger of GW. Just reading carefully the details of AR4-SPM – should wake us up to realize the severity of coming impacts of GW. However, now the situation seems even graver than depicted in AR4.
Now, mid 2009, two and half years later we need to rethink our reliance on AR4 because the recommendations were: soften down by politics, did not include some relevant data, disagreed by scientists inside IPCC, ignored potential catastrophic events, and some climatic projections have been already exceeded. And most important - we have more information and insight now.
Some limitations of AR4:
- The latest data for AR4 was 2006, some much earlier.
- China data was before 2001, before the latest explosion of growth and its vast energy use.
- AR4 modeling did not include some known negative climatic events. For example: “Note: CO2 emissions in most models do not include emissions from decay of above ground biomass that remains after logging and deforestation, and from peat fires and drained peat soils.” AR4 SMP p21
Above decays can be significant contributors to GHG. Deforestation emits 20% of GHG and is right behind the emissions of China and US.
- AR4 did not cover potential catastrophic climatic events of mass release of stored GHG. They should not be ignored.
- AR4 was a politically controlled document and was soften by several governments, including the previous US administration, China and Saudi. Several IPCC scientists fought hard against the constrained climatic predictions. Compromises forced.
- Some of the AR4 negative predictions have already been greatly exceeded*. That means that in a very brief time it is already obvious that AR4 underestimated some noticeable negative impacts of GHG. And if these short term predictions are already in error so quickly, some longer term impacts may be underestimated even more severely. Longer term predictions, by their nature, have wider range of possibilities.
- AR4 used scientific information that was well researched, peer reviewed and dismissed unproven, although logical issues such as catastrophic events. It was: “too little, and too late.”
It is the nature of scientists to seek verifiable data, scrutinize it to understand, seek independent confirmation, and submit to peer review. This is admirable but not possible and even dangerous when dealing with GW. We do not have the ability or the time to experiment. We can not draw on previous experience.
Science failed humanity intolerably in this area. The desire for peer respect, and sometimes fear of being considered “an Advocate” slowed down considerably alerting decision makers to the magnitude and urgency of GW. This is even continuing now. Also, no scientist wants to be considered “an alarmist” either.
- - - -
*Re. 6 above. Here is a clear example of AR4 mistaken prediction: Rapid contraction of North Pole (NP) ice. The NP minimal ice coverage shrunk from 3.01 Million square miles in 1980, to 1.81 M sq. miles, in 2008, a 42% drop, decades ahead of AR4 projection.
To visualize the significance of this let’s look at the dimensions involved. The minimal ice coverage of the NP in 1980 was 3.01 million square miles, nearly identical to the area of the contiguous US - 3.1 million square miles. The minimal NP ice coverage shrunk to 1.81 million square miles by 2008. Picture it, the ice coverage that disappeared is almost half the size of the United States!
That means that during some of the summer, a reflective surface almost half the size of the US is now blue sea that absorbs sunlight, while previously it reflected most sunlight energy back into space.
This ice-free zone is now in a natural positive feedback mode, self-amplifying the ice shrinkage. More sun energy absorption by the blue ocean increases the region temperatures and melt more ice, and the melting continues even without any increase in GHG.
To what stable level of GHG should we aim?
Most statements about GHG levels say something similar to what Dr. Holdren said at the MIT Energy conference on 4/13/09:
“If we stabilize GHG at 500 ppm there is a 50% chance that we may stay below 3 degrees rise, and unlikely to avoid unknown critical events.
At 450, a 50% chance of staying below 2 C degrees. A much more prudent approach but not guarantee.
(My notes of the conference video).
I am not questioning Dr. Holdren remarks and I am confident he looked at the problem from many angles. But I am not sure we actually grasp what he is saying and how difficult it is to achieve these limits.
The current GHG reduction goals debated in Congress, H.R. 2454, are not likely to achieve the desired temperature target. It may be the best currently possible politically, but very likely grossly insufficient. We do not have a choice now and should support it, but it is not likely to do the job intended as explained below:
It seems to me that many professionals are basing their GHG reduction recommendations (such as 80% reduction below 2005 level by 2050) on two critical charts in AR4 SPM, Figure SPM.11.: “CO2 emissions and equilibrium temperature incarcerates..”
These charts project possible relationships between stabilized levels of GHG and potential increase in average global temperatures.
My main concern is that, if I understand it correctly, we may be erroneously relying on these charts to set the levels of GHG emissions.
The charts indicate, and the general view is, that globally we must stay within range I:
445-490 ppm CO2-equivalent (GHG) to restrain the temperature rise to an “acceptable” level of 1.5 to 2.5 C. That level, it said, may limit the damage to the global environment BELOW the level that could cause more severe damages, even possible catastrophic, uncontrolled, mass release of nature-stored GHG. (Dr. Holdren, above, wisely recommends below this level)
However, the left chart of SPM.11. “World CO2,” is more likely to represent hopeful expectations but does not reflect current reality. Look at our aim, the lowest corresponding emission level :
the Green strata –I [445 - 490 ppm]; it shows a flat emission level from 2000 to 2020. This is not factual because:
- A. Today, mid 2009, we still have not cut GHG emissions, they slowed their INCREASE due to the bad economy, but they are not leveled. GHG is increasing.
- B. Under the best of circumstances GHG could not be cut noticeably for another decade since it takes considerable time to change this huge infrastructure. Also, global dependence on low cost fossil fuel is so fundamental, the global energy infrastructure is so massive, and global consumption habits are hard to change.
These two points above, A & B, indicate that we are already 20 years behind in our attempt to achieve the first and “best” target of 445-490 ppm.
Conclusions of item 1:
It seems to me that we should not follow the IPCC guidelines for GHG levels because reliance on AR4 misleads us to some tranquility and assumption that we can start with limited, easier to accept GHG restrictions, and we have time to ramp them up later. This reliance is not justified. GHG must be cut at a faster rate.
Part 1 of draft 6/26/09 Matania Ginosar
Dr. Of Environmetal Science, and Engineering, & Electrical Engineer
In 1980 I was the manager of the solar and wind energy programs at the California Energy Commission, State of California. During my lectures about these alternative energies, I emphasized that we needed these technologies to reduce the likelihood of Climate Change.
Some scientists were aware then of the danger of Climate Change, but most were not.
For the last few years, the total global scientific community that works with this subject agrees that Climate Change is here, and is reducing the ability of our Earth to sustain life.
Climate Change is not open to personal interpretation, or personal belief. The science and evidence are clear and unquestionable: humanity is facing extreme and rapid climate degradation that can make this globe uninhabitable, unless we reduce drastically the CO2 gases generated by burning fossil fuels that created this menacing danger.
Just one example, most of the city of Sacramento is at sea level. The oceans are rising due to the melting of glaciers around the world, because of Climate Change. With time, the rising ocean water could reach Sacramento and flood it. Hundreds of millions of people around the world live in cities that are at sea level, and therefore could be flooded too.
Climate Change is the most crucial issue of our time, Trump and his associates have no capacity to grasp this unique event in human history and are not likely to fight climate change.
We have no more time to argue about the existence of Climate Change- it is here, and we must reduce the use of fossil fuels drastically as soon as possible.
Trump and the people around him are incapable of grasping the time criticality of this issue. He must be defeated, no matter what other views you may have where Trump appears to agree with you.
Some believe Trump would be better for Israel. I love Israel to my core, but if we allow Climate Change to progress, tiny Israel would suffer so drastically, that it could turn to a desert. Israel could become uninhabitable, as the rest of the Middle East would likely to be.
For many years I have been in favor of nuclear power to reduce the catastrophic greenhouse gases endangering our small and finite Earth. Before my understanding of the high level of danger from Climate Change I was against nuclear power.
Nevertheless, there are always dangers with such an extreme concentration of energy.
Here are few ideas we should consider:
Nuclear power is an extremely complex technology, using extreme heat, and the radiation weakens the metals used in the process, just a few of the problems. Mistakes are not tolerable - but they will happen. Nuclear must be treated with the realization that it can melt and contaminate if, if we do not accept that it is always dangerous to the immediate area.
Again, we must treat it as a dangerous technology that must have many safeguards around it.
We are not infallible, we must have humility and not assume that we have or can have all the answers. The future is unpredictable.
Therefore, we must build nuclear power stations with the realization that unforeseen major problems are possible, even likley, and that we could not have the entire safeguard needed and the knowledge in advance what can go wrong.
But we may be able to bracket the danger. First, unlike the Japanese Fukushima concentration of plants to cut costs, build only one plant in one location. If it fails it will not propagate to nearby nuclear stations. Also, installing them in areas with minimum population, further from the ocean, and major water supplies- which is obviously in conflict with the need to cool the plants.
Amazing, to date few people were killed by nuclear power, and many thousand were killed by coal.
And the damage to the environment? Coal is a destroyer of nature on massive scale.
Go to coal extractions zones and look at the trailing, the unusable rivers and lands near them.
Climate and topography have major impacts on people and their culture. Compare the drastic differences in the topography and climate between the vast aridity of the Middle East (ME), and the richness and variety of nature of Europe. Tall snow covered mountains supply water to wide rivers across Europe, creating natural borders, lush forests and rich soils. These differences point up why the ME has been in poverty and a source of instability for thousands of years.
It seems to me that the sequence of factors causing this instability is: 1) the combination of harsh desert conditions, explosive population growth, and diminishing water supplies- leading to: 2) continuous struggle for limited resources, leading to violence. 3) Requiring strict rules of conduct, and thus the imposition of a very controlling culture and religion: Islam.
The main reason that Islam is so demanding is to control the population. It does so by keeping the people uneducated and obedient to a central ruler: God, or a king or a dictator. The controlling nature of Islam drives its adherents to their knees, literally and figuratively. Islam does not allow their culture to progress: it permits only a strict pious education. It does not allow freedom to question, to think, or to act independently. No deviations are accepted: break the rules and you could be hanged or stoned to death. And repeated polls show that the majority of ME Muslims support these strict Sharia Laws.
Suppression of natural human needs, from sex to freedom of thought, lead to violence. Violence is an ingrained part of the culture, and is seen by many Arabs as a sign of strength, an expedient way to gain objectives. It is not different if it is between the various sects of Muslim groups, or if it is the relationship of the Palestinians to Jews. Arab terrorism against Jews started over a century ago, and since the world at large did nothing to quench it in its infancy, it spread globally. Terrorism is a very effective tool: with little resources, you can upset entire nations. The USA is spending over a hundred billions yearly, attempting to protect ourselves from Muslim extremists.
Climate Change's aggravates impacts:
Syria is a good example of instability made worse by climate change. The northern third of Syria has had continuous drought for over a decade, which has been expanding due to temperature increase driven by climate change. With more people to feed, due to the high birth rate, and less water and soil productivity, most youth have moved to the already crowded cities. With no housing, no jobs and no future, anger has driven some of the youth to rebellious groups, from IS, to anti- Assad militia. They are now "somebody!" because the culture rewards violence and martyrdom.
Climate change will continue to increase the aridity of the region and drive more people from their centuries-old farms to cities. There are 7 million Syrian refugees displaced inside Syria, and 5 million in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Europe. This extremely unstable situation could cause civil wars in Lebanon, Jordan or Iraq, expanding further the refugee problem.
These were released after I drafted this paper: AP- A recent 14-year dry spell in the Middle East was the worst drought in the past 900 years, according to a new NASA study released this week.
And this: Last year, researchers at Columbia University and the University of California Santa Barbara found that drought triggered a collapse in agriculture in Syria and the migration of 1.5 million farmers to the cities, straining resources.
The US Department of Defense has projected that climate change will generate hundreds of million refugees globally. As an environmental scientist, I know that we have been doing almost nothing significant to curtail climate change! So the refugee problem of the ME is just in its infancy.
The rich oil resources of the ME have been valuable only in the last 75 years, but the poverty and harsh conditions have been there for millennia. Also, oil income has benefitted mostly the authorities and has not been shared with the population.
Climate Change will continue aggravating the conditions there. Here is what the "Father of C.C." just wrote:
"The tropics and the Middle East in summer are in danger of becoming practically uninhabitable by the end of the century if business-as-usual fossil fuel emissions continue, because effective temperature could approach the level at which the human body is unable to cool itself under even well-ventilated outdoor conditions. Lesser warming still makes life more difficult and reduces productivity in these regions, because temperatures are approaching the limit of human tolerance and both agricultural and construction work are mainly outdoor activities.".... Dr. James Hansen, Global expert on Climate Change 3/2016
In Conclusion: The ME is inherently in a very bad shape and the future is not promising. Can we curtail terrorism emerging from there? Just a little. Not to the level we hope for. Even if a very tiny fraction of the Muslim population is supporting terror, it is still an immense level of support that will be nearly impossible to suppress from the outside. The change must come from within, and it would take a very long time. For the near term the Muslim ME will need benevolent dictators, such as el- Sisi of Egypt, or King Abdulla II of Jordan. Both want to find peace in the region, and el-Sisi is fighting aggressively the terrorism of Hamas and ISIS in the Sinai. We must give both maximum help. However, benevolent dictatorship is rare. It is very hard for outstanding Muslim leaders like el-Sisi, or Anwar Sadat, to emerge, or survive. We must recognize them early and support them quietly. It is difficult to see any other promising way...
International military intervention must be used early to stop this powder cake of religious fanaticism from murdering innocent people. And from spreading terror and refugees globally.
Recently, I felt some weakness and was concerned that it might be my heart. I called my cardiologist, explained to him my observations and he decided to send me to do echocardiogram testing. I discussed it with another doctor, and he suggested doing an additional test just to be sure. My cardiologist agreed and the tests proved my concerns were unjustified. My heart is in a good shape. It felt good to know that!
I did not argue with my cardiologist, but accepted his professional judgment. I do have a doctorate from UCLA, but it is not in medicine but in Environmental Science. So I leave the professionals in medicine to tell me what to do when it comes to my health. But I do know what Climate Change (CC) is; it is in my field of specialty. And I spend thousands of hours over many years trying to understand the immense, important, and wide research involved.
But everyone and his cousin without one iota of knowledge about Climate Change are jumping on President Obama now when he said that Climate Change is more serious than ISIS.
Climate Change, without a doubt, poses the worse danger to humanity that we ever faced!
Yes, the President is absolutely right. Climate Change is a much more serious danger to humanity than anything like ISIS is, or could be. ISIS contributed to the flow of Syrian refugees, but the main cause of fleeing refugees is the worsening climate (less and less rain) in the Middle East and Africa too. Our Department of Defense calculated a decade ago that Climate Change would cause hundreds of millions of global refugees in the coming decades. We are seeing just the beginning of it now.
Without a doubt, we must destroy ISIS ASAP, they are a menace to the civilized world, however, their impact is negligible compare to what CC is bringing us.
CC is impacting the total world now, heavier rains in wet zones, lower rains in dry zones, for example, and will be worse in the future. The climate of our delicately balanced little Earth is being changed to the worst by our unlimited consumption of fossil fuels. Every year we are emitting globally the unfathomable quantity of 35 billion tones of CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas and this increases the thickness of the blanket around our Earth, thus retaining more heat than nature wants us to have for a sustainable life.
It is very hard to swallow that with all our advanced technology, we are unable to do much to reverse the process. It would be a marvelous success if we could slow it down a little.
It is time for everyone who is not already familiar with CC to study it to their own level of understanding since it is already impacting us and will be even more severe to our children and grandchildren.
I have started a website in 2009 on global warming:
But it is more for more technically inclined people. I have not kept it up to date lately, there is nothing new for me to say, therefore, I suggest you study the issue by googling it to a higher and higher level of complexity. I will be glad to help if you, if you have some questions.
Dr. of Environmental Science and Engineering,
MS Management, Teaching Assistant MIT.
BS. MS. Electrical Engineering,
Dear Dr. Borenstein,
Again, you are one of the few who grasp the real Climate Change issue well. Concentrating on the essential aspects.
It is nice that California is aiming to reduce substantially its GHG, yes, we set an example, but as you said, the total we have is but one percent of global emissions.
If we drop it to zero in CA it would not matter at all.
As you said, what we must do to even minimally slow down the dangerous impact of CC is to develop advanced technologies to help China, India and emerging nations to cut their GHG emission as fast and as drastically as humanly possible.
My concern is that even if we did have those amazing new solutions soon, it takes decades to spread them in wide commercial quantities to make significant impacts. Global CO2 e is higher than 450 ppm already, and since we miscalculated downwards both the quantity of methane leaks and its environmental damages, we are probably way above 450 ppm of CO2 e already.
I wonder even if we find simpler, more reliable and lower cost nuclear power we can save our Earth in time.
Dr. Richard Muller pointed out years ago that we must concentrate on the rapidly escalating emissions of major emitters (China, India)and those in the process of becoming major emitters, and help them to cut down their GHG ASAP. Yet, we still are competing with them in these areas instead of fully cooperating with them, giving them all we have, to save our common home.
What is not understood even by many environmental scientists (possibly because it is so hard to accept it emotionally) is that we have essentially run out of time to influence the potential approach of a catastrophic collapse of our delicately balanced Earth.
See also Dr. Martin Weitzman work in this area. According to his current book, Climate Shock, at 550 ppm CO2 eq, the chances of eventual warming beyond the unsustainable 6 degree C is 3%. And at 600 ppm 5%, at 700, it is 11%.
Only drastic measures have some slight possibility to save us from a collapse of human civilization. But key forces in the global economy would not accept these changes and will fight them to their last dollar.
Despite all the promising words in the last few decades, we are still emitting the same or more damaging gases. It is hard for me to see the possibility that fundamental forces advancing CC, such as population explosion, sex drive, desire for material things, greed, and self deception would drop significantly and fast enough to help humanity reverse its march to extinction.
See AAAS statement below.
Dr. of Environmental Science & Engineering
BS, MS Electrical Engineering
Prev. manager of the solar office and wind energy program at the CA Energy Comm.
Report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science Society, 2014
"Most projections of climate change presume that future changes -greenhouse gas emissions, temperature increase and effects such as sea level rise - will happen incrementally. A given amount of emission will lead to a given amount of smooth incremental sea level rise. However, the geological record for the climate reflects instances where a relatively small change in one element of climate led to abrupt changes in the system as a whole. In other words, pushing global temperatures past a certain thresholds could trigger abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes that have massive disruptive and large-scale impacts. At that point, even if we do not add any additional CO2 to the atmosphere, potentially unstoppable processes are set in motion. We can think of this as sudden climate brake and steering failure where the problem and its consequences are no longer something we can control."
From one of the wisest fellows who grasp the enormity of Climate Change.
David Roberts. previousely of Grist
..."Most people haven’t taken the time to get familiar with all the ins and outs of climate change. It’s an incredibly complex and politically charged subject with all sorts of contradictory and fragmentary information bouncing around various info-channels. It takes some dedication and a thick skin to get a well-rounded understanding of it and most people have no particular incentive to do so.
So lots of people have a Climate Thing, that one tidbit of info or argument that they read somewhere, or heard somewhere, the thing that somehow resonated with their own concerns and beliefs. It’s the thing they latched onto, the thing they know about climate, like the proverbial blind people surrounding the elephant. They build on it and it becomes their Climate Thing.
A Climate Thing is not always wrong, though it frequently is. Just as often, it’s a kind of distortion, a lens that magnifies one aspect of the issue at the expense of all others. For some people it’s nuclear power. For some people it’s about models, how there was no warming when the models said there would be. For some people it’s Al Gore, or solar power, or consumerism, or population, or “I heard that we’re basically fucked no matter what,” which I’ve heard more times than I can count."....
To: Nancy McFadden March, 6, 2015
Executive Secretary to Governor Brown
State Capital, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Ms. McFadden,
Perhaps it was not the right place and time at the joyful Steinberg Gala to talk briefly with you about Climate Change. But I had to take that opportunity because of the extreme severity and time-urgency of this subject.
I am attaching an old letterhead as an introduction. Please note the list of outstanding people. I used it when we developed grassroots pressure on swing Congresspersons in several states during President Reagan's nuclear arms escalation. Ever since I resigned my senior position at the CA Energy Commission Solar and Wind Energy Office, all of my work has been pro bono. I have devoted the last decade attempting to understand the implications of CC to the sustainability of our world. With my combination of environmental science and two decades of electronic engineering work, plus willingness to face the difficult reality of CC, I have come to grasp the enormity of what humanity is facing with the rapid, unprecedented impacts of CC.
Briefly, the nature of our society is such that CC turned into a political issue and, in addition, the majority of scientists involved in CC research are not willing to endanger their positions by stating clearly and forcefully the grave nature of CC. Therefore, even supporters of the fight against this danger are not fully aware how little time is left to make any serious impact on the progress of CC. More and more evidence indicates that humanity probably lacks the ability to stop or significantly slow CC. We have already emitted so many billion tons of greenhouse gases that it is no longer possible to stop at the so called "safe" two degrees C rise in global average temperatures. We are now on our way toward four degrees and beyond. These values are not compatible with the life of civil society according to several panels of experts.
California has been a leader in what meager efforts have been made worldwide to cut GHG. But as much as we have done and plan to do, it is not enough to make any significant impact on global CC. That is the reason I urged you to put all possible emphasis and urgency on mitigating the bad consequences that are sure to come. The state is facing an enormous effort to protect as many people as possible from the certainty of sea level rise and increasing aridity of our state.
You said that the governor is advocating such mitigation to all state agencies but that it is a slow process. The reality is that it takes many years to design and install mitigation measures on a state-wide scale. For example, we probably will need many desalination plants near major cities. These take a long time and large power plants to build and run. We cannot wait until the danger is facing us. By then, the competition for resources and specialized materials will be global and millions of our citizens could well be facing danger to their very lives.
I suggest that California create an Office of Climate Mitigation, reporting to the Governor, and select the best people you can get to start the process ASAP. Even if we start very soon, it will be a long and extremely hard struggle.
Dr. of Environmental Science & Engineering
B.S., M. S. Electrical Engineering
Evan Hughes, Ph.D. (Physics)
30 Rondo Way
Menlo Park, CA
Prev.Mgr.CA Energy Comm.(1975-78), and EPRI (1978-2003)
I sent this letter recently to a top California Senator
Time for California to concentrate on GW mitigation.
Numerous scientific studies indicate that we are already suffering in California and globally from global warming (climate change) impacts that will continue and accelerate. Some of these impacts are erratic rains, minimal snow storage, increasing desertification, higher temperatures leading to higher demands for shrinking water supplies, loss of productive lands and lower food production. Also sea level rise that will displace millions from low ground regions.
The Earth already passed 400 ppm of CO2 and globally we continue to emit it at the same immense levels of over 30 billion tons a year! Even if we stopped all global CO2 emissions today, in 100 years it will still be at 70% of current levels, and in a thousand year at 40% of current level. We are on an irreversible path, the glaciers and North Sea polar ice have shrank drastically and can not serve as efficient reflectors of sun energy as it used to be to stabilize the global temperatures.
Greenland massive ice coverage, a critical store of global-scale ice, is showing some unstable and troubling phenomena already. The oceans, which have been the major sink of CO2 for a million year, are now warmer and thus less able to absorb CO2. With additional heating the oceans could be net emitters of the stored CO2 and face drastic reduction in seafood production.
In addition, the oceans are the key absorbers of the additional energy generated by GW and moderated the rise in global air temperature in the process. As the ocean temperature rises by this energy absorption, it will reduce the effectiveness of this crucial heat-sink and the global air temperatures could rise faster.
Switching to natural gas (methane) would not improve the situation since on a 20 years scale unburned Methane is 80 times! more damaging to the atmosphere than coal burning, and 35 times at a 100 years scale. Any leaks above 1% would overshadow any advantage of using NG compare to coal. And it is impossible to keep the unburned leaks so low on a vast industrial setting covering much of the US.
At the same time both Germany and China are increasing significantly their use of coal.
These are but some glimpses of the global changes we are unable to stop, and unable to reverse. And we continue to ignore the elephant in the room and conduct business as if all is normal and will continue to be so. It will not!
The attached article (others said it earlier) amplifies what we suspected for years that the situation is graver than most expected. We are still unwilling to accept reality.
California government worked diligently to cut greenhouse gases as much as it could, but obviously, it does not matter globally what we do here since California contribution to greenhouse gases is one percent of the global total.
It is time to change course, time for mitigation of coming severe impacts.
People are inherently self centered and designed to deal effectively with immediate survival issues. We are considerably less able to deal with future events. We are unable to sacrifice now for future human survival. And human nature would not change in the face of GW, may be until it is too late.
California needs to reduce its high spending on non-critical GHG reductions, such as the Bullet Train that will increase GHG for years to come during construction - while its ability to reduce long term emissions is seriously doubtful. The close to $100 billions for that train would be much better spent on low-cost/high- effectiveness GW reduction projects with quick reductions only.
We must concentrate our effort not on being "an example to the world," as California loves to be, but on reducing the severe impacts of rising sea levels, drastic reduction in water supplies and other impacts we already expect. Otherwise we would face grave survival issues for much of our 40 million population.
For example, Sacramento is at sea level and practically connected to the ocean. Unless we change the situation sea level rise is expected to flood Sacramento despite its seemingly long distance from the ocean.
It takes many years to design and develop the large-scale mitigation tools and structures that we will need to protect the people of California. We need to start this crucial process now to protect our state to the level we can.
Since we are unable globally to reduce the rapid rise in GW we also need to start now to study and develop geoengineering tools to minimize and slow down the most drastic impacts of global warming. It may take decades to develop the tools and test them on a limited scale to reduce the likelihood of unexpected out of control impacts.
We need to start mitigation statewide and geoengineering planning globally now.
Dr. of Environmental Science and Engineering
Planet likely to warm by 4C by 2100, scientists warn
New climate model taking greater account of cloud changes indicates heating will be at higher end of expectations
• "Rises in global average temperatures of [at least 4C by 2100] will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don't urgently start to curb our emissions."
• The Guardian, Tuesday 31 December 2013 09.02 EST Damian Carrington
The role clouds play in climate change has been something of a mystery - until now. Photograph: Frank Rumpenhorst/ Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa/Corbis
Temperature rises resulting from unchecked climate change will be at the severe end of those projected, according to a new scientific study.
The scientist leading the research said that unless emissions of greenhouse gases were cut, the planet would heat up by a minimum of 4C by 2100, twice the level the world's governments deem dangerous.
The research indicates that fewer clouds form as the planet warms, meaning less sunlight is reflected back into space, driving temperatures up further still. The way clouds affect global warming has been the biggest mystery surrounding future climate change.
Professor Steven Sherwood, at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, who led the new work, said: "This study breaks new ground twice: first by identifying what is controlling the cloud changes and second by strongly discounting the lowest estimates of future global warming in favour of the higher and more damaging estimates."
"4C would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous," Sherwood told the Guardian. "For example, it would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet", with sea levels rising by many meters as a result.
The research is a "big advance" that halves the uncertainty about how much warming is caused by rises in carbon emissions, according to scientists commenting on the study, published in the journal Nature. Hideo Shiogama and Tomoo Ogura, at Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies, said the explanation of how fewer clouds form as the world warms was "convincing", and agreed this indicated future climate would be greater than expected. But they said more challenges lay ahead to narrow down further the projections of future temperatures.
Scientists measure the sensitivity of the Earth's climate to greenhouse gases by estimating the temperature rise that would be caused by a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere compared with pre-industrial levels - as is likely to happen within 50 years, on current trends. For two decades, those estimates have run from 1.5C to 5C, a wide range; the new research narrowed that range to between 3C and 5C, by closely examining the biggest cause of uncertainty: clouds.
The key was to ensure that the way clouds form in the real world was accurately represented in computer climate models, which are the only tool researchers have to predict future temperatures. When water evaporates from the oceans, the vapour can rise over nine miles to form rain clouds that reflect sunlight; or it may rise just a few miles and drift back down without forming clouds. In reality, both processes occur, and climate models encompassing this complexity predicted significantly higher future temperatures than those only including the nine-mile-high clouds.
"Climate sceptics like to criticise climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect," said Sherwood. "But what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by the models which predict less warming, not those that predict more."
He added: "Sceptics may also point to the 'hiatus' of temperatures since the end of the 20th century, but there is increasing evidence that this inaptly named hiatus is not seen in other measures of the climate system, and is almost certainly temporary."
Global average air temperatures have increased relatively slowly since a high point in 1998 caused by the ocean phenomenon El Niño, but observations show that heat is continuing to be trapped in increasing amounts by greenhouse gases, with over 90% disappearing into the oceans. Furthermore, a study in November suggested the "pause" may be largely an illusion resulting from the lack of temperature readings from polar regions, where warming is greatest.
Sherwood accepts his team's work on the role of clouds cannot definitively rule out that future temperature rises will lie at the lower end of projections. "But," he said, for that to be the case, "one would need to invoke some new dimension to the problem involving a major missing ingredient for which we currently have no evidence. Such a thing is not out of the question but requires a lot of faith."
"Rises in global average temperatures of [at least 4C by 2100] will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don't urgently start to curb our emissions."
Matania Ginosar is an Environmental Scientist & Electrical Engineer. His experience and education have been result-oriented, practical, and hands-on, creating effective solutions to complex problems. His experience covers a wide range of fields: advanced electronic design, R&D, manufacturing, teaching, air pollution, organizing political pressure on Congress, and developing alternative energies. He developed innovative digital field communication for the military, and forecasted technological advances with high accuracy, cutting unwise projects, setting new directions.
His concentration in the last 7 years is on the impacts of Climate Change.
He comments on Climate Change at: www.ginosaronglobalwarming.org
• D. Env - Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering, UCLA.
• M.S. Engineering (Management). Engineering Executive Program, UCLA.
• Teaching Assistant, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
• M.S. Electronic Engineering - University of Washington.
• B.S. Electrical Engineering - University of Washington.
Some of his Experience:
• Developed and directed the pioneering wind energy program of the California Energy Commission that led to the first commercial wind energy farms in the world.
• Directed the Solar Energy Office, California Energy Commission, concentrated on high-impact, cost-effective solutions.
• Manager R&D electronic systems.
• Manufacturing Manager, seismic equipment for oil exploration.
• Manager, Techno-Economic Dept. Evaluated key projects of a large company.
• Assessed Israel's wind energy potential for Israel Electric Corp.
• Consultant to corporate managements.
• Hands on: Mechanic, construction, electrician, farming, military service.
Some of his achievements:
• His analysis and discussion convinced California Air Resources Board to tighten air pollution standard.
• Wrote & lobbied CA Legislature for a bill for mass use of wind energy, first in the world, it was enacted.
• Constructed electrical system for a small community.
• Designed underwater communication system for the U.S. Navy.
• Conceived & directed pioneering Wind Energy Resource Evaluation in CA.
• Lectured extensively on wind energy, including overseas: an IEEE conference and the Haifa Technion.
• Advised CA legislators on several alternative energy bills.
• Advised key US Senate staff on climate change & alternative energy.
• Developed economic analysis of large-scale wind systems in CA.
• Evaluated potential environmental impacts on land by spent oil shale.
• Developed methodology for setting primary ambient air quality standards for sulfur pollutants.
• Exposed political bias & controversy over CA outer continental-shelf oil.
• Developed statistical digital circuit design, cut costs by 80%.
• Pioneered advanced military digital communication getting many contracts.
• Wrote extensively about Middle East security developments.
• Advised several corporate managements on the developing digital age.
• Lectured widely on advanced electronics.
• Analyzed family planning in China, and population trends in the Middle East.
• Directed, pro bono, for nine years, the development of grassroots pressure on Congress to reduce nuclear weapons.
• A long-term student of effective human interactions, & motivation.
Praise for Dr. Ginosar:
". . . Matania is extremely broad technically and utilizes his wide range of experience . . . to solve difficult problems having complex interrelationship of a multitude of parameters and factors . . . As a result of his ability to forecast trends, his thorough coverage of the problems and potential solutions and his ability to sell his ideas, the majority of his recommendations were accepted by top management and implemented."
J.Harding, V.P. Engineering, Litton Data Systems Division. (with 500 engineers)
"Without your technical assistance, it would have been impossible to develop . . . an effective state wind energy program."
California Assemblyman H.J. Mello
"You have designed one of the neatest, closely honed, and most useful packages for organizing a political action network I have ever seen. . . in my 30 years of wide range of political activities. . . . I have seen political actions kit materials before. None that I have seen, however, can touch a candle to yours. The simplicity, clarity, readily adaptable utility, and a host of other truly subtle design features, in my estimation, bring your material up to the level of an art form. . . ."
Arthur J. Hessburg, Consultant to Peace organizations & Senior VP, General Counsel, Century Life of America.
Global Warming (or its milder term: Climate Change) is so overwhelming and the worse emergency that humanity has faced in modern times, that we are unable to fully grasp it. Global CO2 emission is still increasing instead of dropping dramatically, that only a global effort larger and more intense than WWII may be able to save the Earth's environment from destruction, and thus its' ability to sustain life as we know it. And we have been doing nothing significant to date, compared to the magnitude and time-urgency of this problem.
We have an optimistic picture of the danger of Global Warming because most scientists do not tell us the full facts since they fear being seen as "advocates." Finally several courageous scientists are openly stating the gravity and time-criticality of global warming. See 4 abbreviated articles below.
We have ample evidence that GW is much worse than we expected and were comfortable with. And it is very hard for most of us who already believe GW is a serious problem, to accept: our human activities have been rapidly destroying our only home, Earth, approaching the point of no return! No national or international leadership of importance wants to respond to this immense danger to human survival. We are standing still while the problem is getting much worse and may no longer be controllable.
Here is the essence of the GW situation as I understand it:
1. For the last ten thousand years, the Earth's average air temperature has been fairly stable thus allowing civilizations to develop and prosper. Industrial CO2 emissions in the last century broke this stable natural feedback system that kept the Earth a benevolent habitat for vegetation, agriculture, and thus human and other organism.
2. Global warming has the ability to destroy the stable Earth environment thus Earth's ability to sustain current forms of life, including human beings.
3. The 2007 projection of the global lead agency on CC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change, IPCC, was the base line for action: If we reduce global emissions moderately, we could have a small increase in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius. Conclusion: low urgency, we have time.
4. Global emissions of CO2 have increased substantially above IPCC projection and did not go down. China and India are increasing their already massive Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions and are projected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
5. Our Earth can not survive as habitat for humanity if the average air temperature increases by more than 2 to 3 C degrees C because the temperature will be going into an unstable territory. It is now projected that we are already on a path towards unstable temperature range: 4 Degree C, and that the Earth temperatures will continue to increase towards 6 degrees C by the end of this century or so, IF THERE IS NO UNFORESEEN CATASTROPHIC EVENT.
6. This is not an isolated prediction. Several scientists have come forth, starting 2 years ago, to point out that we will soon be passing the hoped for 2 degrees and are on a path to 4 degrees and beyond.
7. As the temperature increases several known "positive-feedback" effects are expected to bring us to an unstable region where the temperatures will increase without any human ability to control them.
8. In addition, "We do not know what we do not know." It is reasonably clear that we do not know a lot of the environmental interactions and potential catastrophic events from increases of several degrees.
The larger the temperature increase, the larger is the probability of massive catastrophic environmental events that will increase our temperature beyond the Earth's ability to provide acceptable human habitat. See attachment 3.
9. In 2009 after studying CC literature full time for several years, it became obvious to me that only a global dedicated effort, even larger than WWII scale, was the only way global temperature may be able to remain within tolerable levels:
We must turn upside down our approach to fighting CC.
10. Globally we have been doing nothing of significance to reduce GHG. The US and California (despite its pioneering AB 32 program) have done very little of significance to reduce CCgases. All the appealing US environmental programs have been and will be insufficient compare to the increased emissions from China and India.
11. The most important thing to grasp is that there is a high likelihood that as the air temperature passes some 4 degrees C, the Earth's benevolent environment of the last ten thousand years will be on an irreversible path to destruction, and life on Earth would be so harsh that human civilization would be essentially unsustainable.
That means immense human suffering on a scale beyond our imagination: warming oceans with reduced CO2 absorption, higher acidity and inferior ocean productivity; melting ice coverage, sea level rise and flooding cities; widening state-size desertification; irregular extreme weather patterns; diminishing food supplies; mass forced migration; reduced river water supplies; rapidly melting snow and flooding; war; and tens of millions dead from starvation and disease yearly. To name just a few.
When will we take Climate Change seriousely?
Dr. Matania Ginosar
Environmental Scientist & Electrical Engineer
Prev. Mgr. Solar Office, Calif. Energy Comm.
"We irretrievably passed the 2 degrees mark and are well on our way to 4 degree by 2060, perhaps earlier."
Dr. Bowman Cutter, Board Chair, Resources For the Future, RFF, 12/13/2012
4 abbreviated attachments:
1. It's Already Too Late to Stop Climate Change
Even as climate policy is debated in Doha, it's becoming increasingly clear that the first devastating effects of global warming cannot be prevented.
by Coral Davenport; For the full report see:
...But no matter what the diplomats in Doha decide over the next week, it now appears inevitable that the world will indeed hit that 2-degree mark and could well shoot past it to average global increases of 4 degrees or 6 degrees-points at which scientists predict even worse catastrophes.
A scientific study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that the world's rapid increase in fossil fuel emissions now makes a global average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius all but inevitable.
"When it comes to the worst-case scenarios of sea-level rise, I'm not sure $100 billion will even scratch the surface," said Brian Murray, director of economic analysis at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
Scientists say that once the world hits that 2-degree mark, the urgency of reducing carbon pollution to avoid a catastrophic tipping point becomes even greater.
Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and a member of the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that a 2-degree rise is not itself that point, but rather the beginning of irreversible changes. "It starts to speed you toward a tipping point," he said. "It's driving toward a cliff at night with the headlights off. We don't know when we'll hit that cliff, but after 2 degrees, we're going faster, we have less control. After 3, 4, 5 degrees, you spiral out of control, you have even more irreversible change. At this point, with prompt action to reduce emissions, we can still keep it from getting totally out of control."
Study sees 5C warming
(AFP) - 1 day ago 12-3-12
PARIS - Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are rising annually by around three percent, placing Earth on track for warming that could breach five degrees Celsius (9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, a new study published on Sunday said.
The figure -- among the most alarming of the latest forecasts by climate scientists -- is at least double the 2C (3.6F) target set by UN members struggling for a global deal on climate change.
In 2011, global carbon emissions were 54 percent above 1990 levels, according to the research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change by the Global Carbon Project consortium.
" We are on track for the highest emissions projections, which point to a rise in temperature of between 4C (7.2F) and 6C (10.8F) by the end of the century," said Corinne le Quere, a carbon specialist at the University of East Anglia, eastern England.
In 1990, developing countries accounted for 35 percent of worldwide output of CO2, ...In 2011, this was 58 percent......
Last year, Chinese CO2 rose by 10 percent, or more than 800 million tonnes, equivalent to Germany's emissions in an entire year, said the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO), whose scientists took part in the paper.
" China is emitting as much as the European Union on a per-capita basis, about 36 percent higher than the global average per-capita emissions," it said in a press release....
Dr. Paul Krugman on the criticality of uncertainties:
Dr. Martin Weitzman's work at Harvard
Final points from Krugman's 12 page article above:
"Finally and most important is the matter of uncertainty. We're uncertain about the magnitude of climate change, which is inevitable, because we're talking about reaching levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not seen in millions of years. The recent doubling of many modelers' predictions for 2100 is itself an illustration of the scope of that uncertainty; who knows what revisions may occur in the years ahead.
Beyond that, nobody really knows how much damage would result from temperature rises of the kind now considered likely.
You might think that this uncertainty weakens the case for action, but it actually strengthens it. As Harvard's Martin Weitzman has argued in several influential papers, if there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance - rather than what is most likely to happen - should dominate cost-benefit calculations. And utter catastrophe does look like a realistic possibility, even if it is not the most likely
"Weitzman argues - and I agree - that this risk of catastrophe, rather than the details of cost-benefit calculations, makes the most powerful case for strong climate policy. Current projections of global warming in the absence of action are just too close to the kinds of numbers associated with doomsday scenarios. It would be irresponsible - it's tempting to say criminally irresponsible - not to step back from what could all too easily turn out to be the edge of a cliff."
Krugman's conclusions on GW actions:
"So what I end up with is basically Martin Weitzman's argument: it's the nonnegligible probability of utter disaster that should dominate our policy analysis. And that argues for aggressive moves to curb emissions, soon."
4. Beyond ‘dangerous' climatic change,
Anderson and Bows
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society, January, 2011
* " 2 C stabilization is virtually impossible."
* "4 C by 2050-2070 look ‘likely' (could be earlier & on the way to 6c.)"
* ‘We are leading for the worst possible of all worlds."
"There is a wide held view that a 4C future is likely to be beyond organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation', is devastating to the majority of eco-systems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4 C would be higher equilibrium level.)
Consequentially...4C should be avoided in ‘all' costs."
Anderson/Bows, The Tyndall Centre (1/2011)
More and more scientists are now willing to say what they might have been thinking for some time: The dreams of controlling global warming to a "safe" level are unrealistic. Any way you look at it now, we are surely going beyond the "safe" region and we will not be able to stabilize the increase in global temperatures.
I believe that the scientific community involved in global warming research has failed humanity on a scale never before in human history. Their fear of being called alarmist, the fear of being "an advocate" most likely shut many important scientists from raising massive uproar individually and collectively about the serious danger to humanity from this unique, perilous, life-changing process we are unwilling to curtail.
Science adviser warns climate target 'out the window'
By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News, 23 August 2012 Last updated at 02:28 ET
One of the [British] government's most senior scientific advisers has said that efforts to stop a sharp rise in global temperatures were now "unrealistic".
Prof Sir Bob Watson said that any hope of restricting the average temperature rise to 2C was "out the window".
He said that the rise could be as high as 5C - with dire consequences.
It is time to look squarely at Global Warming reality and accept it.
We must turn upside down our approach to fighting GW
because time is of the essence.
I wrote this three years ago and left it in this draft form. I should have published it then. The following posting will give the (draft) background, writen then, supporting these conclusions. Many of these observations led me to my current conclusion (2 posting back) that we can not do almost anything useful to stop, or even slow down global warming. 7/12
Instead of regulating Greenhouse Gases to a level that may have no negative economic impact, we must reduce GHG to the maximum that could be technically and economically implementable.
Preface: GW is unlike any other issue because we have no previous human experience of this magnitude and it is natural to minimize its significance. It is extremely difficult to internalize the danger GW pose to our Earth, even supporters minimize it. Our US culture is based on hope, progress, improvements, and we reject what does not fit our image of the future. Not only that, as we see the sun rising and one beautiful day after another it is natural to inwardly reject that GW is posing a serious danger to the stability of our climate and even, possibly, to human endurance. To paraphrase Neil Bohr, if GW did not shake you up yet, you probably haven't understood it.
1. Most scientific reports tells us that the current impacts of global temperature rise are worse than we estimated earlier, that we are not sure how fast the temperature will rise, and we do not know what is the maximum level of GHG nature can tolerate before a catastrophic tipping point could start. Therefore,we must set the tightest limits on global and national GHG levels that we are able to.
2. Most proposed cuts in GHG are based on IPCC AR4. However, we can not rely on the AR4 to set limits to GHG emissions since it was politically constrained, ignored potential catastrophic events, and some of its negative predictions have already been exceeded. We now have more relevant data and more insight.
3. GHG level is already too high thus increasing global temperatures and damaging global climate. We are not sure at what level we must stabilize GHG to prevent even more severe harm to the world population because the complexity of global climate is beyond our actual knowledge. Modeling is approximation. If we err, we must err on the safe side.
4. The natural self interest of most people distorts their ability to cooperate and follow the need of the larger society. Therefore, there is considerable uncertainty how the laws enacted will effect the actual GHG emissions in the US. And we are one the most law-abiding nations.
5. The self interest of nations and desire for power of the influentials could severely distort the compliance with global GHG regulations. Think of the oil exporting nations, as a minimum.
6. Tipping points: There is some low, but not insignificant, probability that increased levels of GHG could trigger catastrophic, massive, uncontrolled releases of GHG that could cause significant increase in global temperatures. That possible temperature increase, beyond 10 or even 20 C degrees, could cause severe, unmitigated damage to the global climate that could render our Earth essentially uninhabitable.
7. Regarding the risk of Tipping Points; the catastrophic release of stored GHG. Because this is the only home humanity has, we can not take the RISK of destroying our climate. RISK is the probability times the magnitude of the event. Even with low probability, the enormous magnitude of the potential damage to our globe by catastrophic release of GHG makes the risk massive and unacceptable. Therefore, we must dedicate a high percentage of our global resources to reduce GHG as fast as possible and the largest reduction possible.
8. Humanity has never encountered a danger to its existence of this level before. We can not truly grasp the seriousness of GW. Even with all the high levels of scientific and technical powers we have, we are unprepared. We do not know what we do not know or understand.
9. We still operate by "we vs. them" laws. This simply can not work. National and Global cooperation beyond any previous level is mandatory. We depend on one another, especially the US and China.
10. We, the US, will have to "give" more than other nations. We took the "most" to date. US is 4.5% of global population, occupying 1.9% of Earth surfaces, and emitted to date some 30% of all GHG.
11. We have to be more honest and forward in our international dealing re. GW or we will not get the crucial cooperation required. We would not be able to cover up superficial regulations and minimal actions by public relation bluff, so common in our culture and in Congress. Foreign governments are not likely to buy into that kind of thinking that much of our own public does.
12. The complexity of global climate, the significant gaps in our knowledge, the uncertainty of GHG laws, their possible impacts, their compliance, global cooperation required, and potential high risk to our survival, put us in a dangerous territory. We do not know what the results of all GHG curtailment laws and effort would achieve. Therefore, we can not use the usual American approach: "don't worry, everything will turn up right in the end." We must aim towards minimizing global human suffering and maximizing the chance for human survival.
13. The initial GHG reductions that we should take now must be decisive, based on proven technologies and real knowledge, not experimental or unproven; that may or may not work, such as Carbon Capture and Sequestration . We can not take the risks of unproven technologies since the C02 that was not cut will remain in the atmosphere for a thousand years. After we accomplish significant GHG reductions, then we can bring proven new approaches on line too.
14. To paraphrase Jean Monnet: Global Warming can not be reduced without efforts that are proportionate to the danger which GW threatens humanity.
WE MUST CURTAIL GHG TO THE MAXIMUM LEVEL WE CAN POSSIBLY MANAGE
AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Dr. of Environmental Science & Engineering
Maybe one of the key reasons that we can't do anything about the existential crisis of climate change is our inborn optimism....
80 percent of humans are delusionally optimistic, says science
Maybe the reason we can't do anything about the existential crisis of climate change - or, indeed, any of the other existential crises we're facing at present - is that 80 percent of humanity has what's known as an "optimism bias." (If you're reading this, I'm willing to bet you're among the "lucky" 20 percent whose perceptions of reality are demonstrably realistic.)
People who have an optimism bias do irrational things in the laboratory, like systematically ignoring concrete information about risk, reports Scientific American Mind. For example, when test subjects were informed that they had underestimated their odds of contracting a disease or being victimized by a criminal, they failed to revise their estimates, "clinging to their earlier belief that they would probably avoid the bad luck."
In contrast, when test subjects were told they were too pessimistic about a particular outcome, they enthusiastically over-revised their estimate of the odds in their favor.
Other studies have found that lacking the optimism bias is a reliable indicator of depression and anxiety. Humans, in other words, are built to see the world as a sunnier place than it is - it's a survival instinct. This sort of reasoning made sense throughout most of our evolution, when the majority of causes of misfortune - bad weather, communicable diseases, freak accidents - were beyond our control. But now, for the first time in history, we can predict, at least in broad strokes, the decades-hence consequences of our actions. Too bad our brains aren't constructed to do anything about that information.
- Neural Responses Reveal Our Optimistic Bent, Scientific American Mind
It is time to accept the fact that humanity is unwilling and thus unable to slow down the coming catastrophic, irreversible, climate change. It is simply impossible for us to change directions so drastically and so rapidly to achieve any significant reduction in greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions.
Many, if not most, respectable environmental scientists believe that past climate modeling and temperature-rise predictions were too timid and too low. Therefore, we must realize that in all probability, we are unable to do almost anything useful to slow down the catastrophic destruction of life on Earth. This reality was evident for several years: In the US, for example, the country with the largest economic ability to change from fossil fuel - based economy, even a Democratic president that promised real action on global warming paid only lip service to it. In addition, a Democratic Congress was not able to pass any laws of substance. In China, the central government must focus on rapid economic growth to placate a massive population emerging from deep poverty and it therefore built one large coal power station a week. Simply put, humanity cannot reverse its focus on short-term gains in order to sustain long-term human survival.
Here is partially what science tells us:
[There are many aspects to the coming catastrophic climate changes, but my focus is on the immensity of human suffering.]
To be acceptable, most scientific and environmental papers want to show us that there is still hope, they also say the damage would be in the future and thus allow the public, environmentalists and national and international leaders to disregard the issue. However, it cannot be ignored, it is already well established. All that was done in the last two decades to cut GHG is insignificant - feel good, window dressing: "Global carbon emissions from energy are up 48% on 1992, when the original Earth summit took place."*
The likelihood that the Earth will be able to maintain a stable atmosphere suitable for human habitat is quite small. The rise in global population coupled by a rising demand for a higher standard of living is forcing a sharp demand for more energy. This massive energy consumption, mostly from fossil fuels, generates an immense amount of greenhouse gases [over 30 billion metric tones of CO2 a year]. All evidence is pointing to a continuous rise in greenhouse gases that will force a rise in average global air temperature well beyond the hoped-for 2 degrees C, which was considered manageable and stable just 5 years ago. It is already approaching one degree C. Note also that there is sufficient likelihood that unknown surprises could aggravate the severity and speed of this global atmospheric destruction.
The respected, Nobel Prize winner, economist Dr. Paul Krugman wrote two years ago: "So, what I end up with is basically Martin Weitzman** argument: it's the nonnegligible probability of utter disaster that should dominate our policy analysis. And that argues for aggressive moves to curb emissions soon."
But no significant action has taken place yet, and it is unlikely to happen in the next few years to save the Earth's environment.
The only way to slow down, and maybe reduce the likelihood of sudden unforeseen catastrophic events, (but not stop this destructive process,) is by a massive and rapid cut of global fossil fuel use in the next few years. However, almost all modern life is dependent on fossil energy. Since CO2 gases lasts for hundreds, possibly a thousand years we can not stop this process, even if we stopped emitting GHG today. ***
The drastic change in economic direction to cut down GHG emissions requires government - directed, complete and rapid reorganization of most of the economies on Earth. However, no government will stay in power if it tries to do it properly. It is simply not possible. Therefore, we will continue on our current path to catastrophic destruction of the global climate with its related destruction of the food and water supplies, and much of the living organism, including human beings!
An example, the oceans upper layers are already warmed by a half degree, reducing their ability to absorb CO2, and their acidity is increasing, thus reducing the oceans' ability to supply much of the world's fish-protein.
It is clear that we are unable to slow down this destructive process, and the Earth's temperature almost certainly will increase way pass the unstable 4 degrees C and continue to heat up. It is estimated that at 6 degrees at least half the earth land surfaces would turn into desert. The last time the Earth experienced this range of temperatures was fifty millions years ago when at 11 degrees higher than current level almost all life of Earth was extinguished.
There is no known natural Earth process that will limit the continuous rise in average global air temperature, thus the ability of our natural habitat to sustain life.
The catastrophic impacts would be on an unprecedented scale we are now unable to fathom: Climate fluctuations, which destroy forestation and agriculture, would be world wide and would vary in impact and timing. We would not be able to use large agricultural projects that now feed most of humanity because of weather unpredictability. It is projected that dry areas would become deserts, and wet regions would be much wetter with more floods. Tornadoes would be more frequent, cover larger areas with increase severity. Coastal areas, where much of the world's population resides now, would be flooded by rising seas.
Those with meager incomes just scratching a living, (India has now 500 millions people like that, Africa hundreds of millions more,) may see their livelihood disappear. Some in the US and Europe with their higher level of wealth may be able to endure longer since they would be able to pay the very high prices for the diminishing supply of food and water. Many more would not be able to. Over time, civil society as we know it would collapse. The more powerful may stay alive longer, by forcibly taking what they want for survival. Use of atomic weapons to obtain the diminishing meager resources is a strong possibility. The starvation and death of tens of millions of people would not be a surprise
The only question is how quickly this process will take place. It is already affecting our lives, but will it be momentous in the next few decades if we trigger a massive GHG feedback effect and/or unexpected massive emissions of GHG burst into the atmosphere? Or, will it take a little longer. It is fairly certain that the heating will continue to disturb our way of life on a larger and larger scale.
We must focus now on reducing the coming vast human suffering. "Clean Coal", natural gas, and Geoengineering are not practical solutions, and may cause more climate disturbances than solutions. Despite these immense difficulties we must try any viable adaptation approaches to reduce some human suffering, if at all possible.
And a personal note:
For the last decade I have studied a wide range of global warming literature spending much of my time on it. However, it took me years to accept the reality of GW, to integrate it into my being beyond just the intellectual level. It was very hard for me emotionally to accept the enormity of destruction expected. Although I knew it, it still took me over three years of personal agony to finally write these current conclusions since I did not want to accept the mounting evidence and the reality that humanity would not rise up to save our offspring, our future generations. I finally made peace with it and am able to write my understanding of the situation above. As I have written several times: it is extremely difficult to accept this reality emotionally since it is contrary to almost everything we want: a continuous improvement of our life and standard of living, peace and harmony in the future. And I did not want my family to see it. What hope can I give them?
As I am editing this, I do not want to believe this sad reality. My emotions are trying to subdue facts and logic.
Sadly, we are unable to overcome our deep limitations: Most of human decisions are driven by short term feelings, focusing on immediate gratification. We are reasonably good in running away from immideate danger but are unable to develop a viable future.
The end of ten thousand years of civilization is in our hands and we can not act on it!
Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering
& Electrical Engineer
** [Dr. Martin Weitzman, Harvard professor of environmental-economics, http://ws1.ad.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/weitzman/files/GHGTargetsInsuranceAgainst
*** Some 10% of the surface of the Earth has been covered by ice and snow, a massive reflector of sun energy back into space. The positive feedback processes of melting of these ice and glaciers, and deforestation, have been going on for many years and will continue to warm the Earth even without additional GHG.
**** Fossil fuel consumption generates some three quarter of global GHG, agriculture and deforestation the rest.
The Atlantic April 2012 issue has an article- What Isn't For Sale? that may clarify some aspects why most of us, liberals or conservatives, environmentalists or the Tea Party, do not fully grasp the danger of global warming, We view almost every thing in terms of the dollar, not in the terms of massive floods, or snow-less mountains, or a dead ocean.
Michael Sandel, the author, brings up crucial points how our economic views of our society have distorted most aspects of our lives:
"..Without quite realizing it - without ever deciding to do so - we drifted from having a market economy to being a market economy.
The difference is this: a market economy is a tool - a valuable and effective tool - for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor."
Over the last few years a number of articles by respectable academics, scientists, and other reputable people told us again and again how much Climate Change, Global Warming, will cost us over time, in the future. It was a monetary assessment of future worth vs. current expenditures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
When people see the potential massive global damage to our Earth in mainly FUTURE economic terms, they dismiss its significance. So it will cost a little more, our growing, massive, economy can handle that. It would not be really so bad, just like inflation...
Some articles said that with the continuous rise in the global economy, the damage to our way of life would be well within a small percentage of our income, so why worry unduly now.
Add to it that most people are not aware of their deep ignorance of the complexity and interconnection of the global climatic balance. And that they truly believe they understand the forces of nature, know enough about the changing weather, and are familiar with the forces impacting cloud formation and even the vastly complex ocean systems. It is, therefore, nearly impossible to penetrate the personal firewall they have erected around themselves so that they would not have to think about the disastrous climatic change we have already entered into.
"I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I was drafting a constitution in the year 2012."
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice.
I fully agree with the Justice because the framers of our Constitution, as wise and outstanding people as they were, were just human, which means: limited. They were unable to foresee the kind of self serving, ineffective, corrupt, money controlled our Congress would be, not to mention the Supreme Court blindness, ruling that Corporations have the same rights as individuals. And the childish game of the Electoral Vote? How can we accept for so long this archaic game that says you can not trust the people?
Congress has now the lowest public support in a long time. And rightly so, it is frozen in partisan politics and its votes are bought by wealth. However, we continue to admire the Constitution that created the failed Congress. Time to look with critical eyes at the Constitution because it has failed us miserably on a number of serious instances. How long did it take us to consider that women are equal citizens that can vote; and the extremely long subjugation of the African - American community?
I will focus here on the most critical issue we have ever faced: severe, rapid, global climate deterioration. Remember, all our lives depend critically on a reasonably stable, foreseeable, moderate climate.
Our Constitution was developed in the horse and buggy days, when it took days to travel between Boston and Philadelphia. It probably was the best achievable at that time. The rapid danger to human survival by global warming could not have been foreseen by any human, and even now it is beyond the grasp of our President, and the majority of Congress. President Obama ran on fighting global warming aggressively. He has done nothing of substance. When the outstanding, dedicated, hard working Congressman Waxman pushed through anti global warming (GW) legislation, nearly every member of the House that signed it forced special legislation into the bill that would benefit them resulting in an ineffective, confusing 1500 page law. And the President did not help at all.
Here is another serious example: A single House member, John Dingell, representing the Detroit auto industry stopped all attempts to increase car gas mileage [Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)] for several decades. He did what every member of Congress tries to do, protect the interests of his district. The fault lies in the House of Representative that allows House Rules to extinguish a very critical national need- to lower our massive consumption of oil and the concurrent flow of immense US wealth to other countries.
"Oil price shocks and price manipulation by OPEC have cost our economy dearly-about $1.9 trillion from 2004 to 2008-and each major shock was followed by a recession." US Dept. of Energy.
When the highly dedicated Senator Boxer tried to develop anti GW legislation, she could not achieve it even with a Democratic majority since most senators looked for their own benefits, not the dire need of our country.
The Senate represents the least Democratic, the most distorted institution of our government. The Founders probably had to include a strong protection of state rights then, but the fact is that the 2 senators of Wyoming, for example, with about half a million people have the same power than the two senators of California representing close to 40 million people. Each citizen of Wyoming has the voice of 80 citizens of California! And this is distorted further by money influence. Because of the smaller population it is considerably easier to "buy" and manipulate senators of small states than of large ones.
And we accept this distorted power distribution as holy, "after all it is part of the Constitution". This is ludicrous. Simply, and utterly wrong and un Democratic. Where is the basic principle of one person one vote? We would scream unfair if a newly liberated country would allow this distorted distribution of power.
Even slow moving England was able to downgrade the power of the House of Lord so drastically that it is mostly a figure head now. "The powers of the modern House of Lords are extremely limited-necessarily so, since the permanent and substantial majority enjoyed there by the Conservative Party would otherwise be incompatible with the principles of representative government" Encyclopedia Britannica. However, we, the modern, liberated, Democratic US are frozen by a few hundred years old Constitution that has passed its time and is seriously damaging our ability to survive.
Our frozen Congress is unwilling and unable to act to slow down GW. Without powerful national laws we can do very little to reduce the catastrophic impacts that GW is bringing us, and all humanity, in an accelerated fashion in the coming years. Without US participation, the rest of the world will not move effectively against GW since we are in the best position to fight GW because of our national wealth.
Even most environmentalists are unable to grasp the gravity we are already in. They want incremental changes that will take decades to make significant impacts. We do not have this time. It is now or never. The greenhouse gases (GHG) already in the atmosphere last for hundreds of years and have already melted much of our summer sea-ice in the North Pole region and most glaciers on earth. This by itself will advance climate deterioration (by positive feedback), and every year we increase the amount of greenhouse gases that destabilize our climate by now some 35 billion tons per year!
We did not wait during WWII for Hitler and Yamamoto to destroy us. Thanks to the leadership of FDR, we jumped into a massive national effort, before and after Pearl Harbor, to help our allies defeat the enemy. Global Warming is a much more powerful enemy of civilization than Germany and Japan were, but we are taking decades just to discuss what should we do. All the effort to date to reduce GHG have been insignificant, too little and too late. Twenty years ago we might have had time to talk, not any longer.
We Americans believe that we are superior beings and most natural laws do not apply to us. We are the winners who conquered the wild American lands and created the most advanced civilization to date. We think individual rights are above community and national needs. We live on flood plans, modify river flow, and build inadequate levees ignoring the force of nature and create vast amount of human suffering. And we believe that with just a little time and technology we will continue to be the richest, most powerful nation on earth. What arrogance, what level of blindness, what level of distortion!
We do not accept reality we do not like what will constrain our personal freedoms. That is why we can not grasp fully how dangerous global warming is to human civilization, to human ability to live with some level of comfort and security.
How can we face reality? How can we overcome rapidly these restraining aspects of the Constitution?
China now emits about 8 billion tons of CO2 annually, a quarter of the global emission. With China's GDP growth of nearly 10% it almost does not matter what other nations will be doing to reduce their GHG. If current trend continues, China's own emissions would be some 50% of (current) global level in less than a decade. China per capita GHG emission is now higher than the global average of some 5 metric ton. But it is still a fact that the US contributed most to the accumulated global GHG, and that is what the Chinese are pointing to as their moral right to continue mass GHG emission. The trouble is that we are all in the same boat and we will be suffering together, immaterial who started it and who is adding the fastest to it.
China unbound drive to increase its economic output for both external and local markets drive its enormous need for energy. Its dependence on coal power plants (now 80%) is accelerating despite the rapid increase in green energy generation. Green energy from nuclear, solar and wind is so small compare to coal, it is essentially insignificant. And will remain so small since centralized, large scale coal plants are dependent technology with 24/7 availability, easier and faster to put on line, and their energy monetary cost will continue to be lower than the alternatives, since we are universally ignoring serious environmental costs.
China leadership does not grasp fully the urgency of global warming and how it will soon seriously deteriorate their own environment and thus negating some of their own economic accomplishments. They focus on the urgency of fast economic growth for 800 million of their people eager to emerge from their near absolute poverty, many with income of just a few dollars a day.
Just one example of environmental neglect: most of China modern residential high rise have either no, or minimal insulation. With 25 million unoccupied new apartments, their housing bubble may be around the corner, and when occupied eventually, their demand for electricity/gas would be immense.
I assume that China leadership believes that the impact of GW will come later than the current need for rapid economic growth, and they will have time to deal with GW then. I do not believe they are as wise as some think. Despite China outstanding long-term effort to reduce its population growth, they are constrained by similar limitations of the West: short term thinking and inability to grasp undesirable facts, (however, not to the extent that the US suffers from these and its political disintegration.) China centralized political control, nonetheless, gives them the ability to move on a dime compare to the Democratic West.
Most global leaders, especially in the US, are unable to fully grasp the accelerating negative impacts of GW on agriculture, food supply, ocean productivity, rise in ocean levels, increase in regional aridity, shortage of fresh water, unstable weather patterns, and likelihood of catastrophic events (tipping points). They think we would be able to deal with them in the future. They may even think that some magical technological fix would get us out of the worst aspects of GW. No sensible person should accept that approach.
China, like the rest of humanity, is on a collision course between desire for economic growth and survival.
China is not going to do anything meaningful to reduce its immense Greenhouse Gases. They talk about it, but when you study both their words, and especially their actions you can see clearly how misleading their promises are. The central government can issue impressive guidelines, but provincial and local leadership determine the facts. Economic control and drive is more locally based and influenced by personal relationships and not by the rule of law, as in most Western countries.
Study carefully the double talk about energy in the article below from Chinadaily. They aim to cut energy intensity per GDP by 16% by 2015, letting them continue almost unabated with their rapid GHG increase. But even that is just words.
Listen to this nonsense:
"As a top priority, China will actively nurture new consumption frontiers and optimize the consumption environment to boost its consumption capability and demand."
China to unveil new energy consumption strategy
Updated: 2011-12-17 10:27
By Lan Lan (China Daily)
Final part from:
......."It will be an unavoidable dilemma that China will have to deal with in the coming years - continuing the processes of industrialization and urbanization while coming under pressure to act more in cutting emissions," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.
China has set a target of cutting energy intensity - which is calculated as units of energy for each unit of GDP - by 16 percent by 2015 from the 2010 level.
"The controls on total energy consumption will be tougher indicators than the energy-intensity targets, because there are loopholes through which local governments can achieve their energy-intensity targets by expanding the GDP base accordingly," said Lin.
The controls will be allocated to provincial governments. The plan will not only have an impact on GDP growth but will also influence the energy structure and price. "Setting limits on energy use means putting limits on GDP," Lin said.
Li Junfeng, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute affiliated with the NDRC, said China must switch to "healthy and qualified GDP", otherwise, it will take years to digest the "junk GDP" at a high environmental cost.
Earlier this month, China laid out detailed plans to control greenhouse gas emissions in the coming five years, with the national target allocated to provincial governments.
In addition, China will adopt more measures to save energy and reduce emissions by increasing the fines imposed for discharging pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, Zhang added.
"Maintaining price stability remains the prime aim of the government's macroeconomic controls next year," said Zhang.
With relatively rapid economic growth and a lower rate of inflation, China's economy has been heading in the right direction this year, the beginning of the nation's 12th Five-Year Plan, he said.
He stressed the need to maintain stable growth next year, an issue that was highlighted at the annual Central Economic Work Conference earlier this week.
As a top priority, China will actively nurture new consumption frontiers and optimize the consumption environment to boost its consumption capability and demand.
China rebuffs scheme to cut steel emissions. An ambitious industry-led project to cut carbon dioxide emissions from steel plants is in danger of foundering on account of the refusal by any of China’s producers, which between them account for more than 40 per cent of world production of the metal, to join the initiative. London Financial Times
Dr. Kevin Anderson of the Univ. of Manchester presented earlier this year a down-to-earth and sobering assessment of our GW situation. He strips away the political cover and goes into the realistic and difficult situation we are already in. This 50 minutes presentation must be watched by any one who cares abort GW.
Here is one of his key observations:
… Our key goal was to limit the average global temperature to 2 degrees C. This is unlikely with the little progress to date and inability to speed up drastically CO2 reductions. Some suggest that we need to look at the possibility of 4 degrees.
“ There is a widespread view that a 4 degree C future is incompatible with an organised global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of the eco-systems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4 degree C would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level)
4 DEGREE C SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ‘ALL’ COSTS
Climate Change, Going Beyond the Dangerous:
China is becoming the most powerful player in global events. Its economy is projected to overtake the US in less than a decade!
The US and China are the key players in a tightly woven global community and must cooperate and find common paths to help ourselves and the global community.
China is also the largest generator of greenhouse gases and also suffers considerably from global warming. Reducing GW and increasing economic growth are interwoven elements.
This is just a brief exposure of some key differences between the US and China.
China with its rapidly growing GDP of $6 Trillion is often more influential internationally than the US with its 15 Trillion GDP, a quarter of global GDP. We have by far the strongest military power in the world, but economic power is as important, or often more important, than military power. Exerting military power is not a good option in most cases.
The key reasons that China is so powerful are that it has:
1. A strong central authoritarian government that can make decisions relatively quickly
2. A government which actually care to improve the lot of its population,
3. The ability for planning and executing long term national goals
4. Immense foreign exchange reserves of over $3 Trillion; all of which allow China to achieve its goals rapidly.
The Chinese government and their private economic enterprises operate with less moral and ethical constraints than any other influential nation. This allows China to acquire vast long-term - international energy and mineral resources and exerts its economic influence with little regard to its impact on the local population or international concerns think Iran and Sudan. China's economic power is growing rapidly at 10% per year with less moral concerns or self imposed or external limits. China GDP was one trillion dollar in 2000; it is now 6 times larger! These numbers do not show the total story, since its labor costs are so much lower, China can build twice as much infrastructure and housing per dollar as the US.
Although some assessments predict that China's GDP will surpass the US in just five years, it does not seem realistic- there are always unforeseen difficulties. Serious bumps are around the corner, such as a potential housing bubble, (25 million, often expensive, housing units are unoccupied now). Also there are increasing wage demands, and their artificially low currency exchange rate which would not be tolerated for long. China is already planning to change the rate slowly.
There are a lot of negative elements in China: lack of individual freedom, severe corruption, weak rule of law, building empty cities to sustain employment, lack of environmental control, expanding arid areas due to global warming, diminishing water supplies to vast population centers, no social safety net, suppression of native minorities and more. This is all part of the picture of this vast land. However, it is important to note that most Chinese are happy to have these vast economic opportunities, fast rise in their standard of living at the cost of their political freedom.
The US has serious economic problems most of them politically generated:
1. Representative government, in which local interest prevails over national needs.
2. We have huge and growing national and private debts, totaling $50 trillion, 3 and a half times GDP.
3. We do not have a national vision nor national long term or even short term plan.
4. We let short term self-serving financial forces dictate our direction.
5. Both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congress concentrate on benefiting the financial elite, the wealthy upper few percent of the population to the detriment of the lower income half of the population.
The US richest 10 percent control some 2/3 (73%) of our net worth. The lower 90% has only 27%; this is a ratio of 24 to one on a per capita basis. Think about it, for every thousand dollar a person in the lower 90% can spend monthly, a person in the upper 10% can spend twenty four thousand dollars!
Our US government is divisive, polarized, non transparent, and unable to work for the benefit of the country. And because we generally believe that every one should be free to pursue his/her goals, essentially free from central supervision, our widely spread greed burdens the nation by economic collapse, huge national debt ($14 billions, almost equal to GDP) and immense private debts, some $35 trillions. Recently some 20% of our GDP has been generated by the non-productive financial sector, which mostly shuffled immense amount of fabricated capital from hand to hand with no productive benefit for the country but their own short-term financial wealth.
In summary, China concentrates on achieving its long term rapid national growth at the cost of individual freedom and lack of the rule of law. We concentrate on protecting the wealthy, retaining individual freedom, sustaining the rule of law at a sacrifice of our other important national needs.
The impact on morality of overpopulation:
Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters.
China is not constrained, nor guided by morality or ethics due largely to its vast population. The more people we have, the less we value each individual. And this is evident especially in China and India. Their population is about 1350 and 1210 millions, respectively; together over a third of the global population.
It is not surprising, therefore, that most Chinese focus on their own economic progress and ignores the suffering of others. It has been so for a long time. The current news from China is that 18 people saw and ignored the suffering of a 2 years old, severely injured girl in a car incident. They looked, did not lift a finger to help, and if you heard the driver explanation why he did not stop you would be revolted of his inhuman attitude. I am glad that a considerable debate started in China about this sad experience.
I am bringing the MORALITY ISSUE up to illustrate the great significance of China to the struggle to reduce economic suffering and global Warming. China is the key to cutting global Greenhouse gases. No effort by any other country, or a combination of countries, will make much impact compare to the impact that China has now and will increasingly have (plus the negative impacts expected from India economic and population growth.)
China is driven; it can not stand still economically. To retain political stability the central and regional governments must supply jobs and housing to the current 600 million urban population and the 200 million more poor rural people that will be moving to urban areas over the next decade.
China is obviously focusing on its own survival and growth and naturally ignores the needs of other nations. China "conforms" to Western moral standards only when it suits it or required to propagate China's own aims. China is especially reluctant to support UN effort that reduce the ability of dictatorial powers such as Syria and Iran to subdue their population by force since they have been doing it in some cases and will do it again. They are extremely concerned about the desire of some of their minorities for self determination. Up to now local rebelions are unrelated and focus on correcting local wrongs. But China leadership fears a possible coordination of these local upsets and widespread instability if they are not stopped early. This is why they clamp down on small events that to us seem so minor nad unjustified. Even if we do not like it, We must look at it from their point of view in order to coordinate better the global fight against GW. Yes, this ultimate danger to humanity is more important than achieving soon our dream of full human rights.
China's Communist leadership is working hard to improve the lives of the majority of their population, concentrating on its Han majority of 91.5%. China controls the major banks and holds the majority of foreign capital and gives just a minimal political freedom to prevent upsetting the apple cart. I admire what China leadership did after the death of Mao and his immediate successors. It understood realistically the needs of the country; the first one was reducing its rapid population growth. Under Mao China's population grew from 530 millions in 1948 to 800 millions in 1970 at a rate of 2.2%.
China long term goal has been to first achieve a zero population growth and eventually to reduce their population over the next century to some 750 millions. Wise and courageous aims. The one child policy came from that and succeeded very well to limit the growth rate to just 0.5% and cut the expected population by some 400 millions people. But despite this marvelous effort it could not cut the actual population growth - the current population is nearly three times the population of 1948!
In addition, the ability of the central government to influence local affairs, which is the key to actual developments and the rule of some level of law, is limited. Regional leaders are very powerful and influence local development by often making their own rules and even breaking national guidelines.
China not only has cheap labor in combination with low cost capital, it also does not insist on profit. Full employment is the key goal. Therefore, their competitive position borders on illegal product dumping.
In contrast, we must follow long established safety laws, environmental protection laws, pay social security taxes, income tax, sales tax, and many other requirements (which I agree with) undercutting most western industries ability to compete with an industry that ignores almost anything but current minimal salaries to a vast labor pool. Most of their product undercut substantially similar US products.
But much of China low cost products also come with big negatives: internally high pollution, and low quality and even dangerous products. It is not only that the color of a toy will fade faster but that dangerous lead paint will be used in children toys. Or dangerous chemicals will be used to modify milk products killing hundreds. Or the death of hundreds (thousands?) of children when their schools buildings collapsed on them in an earthquake because the concrete was well below specified strength- to increase builder's profits.
I will discuss this important aspect of Chinese products at another time.
DO NOT EXPECT CHINA TO BEHAVE ACCORDING TO OUR WESTERN MORALITY AND OUR THEORETICAL LEVEL OF INTEGRITY. We do not do that fully ourselves.
Ten years ago David Gergen, a renowned public servant, warned us (below) about the serious danger of global warming. All the accumulated effort to curtail GW since then amounts to nothing of any significance! Global greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly growing and no US or international actions have been taken that even minutely have reduced the severe and steadily worsening impacts of our climate.
I am focusing on the US because we are the key: we generated the most cumulative greenhouse gases to date, some 35 to 40%, and we are in the best economic position to reduce GHG here and globally. But we want our comfortable lives, use all the energy we want, and hope that minor measures will make serious impacts.
Nonsense. It can not be done. GW has immense disruptive impact on the global climate and immense, painful measures are necessary to reduce meaningfully future impacts of GW.
The main problem is not that US Republican leaders are stone walling any effort: it is that the liberals, people who already say GW is here and serious, are not actually believing it.
If they believed the seriousness that they state, why are they are not acting on it in the depth and scale required?
Almost no one with scientific knowledge, of public stature, from scientists, to politicians, to religious and environmental leaders, is willing to risk their comfortable positions and raise such a public outcry that it will finally reach the American people and global leaders too.
Almost every article on GW is sugar coated, if we just do this or that all will be well. Look how meekly they present the danger of GW:
1. "Climate change is occurring, is very likely (my emphasis) caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems. Each additional ton of greenhouse gases emitted commits us to further change and greater risk."
-The national Research Council Committee on America's climatic Choices, in its fifth and FINAL report to the United States Congress on Climate Change."
This statement is so weak that most Congress members on the sideline will not be motivated to act. That committee could not even eliminate: "very likely". Do these committee members still have doubts about GW? Just eliminate very likely and see how different the impact is.
2. National Geographic had a major article about the damage to the oceans recently (The Acid Sea, April 2011). I read it with hope. In the past National Geographic warned us clearly and openly about the danger of GW. This article was so weak; you could not sense real urgency in it. The words were too mild to capture our attention. NG leadership is reducing their courage and thinks now more about public acceptance and readership than the future of humankind.
I know it is hard to grasp deeply, personally, the profound danger of GW. It has taken me several painful years of personal struggle to overcome my resistance. We must overcome our fears of personal discomfort. I have talked to GW scientists, environmental leaders, key heads of governmental environmental departments, key staff members in Congress, but none were willing to take any risk to fight more effectively against GW.
We do not have real leaders to fight GW. The inability of liberal leaders from scientists, religious and political leaders, business persons, to environmentalists to overcome their own personal fear for their professional status, loss of face or livelihood, hinders our ability to fight GW effectively.
WARMING TO THE TASK
E D I T O R I A L
By DAVID GERGEN • EDITOR AT LARGE
TO BE RESPONSIBLE STEWARDS, WE MUST REDUCE THE FUMES AND GASES OVERHEATING OUR PLANET.
Do you remember all those years when scientists argued that smoking would kill us but the doubters insisted that we didn't know for sure? That the evidence was inconclusive, the science uncertain? That the antismoking lobby was out to destroy our way of life and the government should stay out of the way? Lots of Americans bought that malarkey, and over three decades, some 10 million smokers went to early graves.
There are eerie parallels today, as scientists in one wave after another try to awaken us to the growing threat of global warming. The latest was a panel from the National Academy of Sciences, enlisted by the Bush administration, to tell us that the Earth's atmosphere is definitely warming and that the problem is largely man‑made. The clear message is that we should get moving to protect ourselves. The president of the National Academy, Bruce Alberts, added this key point in a preamble to the panel's report: "Science never has all the answers. But science does provide us with the best available guide to the future, and it is critical that our nation and the world base important policies on the best judgments that science can provide concerning the future consequences of present actions."
Paralysis by analysis. Just as on smoking, voices now come from many quarters insisting that the science about global warming is incomplete, that it's OK to keep pouring fumes into the air until we know for sure. This is a dangerous game: By the time 100 percent of the evidence is in, it maybe too late. With the risks obvious and growing, a prudent people would take out an insurance policy now.
Fortunately, the Bush administration is starting to pay attention. But it's obvious that a majority of the president's advisers still don't take global warming seriously. Instead of a plan of action, they continue to press for more research‑a classic case of "paralysis by analysis." The president does have good arguments on his side. He explained to European leaders last week that the Kyoto protocol they favor cannot serve as the international framework for environmental action. Its goals and timetables for reducing U.S. greenhouse emissions? percent below 1990 levels by 2012 are indeed "unrealistic"; the U.S. emissions are currently running some 12 percent above those 1990 levels. To ratchet down so far and so quickly would dampen an economy already too weak.
But we should listen closely to the Europeans and their environmental allies. They correctly say that by trying to blow up the Kyoto protocol and start all over again the United States will encourage lengthy, unacceptable delays in anyone's doing anything. To paraphrase from another context, we should amend Kyoto, not end it.
Other nations are also right to look to the United States for leadership. It cannot be said too often that WE ARE THE WORLD'S WORST POLLUTER. We have less than 5 percent of the world's population and produce 25 percent of the carbon dioxide. EMISSIONS FROM OUR POWER PLANTS ALONE EXCEED THE TOTAL EMISSIONS OF 146 OTHER NATIONS COMBINED, WHICH REPRESENT 75 PERCENT OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION. It is said in defense that our proportion of emissions is roughly equal to our proportion of the world's economy. True, but nations like Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom produce fewer emissions than their economic share. We just aren't as energy‑efficient as we should be.
To serve as responsible stewards of the planet, we must press forward on deeper atmospheric and oceanic research. But research alone is inadequate. If the administration won't take the legislative initiative, Congress should step into the breach to begin fashioning conservation measures. A bill by Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, which would offer financial incentives for private industry, is a promising start. Many see that the country is getting ready to build lots of new power plants to meet our energy needs. If we are ever going to protect the atmosphere, it is crucial that those new plants be environmentally sound.
Meanwhile, the administration must aggressively put ideas on the table that bring Europeans, Japanese, and others into negotiations for a follow‑on treaty to Kyoto. The world urgently needs a commitment from all governments to reduce emissions. Relying upon voluntary restraints in a free market is not an answer; it is an excuse.
We must be serious about these fumes pouring into the air.
Anyone who has watched a parent die from smoking will understand.
U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT, JUNE 25, 2001
Our inability to solve any serious national and international problem is partially due to the concentration of power by the few. We the people in the US are represented in Congress by mostly wealthy people who are controlled by wealthier people. Their self interest is more powerful than their interest in solving our key national and international problems.
A century ago Justice Louis Brandeis warned us about the negative impact of concentration of great wealth. The facts below tell us that we are in a deep national and international trouble since the people with that wealth and power are few and concerned mostly about their own well being. With the immense troubles the world is now facing: economic collapse, global warming, rapid and unsustainable population growth, and wide-spread deep poverty, unless something drastic change, humanity is facing troubles we never faced before, and especially because the problems are spread globally, and global solutions are mandatory.
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
Louis D. Brandeis (Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court)
"Between 2003 and 2007, 65 percent of all income growth in the US went to the richest 1 percent of the population. That lopsided distribution means that today, half of the national income goes to the richest 10 percent. In 2007, the top 1 percent controlled 34.6 percent of the wealth- significantly more than the bottom 90 percent, who controlled just 26.9 percent.
That is a huge shift from the post-war decades, whose golden glow may have arisen largely from the era's relative income equality. During the Second World War, and in the four decades that followed, the top 10 percent took home just a third of the national income. The last time the gap between the people on top and everyone else was as large as it is today was during the Roaring '20s.
..The rise of today's super-rich is a global phenomenon. ..."
"These global super-rich work and play together...."
..."These meritocrats are the winners in a winner-take-all world. Among the big political questions of our age are weather they will notice that everyone else is falling behind, and whether they will decide it is in their interest to do something about that".
Chrystia Freeland, Editor, Thompson Reuters Digital, The Atlantic, July/August 2011
Dr. Joseph Romm, on his widely popular and educational blog Climate Progress questioned today many of Bill Gates views on energy and global warming. With all due respect to Dr. Romm, I think he is not seeing the full meaning of Bill Gates points. Here are some of the comments I wrote today on his blog:
Listen to Bill Gates!
I have been an environmental scientist for several decades and made significant contributions to the commercialization of wind energy when I was the manager of the solar office and the wind energy program for the California Energy Commission. I tried to look at reality and not mislead myself by wishful thinking. Bill Gates is a wise man and we must listen to him; he has a lot of logical things to say we do not wish to listen to because they are against our dreams. But facts are facts, even if we ignore them.
Many of the points Bill Gates discussed are valid:
First, he did not say efficiency is useless, but that it is limited. I have been advocating energy efficiency and conservation strongly for half a century. Almost no progress was achieved to date. It is not sexy like PV and people do not want to use conservation. Only strict national mandatory laws stronger than California may make a difference. It is not that the efficiency and conservation are not important, they are critically desirable and important, it is the difficulty in spreading them fast and widely to make a difference.
Read: Conservation can cut 30 times more CO2 per dollar, on my blog.
Bill Gates is correct on PV. First he is correct that unless the technology can be widely used in China and India it is essentially useless. PV is too expensive by a significant factor to be use on a large scale in these critical countries. No matter how much we cut GHG these two countries will continue to pass us with GHG by increasing amounts. They are the key to cutting GHG!
The PV global industry is in the order of $20 billion a year! This is a huge industry, not in infancy with starting pain. Why does it need more government support? Only to maintain and increase the profit of the PV industry. The cost of the panels went down a little, but it is not passing on to the consumer. The system price has to drop by ten to one according to Dr. Steven Chu to be significant. Not this expensive PV technology! Panels are less than 35% of system cost!
Without government support PV would have died a long time ago, as it should since it has made less than negligible contribution to reducing GHG. Also, too many supporters are dreaming about a world covered with PV panels and do not do other, more important things such as conservation and efficiency. Current PV technology inherently can't do it. Environmentalists often give Germany as a champion on PV we should emulate. Wrong! Germany spent over $70 B on PV by last year and got less than one half a percent of its electricity from that huge investment. At the same time wind produce 7% of their electricity, but worst of all, Germany has been increasing their dependence on coal power by considerably larger percentage that all the green technologies combined. Let's look at facts as they are, rather as we wish them to be.
Using this money for conservation and efficiency would have reduced GHG by 20 times or more.
The basis fact is that flat panel silicon technology demands very highly refined silicon which demands a lot of electricity to refined which is produced by coal power plants in Germany and China. We have also the several years of energy payback to consider.
It will take too long to demonstrate all the sensible points Bill Gates made. Let's listen to him and review carefully what we are proposing.
BTW, yes, nuclear power is more promising BECAUSE little innovations and improvement were made to date. There are so many new improvements that could be introduced. Without nuclear our green technologies are too erratic and even the promising wind energy may be degraded since future weather patterns would be changing and be less predictable with increasing GW.
Read www.ginosaronglobalwarming.org to understand why PV is not any part of the answer with current technology. R&D is critical to find new more practical solar technologies of converting sun energy to electricity.
I just wrote this for the very popular GW site of Dr. Joseph Romm: Climate Progress. He asked what could we could have done better in the fight against GW.
Despite being an environmental scientist with decades of work in technology, including wind energy, it took me several years of soul searching to start to grasp the enormity of this human dilemma. We must internalize that Global warming is the most significant event of all human civilization, and therefore we are unable to deal with it emotionally. We think and write as if we have time to select alternatives, to wait for the political process to move, but we do not.
Even the most ardent fighters against global warming, with few exceptions, did not yet internalize the reality of this unique period humanity is in. We must grasp that all the normal forces of nature are moving in the opposite direction that humanity needs: to slow down even slightly the accelerating warming of the planet.
We are unable to change the following direction:
A finite Earth with rapidly increasing population, wanting higher standard of living, demanding more energy, mostly fossil, generating huge amount of CO2, warming the planet, melting its ice coverage, causing positive feedback that may lead to catastrophic release of additional global warming gases.
And against this reality we argue if it is more effective to be polite to the president, among other things.
Again, we the people who are strongly concerned about the impacts of GW are not able to grasp, to internalize, yet, the severity of the emergency we are in.
Read on this website below:
TIME-CRITICALITY OF GLOBAL WARMING
The nuclear problems in Japan are serious, and far from resolved, but the media, for its own interest of gathering viewers and readers, is blowing up this nuclear tragedy above justification. The public is fearful of nuclear power because they still feel it is similar to a nuclear explosion. It is not. Nuclear explosion can not occur in nuclear power stations. The explosions at the nuclear plants are pressure explosions from either high pressure steam, or other gases created in the aftermath of the loss of cooling waters. The danger is from release of radiation material.
Here is some background:
Japan was very sensible in developing nuclear power since they have no energy sources of their own. They produced 30% of their electricity from nuclear power, the rest mostly coal. Japan is the largest coal importer in the world and depends on the Australians to sell it to them, and the US to secure the oceans. In addition, all their oil come from the unstable Middle East which Iran can stop at will by controlling the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.
In addition, much of Japan's economy depends on both raw material inputs and energy inputs from not always a stable world.
Looking at all of these, the Japanese wanted some energy security by producing some of their own electric power. True the nuclear material comes from abroad but you can store several years' supplies in Japan itself, thus approaching some measure of control of their electricity.
With all of these considerations you can not fault the Japanese for relying also on nuclear power.
They would have done better if they designed and built their nuclear safety backup systems to be more self-sufficient and less easily destroyed by a Tsunami. The magnitude of this earthquake was also beyond expectation being one of the largest in recorded history. More recent nuclear plants have higher level of backup safety systems than the Japanese may have. New nuclear plants will incorporate the lesson of this tragedy. The damage to Japan would be much larger from its economic slow down due to this earthquake/tsunami than from these unfortunate nuclear accidents.
There are now over 400 nuclear plants in the world. China and India will increase their reliance on nuclear power to satisfy the increase demand of energy for their impoverished population.
We in the US will be one of the few large nations that want to reduce our nuclear power. And it is a mistake. We will simply increase the amount of CO2 over the globe in the process. Nuclear power is expensive and could be dangerous if not built properly, but its possible danger is lower than the certain danger of global warming.
Think about the total global picture. Think about the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases. Try to subdue the raw emotions regarding nuclear power to assess the positive global impact of nuclear power. Coal is dangerous too, but we do not see it so vividly. It kills invisibly, over long periods of time, in non dramatic situations via its poisonous byproducts and destruction of the environment.
Think how many thousands of people have died from this earthquake and its tsunamis? The amount suffering from the nuclear release would be considerably smaller than the total suffering. Almost half a million people, again, half a million people! died from the tsunamis after the 2004 Sumatra earthquake. Hundred of thousands died in Haiti without nuclear power.
Again, we need to look at it in global terms; the green alternatives we want are not real yet, at least not for the foreseeable future. We must reduce our energy consumption and waste. But we are doing nearly nothing in energy conservation and efficiency - the most cost-effective and easily available approaches that are domestic both in material and labor.
For many years the Germans claim great activity in the green energy field. But actually they are increasing their GHG emissions substantially. Many US environmentalists points to the "success" of Germany, even a US Senator said, why we can not be like them...
But the story is misleading
..."Despite its reputation as a world leader in solar- and wind-power technologies (16 percent of its electricity comes from renewable sources), Germany also has a dirty secret. It is highly dependent on lignite, so-called brown coal, which is one of the filthiest fuels known to mankind, emitting 27 percent more carbon dioxide to produce the same amount of electricity as regular black coal. The country mines some 180 million metric tons of the stuff every year-slightly more than China and the United States combined-and is home to six of the 10 most polluting power plants in Europe. "On the one hand, Germany looks quite progressive, but if you take a closer look, it's another story," says Anike Peters, of Greenpeace Germany."
From: The Atlantic, Dec. 10, What's Eating Germany By Andrew D. Blechman (my emphasis)
The above clip shows how misleading is our understanding of actual environmental situations. We do not look into the details, and as they say: the Devil is in the detail.
While Germany has spent to date nearly a hundred billions dollars for photovoltaic systems, it is actually increasing rapidly its use of coal, but not only black coal, but one of the dirtiest - lignite.
Another misleading information is: "16% renewable." Actually solar, that took most of the money, generates less than one percent of the electricity, and wind almost all the rest.
Polls indicate that only 6% of US scientists consider themselves Republicans!
That can explain why the Republicans members of Congress and most Republicans, can not accept the reality of global warming. They are afraid of reality.
To be a scientist you need to be open to reality, understand and accept facts, separate your personal bias from your research, and be willing to be found wrong if the evidence indicates so.
Scientific inquiry is generally intended to be as objective as possible, to reduce biased interpretations of results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, giving them the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure.
The open scientific method is unacceptable to most Republicans. This is why so few scientists are Republicans.
Most Republicans are unable and unwilling to accept facts that do not agree with their ideology. And this ideology is based on the dreams of the inherent superiority of the US, and our "ability" to rule over nature.
We all fear change. Our world was so secure. We won WWII, the "good war". We were respected around the world. We went to the moon in a few years. We destroyed the Evil Empire. We were the center of the universe in our minds. We were Americans.
All of these are changing rapidly; many of the things that formed the core of our everyday life are no longer able to hold us up. Terrorism shows our military weakness, our currency is weaker than the Euro, and the Chinese are the biggest producers in the world. Our wealth is flowing overseas in big chunks yearly. Our financial systems nearly collapse. Our homes are no longer our source of wealth. These are just some examples why we are so fearful.
We try to hold on to the past to reduce our fear of the unknown future. Too many Republicans reject reality.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
We can not hold on to the past. It has never worked. Humans were able to leave their caves and create modern societies by rejecting superstition and accepting facts and using reason. This openness to facts eventually progressed to develop the scientific method which accepts the physical reality of our universe.
Let's be clear: Too many Democrats are also unable to fully grasp the danger and reality of Global Warming. If they did their Congresspersons would not be so reluctant to fight GW on the scale it must be fought.
Of all advanced countries, only the US is refusing to do anything about GW!
Our self centeredness is deteriorating the global climate and increasing human suffering day by day.
I have not written for months, just read and observe. It was not a satisfying experience. We are digging ourselves deeper into Global Warming trouble.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that GW is already here and marked by air and ocean temperature rise, global glacier melting, ice sheets disappearing and by major, rapidly changing weather patterns. It is causing damage to the environment and our way of life which will be more severe every day we are continuing on our present path: - talking about Greenhouse gas curtailment but doing nothing about it.
True, China is now the largest CO2 emitter and with time India will have a larger population and will emit high amount of GHG. But the US is the path-setter in the Western world since we have emitted the most GHG to date and have the national wealth ($14 Trillion GDP) to make economic sacrifices to reduce GW.
I do not see any evidence that the US as an aggregate accepts the reality of Global Warming or plans to do anything of substance about it. Period. Even under a Democratic controlled Congress, nothing was done. Just think what will happen now under a Conservative controlled House, composed of both Republicans and many conservative Democrats. With their love of wealth, rejection of reality and fear of change, we are in deep trouble. And the president is unable to grasp the time-criticality and magnitude of GW.
And we are all so comfort oriented, we do not want to modify our easy way of life, reduce our standard of living, reduce our energy consumption, or inconvenient ourselves by even a small amount. This also applies to the environmental movement and liberals; we are not willing to accept that our very way of life is under serious and accelerating attack. We are still operating in the 9 to 5, life is good mode. We dream that we Americans are so smart and capable, wind and photovoltaic, or some future miracle technologies, will save us, so why make any sacrifice?
We do not grasp that most of our standard of living has been the gift of ample, cheap fossil fuels. It is tremendously difficult, it may be even impossible, to replace that temporary gift of nature!
So many articles are appearing continuously about the "magnificent potential" of green technology to save us from the damages of GW. They have been too optimistic and often unrealistic. Little attention is paid to the economics, the way investors look at their potential for profit vs. risk. Only private investors can make the huge financial investments needed for large scale energy systems. Governments do not have the resources for that.
Investors are cool customers; they are influenced by potential profits and are less impressed by market penetration artificially created by government subsidies. Our governments also ignore economic realities often.
We are still not accepting the time-criticality of GW. Many of the dire predictions of climate damages arrived considerably faster than predicted. Many of these processes once started are self-driven. There is no way back!
We can't act as a nation since our political leaders are limited; they are mostly lawyers without substantial experience in any things but words. Broader and deeper grasp of reality is needed; courageous thinking and actions are required. And that is not the way our Congress operates.
Our society believes that technical solutions are just around the corner and, therefore, we do not have to impose significant tax on carbon to reduce demand of fossil fuels, reduce energy use and assist development of alternative energies. Governments subsidies to specific technologies are mostly waste of our very limited financial resources. US energy sector is some one and a half trillion dollar a year. Some twenty trillions would be needed to be invested to replace much of our fossil-dependent way of life. We are already in deep borrowing and will be longer. It is not possible to continue to be economically viable with the immense waste of resources we have exhibited to date: 1. Corn-ethanol fuel, 2. Cash for Clunkers car subsidy, 3.Photvoltaic systems rebates.
Examples: It will cost California population some $50 billions to get one percent of its electricity from photovoltaic system including subsidies by the state and federal government. We can not afford this waste. At this rate the investment in electricity generation by PV for just 20% of CA electricity would be $1 Trillion. Unrealistically high. By the way, the state budget is short $20 billion for several years now.
Germany dedicated some $70 billions to generate one third percent (1/3%) of its electricity from PV while continuing to increase its coal-generated electricity beyond 50%.
Governments are generally not in the energy supply field and should instead, dictate national goals, such as reduce GHG by a certain amount by a certain date, not what is the "correct" low-carbon technology to use. Legislatures are not qualified to select technologies for the future. Their decisions are biased towards business interest. They are subjected to powerful pressure by industry, and even by too emotional environmentalists.
We never faced any thing of this nature before, and we are not mature enough to deal with it.
President Johnson was briefed on the danger of GW and made a serious statement to Congress about it, but more immediate events took over. We had time then.
The way we behave in the US, by the time we will feel significant pain from GW to wake us up, it would be too late.
Here are some of the reasons why many people oppose any real action against global warming:
1. Conservatives are inherently afraid of change partially because of the following:
"The old world is organized;
the new world is disorganized.
The old world is certain;
The new world is uncertain."
President Bill Clinton
2. Human nature is self serving; it is hard to accept reality:
It is the nature of the human species to reject what is true but unpleasant, and embrace what is obviously false but comforting.
This is a good site to look at from time to time to remind us where we are and where we are headed steadily. Our CO2 now is 392. The historical level in the last 400,000 years was 280. The maximum scientists believe the Earth can tolerate without severe degradation is 350. The "best" estimate is 550 by 2050. Yet, we are doing nothing to slow this rapid rise.
"We know that before 2050, atmospheric CO2 will cross the 500 ppm threshold, a level last seen during the Eocene, 55 million to 36 million yeas ago. There were palm trees in Wyoming and crocodiles in the Arctic then. Antarctica was a coniferous forest, Because there was no continental ice sheets, sea level was 100 meter [328 feet] higher than today."
The Power Problem
Conquering carbon and climate change
Harvard magazine 2006
It is clear that the majority of international leaders are not willing to risk their positions and cut global warming gases in their countries. Every one expects the others to start. Are they unable to grasp the danger? Verbally they say the right things, especially European leaders, but the reality is that no progress of any significance occurred to date.
The USA is a very sad example of a weak, ignorant Administration, self serving Congress, misleading media, poor public understanding, determined right wing forces that rather sink the country than allow national progress, and weak and uncoordinated environmental movement.
Cutting Greenhouse emission is no complex science, but it is very hard politically. Powerful, wealthy corporations control the political process in most, if not all Democratic countries. What is basically required is rapid increase in energy prices to reduce waste and consumption and shift some generation to low polluting technologies. Reduce demand is the most crucial aspect since alternative energies are highly capital intensive and would take decades to make any impact. And time is not on our side. We are already in the danger zone with clear damage to much of the global environment: melting sea ice and glaciers, sea rise, severe storms, dying forests, increase ocean acidity and temperature, less absorption of carbon dioxide, severe reduction of ocean plankton - the basic element of the ocean food chain. All of these are here now, real and increasing in severity.
Also needed are national energy efficiency laws that would reduce energy demand rapidly. This will drive wide use of conservation and energy efficiency. This will allow phasing out of old coal plants, the largest CO2 emitters in most countries, and the conversion of remaining coal plants to natural gas thus cutting emissions per kWh by half.
These are basic starting points, easily achieved technically, but there is no political will from the US Administration nor Congress. And the Senate is especially weak and in denial on GW. Or in almost any other country. In the US the powerful political influence of the coal industry is strong through a small number of coal dominated states with very little population. This is a different subject but just bear in mind that our political system that gives immense power to small population states in the Senate is hindering any national progress and reduce our ability to fight global warming, the most crucial task we are facing globally.
The rush to subsidize green technologies is wasteful and diverts our attention from the real problem - continuous emission of greenhouse gases. Spending billions for alternative energies are business decisions, delightful to the industry and environmentalists but are so insignificant it would not reduce the damage to the globe by any amount for years to come.
The reasons, seems to me, is that the international leadership of well off countries does not believe that global warming is a serious problem. James Hansen just demonstrated it during his visit to Norway. He believed that that so called Green country, would be willing to listen to reason and on a recent visit there sent a letter to the Norway prime minister suggesting that Norway stop work on its Canadian Tar Sand facilities. Norway is the major owner of this most polluting non-conventional source of fossil fuel. Tar Sands emit the highest amount of CO2 per gallon of fossil fuel since the extraction process is highly energy intensive.
Here is what Dr. Hansen wrote:
"The glib response of Norway's Prime Minister is that we are 'future pessimists'. Clever engineers, he says, will solve the problem, perhaps with carbon capture. Meanwhile it is o.k. to develop tar sands and go after the last drop of oil in the Arctic. This is nonsense of course. Even if they use nuclear power to squeeze the oil from tar sands, the CO2 will come out of tailpipes. Also, the environmental destruction in Canada would never be allowed by Norwegians in Norway."
The way this prime minister think is dangerous and may indicate why no government yet started real reduction in greenhouse after some 20 years of global discussions. They may all think the same: we have a way out of GW; it is not so serious after all.
It is important to note:
This PM calls environmental realists, like Dr. Hansen, and Dr. John Holdren, and many hundreds of climate scientists who know full well the danger we are already in: "future pessimists." It is clear that the PM and the people around him in this pseudo "Green" country do not grasp at all that we are already inside the danger zone and we have very short time to act to reduce some of the more severe damages expected from the rapidly growing global warming.
A relatively small number of national leaders are determining the future sustainability of our world. Their courage, ability and willingness to accept scientific facts determine our future. Don't over estimate them. They are capable to project their image well, but that may be just surface thin. They are normal human being and not the great figures we want to believe in. Leaders have huge egos, which often drive them to think they are wiser and smarter than their advisers. Leaders need more than normal courage to accept the seriousness of the damage to our globe. It is easier for them to escape reality by dismissing amply proven scientific facts.
Dismissing GW as done in Norway may be one of the key obstacles to action. The inability to grasp the seriousness of the situation and the willingness to embrace any unsubstantiated excuse to allow inaction is a way out from the political and even emotional difficulty of facing GW.
The question to each of us is how to add our voice to the struggle. Personal participation in the political process is paramount- write letters make phone calls, donate money. Participate. Be outraged, bind with other activists is a beginning. Start raising your voice, talk to your friends, even if it is inconvenient. Don't be passive expecting the leaders to "save" us.
To read Dr. Hansen original notes:
For decades I told my friends and family that we are spending beyond our means and we will pay for it, both nationally and individually. All my life I was "rich" because my desire for material things were lower than my income, so I did not face drastic economic situations even when I resigned to work for social causes some 30 years ago.
I also knew well the meaning of playing with the stock market; I did everything in the market for a decade, from puts and calls to leverage bonds ten to one, trying to do it the American way-- to get income without working for it. I dropped off the Market almost 40 years ago to live with less economic ups and downs, but with more peace. I recommend that to all of you - the stock market is a game that only some professionals* can win. The ups and downs are not worth it, not economically and not emotionally.
Assuming that you have been following the dire economic situation the US and most of the rest of the developed world is now facing, borrowing to the hilt to shore the troubled economies, I strongly suggest that you rethink how to spend your money wisely. That is not a short term blip! We are now paying for our bubbles and will continue to do so for many years to come. Something in the order of 10 to 15 TRILLION DOLLARS disappeared in this recent economic game. You simply can not spend what you do not have for too long, even a big country like the USA. Our national obligations are way beyond our ability to pay them if we do not change course drastically after a hopeful economic recovery.
Here is what Stanford professor of International Peace, Jeffry Friedman, stated: "We are going to have to produce more than we consume, save more than we invest, and the government will have to take in more than it spends. That translates into austerity; a lower standard of living...Every country that has gone through the crisis successfully has done so by imposing fairly stringent austerity measures. That means real wages are stagnant or declining, you have to increase export, decrease imports, increase savings, and reduce consumption. That is the macroeconomic of dealing with a debt crisis."
[Harvard magazine July- Aug 2010]
Add to this that the foundation of advanced economies is cheap energy sources, from coal to oil and natural gas; these sources will increase in price with time due to higher international demand, by China and India especially, and some replacement by low greenhouse energy sources. Electricity will cost more and so transportation fuels. All of these forces will increase the cost of most of our material things, from houses to foods.
That will impact each and every one of us to a different degree.
Choose your own path to a sensible life.
*" Wall Street is populated by a bunch of people whose primary goal is to make money, and the rules are pretty much caveat emptor. You'd be a fool or a deluded idealist to think ethics would be prominent on Wall Street. That is not a statement against people in the money business, just a fact."
Steven Levitt, Univ. of Chicago economist and best selling author: Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics. [Money - July 2010]
China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and would continue to be a much larger emitter as its economy grows in its customary rapid rate of close to ten percent. India would be the second over time.
China is the most dangerous country to global survival since no matter what all other developed countries TOGETHER will be adding to GHG; China's would still be larger by a considerable factor.
China communist leadership decided decades ago to copy the economic model of the Western world instead of developing a unique path that could suit their own special situation better. They assumed that the "old, proven" economic growth of the West over last half a century is the way to go.
But China circumstances are so different from the West, especially our open markets and freedom of financial institutions to "innovate" new methods to drain huge profits from uncontrolled financial instruments- as we saw in the last decades. These freedoms put the world at peak economic crises that are still unresolved.
I expected, erroneously, that their central government, free from our type of political pressure and narrow mindlessness, would allow them to see through some of our key mistakes, but not so. They still think too much like us in many negative respects.
China arrived by trial and error at a mix economic model: overall national control of the of the nation's finances, holding of huge capital reserves, and nearly complete freedom for any local business to innovate and build with minimal supervision or standards.
The problem I want to focus on now is that China national control of its international currency exchange rate has distorted the basis of the key international agreement of floating exchange rates. The freedom of the markets to continuously vary the value of each national currency helps stabilize national economies and provide a more fair international trade. China helds its currency fixed at very low level for many years to allow it to export products at lower cost while making imports much more expensive, resulting in huge benefit to it at a high cost to the rest of the exporting world.
The continuous attempts by the US [the biggest importer of China products] and other nations to gently prod China to allow freer and more rapid changes in its currency was rejected until recently. But China's recent response is a fake; it allows a minor fluctuation of its currency, in the order of just 2%.
So, here we are with a country that is determined to rebuff legitimate international needs and pressure to fully satisfy its own desires.
China maximizing its export at high costs to other nations is a dangerous sign for global warming cooperation. China leadership still does not grasp that we are all in the same sinking boat. If China will do the same regarding GHG emissions, maximize its economy and thus increase its huge GHG emissions, the global community could not curtail GW almost at all. All international efforts would be negligible compare to the huge emissions by China [and India].
But China is already doing just that, it fully refused to commit to any meaningful reduction in GHG. All its statements are essentially nonsense, [the same as the US] and any one who does not see through them is not a realist.
Like the USA, the way China is going now re. GW is window dressing. We can not expect any meaningful cooperation from them. The fact that they are installing vast amount of wind energy, the fact that they are installing more than ten nuclear power plants in the next decade are of such a small scale compare to the problem that it is essentially useless. According to some estimates, may be they could reduce their vast future emissions by 10%, if we are lucky.
Frankly, I was hoping that China's leadership would be able to look at the future with clearer eyes than the politically very limited US Congress and Administration. But so far I am mistaken. I still hope that they will force us to deal with GW in much more realistic terms.
Anything we did up to now globally is inadequate, or more correctly, window dressing, nothing of substance. And the window of opportunity to prevent some of the more serious damages to our small globe is closing very fast.
My wife and I just got the National Democratic Party questioneer about our own top national concerns. Of all the options to choose, there was not even one item related to global warming.
Now, the leaders of the Democratic Party do not see GW as a key national issue. Their level of stupidity is not far behind the Republican Party that rejects the very same subject as if it was invented by the Democrats and therefore bad for the country. The Democrats can not even get all their Senators to agree to support the weak bill offered now in the senate.
The very weak Energy and environment bill that passed the House last year was a sham. It was just a feel good bill that would not reduce global warming by any noticeable level. The Democratic majority was more interested in getting what they wanted individually and not what the country and the world need desperately.
Even the Democrats are now unable to grasp the seriousness of the issue. They do not want to learn what is not beneficial to them individually.
The Senate was not yet able to pass even a weaker bill, and the president is unable even to commit himself to push our nation to accept the gravity of this issue. When he has the clear opportunity to awaken the public and push a viable energy/environment bill in light of the Gulf oil disaster, he just mumbled a few words about energy independence.
Let's be realistic: There is no way to have energy independence for many decades, if at all.
How could the leaders of the two major parties sink so low?
How can our president, who talked at length about the criticality of global warming during his election campaign, drop the ball in the interest of the next election?
How can our nation become so ignorant of reality?
This supposedly great nation is very great in its collective national idiocy, in the face of the greatest national challenge in human history.
Liberal US Judaism lost its compass
For many decades modern liberal Judaism in the US has focused its main attention on Tikkun Olam, making this world a better place for all humanity. The idea was to make the outstanding Jewish Mitzvot [commandments] relevant to today's world by minimizing human suffering. Kashrut [Kosher] laws were changed, for example, to be concerned about animal welfare. Our Mitzvot that focused on Jewish welfare were broadened to care for people suffering every where, such as Darfur.
Tikkun Olam is not about trivia, about doing what is relatively easy and may be popular. It is extending yourself beyond your comfort zone. It is breaking barriers, fighting seriously for an important human cause. About making real impact on the world.
We were active in the anti-discrimination movement from the beginning. Who does not remember the murder of the Jewish youngster in the South while registering African Americans?
Who does not remember Rabbi Heschel marching hand-in-hand in protest with Reverend Martin Luther King?
But for the last decade we are ignoring the key Tikkun Olam issue of our times; the unique, all encompassing danger to all humanity- Global Warming.
Individual Jews are heavily involve in this issue, but I am talking about the liberal jewish community as a powerful voice- and that I do not hear yet. I have tried to interest Jewish leaders on a national scale in Global Warming, but with no result. There are some minor involvement is "eat locally grown food," or minor sustainability issues, but they are all minor and would not impact global warming. Liberal Jews, like many Americans, are mainly focused on their own private lives, or some good souls on the immediate community. May be they feel Global Warming is the problem of the non Jews, not ours. It is not a Jewish issue like Soviet Jewry was. Or is it?
Is the survival of modern life, the sustainability of our world, the pending suffering of hundreds of millions of people across the globe less important than any other issue?
I have seen nearly zero participation from the Jewish community in my own town- Sacramento, and the United States in this subject. Some local actions are commendable, but ineffective. We need national voice, a powerful one.
Unless we raise large outcry, create political pressure of large magnitude, it will be ignored by the President and Congress. Congressman Waxman of Los Angeles and Senator Boxer of California have put their careers on the line to advance the fight against Global Warming. I hope they have substantial private support from powerful Jews, but they do not get the support from the Jewish community nation wide on the scale they need and deserve.
Yes, some Jewish leaders went to Congress to express their concerns about GW, but that is about that. That's nice but not influential. Congress does listen to a mass public pressure- letters and phone calls, but they did not witness any significant, consistent, Jewish public outcry about the lack of action in Congress. Even Conservative Christian groups are working hard against Global Warming, why are we so late in our grasp of the issue?
I do not see any mass Jewish movement, no mass literature, and no repeated discussions in Temples, nearly nothing of substance. I read nothing in the mass media or the web either on a strong Jewish presence on Global Warming.
As long as we are not working hard, taking chances to reduce the danger of global worming, we are not contributing to human survival. Up to now, I have to conclude, we have lost our desire to make this world a better place to all humanity. We have lost our focus on real Tikkun Olam.
O' Yes, it is also an issue of Jewish survival; when our world would be in the midst of global suffering due to the deterioration of the climate, Jews may be again the key scapegoat.
Regarding my previous post on CFL vs. LED. This is the letter I mentioned in that post and mailed to the new, then, general manager of SMUD about improving CFL.
I never heard back from him and neither from the Board, about this issue.
I have discussed a number of these issues with Board members and was a guest speaker before the SMUD Board advocating putting main emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation as major parts of their long term planning.
Dr. Matania Ginosar
6201 S Street, MS. B408
Sacramento, CA 95817-1899
Dear Mr. DiStaio,
Congratulation on your new and important position.
During a recent meeting with Mr. Larry Carr, President of the Board of Directors, I learned that SMUD likes to increase the use of compact florescence lamps throughout your territory.
As an electrical engineer and an environmental scientist I have special interest and experience in cost-effective ways to reduce energy demands, and I have been using CFL for twenty years. Like SMUD I would like to see wide use of CFL too, but unfortunately I believe that the low quality of most CFL can reduce their adoption.
I have used by now some 50 CFL and many of them perform well below expectations. They die quickly, are noisy, reduce their light with time too much, and start slowly. In addition their light output is lower than stated. A 60 W CFL has typically just 50 W equivalent illumination (of standard incandescent lights) in real life. Most CFL can't be used in enclosed fixtures. This is also the experience of many of my friends who do like to use more CFL.
The quality of the original CFL, when they were made in the US and Europe was relatively high. I did not have any one which died early or made noise like the ones made in China for the last few years.
As an example, I have three CFL I bought from Home Depot and were "sponsored" by SMUD. All three failed immediately: one did not light at all, one gave only half the illumination, and the third was noisy. I will gladly mail them to you, if you wish. This is obviously just one example, but your own staff agreed that the general performance of CFL is poor.
Normal incandescent light bulbs are low cost, extremely reliable, noise free, and light instantly. As people experience the very short life, noise and slow start of these low quality CFL, they will reject CFL, and your important effort to spread their use may fail. Most people are not interested in CFL statistical averages, or low lifecycle costs, and when they experience repeated failures with CFL their minds would be set against CFL.
May I suggest that you bring this issue up in national electrical utility meetings and urge the group to put pressure on the CFL industry to drastically improve its quality. Especially do not sponsor suppliers of low quality CFL. I think that one of the poorest is FEIT that SMUD has worked with before.
I believe SMUD will benefit from a reliable CFL technology and seal of approval that the public can trust.
Thank you and SMUD for your excellent work and leadership.
BS MS EE, MS Mgt. D. Env.
C.c. Larry Carr
Twenty years ago I irritated a member of the Sacramento Municipal Utility Board, SMUD, when I answered media questions about Compact Fluorescent Lamps CFL, honestly and told them they have serious problems that must be solved before CFL could have wide public acceptance. He told them that all is well with CFL. He was wrong then and his type of approach -cover the negatives instead of correcting them - does not work.
Introduction: Standard light bulbs use a lot of electricity; we can save three quarter of the electricity by replacing them by compact fluorescent lamps, CFL. CFL did not capture much of the market because of their many limitations. Could the new light emitting diodes, LED, lamps achieve a much wider penetration, even with laws dictating higher efficiency light? I doubt it if we handle LED in the same poor way we did CFL.
Lighting uses considerable amount of our home electricity because we are using incandescent bulbs. The majority of these bulbs' electricity goes into heat, and less than 5% into light. Not only that, during the summer the heat portion warms the house interior, putting additional load on air conditioning. Since a typical electric power plant is just 33% efficient, reducing electrical waste saves three times as much in energy input [coal, gas] in our electrical systems, resulting in three times reduction in greenhouse gas GHG emissions.
Replacing one standard bulb by compact fluorescent lamp- CFL cut electricity to just one quarter, thus cutting our primary energy use, and GHG, by 12 times!!
Some of the reasons for considerable increase in home electricity use in the last two decades are bigger houses, using lights for decoration, and increasing use of indirect lighting that can demand up to ten times the light of direct lighting.
For the last quarter of a century the drive to reduce electrical demand by replacing standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps, CFL, that are typically four times more light efficient, did not make much impact. There are some laws now that would dictate selling of only higher efficiency lights to increase markedly the use of CFL and LED, but we may have the same problems again.
Here are some of the limitations that reduce the use of CFL:
Very poor quality. Originally US and Europeans made CFL had long life and more steady output, but as the Chinese entered the market the quality went down drastically. Because of that and more, the public discarded its initial enthusiasm of CFL when experience showed:
1. Considerably Shorter life than specified.
2. Quick death when CFL are enclosed.
3. Shorter life when the lighting element is placed downward since heat goes up and heats the electronic parts.
4. Slow start
5. Very poor quality control: Noisy CFL and half-light CFL are common, while never with standard bulbs.
6. Light color is not always comparable to standard light bulbs.
7. Use of mercury.
8. Can't adjust light intensity [new adjustable CFL are costly]
There are technical solutions to some of these problems, but many of the problems are due to poor quality control. It is hard to achieve sustained improvements when the seal of approval is given to the CFL by utilities, by mass marketing and by inadequate seal of approvals. In short, little attention is paid to the problems. See my letter in the next posting to my local utility of two years ago. I have not witness any improvements in CFL in recent times.
I am bringing this subject up because some are advocating bypassing the "CFL age" by Light Emitting Diodes- LED.
LED have the advantage of simplicity and very long life, possibly as much as 50,000 hours [15 years] vs., some 8,000 to 10,000 hours for CFL. It is promising but...
The problems are the very high cost of LED and the need for even tighter quality control than on CFL.
The main attraction of LED is their very low electricity consumption, a potential for several times better than CFL. However, the light output of LED vs. energy input, that is, its light efficiency, can vary by ten to one. The manufacturing processes, the material used, the quality control can all contribute to a very low energy efficiency that the buyer is unaware off. Most buyers will seek low cost units, but they would not know the real efficiency of the LED. And the normal tendency to cut corners to increase profits is likely to kill this promising technology too.
Also heat is still a problem, the cooling aspects and the electronic components used could be damaged by heat, depending on positioning, and ease of natural cooling around the LED.
The same problems that have cut down the market penetration of CFL - poor design and poor quality control, can also kill the market potential of LED, and even more so. It is easy and cheap to produce and sell LED that would have low efficiency and shorter life expectancy than possibly CFL. And since the initial cost of LED is expected to be much higher than CFL for the near future, the cost of poor quality and low efficiency could again kill this promising market.
My Suggestion- we could now improve the penetration of CFL, which is already here, by demanding government seal of approval for better design and high quality as the price of selling CFL.
This is excellent. You have done a marvelous job. I like the way you wrote this up.
I had the same sad experience over the past two years. I didn't read anything about this until now, but I found out from experience what you have described here. A few years ago I decided to do what I could to install CFLs in fixtures that we use for more than four hours a day. At first, I thought I might be saving as much as ten percent of the electricity we use. Soon, I experienced every single one of the eight limitations you outlined in your paper below. The short life of these CFLs is doubly compounded by the mercury problem, as it is still a real hassle to properly dispose of these spent lamps, and since I won't toss them into the landfill, I let them pile up in my house.
A few years ago at Cal, I met up with a top specialist in Conservation and I mentioned my concerns about the billions of CFLs that might be landfilled over the coming years. He told me how proud he was that Wal-Mart had agreed to sell millions of them and tried to calm me about mercury by telling me that Cal EPA would have the mercury problem well in hand. I knew better. Now three years later the problem is still real.
The shortened life of these CFLs due to enclosure and upside down orientation is very real, as the lamps I installed in my bathroom inside the glass globes have only lasted about a year or so, so, maybe 700 to 1000 hours. I didn't take the time to be systematic about which CFLs did what, but this has been my basic experience. So, it's just one more broken promise that the environmentally and cost-conscious consumer has to deal with. Given all these drawbacks, it's impossible to know if one is saving any money, but for sure, it's a big hassle.
As Congress attempts to establish viable energy and environmental laws, it is clear that the political fights have diluted the potential final bill to nearly nothing.
The approved House bill and the potential Senate Kerry- Lieberman bills, after consolidation, would do nearly nothing to slow down US contributions to global warming. The price of carbon would barely make impact on energy use, the potential cuts in GHG are insignificant, some 4% from the 1990 level by 2020, while 30% is needed as a minimum. Read: Kerry - Lieberman bill is a sham.
The Federal Reserve System was created a century ago in response to a series of financial crises and its duties expanded noticeably during the Great Depression.
It was clear a century ago that Congress was unable to respond effectively to varying financial situations that require both immediate response and also long range planning. Congress can not do that.
Energy is the blood life of any modern society, and the global environment is in the midst of rapid deterioration. Members of Congress are subjected to a variety of acute pressures that do not allow them to grasp the complexity of the energy and environment dilemmas and also to develop adequate laws to prevent further deterioration.
We must take these issues away from Congress and create a new FED-like system for energy and environment away as possible from the political constrains. An independent agency that can deal both the immediate crises and set national long term directions.
The standard response would be: you can not get Congress to agree on even very mild energy/environment bills, how would it be possible to create this new agency? After all, Congress has to create this new agency.
I hope there is enough love for the country and the survival of humanity in the heart of most members of Congress that would drive members of both parties to get rid of this political hot potato and give it to a responsible Federal agency.
Central to the things that we must do is to recognize that population growth is the immediate cause of all our resource and environmental crises.
Dr. Albert Bartlett:
I am shaking my head as I study population trends of different countries. I read about this subject quite a bit during my UCLA studies for my doctorate in Environmental Science. I did my first population study: Family Planning in the People's Republic of China in 1974, and several other population studies a few years ago. Except China and Europe, for all practical purpose, the world population has continued to increase with some slow down. The majority of world leadership has closed its eyes on this crucial subject. Even when global warming [GW] is discussed in depth, population growth is rarely on the agenda.
A lot of statistics are available; all are unsettling, since nation after nation is unable to grasp the explosive situation we are in. Let's look at just one example- Egypt.
In 1950 Egypt population was 22 million, now it is 75 million! More than three times larger. They still have the same amount of arable land, but it is less fertile now and less water from the Nile River, their main source of livelihood. Result? More poverty and population dissatisfaction. Western people are unable to grasp the level of deep poverty in the slums of Cairo, for example, it is similar to India's notorious slums.
Obviously, this population growth leads to larger use of resources, more food, more clothing, more electricity, that is: more energy and more GHG emissions.
Egypt has to be governed by dictatorship since otherwise the population would revolt.
"Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity can not survive overpopulation.
Convenience and decency can not survive overpopulation.
As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It does not matter if someone dies, the more people there are, the less one individual maters."
But my main emphasis here is about the global survival and our ability to curtail population growth, so let's return to it:
We can grasp the changes in Egypt, the numbers are within our understanding, but the real problem is global population increase from today's already unsustainable 6.8 Billon people to over 9 Billion in the next three decades. And we have known about it for decades.
In 200 years global population grew 6 times!
1800 - 1 Billion
1900 - 1.8 B
1950 - 2.5 B
1960 - 3 B
1980 - 4.5 B
2000 - 6 B
The crucial issue of population growth is rarely mentioned when GW is discussed in the halls of governments, congress, and the media. It is a taboo. We look at it as a problem for the developing world, mostly Africa, India and China. Europe can not mention it because their own smaller population has already all the modern comforts and their populations are mostly stabilized.
The US population is growing slowly, but our high demand for comfort dictates very high energy use and large GHG emissions second only to China. We are 4.5% of the global population and consume about one quarter [25%] of all global resources. So, we have a real population problem as far as energy and GHG emissions are concerned. And these cause GW. The US emitted to date around 30% of all accumulated GHG!
Developing countries do not want any one to interfere with their own population policies. The result is that the rapid population growth is hindering most efforts to fight GW.
We will always stay behind the ability to supply low-carbon energy as long as energy demand continues to grow rapidly due to population growth.
Even if we stood still in our energy demand, the task is nearly insurmountable, the use of energy from all fossil sources is so large, and it is close to impossible to replace it in the short time frame we must do it to slow down GW. Add to it the need to chase the energy demands of a growing population- the task is nearly impossible.
So many "green" commentators tell us that if we can just put more wind energy farms across the land or put photovoltaic on every roof, or more thermal solar in the deserts. The problem of curtailing GHG emissions would be solved. With all due respect to their strong love of humanity- this is sheer dreaming. They are unable to grasp the magnitude of the energy problem, the shortage of time to cut very significantly GHG and the need to change almost every thing we are doing. Nothing will change sufficiently to make any impact on GHG emissions if we continue according to the old way of thinking. Congress is offering us energy bills that are easy to swallow, but they will have negligible impacts on GW. Major sacrifices have to be made.
The POPUATION BOMB book was published more than 40 years ago, and the global population has been going up before and after that book at a fast rate, a rate that can not be sustained without severely aggravating the damage to the global climate.
Is there anything that can be done to significantly reduce the growth of global population that we may have a modicum of chance to slow the GHG emissions?
The facts are against that possibility.
Consider the following:
1. The growth of China and India populations is the key to global population impacts on global warming because they have the largest populations and their rate of modernization is the most significant.
2. Both China and India expect major shifts in population from poverty and very low income to the middle class. Some 200 million in each country are projected to move from rural poverty to urban areas with considerably higher standard of living in the next decade or so. Note that India population is 71% rural, and 29% urban. Also half the population does not even have electricity. Therefore, the shift would multiply energy demand by a massive factor.
3. That population shift by China and India would increase their energy use by an amount equivalent to current US use..
US energy use per GDP is four times better than India or China. Therefore, their new urban population has to increase their standard of living to just one quarter of the US level to cause the same energy and GHG impacts as a full new USA!
Again, although this combined population shift of 400 million would not gain the US standard of living in this period, they are likely to use as much energy as the USA uses now.
4. You can't reduce the desire for sex. The sex drive is a basic human need and can not be changed.
5. Free use of contraception of all types can not reduce population growth significantly to the level needed, and in the time frame needed. Even China tried it. It did not work.
6. The only methods that achieved fast population reductions to date are either massive war [50 million deaths WWII] or mandatory "one-child" laws in China, [China reduction of 400 million potential births].
7. It is not possible to copy the unique China experience without rigid control on the country.
8. Most countries are "freedom loving" and would not accept population control like in China.
9. If India could impose full human rights to most women in a very short time, women would be able to use all means of birth control, including abortion, at will. This change in women's freedom is impossible in the time frame we are discussing in a country deep in old traditions that have not changed in centuries among the majority of the rural population.
10. The current accumulation of children and young people in India [and other high population growth countries] will force high population growth rate independent of any new and even drastic population control attempts.
This is destiny, not open to adjustments or question.
11. Some 3/4 of India population is in the child-bearing age.
Median population age is 24 years; 32% of the population is below 14 years! India Population growth rate is 1.38%. It is not a high rate per se, some Muslim countries have over 3% rate, but because India has a large population it has a very high impact.
12. Approximately one forth of India rural population [200 million] is expected to be urbanized in the next decade or so. That move is expected to be accompanied by reduce population growth in this portion of the population.. How much would the national growth drops by this is not yet clear. The current average rate of India is 2.65 children born/woman.
13. China, with slightly higher population has a dictated low rate of only 0.5% due to its one child policy- that is not fully followed. Even this 0.5% is too high for China. Their official aim was/is to have a negative rate to drop to 700 million.
"The first law of sustainability: population growth and/or growth in the rate of consumption of resources can not e sustained."
Dr. Albert A. Bartlett
It would be nearly impossible to reduce global population growth by a significant amount to help in the struggle against global warming. We do not have the time for slow changes.
And rapid population reductions are not possible, short of massive wars or massive famines.
Wind energy is getting a lot of favorable attention globally because it is the least costly low-carbon energy source, relatively simple technology and already proven its abilities to generate electricity on a large scale. However, as we plan to rely on more wind energy we need to consider some possible serious problems and study them in depth.
I am concerned that future reliance on wind energy as a major source of electricity may be unwise. I think we must also have human-controlled power in substantial amounts to compensate for the greater uncertainty of wind as GW is changing the climate.
I am a strong supporter of wind energy, and that is why I risked my career at the California Energy Commission, in the late 70' to push for developments in this field against my management. With a lot of work we succeeded to verify with clear, multi year data, the first time any place in the world, that wind can be a profitable commercial electrical source.
Global warming is changing weather patterns all over the globe. The steady patterns of strong winds, suitable for practical wind turbines, may not be relied on in many places in the future.
Here is what Dr. Holdren said 5/27/10:
"Global climate is changing. On average it is warming at a rate that is highly unusual against the background of natural variation that has always characterized the earth's climate. It's warming, on the average, but with that warming come changes in all of the elements of climate and the phenomena related to it. That means rain and snow, atmospheric circulation, ocean currents, storms, all changing in their spacial patterns, in their magnitudes and very importantly changing in their timing."
Temperature differences drive the winds, and the temperatures would not remain the same in the future. That may change the intensity and duration of the winds. You need a minimal amount of wind hours that are both not too low to generate sufficient amount of energy and not too high and especially not erratic, to break the blades.
The increase expectation of erratic weather with more intense storms could reduce the output of wind farms and make it less predictable..
Solar input however, should be a steadier source of energy despite the variations in storms, clouds, and weather patterns. Also, the sun, unlike wind, is not able to generate extreme radiations that may damage the conversion systems. In addition land areas suitable for solar energy systems with very low precipitation are expected to grow, not diminish with increase global temperatures.
Good thought and yet another caution. This adds yet one more risk to siting a wind farms and expecting a thirty year economical project. This will drive wind developers to site in the most energetic sites first and hope that the winds don't change that much while the project is producing so the payback period will be less. That means that a remote site with great wind but an expense to build enough transmission lines to deliver the power will make the site less attractive. That said, I assume that at some point in the not too distant future, electric utility planners will realize this risk, but in the meantime, we have a very long way to go before we even reach ten percent from wind. There's also the nagging question of firm capacity, and that means either an integrated grid, gas fired back up, or as of yet unproven energy storage technology.
I wonder if wind energy climatologists have started to model this. Of course, the uncertainty would be quite large, so the results would be unclear.
Matania -- I have two thoughts:
1. Not sure the changes in wind patterns would be fast enough to matter: a 20-year life at a site would be good enough, and then part of the investment could be recovered by moving the wind equipment to where new patterns have created more wind.
2. High wind areas would continue to exist, their locations would change and, if the change not too fast, the investment could be recovered well enough.
The way to quantify it is to compare the risk and uncertainties of the changes in wind with the risks and uncertainties of the competing nuclear. Tough to do and do well enough and credibly enough to convince investors and policy makers.
But, it is an argument I had not heard, and it may help to control over-enthusiasm for wind. It supports a more diverse set of energy sources, and avoids the trend toward all wind as the renewable source.
It may be that way, but the uncertainty is a killer for business. I wish it would not turn out like that, but how can we get a better handle on that to make practical decisions? And with some modicum of success.
My own assessment is that the erratic aspect would not be slow moving. Storms are unpredictable and without pattern. Take tornadoes, locations and intensity are so unpredictable. So, for damage to blades we can expect unpredictability of force and timing.
And what about average energy wind flow between the upper and lower acceptable values? How can we say now how that will change.
Up to now, every report I am aware of shows more rapid change in patterns, not slow moving.
This issue deserves in-depth analyses backed up by results from simulations.
Regarding the American Power Act, the Lieberman- Kerry bill in the Senate.
There are many in the middle environmental mix who say- support this bill because it is the best we can get now. Not only that, the Democrats will lose their ability to gather sufficient votes after the next election.
My first inclination is: something is better than nothing, but a somber thought is also present. Can I ignore reality to get a good feeling that we are actually moving forward?
Here is the reality:
The main emitters by far will be China and India. China is already the biggest emitter and increasing so rapidly. And China is actually doing nothing of substance to cut its GHG. All their emphasis on green technology will have minuscule impact and is basically to make money, not to reduce their GHG. They and India are working hard to build several hundred millions cars in each country. Their buildings are not insulated. Their main energy is and will be coal. Read the latest Sierra Club Magazine for examples. The amount of GHG from China over the next two decades would be five to ten times the total of the rest of the developed world even if we do not reduce it at all! We must grasp that whatever we cut in the US and Europe is insignificant as far as GW is concerned, but important for other reasons.
So, how do we impress China to cut its GHG by a very significant amount? We have the carrot and the stick options. We put carbon tax on their imports to us at the level equivalent to our own carbon tax. And we may have some "moral" influence if we actually do cut ours by such a large amount that we can show some suffering. They are not willing to reduce their drive for modernization and expect 200 millions additional rural Chinese to move to high-energy urban areas. Also, our leverage is becoming smaller all the time since they are driving now to reduce their dependence on exports and be more internal market oriented. With time they will achieve that since they will have the economic mass within their own borders.
By the time we and they realize that GW is already here and the evidence are overwhelming, it would be too late to do anything to stop the global heating.
I have high respect for the Chinese and am glad they had the Communist revolution and the one child policy. That would not be possible without the type of government they now have. Otherwise they would have been 400 millions more Chinese now demanding more and more energy. But we must accept that the Chinese are very clever and also devious people. The way we view morality [but do not really practice] is not practiced in china. They would not give an inch. They will look at every step they can take to get the maximum for themselves. As we are inclined to do also.
So? We must somehow find ways to truly cooperate to cut the ever increasing danger of not only GW but reducing the likelihood of catastrophic climate events.
How will this bill, which is environmentally a sham, could change the attitude of China and the rest of the world? They are not as stupid as most of the American public. Their media will point out clearly that we are cheating and we are cutting our GHG by only 4% vs. theirs 30%.
Can you give me a sound, realistic way that this bill should not be defeated?
It seems to me that the worst thing we can do, which this bill does, is lie to ourselves and attempt to lie to a world that would see very well through our lies.
There is renewed interest in the fact that global warming would cause considerable amount of national and international security risks. One of the main reasons is that rising oceans will cause large population displacements. Simple, obscuring and sanitized words but very crucial to the lives of hundreds of millions who live near oceans. For example, large parts of Bangladesh are very flat and at nearly ocean level. Millions of people live in these zones, and many had to move to higher grounds already.
Large population changes at the rapidity that GW will be driving would cause not only considerable increase in hunger, poverty and human suffering, but international mini wars or even full wars.
Global Warming or not, it is natural for nations to protect their own territories and their economies from foreigners.
We do not know how to deal with this kind of vast population shifts. It is a tragedy waiting to explode.
With this sad reality in mind, which is a minor part of the severe damages expected from GW, just think what has been offered in the US Senate to fight GW:
Senator Kerry just wrote an op-ed about this very national security issue to help him get wider acceptance for his and Senator Lieberman's energy and security legislation. But it is not a new subject at all.
We have known for several years that GW is a severe national security issue; former CIA Director James Woolsey sent me his assessment of it 18 months ago. But the bill that Kerry and Lieberman developed is useless to fight GW. It may be the best they or any senator could achieve but it aims to cuts CO2 by only 4% compare to the yesterday's British proposal to cut it by 30% by 2020.*
Just look how Congress is misleading the American people without any shame:
The proposed international agreement is to cut CO2 levels in comparison to 1990 levels. The US Congress just lied to us by not mentioning too loud that their proposal is using 2005 as the beginning level. 2005 had a much higher level of CO2 than 1990 to start with, and therefore, just a minimal cut in emissions, 4%, is proposed. Europe proposes 30%, we offer 4% on a direct comparison basis!
This bill will require nothing from industry, and allow the electrical utilities to continue to use coal for 50% of their power.
With all due respect to the hard working senators, their bill is a band aid and noting more. And for those who say we can make it more robust later, there is very little time left, as we all should know.
Wishful thinking in this critical time on this crucial issue is not helpful, it is disastrous.
And we want China and India to cut their GHG emissions drastically. Do you think they will listen to us?
To grasp the time-criticality you may want to read:
*"The UK government will push the EU to move to a higher target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It will urge the EU to cut emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, rather than the current 20% target, partly through more support for renewables."
While we are contemplating all the agonies and damages the oil spill in the Gulf is causing, let's think a little deeper, about the ocean itself.
We use the ocean as dumping grounds, we use the oceans to get our sea foods, we use the oceans for recreation, and it gives us access to some of our oil supply, but we forgot that the ocean is a living thing, perhaps the most crucial element of this Earth.
US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said long ago that: "Trees should have standing" too in the courts of law to be protected as equals, not just be used by humanity. The same should be said now about the ocean. We have forgotten how crucial is the ocean to the life of this limited Earth.
The oceans keep us alive.
The oceans cover 71% of the Earth surface, its average depth is 12,000 feet, and it is the most significant absorber of carbon gas. The oceans stabilize the global temperatures because of their massive energy mass. And the oceans supply most of the oxygen to the earth living things, and the oceans drive the global water cycle.
The oceans have been stabilized by nature over millions of years and kept this Earth livable. We have been playing with this gift of nature and it is deteriorating in front of our eyes in speeds never experienced before in nature, possibly a thousand times aster than previous massive global changes.
We have overfished most of all the edible fish supplies in the oceans. We are draining much of our poisonous fertilizers into the ocean creating massive dead zones devoid of living things.
We have damped so much plastics that there a "Plastic Central" in the middle of the Pacific ocean, a vast pool of plastic junk covering hundreds of square miles, interfering with the natural flow of marine life.
And we have succeeded to rise the ocean temperature [the upper 2,000 feet] by over half a degree C, a very significant amount for the vastness of the oceans.
And to top it of, our global CO2 emissions increased the ocean acidity sufficiently to damage the skeletons of marine organisms and killing of many corrals colonies, the breading grounds of many fish and other sea life.
The temperature rise, and the related changes of natural near- shore upwelling of ocean waters is decreasing the supply of nutrition, the most basic food chain for ocean organism, thus decreasing the ocean food production.
Over 50,000 cargo ships in the world are emptying their sewer and contaminated ballast-water into the oceans.
Major oil spills get notorious attention, but beyond the US there are ongoing smaller oil spills in nearly every oil region in coastal areas and in the oceans that are accepted as normal, and no one is allowed to do anything to stop them. They are just part of our business as usual approach to environmental damages. This is happening for some time even in Canada!
The major rivers of China and India, for example, empty their contaminated waters directly into the ocean. And many other nations are doing the same. Our high water discharge standards are rare in the world.
The ocean used to absorb 60% of global CO2, but now it can absorb just 55% because of its higher temperature and higher acidity.
And these are just some of the ways we treat our life-giving oceans.
You combine all of these assaults on the oceans and they are losing their ability to sustain us as global climate stabilizer and the main protein supplier for billions of people.
How long can this be going on without catastrophic, irreversible impact?
I wish it would not be the case, but I believe we must start now R&D on geoengineering.
For a long time I opposed anything to do with geoengineering, the massive processes that could artificially reduce the warming of the earth, for all the known objections:
1. It would reduce our effort to do the required hard things: significant cutting of global GHG emissions.
2. Playing with global forces is highly risky. The potential for overshoot; that manipulating the global environment could cool the earth too much and instead bring in a new ice age.
3. The amount of CO2 and other GHG would continue to increase and add to the already large environmental damage, such as increase acidity of the oceans, disturb the climatic balance and make it more erratic, leading to increased weather instabilities.
4. Geoengineering is much cheaper than cutting GHG therefore, nations, private institutions, or even some wealthy people could start their own weather modifications leading to unknown climate changes.
We know that the danger to the global climate is increasing rapidly. The amount of GHG in the atmosphere is steadily increasing instead of decreasing. And it is expected to increase in a faster rate than before due to the "modernization." of China and India. In addition, the evidence is clear that we are not likely to cut the global GHG emissions in the future as science indicates we must. What's more, the likelihood that we will do it in time to avert tipping points, catastrophic climate events, is increasing all the time since the temperature is increasing.
Furthermore, global cooperation is much further away than we hoped for. The economic competition is so strong that cooperation for our common survival is not promising at all.
Therefore, it is fairly clear that we are unable, at least up to now, to comprehend that we are all in the same sinking boat and it is leaking heavily AND WE DO NOT HAVE MORE SPARE TIME. We have little choice, we must start developing geoengineering systems. At least to give us time to, maybe, to overcome our resistance to global cooperation.
Again: The main reason I see why we must start internationally controlled R&D on geoengineering is the high likelihood that nations, organizations or well off people will start doing their own climate modifications without global control.
That can lead to gross errors and catastrophic events much faster than a globally controlled, scientific, well thought out R&D on geoengineering.
1. It is cheap and easy to do geoengineering privately away from international control. This is highly dangerous.
2. We need an iron clad international control, way beyond nuclear control, using military power to impose it, and that it remains only international.
3. Must continue to fight GW by cutting GHG much more than before, but we know China and India and our own inaction, or minimal action, are useless in scope.
4. Not starting to find out now the potential benefits and dangers of geoengineering, and not developing tight control over it could be worse than anything.
The main, key, primary attention of our global community should be on reducing global warming in conjunction with a viable economy. If we do not devote maximum effort [all demanding extreme amount of capital] to this area very soon dangerous temperature rise would make this world unhealthy to human life. To this end we must not even discuss second order environmental issues, [such as unappealing transmission lines,] and focus on curtailing the global emissions of GHG.
To this end I am comparing below nuclear vs. solar PV roof installations. One of the reason I am selecting these two technologies is because many caring people for our earth too often see only part of the picture and simplify things very much. For example, "PV is good, free sun energy, no moving parts, look how marvelous it is." And the opposite: "nuclear is bad, danger of explosions like Chernobyl, the lack of permanent storage for spent fuel, and danger of terrorism." They do not think out the issues in a comprehensive manner. These issues are too complex and often they see just part of the situation.
People who "hate" nuclear power are not focused on the most crucial issue, cut GHG ASAP and as much as possible and instead are looking at secondary issues. Many unaware good people have been happy in the last few months when they found that the cost of nuclear power stations is very high, as much as $12 Billion per 1000 mw station. Not so fast...
Green power that is nature driven, solar and wind, can be more expensive than nuclear when the total network and backup needs are included, as they must. Nature driven power has many limitations, such as intermittent power that must be backed up by human-controlled thermal power, such as gas, nuclear or oil. I am sure few would like to have their lights and refrigerators work only when the sun is in full power....
Here is a quick comparison of mainly cost:
1. Nuclear power:
Typical nuclear power station is rated at 1000 MW.
In the US most plants achieved 92% availability in the last two decades.
Available energy: 8760 hr/yr x 0.92 x 1000 x 10^6 W : 1000 kW/mW =
8 x 10^9 = 8 billion kWh/yr
Capital Cost: $12 Billion.
2. Roof- installed Photovoltaic systems:
Good output is 1,500 kWh /yr/ kW installed, typical PV system is 3 kW/home
Cost of full system, including subsides, since we all pay for it, is $9,000 per installed kW.
Or $27,000 per home. Despite promises and media noise, the price for individuals did not go down in the last five years. The same in Germany, the reduce cost of silicon panels did not reduce system costs.
Amount of installed PV capacity to deliver the same energy as a nuclear power station:
8 x 10^ 9 divide by 1500 x 3 = 1.8 x 10^6 homes
That is, to generate the same amount of energy of one nuclear power station, that is available most of the time on command, requires PV on 1.8 million homes.
Cost of nuclear power station $12 B
Cost o all solar systems: 1.8 million homes x $27,000 per home: $49 Billions.
THE CAPITAL COST OF ROOF MOUNTED PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS IS 4 TIMES THE COST OF STEADY NUCLEAR POWER.
In addition, as I said, nuclear is available on demand, while PV systems can not be run alone and need steady power station to supply the three-quarter of the time solar is not available. [PV average power is one quarter of peak rated power.]
Several days of cloudy weather will reduce the average solar output even lower.
This is the reality of intermittent low emission power.
Note, the cost of operation and maintenance of nuclear station per kWh output is considerably lower than for PV system.
Wind energy systems have less of these problems of high costs and also have higher average output then solar PV. However, wind still must be complemented by human-controlled power and must have long transmission lines from a variety of wind energy farms distributed over great distances.
We are seeing here just part of the real problem, and electrical untilities must be a major part of the solution. As much as we suspect them they are the ones with real solid experince, and that is crucial.
I am not a friend of big oil, and I am environmentalist by profession and heart, but I look for facts before I decide on a situation. Not so the media and Congress. Their livelihood is based on sensationalism.
I was watching the CNN review of the Congressional heating of the oil spill in the Gulf. Senator Frank Lautenberg of NJ started by gently attacking the three executives of the companies involved, the parent company BP (British petroleum), then the owner and operator of the Oil rig, and then the company responsible for the shut off valve at the sea floor. The three where asked who is responsible for the spill, they all said: we need to find the facts first, what failed, when it failed and so forth.
The CNN commentator laughed at the answers and said: you see they blame each other. Not so fast, they did not, they said let wait for facts. Why? Because billions of dollars are involved and because detail investigation and subsequent legal negotiation will determine who will pay what portion of the cost. First, no one know the full facts of this complex case, and if they say anything now they will be penalized during later negotiation. It is simply too early for Congressional and media hearing.
These answers are proper and justified and also the normal method used in cases with much lower visibility.
However, Congresspersons and the media- CNN, and surely others in the Media, including blogs, will attack these companies and try to paint them as villains.
They are not villains, they were conducting their normal business. Congress set the rules businesses operate in the country and they follow it as they were making profit for their stock holders. They might have erred by selecting the wrong safety approach, or the equipment did not function as expected. I believe they should have used additional safety rigs to increase safety, and reduce the likelihood of massive leak, but this is after the event. They were typical businesses in the vast global oil industry.
Add to it that the government agency controlling these operation has a close relationship with the oil industry it supervises and at the same time lease land and collect fees from them. As the NYT wrote: "On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he planned to cut the agency that oversees the industry, the Minerals Management Service, in two. One office would be responsible for public safety and environmental enforcement and the other in charge of leasing and revenue."
So, many players are involved, no one wanted this tragedy to happened. Certainly the companies involved will be hurt in the market place and lose money and reputation too.
The governmental safety supervision was weak. And we do not know who did what and when to cause this explosion.
And why are we so mad at the oil industry? Because they have supplied us with ample amount of very low cost oil, cheaper than bottled water?
Should we blame them for not charging also for the CO2 created by using oil? Would we have accepted extra charges willingly? Of course not. President Clinton tried just to add a quarter to the price of a gallon of gasoline and all hell broke loose.
The CIA director in the movie The Tree days of The Condor admonished Robert Redford: what will the people do when suddenly they do not have ample supply of oil? Will they care how we get it for them?
We want, we want, that is our culture. And most of the time we elect and support leaders who follow this approach to life.
But just to make it clear, we can not rely on the oil companies to care for the environment. Their key purpose is to make profit, that is the reason they exists. They do cut corners when they can, and do nothing when they can. Only governmnet regulations that are actively monitored can reduce the damage oil and coal extractions actually cause. And for too long our governemt reduced regulations and did have too close relationship with the oil, coal and gas industries. Afterall, they have the money and the power to influence Congress and the Administration too.
Do not trust speaches by the Administration, including the president, or Congress, look for real actions. As the Presisdent said: Trust and verify, so verify that they actually act to save our environment.
Again, back to the sensationalism. We, the majority of the American people, want answers quickly and without any effort. Very few wants to think clearly. The games of Congress and the media shapes so much of our reality that we, the public, jumps to conclusions that were fed to us by sensationalism when we were full of anger at the oil industry. Congress, after presenting anger and admonition, now has free hands to achieve whatever they want to, and often make laws which the lobbyists of the oil industry suggest to them. And these laws would not necessarily be what are in the best inertest of the American people, who are again led down a path of untruth and manipulation.
This, again, is how sensationalism shapes our world views.
Comment by a reader:
Beautiful. You covered everything and more. What is a shame that we don’t we see journalist’s stories and editorials that report what you have just written. Millions should be reading this in a major newspaper editorial, not a few people who happen to see it on your blog. This is the sort of thing that Tom Friedman or Paul Krugman might write in the NY Times, but maybe they would have softened it a bit. I will keep looking for this from them.
I saw the same hearing last night and both my wife and I came to the same conclusion. What are the facts? Shouldn’t we know that first before we blame someone. The CNN reporter showed how each of the companies blames the other, which is par for the course, as you say.
The other thing I have felt for days was the US government was somehow equally liable because it failed to require lots of redundancy to prevent just such an accident. I didn’t know what that was until I learned about the MMS yesterday and guess what, they have the same conflict of interest that the old AEC and the current FAA have, so safety and promotion are under the same roof. No mystery there. What is par for the course on “discoveries” like this is that they are suddenly “discovered” after a terrible accident, and then usually, the feds split the agency in two, so we got the NRC and DOE, but we still have the FAA doing both airline safety and promotion. The “revolving door” and “cozy relationships” of MMS executives and the energy industry is legend.
So, bottom line, no wonder we can’t get anything meaningful done on energy and the environment in our government and why international climate change agreements are even harder to do.
Oh, the other bit of news that I saw in the Bee today was that nearly half of all Americans polled after this oil spill think we should continue with offshore drilling. I don’t know if they also want more stringent oversight. But, when you have to go to such depths to get the oil, stuff happens. It’s a major miracle that we did not see such a big spill in the Gulf before this.
Straight to the point LA Times editorial. The problems we are facing from massive oil spill and coal mine disasters are negligible compare to global warming. Time to get real and focus our attention were it belong- the time-criticality of Global warming.
Climate change is the true crisis
West Virginia's mining disaster and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill were disastrous and investigations are justified, but the real threat is much worse.
Below is a good summary on the inadequacy of the Cap & Trade system.
The Washington Post
Global warming is our biggest environmental problem, and carbon offsets are one of our biggest barriers to a solution.
You know the idea: Let's make climate rescue painless by paying Zambian farmers not to till their soil while America continues its oil- and coal-burning binge. Carbon "sequestered" in the soil -- or in tropical trees -- at one location will "offset" carbon emitted at another.
But the concept requires absolute and permanent knowledge of human activity everywhere on Earth. Were the Zambian farmers letting the land go fallow anyway? Will they avoid tilling forever? Will the purchased forest never see a chain saw or a wildfire?
Tragically, the cap-and-trade bill passed last year by the House of Representatives allows up to 2 billion tons of carbon offsets per year for U.S. companies. This turned the bill into a joke, making it possible for carbon emissions to actually rise in America for the next two decades.
Yes, offsets are cheap. Poor farmers don't need much money to make a promise. But only a hard cap on emissions, free of offsets and trading, will actually decarbonize our economy.
Offsets are ethically troubling, as well. They allow rich countries such as the United States to avoid full responsibility for their actions. One British critic made the point with a parody site, cheatneutral.com. Here, people who cheat on their spouses can pay 2.50 British pounds (slightly less than $4) into a fund that will absolve them of guilt by sending the money to noncheaters as a reward for their fidelity. This way marital cheating can continue -- but everyone wins on paper, and everyone feels better, right?
Big cuts in carbon pollution are achievable in America, and in a cost-effective way, but only if environmental champions stop falling for offsets.
Mike Tidwell is the director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. He can be reached at mikewtidwell@gmail.
Coal-generated electricity emits the highest amount of CO2 per kWh. Depending on the variety of coal used, it is just below one kilogram of CO2 per KWh. But this amount does not include the total GHG that coal is adding to our climate.
When comparing alternative energy sources, it is obvious that we should compare total costs, from cradle to the grave, as the saying goes, or Life Cycle Costs. Too often we do not do a similar analyses when the total carbon cycle is involved. We need to consider the total coal emitted in the process, from the beginning of the coal extraction to final electricity generation.
A recent study* indicates that the total carbon emissions of coal is not just the one kilogram per kWh of the power plant, but we must add between 7% to 17% for the cutting of the mountains, for coal transportation, and the removal of trees when the coal is extracted from mountain tops.
[*Nature, Feb. 10, issue. P. 1002]
[Modern natural gas plants emit about one half as much per unit of electricity.]
Similarly, we have to compare the CO2 emitted during fabrication, installation and maintenance of alternative energy systems. For example, when we consider photovoltaic systems we do not include the amount of CO2 emitted during the manufacturing process. PV is the worse "green technology" as far as CO2 emission is concerned.
Past analysis indicates that it took some 8 years to payback the electricity consumes in the manufacturing, system fabrication and installation of roof-mounted silicon PV systems. It takes a considerable amount of electricity to make the pure silicon panels for current technology PV. Because fabrication cost is important many of the PV silicon panels are made where electricity is very cheap, where electricity is generated by coal power plants! A high percentage of PV silicon is made in Germany and China. Germany uses coal to produce 50% of its electricity, and 80% of China's electricity is generated by coal.
Even if we assume that higher production led to higher manufacturing efficiency of silicon, the CO2 payback can still be in the region of 4 to 5 years. The silicon panels are just 30% of total costs, and considerable amount of additional material and transportation are involved in making and installing a roof-mounted PV system. The amount of CO2 generated by the total the PV life-cycle is almost never included in the analysis of PV net generation of electricity. And in addition, the amount of electricity produced by PV systems is hidden and rarely discussed in order to hide its very high cost per kWh produced, which is the highest of all low-carbon technologies, including nuclear power.
Wind energy has very little CO2 foot print per kWh, and nuclear power has even less than that. But remote new green plants would require long transmission lines with their own CO2 "cost." This is typically not a very high contributor when you divide the initial GHG contribution over the 50 years of typical life of transmission lines.
In all cases of green technology and other reductions of GHG we need to determine and tell the true story, or our ability to reduce GHG emissions would be grossly over estimated.
The deep financial problems of Greece have resulted in riots and even killings in Athens. This is the result of living with lies for a long time. The Greek for too long lived as if there is no tomorrow. Their productivity is very low. They want a very easy life, with very early retirement, and enjoy life. The problem is the Germans do not want to pay for it. And I can't blame them.
The Greek government falsify its financial data to mask its dire financial situation from the European Union. The EU and especially the German public is angry at being forced to pay to rescue Greece from major financial collapse.
The evidence in Greece were not hidden. I knew that few years ago when my daughter lived in Greece for several years and the Greeks were starting their preparations for their Olympics. There is no place here to write all the economic incompetence of Greece, but it was clearly evident then that they could not afford the ten billion dollars to prepare for the grandiose Olympics they wanted. With a very small national economy, with inability to work efficiently and productively, with incompetent management and lazy workers, you could see the writings on the walls. They were beyond their means. They could not afford this extravagance but their national pride forced them to show to the world how great Greece is. That spending beyond their means was one of the main nails in their financial coffin.
What does this have to do with global warming? A lot. First, all of us who want greener energy and a greener economy must realize that it will cost a lot of money. Fossil fuel are cheap partially because they do not include the environmental damages they are causing all over the world-vast amounts of Carbon Dioxide -CO2 emissions that are the main cause of global warming.
We will have to make sacrifices to reduce expected damages from the global warming. We can do it. Instead of enriching hundreds of thousands of financial employees, real estate and financial analysts, we will have to redirect our country towards more energy efficient economy based on tighter rules.
We do not like rules and constrains in our country. We want to be free to do what each of us want. That is the same approach the Greeks have been taking, and we too for many decades.
The Greeks ignored reality and lived high, for a while. We have ignored realities, one of which is the "externalities," the damage caused from our wasteful use of energy. The price of energy is artificially low since we have not paid for the severe environmental damages caused from burning fossil fuels.
We have been playing similar financial games in the US and around the world for many years. We have also hidden key facts from governments, and from the public, but because our economy is so large we have been able to muddle through to date. We are not in the same sinking boat the Greeks are sailing now, but we have the same mentality when the financial institutions controlling our economy are playing unproductive financial games, grow from 6% of the US economy to 20%; produce a third of corporate income and make a very narrow section of the public very wealthy while causing millions of unemployed. And all of this false wealth have not created anything. It is based on shuffling of highly leveraged money all around, and at each stage some one is taking a percentage for profit.
Almost every one is angry, how could they lose their stock market gains, the inflated value of their home? Our wealth was false, it was not based on real economic gains. It was a Monopoly game.
We have forgotten that the elevation of millions of workers to the middle class created the purchasing power that elevated the US economy to such a high level.
The public does not know enough about the financial bailout, its magnitude, and potential impact on future generations. So much is hidden, so much is under the table. Congress with its revolving doors with the financial institutions, and with the cooperation of the Administration keep us in the dark.
I wonder if there is any possibility that we will grasp that the Greek financial tragedy is a wake up call for us to look at reality and strip our economy from some of the major lies, and falsehoods we have swept under the rug.
One of the key problems in the global warming issue is our inability to grasp dimensions, to grasp the significance of numbers. Unfortunately, most of the US population has little understanding of even the simplest arithmetic, magnitudes and relationships.
So many unrealistic remarks are made in the media and the blogging world about changing energy from oil, gas and coal to alternative energies, it almost boggles the mind.
At a previous blog I mentioned the magnitude of the energy humanity consumed, as calculated by Dr. Lewis, with the hope to open our minds to the trillions in investments and the decades it takes to make any useful impact on the energy story:
The numbers are huge, the growth in population and consumption are so staggering that one would expect some fast and meaningful actions by Congress, by the Federal government and governments around the world to act. But nothing even started. So many years after Kyoto we are still arguing how important GW is and how much we should spend to slow it down. Most global leaders are politicians without knowledge of technology and especially the complexity and fragility of the environment. But they do not know it, and would not admit it to themselves either.
Without some demand from the population to seriously fight GW most "leaders" talk, and wait, and that is what is happening for a long time. Lack of understanding by the public lull the public into apathy. Lack public outcry combined with lack of leadership by governing bodies around the world, and we are continuing to dig ourselves into a deeper hole re. GW.
Again: this lack of public interest to learn, to understand, leads to apathy and being enclosed in our own little world while the global climate is steadily deteriorating.
If you have some desire to learn, to grasp, to be involved, please listen carefully to the two YOUTUBE explanations below on basic numbers, and how they impact our world.
I was listening last night to a discussion on energy and global warming at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. It was interesting and the speakers presented their arguments well. Except they essentially ignored the most critical aspect of global warming, the critically of time. Too many of their "solutions" would take so long to implement that by that time we would lose our ability to slow the increase in global temperature.
They did not seem to me to grasp how deeply we are already into this critical phase. They did not show that time is not on our side. And this time element is the most crucial aspect of fighting global warming effectively! Every day we add globally over 70 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and it will remain there for many centuries.
Many of their key arguments seemed reasonable unless you realize that we are already approaching tipping points that would have positive feedback and, by them selves, would continue to add to the temperature increase even without any addition of Greenhouse Gases, GHG.
Many proposed "solutions" by the speakers and others could have been useful several decades ago when we had time to reduce GHG emissions without disturbing the economy or our way of life. But this is no longer possible.
Some want to leave the price of energy low, for example, not to change our comfortable way of life. This is not possible any longer. We need to concentrate on options that can make very large impacts in the shortest time possible.
As a second priority we should also do R&D and demonstrations of promising technologies, but technologies per se would not save us. And I am saying it as electrical engineer with a considerable background in technology. We want the same easy, energy wasting, ways of life that led us to this global tragedy in the first place. Most of us still do not grasp at all how dire is the situation already.
One of the main contributor to this misunderstanding, it seems to me, is the "certainty" that the IPCC gave to the target of 450 ppm of CO2 equ. and to the time frame it attached to it, 2050, as if our knowledge is so precise. Most people in the field, not the scientists, feel that we have 40 years to move in. Not so, we do not!
We must start with a Step function (Big-Bang as Paul Krugman calls it) to reduce global GHG, and we must pay the price for it. We should not start with a slow implementation that would be gradually ratchet up with time to reduce the economical impact of fighting global warming.
We have to remember that we are already in the midst of the following negative environmental events that are likely to be self-sustaining: Just a few examples:
First - the key impact: In the recent past an emission of one ton of CO2 was partially absorbed by nature, mostly the oceans and forests, and only 0.45 ton remained in the atmosphere to add to the long term CO2 already stored there. Lately it was determined that the absorption dropped and now 0.55 ton remains and added to the accumulation. This is a considerable increase.
That may have been caused partially by the increase of the oceans average temperature by half a degree C in the last two decades. A half degree increase is a enormous amount of energy of the oceans that cover 71% of the surface of the globe. The higher the ocean temperature, the lower its ability to absorb CO2.
In addition the global absorption is reduced by the decrease of forest coverage, mainly forest burnings in Borneo and Brazil, and most significantly* cutting in the Boreal Forests.
This reduce absorption was probably caused by the followings, and other elements we still are not sure of:
1. Some 10.5% of the surface of the Earth is covered by snow and ice- a huge amount. This area faced major reductions in the last decades, which accelerated in the last two decades.
2. The positive feedback (ice to sea) of the global melt of glaciers, and the ice sheets in Greenland. Lately some is melting in the "West wing" of the South pole.
3. Due to longer warm period and less ice coverage, the Tundra changed from net absorber of small amount of CO2, to net emitter of methane.
4. Major infestation and clearing of the very significant tree coverage of the Boreal forests. According to a map I just saw, they are decreasing significantly, by about 1.5% to 2.85% per year between 2000-2005. *[Atlas of Global Conservation -Forest Clearing- Nature Conservancy//spring 2010.]
5. Recent research indicates that some small amount of methane is being release from the ocean floor in the now warmer seas north of Russia. This may or may not become more significant with time, but it could increase because the temperatures of the North Seas region are projected to increase by a significant amount more than the average global temperatures. Possibly as much as 9 degrees by the end of this century or earlier.
These are but a few of the things we are aware of that indicate that we do not have much time to reduce significantly our global emissions of GHG.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved today the first offshore wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod. It took a year of deliberations. Republicans objected on environmental grounds of all things. The Secretary had to overcome a lot of local resistance, by liberals too, that essentially said: Green energy is good, but not in my back yard.
The Cape Wind Associates, LLC facility would cost a billion dollar, occupy a 25-square-mile section of Nantucket Sound and generate a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts, ( 39% capacity factor- that is a high percentage, meaning a very good site); 130 wind turbines reaching 400 feet would be installed...
It is about time. We should have done it years ago. Wind energy have been economical and practical for a number of years. Europe has been way ahead of the US for years despite the fact that we, in California, did the original development of wind energy resources, at a significant investment by the State of California that led to the first commercial wind farms in the world. Germany, for example, gets some 7% of its electricity from wind. They have been proud in their very visible wind turbines and understand that you can not go green without some sacrifices of local interest.
And allow me to toot my own horn- more than 30 years ago the California Energy Commission developed the pioneering wind energy programs that put commercial wind energy on the world map. I was privileged to have the opportunity to develop and direct that program. That was the introduction to my plan published in 1979:*
"Wind-electric energy is a sleeping giant. Its large energy capabilities, competitive economics, and social and environmental advantages are not generally known. Wind-electric energy, however, should be one of the major renewable energy supplies in California and in the nation.
The goal of this proposed. program is the generation of at least 10 percent (30 billion kWh/year) of the state's electricity by wind-electric systems by the year 2000. This could be generated by approximately 3,300 three-megawatt wind-electric conversion systems (WECS) located on 100 utility-owned, wind-electric farms."
From: A LARGE SCALE WIND ENERGY PROGRAM FOR THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Dr. Matania Ginosar, manager, the Wind Energy Program, California Energy Commission, 1979
Some of the exchanges with colleagues regarding the limited actions taken during and past Copenhagen Accord.
Matania, The article below matches Bill McKibben's choice of title for his book, Eaarth. The extra a is there because the earth is a changed place, not what we grew up in nor what our societies developed in. He says 1 deg C has happened and is causing bigger and faster changes than were expected by the scientists. 2 deg C will happen even if we proceed to cut C emissions fast. 6-7 deg C would be a disaster, maybe end civilization (maybe, not sure he said that). From what I recall, he did not comment on 3 deg C, which this BBC News correspondent's report does, and this BBC one suggests that 3 deg C would be really bad, namely:
Between now and 2020, global emissions are likely to rise by 10-20%, they calculate, and the chances of passing 3C by 2100 are greater than 50%.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this implies a range of serious impacts for the world, including
- significant falls in crop yields across most of the world
- damage to most coral reefs
- likely disruption to water supplies for hundreds of millions of people.
Matania, in addition -- Bill McKibben spoke at the World Affairs Council "It's Your World"
Major points: 1 deg C and 380 ppm CO2 has been enough to melt the Arctic and raise ocean acidity and raise water vapor in the atmosphere by 5%. 2 deg C warming is already going to happen due to CO2 already in the atmosphere and the inevitable amount in the pipeline of human fossil fuel use. Already, therefore, we have Eaarth replacing the Earth that existed the past 10,000 years.
Friend: M. PhD Physics
'Paltry' carbon curbs point to 3C
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News
Pledges made at December's UN summit in Copenhagen are unlikely to keep global warming below 2C, a study concludes.
Writing in the journal Nature, analysts at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany say a rise of at least 3C by 2100 is likely.
The team also says many countries, including EU members and China, have pledged slower carbon curbs than they have been achieving anyway.
They say a new global deal is needed if deeper cuts are to materialise.
"There's a big mismatch between the ambitious goal, which is 2C... and the emissions reductions," said Potsdam's Malte Meinshausen.
" It is like racing towards the cliff and hoping you stop just before it "
Dr Malte Meinshausen
"The pledged emissions reductions are in most cases very unambitious," he told BBC News.
In their Nature article, the team uses stronger language, describing the pledges as "paltry".
"The prospects for limiting global warming to 2C - or even to 1.5C, as more than 100 nations demand - are in dire peril," they conclude.
Between now and 2020, global emissions are likely to rise by 10-20%, they calculate, and the chances of passing 3C by 2100 are greater than 50%.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this implies a range of serious impacts for the world, including
- significant falls in crop yields across most of the world
- damage to most coral reefs
- likely disruption to water supplies for hundreds of millions of people.
More than 120 countries have now associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord, the political document stitched together on the summit's final day by a small group of countries led by the US and the BASIC bloc of Brazil, China, India and South Africa.
The accord "recognises" the 2C target as indicated by science. It was also backed at last year's G8 summit.
Many of those 120-odd have said what they are prepared to do to constrain their greenhouse gas emissions - either pledging cuts by 2020, in the case of industrialised countries, or promising to improve their "carbon intensity" in the case of developing nations.
Some of the pledges are little more than vague statements of intent. But all developed countries, and the developing world's major emitters, have all given firm figures or ranges of figures.
The EU, for example, pledges to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020; China promises to improve carbon intensity by 40-45% by 2020 compared against 2005; and Australia vows an emission cut of 5-25% on 2000 levels by 2020.
The Potsdam team concludes that many of the detailed pledges are nowhere near as ambitious as their proponents would claim.
They calculate that the EU's 20% pledge implies an annual cut of 0.45% between 2010 and 2020, whereas it is already achieving annual reductions larger than that.
EUROPE'S 'AMBITIOUS' CARBON CUTS
The Potsdam team calculates that the EU's emissions have fallen on average by 0.6% per year since 1980
During 2009, emissions from the bloc's power sector alone fell by 11% owing to the recession
Consequently, the current 20% by 2020 pledge equates to 0.45% per year - less than the historical average
China's 40% minimum pledge also amounts to nothing more than business as usual, they relate; and among developed countries, only pledges by Norway and Japan fall into the 25-40% by 2020 range that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends as necessary to give a good chance of meeting the 2C target.
Whereas many countries, rich and poor, have indicated they are willing to be more ambitious if there is a binding global deal, the Potsdam team notes that in the absence of a global deal, only the least ambitious end of their range can be counted upon.
Writing in the BBC's Green Room this week, Bryony Worthington from the campaign group Sandbag argues that the EU can easily move to its alternative higher figure of 30% - and that it must, if it wants to stimulate others to cut deeper.
"Many countries are looking to Europe to show how it is possible to achieve growth without increasing emissions," she said.
"Only when they see that this is possible will they be inclined to adopt absolute reduction targets of their own."
An additional factor flagged up in the analysis is that many countries have accrued surplus emissions credits under the Kyoto Protocol.
Countries such as Russia and other former Eastern bloc nations comfortably exceeded their Kyoto targets owing to the collapse of Communist economies in the early 1990s.
Without a binding global agreement preventing the practice, these nations would be allowed to put these "banked" credits towards meeting any future targets - meaning they would have to reduce actual emissions less than they promised.
These "hot air" credits could also be traded between nations.
This is not the first analysis of the Copenhagen Accord pledges, but it is one of the starkest.
Lord Stern's team at the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London has also run the figures; and although their conclusions on the numbers are similar, they do not see things in quite such a pessimistic light.
"You cannot characterise an emissions path for a country or the world by focusing solely on the level in 2020 or any other particular date," said the institute's principal research fellow Alex Bowen.
"It is the whole path that matters, and if more action is taken now to reduce emissions, less action will be required later, and vice versa."
The Potsdam team acknowledges that if emissions do rise as they project, it would still be possible to have a reasonable chance of meeting 2C if very strict carbon curbs were applied thereafter, bringing emissions down by 5% per year or so.
"In an ideal world, if you pull off every possible emission reduction from the year 2021 onwards, you can still get to get to 2C if you're lucky," said Dr Meinshausen.
"But it is like racing towards the cliff and hoping you stop just before it."
They argue that positive analyses may "lull decision-makers into a false sense of security".
The UN climate process continues through this year, with many countries saying they still want to reach a binding global agreement by December.
But stark divisions remain between various blocs over emission cuts, finance, technology transfer and other issues; and it is far from certain that all important countries want anything more binding than the current set of voluntary national commitments.
Dr. John Holdren told us:
"...the current state of knowledge of global warming is sufficiently clear to state that failure to act promptly to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases is overwhelmly likely to lead to changes in climate too extreme and too damaging to be adequately addressed by any adaptation measure that can be foreseen.... "
Every issue we deal with regarding GW must be viewed from this crucial angle: we are moving very fast into a catastrophic event. What would be the most practical approaches that would have the most pronounced reductions in both the speed and the magnitude of GHG
Here are the steps that I would take now to cut GW if I were the US President:
My main goal here would be to achieve full cooperation with China on GW
I. First some basic Facts:
1. No matter how much the developed world would cut its GHG, the growing GHG emissions by the developing world, especially China and India, would overwhelmed all the cuts elsewhere. Over the next two decades their emissions could be 5 to 10 times the combined GHG from developed nations, especially if we will be cutting ours down towards the famous -80% goal of 2050. Therefore we must work now with China especially, and India too, to help them cut their GHG.
2. Europe is willing to cut their GHG faster and further than the US, but they are waiting for the US to act first. They need it politically, but I am stopped by Congress right now. So I will concentrate on the most important partner- China.
3. If the US and China worked jointly and aggressively we could bring the rest of the world together to agree and start fast actions.
II. Actions I would take right now: They can't easily be limited by Congress:
1. Announce to the nation and the world in a very public event that I am going ahead as fast and as far as I can to slow GW as effectively as the presidency allows me.
2. Work with China: Quietly, without political fanfare. Go quietly to China, meet with the Chinese premier and leadership and tell them that I seek maximum cooperation with China on all elements that are possible. I will offer to setup quiet, non political, cooperation effort, with them as equal partners, to share all the knowledge of the issue.
3. Select a director that repot directly to me - the president, for this coordination /education/cooperation effort with China. I will select a leader of utmost abilities, high credibility, humility and integrity to lead this cooperation with china. His technical right-hand man should be Dr. J. Holdren.
4. Above all, we must be honest and open beyond any approach we have been using in the US political arena. China top leaders are more sophisticated than most of the US leadership and we could be destroying any chance of actually cutting GHG effectively if we mislead them.
We are partners; we must respect their long history, culture, and outstanding accomplishments. And we must be humble enough to learn from them too.
5. With China acceptance, send several teams of the best environmental scientists from around the world to spend some time in China to share freely and openly all knowledge with their own scientific leadership on all aspects of GW. China political leadership will listen mostly or solely to their own scientists before taking any significant action. The US should spend all the money needed, no cutting of expenses at this stage since it is the cheapest and most important step. This should be an ongoing effort with no time limit.
Nothing should be under the table. That means leave nothing hidden, the good and the bad about what truly is known and the dangers humanity is moving going towards.
6. Send the best teams of Federal and state regulators (EPA, Energy Dept. CA ARB) to China/India to discuss successes and failures in implementing energy changes. We must be honest and more open than in the political climate in the US. Lying to them, even our typical white lies, would kill cooperation and global ability to progress.We must gain their trust- China is very suspecious of the West.
China basic views of the world and their own political and regulatory system is markedly different than ours. But certainly valid to them. Also their political influences are on different lines than ours, but they still may benefit from our mixed experiences.
As a minimum we must help them to minimize repeating our many major mistakes. This will require some great humility on our part, which is not a readily available commodity in the US political, business, or financial systems. Selecting fine leadership for this cooperative effort, as I mentioned, is critical.
That was my introduction to my talk a few days ago:
If you are driving your car alone in a flat city like Sacramento and you heard strange noises from your breaks, you would think: I better check the breaks some time.
However, if you are driving down a steep mountain road with your kids in the back seat and the road is twisting endlessly, the brakes sound funny, and may not slow you down too well, you will do your utmost to stop and repair the brakes ASAP. The time to think about the breaks is over and you need fast and decisive action at almost any cost. Why, because losing your breaks would be a catastrophic event that could cost the lives of every one who is dear to you, including yourself.
The same holds now for global warming: the time for wishing for perfect solutions, for worrying what the public may think, or how much it may cost is over. All because global warming is both a potential catastrophic event and also highly time -critical.
In all our dealing with global warming we must grasp that humanity does not have any more spare time to argue about it, we have no time and no need to convince skeptics. We do have to start curtailing the continuously growing emission of Greenhouse Gases, GHG, on a massive scale now. That means cut it any place we can across the globe, since we are all in a single boat, and we must cut GHG in a very large quantity since the fast accumulation of GHG is moving us rapidly into a point of no return.
Dr. John Holdren, Director of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy, one of the most aware and solid scientists about GW said to Congress Dec. 2, 09:
"...the current state of knowledge of global warming is sufficiently clear to state that failure to act promptly to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases is overwhelmly likely to lead to changes in climate too extreme and too damaging to be adequately addressed by any adaptation measure that can be foreseen.... "
Every issue we deal with regarding GW must be viewed from this crucial angle: we are moving very fast into a catastrophic stage. We need to take now the most practical approaches that would have the most pronounced reductions in both the speed and the magnitude of GHG
And that is the way we should view every aspect of GW:
WILL IT CUT A LOT OF GHG FAST ENOUGH TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE,
OR IS IT ESSENTIALLY WINDOW DRESSING?
Here we go again. The US Solar Industry Association wrote recently how successful they have been in creating jobs and reducing system prices. I wish it was significant and useful to our struggle to reduce global warming, but PV is insignificant contributor. If money was not important, if time was not critical we could continue to play with PV and feel good about the "magical power of sun-to-electricity." But time and money are crucial.
We must focus our attention on what is critical in the urgent fight against global warming--cutting greenhouse gases fast and in large quantities. PV does not do that. It is the least able to do it since it is the costliest and thus produce the least green energy per dollar invested.
The example of Germany goes on deaf ears. They spent $70 B till mid 09 on PV and it supplies only 0.35% of Germany electricity while Germany is increasing its reliance of coal, way beyond 0.35% per year!
Obviously the Solar Industry association will say positive things about PV. But look closely at the reality of PV. First they stretched the price chart in their report to exaggerate the price drop, and the chart does not start at zero, for the same reason. It is easy to fool the general public since when they see government support they believe two things: one is that since it has government support all is legitimate and PV seller's claims have been checked by the government. They have not.
Second, the PV systems seem so cheap because in fact financial support are very large and distort the market place. But our government should not be so naïve as the public. Our officials are so naïve, unfortunately.
Second, no one is mentioning how much CO2 was reduced by PV systems and at what cost PER KWH. If we used the federal state and local financial support for energy efficiency, starting with increasing home insulation and weatherization- we would have cut 20 to 30 times the CO2 per dollar that PV could cut. BTW, energy efficiency would create many times more local jobs, and jobs that could not be transferred overseas. Multitue of studies show PV to be the costliest by far of all low emission energy sources.
We have to grasp that we do not have enough money to fight GW as effectively as needed. We do not have time also, GHG are increasing daily across the globe. The main, but not the only, emphasis should be on cutting greenhouse gases as fast and as much as possible per dollar available.
It is clear that the rapid increase in demand for energy by the major developing countries, mostly China and India, could overshadow any attempt by the developed world to reduce its CO2 emissions.
Therefore, let's look at some of the key uncertainties regarding energy projections for China.
First some personal background: In the Early 70's, as manager of Techno-Economic Dept. at Litton Industries, Data Systems Div. I tried to understand the potential economic growth of likely clients. We sold Military Command and Control Systems to the US military and wanted to expand our markets to foreign governments. I read at the time a book by the futurist Herman Kahn in which he projected the growth of major global economies.
He projected that Japan would be the world powerhouse and overtake the US economy in a few decades.
What was interesting to me was that most of the time he used the existing current growth trends as the key basis to his projections. Japan had then 10% growth. He assumed it would be relatively constant for coming decades. It did not seem solid projection to me. And it was not.
Japan was becoming the world's second largest economy for several decades (average growth rates of 10% in the 1960s, 5% in the 1970s, and 4% in the 1980s until the Japanese Asset Price Bubble crushed in 1989. The Tokyo stock market dropped from near 45,000 to around 15, 000 Yen over a short period. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Japan).
I had watched the Japanese economy over time and a year or two before the collapse I read an article by a Japanese market specialist that explained that one of the key elements lifting their market was the restricted real estate in Tokyo. Vast numbers of Japanese, especially in Tokyo, were experiencing rapid price growth of their small residential units and "invested" major part of it in the "forever growing" stock market. According to that article rural politicians had disproportionally strong political control on the political process and were able to restrict any urban development around Tokyo. That is, no more land was available for new housing and the growth of Tokyo population pushed housing prices very high.
It was easy to conclude from that article that this situation would eventually collapse and the housing market would drop drastically with the bubble stock market tied to it.
It was not clear; however, when this could happen. A friend I shared these views with reminded me a year so later that the collapse followed the path expected in that article.
I detailed the case to point to the fact that we can not predict the future economy based on current trends and that there are a very large number of unknowns facing China and its economy. Several of these are national-survival dilemmas.
Let's look at some of China's major unknowns:
To understand China we must think in terms of the needs of China, as they see it, and not from the Western, mostly personal interest point of view. We also must focus on the GW implications.
0. It seems to me that the central government demonstrated in the last few decades, after the destructive decade of the Mao Cultural Revolution, its keen desire for stability and middle ground to benefit the nation as a whole at considerable success with benefits and also costs to the general population. If you do not grasp that just study how the majority of Chinese lived until the Communist Revolution.
I assume here that that trend would continue. The new generation of current and upcoming leaders has engineering education and is less ideology oriented. Also, China national leadership is able to influence national trends in rapid ways due to its very strong, but not complete, central control.
1. Population growth is limited by the one child policy prevailing across much of the country to 0.66%, about half of India.
2. Some 800 millions of China 1.38 billion people still live in primitive rural conditions consuming very little energy. Some 200 millions are expected to migrate to urban areas in the next ten to fifteen years demanding higher energy supply.
3. China economy has been growing at 10% per year until the recent global economic decline.
4. China FAST economic growth was largely based on export. It can not continue like that and internal growth is becoming larger by both government influence and increased internal demand.
5. China has some 1.5 Trillion dollars in US Treasuries- equal to the Japanese holding, with one key difference: The Japanese holding is spread across a vast private industry. However, almost all of the US dollar holding in China is in the hand of the central government. In fact, it uses these funds to influence provincial and local governments to follow the central government line.
6. China CO2 per Dollar GDP is four times larger that the US, leaving China large room to improve its CO2 per GDP. If we assume that the economy would increase by 10% per year, the increase in CO2 emissions could be lower by increasing its CO2 efficiency per dollar GDP.
If we assume that it would do that, with large and consistent assistance from the developing world plus its own increasing ingenuity and drive, it can improve its CO2 to GDP by at least 5%/year. With that China could reach the US level in three decades. It may seem fast, but it is not rapid enough to meet GW urgent needs.
THEREFORE, THE NET RISE OF CO2 DURING THE NEXT THREE DECADES COULD BE IN THE RANGE OF "ONLY" 5%/YR NET. HOWEVER THE GLOBAL NEED IS TO CUT GHG EMISSIONS BY 80% OFF CURRENT LEVEL OF SOME 30 B TONS/YR BEFORE 2050.
THESE DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSING PROJECTIONS ARE CLEARLY ON A COLLISION COURSE.
More bad news about China:
1. China has vast arid regions which have been expanding rapidly in the last decades needing population transfer, mass forestation and water supply projects-all demanding massive energy.
2. The major sources of water are the main rivers fed by the Himalayas mountain region. These rivers are over used, polluted and are shrinking from the increasing demand by the urban population and expanding industry. In addition the rapid expansion of electricity generating station, 80% of which are coal driven, demand vast amount of cooling water.
3. The Himalaya region is larger than Europe and stores immense amount of water in its many glaciers. They have been melting in rapid rates for several decades. In some locations the extra melt waters are a temporary blessing, which would diminish with time. In other locations it causes floods, wash away large amount of fertile top soil and create temporary unstable lakes.
Over the next few decades, the melting of the Himalayas thousand years snow pack would not be able to supply sufficient water to the current population of about 2 billion people in the surrounding nations, and the expected increase in population.
4. China, like other nations, will need to supply water to a growing population while the main sources of its water are shrinking. The only solution (in addition to conservation) is water desalination which takes a vast amount of energy. Again the two opposing demands can not be met. China (and all of us) must reduce GHG emissions rapidly while they must increase the use of GHG-producing energy supply to survive.
Imagine the dilemma of the Chinese leadership knowing all these conflicts and trying to find some reasonable solutions.
From one side their population needs for energy are rapidly increasing, from another side this increase in energy demand accelerates GW and destroys the very foundation of their society water and food supplies.
The current economic Bubble in China.
James Chanos, who predicted the Enron downfall, appeared recently on PBS Charlie Rose and predicted the collapse of China apartment bubble. (Chanos specializes in short sell on a large scale of situations like that.)
According to Chanos, the rapid increase in economic growth in the last few years in China is due to a large extent to speculation in high-end apartments in major cities. Some 50 to 60% of the investment in large cities is in unfinished, easy to sell, apartments in high rise. Significant capital has been coming from external speculators and much of the recent financial stimulus of the Chinese economy by its central government probably also has been going to continue this bubble.
These, he emphasized, are not apartment suitable for incoming rural population. They cost in the range of $150,000 while the combined income of even middle class wage earners is in the 10 thousand range. And there is no supply of high income earners that would need these apartments.
This may be important on several fronts: One is that the rapid economic growth of China is unsustainable and is not a basis for valid long term growth projection. Another aspect is that much of the energy demand might have been based on speculating activities and not sustained solid growth, such as infrastructure.
Third, we can not project the energy demand of China with any validity because we do not truly understand and familiar with the Chinese economy. The Chinese are masters in keeping undesirable information to themselves, and also they are not infallible, as we may think. As capable as they are they are probably not wiser than we are. China to a large extent has been following the West's economic model and are too eager "to be like us." And we have revealed our utter ignorance of economic realities coupled by greed across the globe. This desire to follow the West is hurting China considerably.
In short, China is as ignorant and deniers of reality as we are.
If you doubt that just think again about the massive global economic decay that we are still in and will be for some time. Trillions of dollars disappeared in this mess to date, and we are still unaware how many.
With all the complexity mentioned above, and much that we are not aware of, the tendency would be to do little and procrastinate. That is the usual approach that all humanity is taking now. However, to delay tough decisions could be just too late for the Earth ecology to survive.
Sacramento United Nations Association-USA
Dr. Matania Ginosar
"Cap and Trade vs. Carbon Fee"
Monday, April 19, 2010
It is our Chapter's Annual Earth Day program, featuring Dr. Matania Ginosar, Environmental Scientist and Electrical Engineer. Dr. Ginosar has been manager of R&D in Advanced Electronics, a Manager of the Solar Energy Office of the California Energy Commission and a Manager of Wind Energy for the California Energy Commission, where he developed and directed the pioneering Wind Energy program that led to the first commercial wind energy farms.
This is an appropriate time to hear Dr. Ginosar's views on this subject since pending state and federal actions are slated in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., in the next few weeks and months. California AB 32, the landmark climate change bill, is before the state legislature. In Washington Senator Boxer's Energy and Natural Resource Committee will be dealing with very controversial national efforts to slow climate change and protect the health of future generations.
A question and answer session will follow Dr. Ginosar's talk.
NO RESERVATION REQUIRED
6201 S Street
(North of US 50
between 59th and 65th off-ramps)
Parking available on street
My friends sometimes tell me to be more "polite", less direct in my writings and less "truthful". Here is an exchange with one friend about my writing style.
You tend to write what you feel and sometimes you don't temper what you say for the audience. I sometimes gasp when I read what you write, but then I know you all too well, and can understand what you are saying and where you are coming from. Also it helps that I agree with almost all that you say. For your blog and emails to us, anything goes and that's fine
Now to my writing. I do believe that one of the most crucial thing in GW is truth, facts, and openness. As long as we will continue with all the lies we normally use, we would not advance in any useful way. The fact is we are already so close to a catastrophe that all the playing around, the games in Congress, the China/India semi participation, the every one for himself that is still going on make our ability to slow the deterioration of our climate nearly impossible.
I have nothing to lose, I have to say it as it is even more openly that Hansen, if I am able to. But I am still too constrained.
I do understand what you are saying about telling the truth. Actually, now that I think of it, you are the only writer I know other than Hansen who tells it like it is. That's why I find your text so refreshing while at the same time I am alarmed because you and Hansen don't seem to be getting much traction. I realize now that given everything I know about you and about this Catastrophe, we have to be truthful. I just don't know how you can have more influence. Is there any way to break through? It seems that Hansen as highly respected and well known as he has been for more than 40 years on this issue is still not getting the traction he deserves, at least in the US.
As I studied in some depth the GW issue in the last few years, the most profound analysis I saw were by Dr. Martin Weitzman of Harvard on uncertainty and the need to fight GW now and forcefully. I wrote about one of his paper on this blog four months ago:
Over the last 15 months I contacted key staff in Congress and others to alert them to his important points. I am so glad these ideas are finally in the open. Not only that the highly regarded economist Dr. Paul Krugman accepts Dr. Weitzman idea of uncertainty as the key idea to follow fighting GW.
Final points from Krugman's 12 page article above
Finally and most important is the matter of uncertainty. We're uncertain about the magnitude of climate change, which is inevitable, because we're talking about reaching levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not seen in millions of years. The recent doubling of many modelers' predictions for 2100 is itself an illustration of the scope of that uncertainty; who knows what revisions may occur in the years ahead. Beyond that, nobody really knows how much damage would result from temperature rises of the kind now considered likely.
You might think that this uncertainty weakens the case for action, but it actually strengthens it. As Harvard's Martin Weitzman has argued in several influential papers, if there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance - rather than what is most likely to happen - should dominate cost-benefit calculations. And utter catastrophe does look like a realistic possibility, even if it is not the most likely outcome.
Weitzman argues - and I agree - that this risk of catastrophe, rather than the details of cost-benefit calculations, makes the most powerful case for strong climate policy. Current projections of global warming in the absence of action are just too close to the kinds of numbers associated with doomsday scenarios. It would be irresponsible - it's tempting to say criminally irresponsible - not to step back from what could all too easily turn out to be the edge of a cliff.
Krugman conclusions on GW actions:
So what I end up with is basically Martin Weitzman's argument: it's the nonnegligible probability of utter disaster that should dominate our policy analysis. And that argues for aggressive moves to curb emissions, soon.
In the discussions about global warming we rarely focus on one of the most crucial issues that humanity faces- over population. It seems like a taboo subject. Not only have that, instead of thanking China's aggressive effort to cut its own population growth, most people condemned them for curtailing human rights. We see every thing from our own narrow perspective instead of the reality humanity is facing. The reduction by the leadership of China of some four hundred millions people is one of the greatest contributions to human welfare ever made.
I hope to write about the population explosion; in the meantime I copied the following from Wikipedia Quotes to help focus our attention.
- Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters.
- I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet.
- Albert Einstein, letter, 1954
- If government knew how, I should like to see it check, not multiply the population
- Population growth is the primary source of environmental damage.
- Short of nuclear war itself, population growth is the gravest issue the world faces. If we do not act, the problem will be solved by famine, riots, insurrection and war.
- Robert McNamara, Former World Bank President
- Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., May 5, 1966
- The greatest form of contraception is development.
- Overpopulation is one of the greatest threats to human nature
- In the last 200 years the population of our planet has grown exponentially, at a rate of 1.9% per year. If it continued at this rate, with the population doubling every 40 years, by 2600 we would all be standing literally shoulder to shoulder.
I like you to read this short story about the life of three millions very poor Indian rat-catchers to feel what is life for hundreds of millions of people far away from the Western world. These are some of the people who want a better life that more energy can give them. How can we reconcile their needs and the need to curtail aggressively the rapid rise in global GHG?
Think about it.
In Man vs. Rat, the Humans Get a New Edge
U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT ‑ www.USNEWS.COM • JANUARY 21, 2008
A modest advance in rat‑catching technology is improving people's lives in rural India
By Anul Chopra
This is a story about how the development of a better mousetrap‑more like a rat trap, actually‑is helping some of the poorest of the poor in India, raising their incomes and so enabling their children to go to school.
Chinnapayan Krishnan, 41, is a rat exterminator. He belongs to the Irula community, a low‑caste tribe that for many centuries has provided the rat catchers in India's southern Tamil Nadu state. Local farmers hire the Irulas because rats can consume up to a quarter of their crops. For Krishnan and others, rat catching is both their source of modest income‑ the equivalent of 5 cents a rat‑and a key source of food. Rats may provide most of the Irulas' meat and grains (recovered from rat burrows), usually consumed at one meal per day.
Wiping sweat from his brow, Krishnan stands with his rat‑extermination paraphernalia on an arid patch of farmland. In a hushed tone, he asks everyone around to be still. "They can sense us," he says softly, pointing at the spot where a rat has burrowed nearby. "They are very clever creatures." Krishnan plugs two nearby rat holes with dirt, blocking possible escape routes. Then, using a rudimentary‑looking device, a metal drum with a hand‑operated air pump, he blows a torrent of smoke into the burrow. Seconds later, Krishnan reaches in and pulls out a stunned, mangy rat by its tail.
This, believe it or not, is progress. For the Irulas, a disenfranchised community of 3 million people, even simple technology can improve their lives. For ages, Irulas have relied on a traditional fumigation technique: Rats are caught by lighting a fire in a clay pot that covers the mouth of a rat burrow. The rat catcher physically blows air through a small hole in the bottom of the pot to send the smoke into the rat burrow. The rats are retrieved unconscious or dead. But this method is inefficient and hazardous. More than half of the time, the targeted rats manage to get away before being overcome by the puffs of smoke. The Irulas often suffer burns, and smoke inhalation leads to respiratory and cardiac disease. For this and other reasons, Irulas are believed to have a life expectancy of just 45 years.
A few years ago, a Chennai‑based nongovernmental group, the Center for Development of Disadvantaged People, designed a smoke‑producing device that incorporates a hand‑operated air pump, which forces a greater volume of smoke into burrows more quickly than possible using the traditional clay‑pot technique. The device both speeds the job and makes the process less hazardous by reducing the rat catcher's smoke exposure. The World Bank recognized CDDP's achievement with a Global Development Marketplace award and a $98,500 grant to provide the device (made locally) to over 4,000 hula families in Tamil Nadu villages like Sirigumi, which lies 50 miles from Chennai.
One step at a time. The impact has been remarkable. Krishnan has quadrupled his daily catch to as many as 20 rats, increasing his daily earnings to $1 from 25 cents. For the hulas, who have a literacy rate of just 1 percent, even that small amount of extra money means they can afford to send their children to school instead of putting them to work. "The hulas are a great example of how bringing technology to the rural poor can help them improve their lives one step at a time," says Siri Terjesen, a professor at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth; who has visited the Irulas to study the impact.
No less significant, perhaps, this modest rural innovation has brought a sense of pride to a people characterized as "untouchables" for their lowly caste status. "Everyone wants to abandon their lives as rat catchers‑a miserable existence that only brings shame," says Krishnan. "But this rat trap gives a sense of hope to our community that we, too, can have productive lives."
But even at a cost of just $25 (versus 50 cents for the traditional clay pot), the device is out of the reach of most Irulas. CDDP Director Sethu Sethunarayanan says he hopes the Irulas will be able to obtain microcredit loans to afford the devices. With over 100 million small farmers in the Tamil Nadu and neighboring Andhra Pradesh states, this kind of technological advance is in great demand. Farmers around Sirigumi prefer using rat catchers rather than poisons, which they know can hurt soil productivity and pose a risk to animals and humans.
As shadows lengthen in Sirigumi, Krishnan walks home with his prized catch. He enters his tiny mud but with a straw roof and dirt floor, carrying the malodorous carcasses in with him. He reminisces about awful times when there was nothing but wild fruit from a parched bush near his home with which to feed his nine children. "My children don't go hungry these days," he says, handing over the dead rodents to his wife. "They feast."
From todays, 4/6/10, headlines:
1. Twenty five workers killed in West Virginia coal mine blast:
Four man still missing at coal facility with history of safety violation.
2. China rescuers press ahead, 115 pulled from mine shaft; 5 dead. Xiangning China, - Effort to reach 33 Chinese miners still trapped in a flooded coal pit forged ahead today.
3. A Chinese coal ship stranded on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, is buffet by strong currents, threatening to spill more oil [in this ecologically sensitive area already damaged by warmer water temperatures.]
Some 80% of China electricity is generated by coal plants. Australia is one of the main external suppliers of coal to China's rapidly increasing coal power plants.
One of the main objections generally expressed to nuclear generated electricity is the safety risk of nuclear power stations. We have one very bad example- the USSR Chernobyl nuclear blast. It was a unique and drastic case of poor plant safety. It had a combination of bad factors: wrong safety designed, no containment over the reactor- a must most of the world, and managed by somewhat primitive control systems. The combination caused large damages, unusable land, and many deaths, probably in the thousands.
But we forget that no other accident of this type occurred any place else. And most important, the damages and lost of life from coal is going on all over the world day in and day out for a long period. They are less dramatic but nevertheless the sum total is much higher than even the USSR accident.
Coal is the dirtiest fuel, damage the landscape on a massive scale, emit vast amount of corrosive air pollutants and its vast use and concurrent massive CO2 emissions is one of the main causes and accelerator of global warming.
Even the unpopular nuclear power is so much superior to coal since nuclear has nearly zero CO2 emissions. Nuclear has the lowest per kWh of all green or low polluting energy alternatives.
A group of environmentalists bloggers are planning to visit China soon to learn about their actions and plans on GW. I sent them the following:
By all means go to China, but remember India is our weakest link in the fight against GW.
China and India combined will have close to three billion people in two decades. Their rising population demands better life and will consume considerably more energy than today. Their GHG emissions would much higher and mask all the combined emissions of the developed world in the near future. The West can not force them to cut GHG and all the effort we may be doing in the future to cut our own GHG would mean nothing unless China and India drastically control their increase in GHG.
To a large extent humanity is on the brink already. Our global emission of GHG, now over 30 B tons/yr, must be cut by 80% in several decades, or sooner, to restrict the global temperature rise to not more than 2 degrees C. Otherwise we are likely to trigger serious escalation in release of naturally stored greenhouse gases that we would have no way to stop. This could trigger positive feedback of GHG emissions around the globe that could make our world nearly uninhabitable.
While we in the West, like zombies ignore nature's reality and arguing how much to cut and when, China and India are rapidly increasing their energy consumption with all the negative impacts of increased GHG.
Current average global GHG emission is 4.5 tons per person. The US average is 20 tons per capita, but China and India emit 4 times the CO2 per dollar of GDP! If China and India would not improve their CO2 to GDP ratio substantially, as we did over several decades, their combined GHG emissions would be several times larger that the total global emissions now.
How could humanity reduce today's total GHG by 80% if China/India would emit several times today's total in two decades if they follow current path?
It is just not possible.
Therefore we must find ways to help them to get massive energy supply that are not emitting GHG. We must help them increase substantially their CO2 to GDP ratio. We are at their mercy and they will sink the global climate with us. We will have to donate money, to donate knowledge and all other means to change the direction they are going now, massive use of dirty coal. And this will reduce our competitive position economically.
There is no way around that: in order to survive we have to reduce the huge imbalance of standard of living in the world also.
They will not cut their large GHG emissions sufficiently themselves, they can not. We can not ignore their actions since we live in the same global climate.
We will sink together, or cooperate!
The most dangerous potential is from India since its population rise is almost twice China and they have little control on their own population. Little if any control of population growth or population conduct.
By all means go to China, learn and especially find ways for cooperation beyond any thing ever done in human history.
We either cooperate like never before or we go under together in climate decay.
We must replace our CO2 generating plants with low emission plants to fight GW. I am fully for wide use of alternative energies wherever possible and reasonably economical. First we need to be factual in our numbers; otherwise we are misleading ourselves towards the wrong approaches. Our California government and the Federal too listen too much to environmental SENTIMENTS and do not check the reality when they give financial support to the wrong technologies. These financial support have to be repaid, they are not free! And we do not have them in abundance.
Again: We must be realistic - we do not have money to waste in the fight against Global Warming. It will cost many trillions and they should be directed to those who cut GHG the most and the fastest.
A few days ago US Today had an article: California solar projects rush to beat deadline for subsidies, By Julie Schmit 4/1/10 USA TODAY (link below)
It seems to me that when writing about electrical systems one should know some basics about the subject. Not the case in this article: Julie Schmit writes the wrong information below that is misleading to most readers. This is the kind of confusing information that sways good people ideas in the wrong direction. Let's look at the numbers she put down:
"Promise of power, jobs
If all are built, the 49 projects seeking stimulus funding would generate 11,000 megawatts of electricity a year. That's enough to supply 7 million California homes and give California utilities a big boost in meeting mandates to get 33% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The projects also would drive 10,000 construction jobs, 2,200 operational jobs and up to $30 billion in investment, including up to $10 billion in federal stimulus dollars, says Michael Picker, Schwarzenegger's renewable-energy adviser. Twenty-two of the 49 projects account for 83% of the power"
First you do not generate 11,000 megawatt, this is the peak potential power, when the solar plants are operating at peak capacity-- which is only around noon. The average power potential for solar is one quarter of that! The sun shines typically 8 hours every 24 hours. Natural gas, coal and nuclear plants are operating between 80% to 92% of the time, up to four times the potential of solar. So we need to look at the total cost and benefits to remain factual.
She also wrote: The energy Supply 7 million homes? That is 60% of all the homes in California! Actually if all are working well the plants may supply electricity to some 1.5 million homes. Her numbers were five times too high!
But they would supply electricity only during sunny days and sun hours. If they use storage, some of their output goes to storage and therefore the peak output and average outputs would be lower!
These solar thermal plants are quite costly now, so a friend and I did some ballpark estimates to get a more realistic picture of what these plants may supply and compare them to nuclear power plants. Many environmentalists do not like nuclear, and for good reasons, and point to their high cost as a major reason they are out of the cost-range we should use. The result show that the cost of electricity of solar-thermal plants could be in the same range as nuclear!
Capital costs $30B less $10B federal Stimulus subsidy, equals net $20B: 14 cents/kWh if the 11,000 MW of We use 15%/year as the annualization of the capital cost, and add nothing for O&M.
The $20B/11GW is $1818/kW. This is for that 2000 kWh/y per kW.
If no federal Stimulus support, the capital cost is $30B, the price would be 20 cents/kWh.
If $40B, 28 cents/kWh.)
For nuclear: at $12,000/kW capital cost, no subsidies, and 92% annual capacity factor (achieved in the last decades in the US), with the same 15%/y to annualize, and the zero O&M cost, as above, it is some 22 cents/kWh.
Natural gas power plants can range from 5 to 8 cents in comparable generation costs. Coal less: 3 to 4c.
Some additional points: Solar plants would not produce electricity at night and cloudy days, even with storage. Nuclear is human-controlled and could be highly available. See my thoughts on nuclear power elsewhere on this site.
Note: These are just gross estimates to get a feel. Considerable more data is needed and calculations must be done to be closer to reality. The cost of nuclear power is for today's prevailing 1000 MW, US technology. Lower costs are projected for standardized, smaller size plants, less than 500 MW.
The costs for solar thermal plant used here are close to the ones obtained elsewhere from models developed by federal energy labs:
USA Today article:
One way to understand the way this Administration is attempting to fight GW is to follow the interviews and writing of Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu over the last year.
When he was selected to his position over a year ago Dr. Chu was very optimistic about alternative energy and efficiency and sounded eager and willing to concentrate on avenues and tools smart people knew would work and are likely to make a difference.
Before he was selected he stated that carbon tax is superior to Cap & Trade. Once in the administration he reluctantly accepted the prevailing Congressional and Administration views supporting Cap & Trade. The facts did not change.
In one of his first magazine interviews with U.S. News less than a year ago he said that silicon based photovoltaic is not promising now and need to have a ten to one reduction in price with different, more advance, technologies. He changes his utterance now. The PV industry has a powerful voice, and doing its best to maximize its profit despite not delivering much benefit to the users.
Dr. Chu was also a great supporter of energy efficiency and building conservation, following the lead of his friend Dr. Art Rosenfeld, previously of CEC. As you follow Dr. Chu's blogs and interviews, culminating with the latest on Newsweek, you can see that he is changing his support and following the Administration party line; more oil drilling, nuclear power, and little on energy efficiency or green technologies.
This administration even more than the past is very strict on following the party line; no one should deviate from it showing the country, and especially Congress, a united front. This is understandable, but I would not like to be in Dr. Chu position when so much of what he believed is cut out of the Administration approach.
These changes in Dr. Chu's views may have come from two reasons: He has to moderate/change his views to fit the desire of the Administration, and he also learned from practical interaction with the "real world" that many promising technologies are not likely to survive outside science labs, as good as they may be.
1. When he was a scientist guiding the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory he was not subjected to political distortion and was able to see the path to reducing GHG emissions from practical scientific point of view. He was a dream choice by the Environmentalists; however, they did not know how politics would curtail his ability to do what he believed in. So politics, the "Art of the Possible" and the tool of powerful influences by interested parties, now determine the Administration's approach and thus also Dr. Chu's public views.
2. Another aspect, when science meets the real world of finance, global economics, the immense magnitude of electrical power systems, the fossil industry size and complexities, and all the other main forces, including Congress, your own views change. He might have realized that some or many of the solutions that seemed marvelous in the lab, are not practical in the real world.
Dr. Chu latest public views are stated to support the free gifts the Administration has given the GOP. Yes, this administration is giving a gift to the "Take No Prisoners" GOP. President Obama still believes he can pull in a few Republicans in Congress so his policies may look bipartisan. The bad lesson from the Health Care fight did not teach him the GOP side is determined to cut his legs in every opportunity they have. His administration is a slow learner and instead of first bargaining with the GOP on energy issues, they gave them the free gift of offshore oil drilling and support for nuclear power.
Poor thinking. They are not very practical and have little courage to fight for this most serious issue of GW.
They just don't grasp how time-critical GW is.
Marvelous! What a tour de force. If I read an op ed like this in the Bee every day, I would feel a lot better about my subscription. You are the only one I have read who tells it like it is. Is that because we are on the same page?
What a shame both for Dr. Chu personally and for us. You have very ably explained why this is the case and you are right about Obama. He gives before he seals a deal.
It’s so interesting that my other old friend who is very astute politically sees this so differently. He was actually very proud of what was accomplished with the health care bill. Maybe that’s because he believes that this is the art of the possible and that was all that was possible. That said, I think we are going to get little with the cap and trade bill. It will set us up for ten years of experiments that tell us this doesn’t deliver and it costs a bundle.
Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek interviewed our secretary of energy recently. Many of Secretary Chu views there are very disappointing to me. It is likely that Newsweek selected what was appealing to them, or their sponsors, and not Dr. Chu' full views. Unfortunately I can only go on the basis of what I know.
First, in this article little was said on energy efficiency where we can reduce waste by a major amount. About 60% of US energy is now non productive. We can easily cut half of this waste!
Second, too optimistic about PV. The price did not go down noticeably for several years. Current silicon technology, the main stay for forty years, is too complex and we need completely new technology, not high purity silicon based. His own financial support for it is a big national waste.
His trust in CCS is misplaced, there is nothing promising in it, while there re considerable negatives in CCS. To tie 50% of our national power system (coal) on this dream is irresponsible. Coal should be replaced, even high efficiency natural gas, NGCC, would be superior to allowing coal to continue.
Nothing of value on Solar Thermal, a very promising technology already on line.
As much as I support nuclear power, he put too much emphasis on that instead of wind energy and solar thermal and energy efficiency.
I have expected much more from Dr. Chu, but it may be that in this administration we are still unable to break with the past. Think about how much they are supporting tar-oil, the dirtiest oil there is, extremely high in GHG emission.
All in all, it is a very poor national plan, no drive to reduce waste, no courage in it. Same standard message.
Compare to Dr. Chu past messages, this is weak, very weak.
Again, it may be very selective reporting.If so Dr. Chu should go on line elsewhere to show his correct views. His views are important.
There is a report by the BBC today about China increased investment in clean energy. China is now number one in investment according to the report by the non profit Pew' Research. This is a poor way of reporting because it has little to do with what is critical -- reducing GHG.
When you talk about money invested without emphasizing result achieved you are misleading most people to think that that is the critical issue. It is not.
Just to focus for a second: cutting GHG is not a luxury, it is not "nice", it is not something to help create jobs- it is a matter of human survival and the coming of a lot of human agonies all over the world. Therefore we must focus on what is important - cut GHG fast and effectively. To do that you need to put your eggs in the right baskets, there are not so many eggs that you can drop some on your way to make a good omelet.
Look at the table below, it shows how much each country put into its green energy program, but NOTHING about what it achieved. How much energy did they produce? how many kWh? how much GHG they have cut or could cut once the systems are on line?
The title is:
China steams ahead on clean energy
TOP FIVE INVESTORS 2009
China - $34.6bn
US - $18.6bn
UK - $11.2bn
Spain - $10.bn
Brazil - $7.4bn
And here is more from the article:
"Even in the midst of a global recession, the clean energy market has experienced impressive growth,"
"Countries are jockeying for leadership.
"They know that investing in clean energy can renew manufacturing bases, and create export opportunities, jobs and businesses."
The US still holds a marginal lead in the total amount of installed capacity, but will be overtaken by China during the course of this year if existing trends continue. "
They briefly mentioned installed capacity but not actual numbers, which still is misleading.
They are looking at it from a very narrow and less important point of view.
They have ignored, and it is ALMOST ALWAYS IGNORED, the achievement in reducing GW.
Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's Campaign on Climate Change should known better [may be the BBC did not give the details of usefulness she puts in her report, but I doubt it].
Countries could have spent much of this money and put it into very unproductive technologies, or even into useless technologies and achieved little, while some other country invested less but put it into much more productive technologies. We are not learning anything important from this reporting.
If they put it into energy efficiency such as CHP they could have reduce GHG by a factor of ten times then PV for example. Efficacy and CHP are two of the most neglected and cheapest way to cut GHG.
Germany, for example, spent $70 B on PV producing miniscule 0.3% of its electricity from it, while at the same time it is increasing its dependence on dirty coal, the source of more than 50% of its electricity. The US is trying to follow the stupidity of Germany because we have here a very vocal combination of dreamers and very effective propaganda by the PV marketing- not necessarily US producers of PV. We buy much of the production from other countries.
They may have created jobs with these large sums, but how many permanent ones? What have they achieved?
The key in working in the GW field should be the results, not the tools, not the money alone, not the technology, but the reduction in GHG!
Energy Efficiency Conference
TECHNICAL DISCUSSIONS - CONTINUE:
Illuminating the Developing world.
Evan Mills, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Research Affiliate, Energy & Resources Group, UC Berkeley
There is a substantial global lighting inadequacy. It can easily be seen in the famous satellite picture of the Earth night sky. US, Europe, East side of China, Australia East coast and the like have considerable lights. The poor areas of the world, about one and a half billion people, Africa, much of China, much of interior India, have no electricity. They have been using kerosene lights for a century. And many do not have even that.
The fuel cost of these primitive kerosene lights is around $40 B a year, emitting 190 Million Tones of CO2. Replacing these lights with self generating electricity is equivalent to eliminating CO2 from 30 million cars. And obviously would provide more reliable, steady and non polluting source. The inside air pollution from kerosene is considerable too.
"The most promising modern illumination is by LED because of their high light to energy efficiency, small size, ruggedness, and ability to run on low voltage. It is natural to produce local electricity, away from any power grid, by extremely small PV systems or through temporary connections to grid nodes such as cellphone charging shops. The miniature power supplies may be as low as 3% and thus are a key problem.
The idea is appealing but there are problems and barriers. PV charging has high initial costs, although well-designed systems can pay for themselves in less than a year. Poor-quality manufacturing can result in unnecessarily inferior products that spoil the market. Current LED are up to 60 lpw (lumens per watt.) The best LEDs are approaching 100, but the worst ones tested are around 10 lumens per watt.
Major international initiatives from the World Bank and the U.S. Department of Energy are addressing these issues by instituting better consumer information and quality-assurance testing and rating systems.
Dr. Matania Ginosar wrote:
Evan, thank you very much.
I am puzzled by your statement that PV can be paid back in one year. Here roof locations are, according to our utility $9500/kW installed, and up to 1400 kWh/yr output in good locations.
We are talking about developing country applications for extremely poor people who only have a lantern or two for lighting. We are powering replacement lights with electricity and providing higher levels of energy services, but we aren't electrifying the whole home. The system you described is of course running many lights plus major appliances.
The systems we are working with are less than one watt, because the LED itself is less than one watt.
Households can easily spend $50-$100/year on kerosene lighting, depending on local fuel prices and how they use their lamps.
LED systems are retailing for $20-$50 with small pv panels.
This is really the power of miniaturization (small light, small battery, small solar cell). The systems are of course considerably less expensive without the solar cell (if they can be charged at cell-phone charging shops, at work, etc.)
Dr. Matania Ginosar wrote:
It make sense. I tried last night my 8 LEDs low-cost flashlight. At 4.5V and 0.2 Amps it is close to one watt. But the light in a dark room was very weak, may be equivalent to 10 W incandescent bulb.
We are so accustomed to high intensity light, we probably do not grasp how thankful those without electricity could be even with that small illumination.
Another possibility is that you have a much higher efficiency LEDs than those in my cheap flashlight.
We've seen LED efficacies ranging from 10 to 60 lpw (and that was several years ago). Best ones are approaching 100 lpw now! ~ Evan
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 1:56 PM
Before you link GW with the healthcare bill and before you link Axelrod with a syrupy "cover", have you given thought to the fact that the parliamentary maneuvering of this healthcare bill is understood only by an esoteric few. If Axelrod would have explained it within the parameters of transparency, probably the only audience left would have been............. MG.
We Americans want simple solutions, kinda like you see in the movies. Remember when the movies showed a passage of time; they showed calendar pages flying off; all you saw was the end results. But during the passage of time, all the angst was never shown.
My answer to him:
I know you are right, but if you saw many of Charlie Rose programs you will see tremendous amount of openness and even personal info. The facts are that we do not trust Congress, may be 20% is a high level recently, partially because we know that a lot of it is misleading and self serving. As long as we are mislead and lied to we can not run a country with the interest of the people as key consideration--my views.
I was watching last night the PBS- Charlie Rose interview of David Axelrod, Senior Adviser to President Obama.
It was a very illuminating discussion of the movement of the Health Care bill thru Congress. It was illuminating not because you learned anything useful. You did not. But because David Axelrod, a highly regarded man and I am sure a good man, was so skilled in avoiding any meaningful answer to the questions Charlie Rose asked.
To some David Axelrod is the best there is; a dedicated man, gentle to the opposition, he praised the president all the time and gave him an aura I doubt any one deserves, even a caring and capable president. He did not reveal any meaningful fact that you could learn from, that can help us understand the operation in Congress. He snowed us, the citizens of the country that should benefit from this bill. We have no better idea of the reality in Congress or the realities of this bill because David Axelrod responsibility is to spread sugar over reality. "Every thing is fine."
David Axelrod is a master of artfully and pleasantly describing events that actually were politically very bloody both within the Democrats in congress and between the two parties. He did not tell you anything of value!
It was such a lovely mask on everything.
What this have to do with global warming? A lot. It is a good example of how we are being snowed with all kind of meaningless facts, with misleading names of Congressional bills because they do not want us to really know how convoluted are the "Energy and Security" bills in congress, and how dishonest they are while satisfying the special interests of many congresspersons.
To get a vote the bill will add new provisions that are neither good for the country, neither reduce GHG. It gives too much special consideration to every member of Congress who's vote is needed.
We have a country of special interest, powerful interests that Congress must satisfy.
How can you reduce GHG when so much misleading information covers us, so much is done below the surface. We have no idea what the bills contain, or what it would actually do. We call it white lies, but they are lying to the American people so much, we have little knowledge of reality.
David Axelrod smooth talking is so admired because he knows how to soften unpleasant reality allowing Congress to satisfy itself first, the American people last.
They treat us like kids, the less we know the better.
This is a follow up to my article about India and global Warming: http://www.ginosaronglobalwarming.org/blog1.php?p=109&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1
I selected this NYT article to help you get a better feel how difficult is to achieve anything in India. As I mentioned in my discussion, governmental control is erratic at best and the ability of state and federal governments to get specific results are very poor. It takes years to put a power plant on line due to corruption, incompetence, and lack of political interest. These are deep, old cultural problems. And coupled with the rapid population growth, demand to higher living standard and energy, would compound the problems that India would be facing. Therefore, India would have little ability, in my opinion, to curtail the rise of its GHG emissions.
India is likely to be the weakest country in the global effort to slow the rise in GW!
India's Woes Reflected in Bid to Restart Old Plant
By VIKAS BAJAJ NYT March 22, 2010
VELDUR, India - "Wherever there is a lamp, there is darkness below it," said Bava Bhalekar, a fisherman and local leader in this village roughly a hundred miles south of Mumbai. "The tragedy is that while our village has this project, we ourselves don't have electricity."
"This project" is the power plant that Enron built.
A decade after Enron withdrew from the project, the Indian government and two Indian companies are promising to bring the plant to full capacity. The tragedy, as Mr. Bhalekar and his fellow villagers see it, is that even after the plant is fully operational, their daily blackouts - now from 3 to 7:30 p.m. - will still occur, with just slightly fewer hours without electricity.
State authorities promise to have the plant running at 100 percent by the end of the month. But, so far, this plant remains a monument not to the problems of Enron, but to India's own corruption, cronyism and weak economic policies - some of the reasons that India remains a perpetual second fiddle to China, its increasingly powerful rival.
For all the progress India has made in information technology and service-sector jobs, the country is still unable to provide reliable power, water, roads and other basic infrastructure to most of its 1.2 billion people. For instance, about 40 percent of the country's population is not connected to the electricity grid.
This energy deficit is also an impediment to development. Here in Maharashtra, India's most industrialized state and the home of its commercial capital, Mumbai, formerly Bombay, the demand for electricity will exceed supply by about 30 percent this year, up from 4.5 percent in 1992.
And if industrial companies that set up here can get electricity, they will pay more for it than elsewhere in the world, according to the Prayas Energy Group, a research organization.
India's slow progress on power has kept some foreign companies away and has led many of them to largely shun the electricity business, in particular. The failure of the Enron plant in 2001, then known as Dabhol Power, was a turning point.
No large power plants have started in Maharashtra since Dabhol.
"Our problem today is power," Ashok Chavan, Maharashtra's chief minister, the equivalent of an American state governor, said late last year when asked about the state's biggest challenges. But he said that his administration would eliminate blackouts that afflict most of the state outside Mumbai within three years.
For villagers here in Veldur, the Enron-built plant's revival - it has been running at below capacity for four years now - is bittersweet. While some people have been hired at the plant as it has ramped up, the lack of reliable electricity means that the ice that the fishermen in the village need to preserve their daily catch has to be trucked in from farther away.
Experts said Mr. Chavan's goal was, like many promises made by Indian policy makers, high rhetoric that is not backed up by real action. State and federal governments reduced red tape in 2003 to help add more generation capacity, but many of those reforms have not been fully put in place.
"These problems, which we have been talking about for the last 10, 15 years, there is no real solution to them," said Madhav Godbole, a retired civil servant who led a committee that studied the problems of Dabhol. "It's the political will that is wanting."
Many of India's utilities, for instance, are financially frail because policy makers look the other way as power is stolen, or because politicians dole out subsidized power to win the votes of farmers. Power plants typically operate below their capacity because the government bureaucracy allocates coal and natural gas, the fuel of power plants, to favored companies. Furthermore, cronyism often dictates who receives permission to build plants because laws requiring competitive bids are not enforced.
Emphasis by mg.
Rest of NYT article at:
I just finished translating a real story about some of the personal horrors experienced in the Holocaust in Germany for a friend of mine. He was in those horrific death camps and his knowledge of Hebrew is not as good as mine. I was born and raised in Israel.
My friend personal experience and the translation itself brought to reality, gave me a better grasp, of the human dimensions, not just statistics of the suffering in WWII. Not only did 6 million Jews brutality used as slave labor to advance the German war machine, starved to death on one hundred calories a day, and dehumanized at each step of the way. Fifty million people died in agony, most of them civilians, during that horrific period.
But all of that human suffering would be nothing in comparison to the projected, and possibly hard to reduce, human casualties from the developing global warming.
We are talking about carbon tax, we are talking about how much will it cost us, we talk about better technologies to cut GHG emissions, but we actually are doing nothing since it does not yet sink in. It does not sink in since we are rejecting reality. And we talk about it in sterilized mode. We talk as if human life, human suffering are just numbers.
The projection of human migrations on mass scale, hundreds of millions, the projection of human suffering have been coming from many scientists, from national leaders, from experienced military generals, from the ex. Director of the CIA, from many sensible people with no axe to grind who are concerned about the future of humankind, including the suffering in the USA. And we do not listen and thus our Representatives do not hear it from us.
This is just a remainder that people can cause immense suffering. That tens of millions of German and Japanese and from other nations had been very capable of looking at things from their own narrow point of view and did not care about tomorrow and human life as long it was not theirs. Human nature did not improve in the last half century.
Time to stop the arguments and start cooperating for the common survival of humanity. What happened in the Holocaust, what happened in Rwanda and the Sudan in our time- and in WWII, would be nothing compared to the projected suffering expected due to global warming.
Cold, theoretical discussions are not fruitful, and would not cut human suffering in time.
Again: Hundreds of millions would suffer terribly from the result of GW.
Should we continue to discuss it or start to cooperate to reduce the coming immense human suffering?
Since the developing world will emit the largest amount of GHG by far in the coming decades we need to look at the key players to understand them and their potential to curtail GHG emissions.
The main ones now are India and China.
Let's look at India now: IMMENSE GROWING POPULATION
First, some significant items to grasp the magnitude of India:
Some of the most significant things about India are: its immense and growing population. Second, is its wide spread poverty. Third, is the primitive and nature-dependent living condition of its large rural population. Forth, population wants a better life. Fifth, the rapid rise in motorized transportation combined with lack of infrastructure. Sixth, the difficulty of upward mobility due to India's long established, hard to eradicate - class discrimination.
Result: More people wanting more means higher energy use, and higher GHG emissions.
India population (6/09) 1.16 B just behind China. It is projected to be the largest in the world in 2 decades, over 1.53 B ,
China, now at 1.34 B. In 2 decades 1.53 B
India growth rate: 1.41%, China 0.66%
GDP: $3.5 Trillion, growth rate 7.5%
per capita income: $3,000, with extremely unequal distribution
Land area 3.3 million sq km, one third of US.
DENSITY OF POPULATION IS 12 TIMES THE US!
Half the land is arable, a third of which is irrigated.
Fourth largest coal reserve in world, 500 B BBL oil equivalent
Water supplies, mainly rivers from the Himalayas glaciers, and from Monsoon (seasonal heavy rain falls), both would be affected by GW.
Environmental problems: deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides; tap water is not potable throughout the country; huge and growing population is overstraining natural resources. (CIA data)
Life expectancy 63 years, literacy 52%
High birthrate, with moderate/modern death rate
A third of the population, 400 MILLION, is below 15,
Average education 10 years in schools
Half of India, half a billion people, is estimated to be without electricity! More electricity more GHG.
Some 30% of population, 350 MILLION, is urban, and the additional urbanization is 2.4%, 25 MILLION per year. Next ten year may have 250 million more in urban areas?
If so, the result is a US size population movement with combination of larger incomes, larger energy demands, and larger slums too. The potential mix is unknown now, may be not easily influenced either.
India is a democracy with 28 somewhat powerful states. The Rule of law determined also the ability of governments to dictate energy related laws. But, unlike the US and Europe, in the vast India continent the actual federal and state control is mostly theoretical. It is more pronounced in the developed urban areas, but not in remote primitive villages. It is hard to control the diverse, wide spread, immense population.
Additional snapshots of India:
It is hard for Western people to grasp the population density and the deep poverty of India. We see the pictures of the modern side. However, when we see pictures of the poverty it is done artistically and in taste and we are ignorant of the reality, the suffering, the malnutrition of millions. India rural area is often isolated, lack electricity, and have very low standard of living.
In the last decade the media emphasized the rapid advance in the urban SOL (Standard of Living) and the new middle class associated with high tech industries. But this is not typical India, it is just the we pay most attention to because it is similar to the US.
The millions of Untouchables continue to be discriminated in a way we can not even imagine. They are the sewer cleaners, no one wants to be near them or let them inside their homes unless mandatory. There are 40 millions nomads that the rest do not want to have any thing to do with or live nearby them. The cast system is in force despite some feeble attempts to reduce it. Because there are so many people, because so many are so discriminated against and so many are in agony, the cast system give the "higher up" the ability to "elevate" themselves above the common.
With one third of the population below 15 and limited schooling many young people just roam aimlessly around. Tens of millions have no place to call home.
The government is composed of mostly middle and upper class people who may be intellectually interested in improving the lot of the downcasts, but their power come from the educated and higher income population. I do not believe they themselves believe something substantial can be done to elevate the downcast out of their misery in the next few decades. It is a almost undoable because of rapid population growth, lack of funds for wide rural education and lack of power by the rural, and underprivileged. They are not important.
An example: The Mumbai slam is the biggest in the world with one million people in about a square mile. It is being liquidated now, against the will of the majority there, to build high rise buildings in this center of the city. The population density there (typically on three primitive levels) was equivalent to 400 people living in the moderate lot my wife and I now occupy!
(From Wikipedia): "In the late 2000s, India's economic growth has averaged 7.5% a year, which will double the average income in a decade. Despite India's impressive economic growth over recent decades, it still contains the largest concentration of poor people in the world, and has a higher rate of malnutrition among children under the age of three (46% in year 2007) than any other country in the world. The percentage of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of $1.25 a day decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005. Even though India has avoided famines in recent decades, half of children are underweight, one of the highest rates in the world and nearly double the rate of Sub-Saharan Africa."
Curtailing GHG emissions:
Current situation: Three main areas of high GHG emissions:
1. Modern electricity generation for the urban and industrial areas,
2. Oil (diesel and gasoline) for expanding transportation
3. Wide spread use of solid fuels (wood and charcoal) and also kerosene in rural areas.
India has a very high CO2 emission per GDP dollar, four times the US level. This is a promising opening for cutting projected increases in its looming and immense GHG. Much of it is from its primitive industry, and low efficiency coal driven electricity generation. Coal would continue to be the major source of electricity as its industrialization and urbanization are continuing at rapid rates. It is dirt cheap and India would not replace it with more expansive green technology on its own. It will need a combination of global economic pressure and financial and technical assistance.
Their national pride would resist external pressure, but it would be moderate, unlike China. India government is inclined to be practical, and not rush into fast actions.
1. Considerable amount of India production, from shoes to clothing, is by very primitive means, with a lot of very cheap hand labor. There is no desire to industrialize that "home industry" which are actually sweat shops on a small and large scale. It provides employment to tens of millions very young people, and their number is increasing. What else would supply this minimal level of sustenance?
2. Demand for oil imports will increase rapidly as the population is moving from bicycles to scooters, to motorcycles, and to small, locally built, cheap cars. The cheap, low weight cars have small engines but are not likely to be very high miles per gallons. GHG emissions from the mass production and use of over a hundred million of these vehicles will be substantial.
3. It is estimated that massive amount of black sooth, accelerating glaciers melting, is emitted by the primitive cooking and lightening in India (and Africa). There are advance testing of combinations of miniature PV, battery, and high efficiency LED light systems that seems economical for this conditions. Reliable, low cost packages would be useful. But hard to spread widely without government intervention and financial assistance. This is not too likely in rural India or any other wide spread, poor society.
4. There is considerable deforestation in India and to cut it substantially they need reliable, very simple, low cost cooking and heating alternatives. A very difficult combination.
Technologists in the West see it as a good potential for replacement by more efficient cooking approach on a large scale. I am doubtful. Where will one find locally available, no cost replacement to locally cut trees and dung?
It is a matter of survival to them and they do not have the luxury to think about complex solutions that cost more and may be require education to operate.
5. Only where there is governmental control/knowledge of a substantial scale, electrical power generation, could changes towards higher efficiency, lower GHG energy, can be made in 2 or 3 decades. And this is already too long a cycle.
India emission of GHG will escalate rapidly in the coming decades. It would be at a lower rate than before if the cost of fossil fuel increase noticeably. Only part of its more modern sector emissions could be slowed down by reducing its CO2 to GDP ratio. The majority of the population, the poor and rural community, could only marginally reduce their very high CO2 to GDP ratio.
India rapid increase of GHG would not slow down on its own due to the immense internal pent up demand, which a Democratic government has to listen to. External forces would have to intervene to help India cut its immense GHG emission before the Earth has passed the point of no return and enters a massive positive feedback of GHG emissions.
(Sorry, no time to fully edit.)
There are a lot of discussions about the undesirability of nuclear power and how expensive it is. To answer quickly these concerns I have summarized below the key points to consider. Details are in the different blogs I have written of these issues.
1. GHG are already so high we have little time to slow them down; if we do not, the likelihood of catastrophic climactic events would increase markedly.
2. Fifty percent of the electricity in Germany and the US, and 80% of China is generated by coal, the biggest polluter of all. Even if CCS would work it would take many years to install on a wide scale, and it is risky technically and environmentally. We should not count on it until proven reliable and economical.
3. With all the conservational and efficiency we could achieve realistically, the demand for electricity is increasing in all the developing world. I am all for cutting our use, but the rest of the world is increasing theirs. They are not bound by our ways and situation.
4. The increasing world population coupled with the increasing demand for higher standard of living by the developing world, especially India and China, [with three billion people in several decades,] outstrip any thing we do elsewhere in the developed world combined.
That is: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHEN AND HOW THE ADVANCED COUNTRIES REDUCE THEIR GHG, the emerging nations are on a current path to have some five to ten times the total GHG emissions of all the other nations combined.
5. Let's grasp the magnitude of the energy the world will need: we essentially need the equivalent of one new nuclear plant on line every day for the next forty years!!!
6. We must eliminate all coal-generated electricity in the world if we want to survive the increasing GW.
7. It does not matter what the US and Europe do in nuclear power. There are 440 nuclear plants globally, 104 in the US and about a hundred in Europe. The China/India and rest of Asia have the majority and are building more. Chain is planning 10 more in the next few years and a faster rate later.
What we feel, what we plan, what we like, does not matter at all to the rest of the world. They have their own agenda, they have completely different needs.
8. The capital cost per kWh produced of photovoltaic in an efficient industrial setting is twice the cost of a 1000 MW nuclear plant at ten billions dollar each.
9. We must have human-controlled electrical power to overcome, to supplement the power obtained from nature.
10. Several technologies must be used globally to generate the immense demand for energy, nuclear power will be part of the mix in the rest of the world. The US may as well participate and make this technology safer and available at lower cost. If we do not participate, the outcome may be worse since the rest of the world dos not have the luxury of being over concerned about safety and reliability as the US is. Be a leader or stay to the side.
All the presentations at the Efficiency - Art Rosenfeld conference were interesting and many illuminating, but the most significant discussion, I believe, was by Professor Richard Muller. He talked about the immense future increase of CO2 by the emerging economies. His assertion, supported by an eye popping graph, is that the amount of CO2 created by the industrialization of the rapid growing economies, especially China and India, will surpass all the rest of the world combined and that is the area we must concentrate on.
Dr. Muller teaches Physics at UC Berkeley. I have discussed GW issued with him several times and read his book: Physics for Future Presidents, too. He likes to debunk what he sees as mistakes in the general beliefs on GW. I talked with him during the reception and told him that his presentation was the most important item in the whole conference. He felt that the interest in his conclusions were not as high as they deserve. And I agreed.
The essence of his lecture here was presented previously in the Wall Street Journal just before the Copenhagen meeting last year. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703514404574588673072577680.html
The key graph is titles:
The West's Carbon Emissions Are Irrelevant.
It shows a rising curve of yearly global emissions of CO2 that grows from the current 32 B tonns to some 90 B by 2040; almost all of it from the emerging economies, while the West's contributions are dropping to be insignificant by then.
A few friends discussed the key assumptions that Dr. Muller presented below:
I first saw this graph in an article on GreenTech Media's (GTM) website about two weeks ago.
The article was summarizing information presented by Richard Muller in a Wall Street Journal op-ed and in a speech at a venture capital firm in S.F. The graph in the article at GTM included some basic assumptions behind the graph. These assumptions include that the Chinese economy grows at 10%/year and other emerging economies grow at 6%/year.
While China may continue a 10% annual growth for a few more years, it is very unlikely to continue this growth rate through 2040 as the graph apparently assumes. The larger their economy becomes, the more difficult it will be to continue their current growth rate.
While the general statement that the developing economies will soon be the main contributors to CO2 emissions seems well supported, the graph most likely overstates the extent of their contributions. Nevertheless the actions of the developing countries will almost certainly be much more important than the actions of the currently developed economies in determining the growth of CO2 emissions.
-- Yes, at the Rosenfeld Symposium in Davis on Tuesday, Muller did mention his WSJ op-ed piece. And, in addition to your point that economic growth at 10% sort of numbers will not continue for decades, there is the fact that what China has agreed to and is doing rather aggressively is reducing their "carbon intensity" number (tons of CO2 per $M of GDP).
But, we are all agreeing that China and other emerging economies will dominate the future emissions and the need-to-reduce issues. Best reply to the nay sayers here is (1) economic growth is going to be in the low-C energy business sector so this is good for the economy not bad for it, and (2) the science says conclusively that humans must address the problem: 9 billion people cannot live on the planet in anything like decent way unless this is solved and getting down to 350 ppm or below is the only way to preserve the planet as the 20th century had it.
The full set of assumptions behind Muller's graph as stated in the GTM and WSJ articles are as follows:
- USA: 80% cut by 2050
- Kyoto developed states: 60% cut by 2050
- China: 4% per year cut in carbon intensity (amounts to a 70% cut by 2040)
- Chinese economy grows at 10%
- Other emerging economies grow at 6%
- Emerging economies begin 80% cut (over 40 years) in 2040
Some selected quotes from these articles follow:
"'We need cheap green, not expensive green.' Any technology that will not work in China or India is 'feel-good technology.' HEVs (Hybrids Electric Vehicles) like the Prius fall into that category according to Muller. This fits in with investor Vinod Khosla's take on solving the 'Chindia problem'."
"... an expensive effort to reduce Western emissions sets a worthless example. Only emissions cuts that provide measurable economic benefit to the developing nations will be adopted by them. If the 80% U.S. emissions cut winds up hurting the U.S. economy, it guarantees China will never follow our example."
"Cheap green energy is not going to be easy. Coal is dirt cheap, and China has been installing a new gigawatt coal plant each week.... Technological change can help a great deal.... A dollar spent in China can reduce CO2 much more than a dollar spent in the U.S."
"Muller finished with these words: 'If you are seriously worried about global warming, the solution is in technology adopted by India and China. If you can't come up with cheap green, then the alternative is prayer.'"
By M. Ginosar:
1. Although the Muller WSJ curve may be steeper than justified, it is significant and important to grasp. By different set of growth assumptions the slope would be lower. But the total global emissions would continue to increase at a rapid rate while we must cut GHG to reduce the more severe damage from already-present GW. So the basic idea of Muller that we must focus on the emerging world is justified and most important!
2. It is also significant that the emerging world, especially China and India, will do, to a large extent, what they need to do for their own population. Their governments have little alternatives; they must not only allow but must encourage fast economic growth. Their population is demanding it by their movement to cities seeking better life for themselves.
Without fast economic growth these governments would fall and we do not know what would replace them, certainly not more favorable to reduction in economic activities.
3. The discussion here is about CO2, which is now just 65-70% of the total GHG. Total GHG cause global temperature rise, not just CO2. The rest of the GHG have shorter life and would decay with time, but they are up in the atmosphere now and not decreasing!
The total impact of GHG is considered by some more aware observers to be already so severe that we should not increase our yearly emissions but cut them starting two decades ago.
4. The comments above by Dr. Muller make a lot of sense to me and I have advocated cost-effective environmental solutions for many decades. The problem is that most people in this field are so dedicated and so aware of the implications of lack-of-action that they want any solution at almost any price.
Again: his key points:
a. To reduce the damage from GW we need the technologies to be adopted on a mass scale in these countries.
b. Unless these solutions are economical and cost-effective in these countries they would not be adopted! And they would not make any real impact on GW.
The bad example of PV: I have analyzed and commented about the most wasteful green energy program to date: photovoltaic, not only because it is wasteful, not only because it is based on misleading information, and not only because it makes the people in the PV industry rich while providing miniature contribution to the solution, but as an example of emotions overcoming economics and facts -which we can not afford.
To repeat briefly a common mistake by environmentalists and good law makers: over the last decade Germany spent $70 B to generate less than 0.5% of its electricity from PV; while at the same time 50% of its electricity is from coal and it is increasing substantially, masking any possible future contributions by PV. If that PV money went to conservation and efficiency they would have cut their CO2 emissions considerably more.
The next known example is the US law mandating substantial use of Corn-Ethanol in our transportation fuel. The result of enthusiastic environmentalists cooperating with profit maximizing corn industry.
What Dr. Muller stated is correct in principle and must be taken into account despite some arguments about the exact percentages and the shape of the curves.
This is the most important issue we need to focus on- the significant reduction of GHG emissions from the developing world.
To do that, we must cooperate with them to cut their GHG and assist them with technologies, scientific knowledge, and financial support too.
And these would cause conflicts with our desire to shore up our economies.
This is the most significant dilemma we need to find practical solutions for and soon.
The Rosenfeld Symposium
The next generation of Energy Efficiency
A few days ago [3/9/10] I attended an energy efficiency conference at UC Davis honoring the champion of California energy conservation and efficiency, Dr. Art Rosenfeld.
The conference was a tribute to his decades of dedicated work in this field, culminating with two terms as Commissioner on the California Energy Commission. He just retired from this post.
Most of the 400 attendees worked with the commissioner on some aspects of efficiency and conservation. I had the opportunity to discuss with him at length energy efficiency options and he was gracious to send me several of his PowerPoint presentations that he made in India and China last year.
With his permission I sent these presentations to staff of energy and environmental committees in Congress.
I would like to summarize some of the points some speakers made that seems worth attention:
Some of the methods Dr. Rosenfeld used to develop better efficiency measures were his penetrating questions: Why are we doing things the way we do? How can we do them better? What are the implications on a wider scale? And he was persistent. Dr. Rosenfeld is supposed to have said: "The price of efficiency is eternal nagging..."
Anne Smith, Sempra Utilities: Energy Efficiency from the California Perspective.
Natural gas use in homes in southern California is down 40% in 30 years. [I wonder how much of it is due to different distribution of individual homes vs. apartments. Partial statistics are not so useful to draw conclusions from.]
A mind shift for utilities: California pioneering decoupling of sales of energy from utility profit was instrumental in focusing more attention on energy reduction. CA is spending $3B in 2 years to increase efficiency.
The PUC published a hundred page plan to increase efficiency: California long term energy efficiency strategic plan. Sub titled: Achieving Maximum Energy Savings in California for 2009 and beyond.
One of the plan goals is to achieve zero energy in new residential units by 2020, commercial properties by 2030.
[I think it is a mistaken goal. Total reduction of carbon footprint should be the goal and cost-effectiveness must be considered too. We need to look at the total issue. When some one build the most energy efficient home in the suburbs but drive to her his job five times a week her total carbon foot print is much larger that a person living in the city and walk to work. Second, generating electricity on site, only silicon PV is available now, is very expensive [and would not do well commercially without substantial subsidies] and has hidden costs not taken into account- the energy payback is some 5 to 7 years, and many of the PV panels are made in Germany and China by coal power plants with even longer carbon payback. Hopefully completely new, low cost solar technology would be in production by then, but that is another issue. Doing the maximum energy conservation and ALSO MAXIMUM APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY, including all the home electronics, is a more practical, achievable goal.
The appealing title: "zero energy homes" is a political slogan and not one to cut our total GHG.]
When we are talking about new approaches, she said: "If the consumer does not accept it- it is not worth it." [But the consumer should accept it without substantial subsidies that distort the market too much.]
"It is tough to do better than we are already doing in CA since we are so good already."
[Although CA achieved lower per capita electricity consumptions than the nation, my own observation and studies indicate that we could have cut our energy use in buildings much further. It was evident three decades ago when I directed the Solar office at the California Energy Commission. Some 80% of the reduction was due to building conservation, 20% at most was due to potential passive solar measures.]
[We could have achieved much higher conservation/efficiency, but the building industry, that carries a lot of political weight especially in CA, did its best to cut down conservation measures to reduce the cost of the construction. A small increase in construction cost, much lower than adding PV, would have reduced the total energy use further. The industry does not care that homeowners will pay larger energy bills over many years; it does not affect the sale since most people are not aware of the total cost of housing.
The same for commercial properties; the builder aim is to reduce cost per square foot; the tenets are paying the energy costs. It is the responsibility of decision makers to weigh society needs re. GW on a much higher scale than builder's small increase in profit.]
Ashok Gadgil, LBNL, Energy Efficiency from the Developing World Perspective:
We need to use Human Development Index HDI, when we deal with energy.
HDI should include:
1. Economic wellbeing
2. Life expectancy- health, health care, etc.
3. Literacy and education.
All of the above relate to electricity consumption. The US and Australia are the biggest per capita users, 9200 kWh/yr. Japan and England 7500 kWh. The US emitting 20 Tons of CO2 per person per year. India just 1.5 ton. Ad it is clear that the HDI is very low in India and other low electricity users.
Two billion people cook with solid fuels [wood and charcoal] which are low efficiency and highly polluting, both locally-the users themselves- and adding CO2 globally. Sub Sahara is especially noted to do so. Replacing these cookers with high efficiency, low cost kerosene stoves, sometimes may be solar cookers, would be a large improvement in all categories, and reduce their cost over time.
[It is clear that the underdeveloped countries will increase their energy consumption to elevate their standard of living, or their HDI, for their rapidly increasing populations.]
The above legitimate increase in energy demand by the underdeveloped world would be the main source of future increase of global GHG.
This rapid increase would overshadow all emissions by all developed countries, including the US. [mg]
Notes in [ ] are mine.
Part two of notes will follow.
A small step was finally taken by Congress to reduce the abuse of some earmarks. Democratic House leaders now realized the public's dislike of unethical financial relationship between donors and private congressional allocations, and took this small step.
Note, only $1.7 B would have been cut of last year budget. The total budget is over $3.5 trillion, about two thousand times bigger [but much of it is non discretionary]. We know that the rest of the budget process is not fully "clean" of abuse. Even when many in congress vote on regular issues their main consideration is reelection, not our national needs.
This "cleaning" is only the tip of the iceberg of unethical actions by Congress. To gain some public confidence, they will have to do much more. Read the article below to get the details. It is worth it.
Leaders in House Block Earmarks to Corporations
WASHINGTON - House Democratic leaders on Wednesday banned budget earmarks to private industry, ending a practice that has steered billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to companies and set off corruption scandals.
The ban is the most forceful step yet in a three-year effort in Congress to curb abuses in the use of earmarks, which allow individual lawmakers to award financing for pet projects to groups and businesses, many of them campaign donors.
But House Republicans, in a quick round of political one-upmanship, tried to outmaneuver Democrats by calling for a ban on earmarks across the board, not just to for-profit companies. Republicans, who expect an intra-party vote on the issue Thursday, called earmarks "a symbol of a broken Washington."
Both parties are seeking to claim the ethical high ground on the issue by racing to rein in a budgeting practice that has become rife with political influence peddling. So far, though, the Senate is not joining in. House Democrats had tried to reach an agreement with their counterparts to ban for-profit earmarks, but the senators balked, Congressional officials said.
Had the ban on for-profit earmarks been in place last year, it would have meant the elimination of about 1,000 awards worth a total of about $1.7 billion, leaders of the House Appropriations Committee said in announcing that, as a matter of policy, they will no longer approve requests for awards to for-profit groups. Many of those earmarks went to military contractors for projects in lawmakers' home districts.
Under the new restrictions, not-for-profit institutions like schools and colleges, state and local governments, research groups, social service centers and others are still free to receive earmarks. The new restrictions, for example, would still allow the type of award to local governmental agencies that became infamous in 2005 with Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere."
The full story at:
To understand why it is so difficult to pass any meaningful energy and global warming laws in congress please read the article below about Washington's politics. It is so sad for the nation to be frozen in Congressional immaturity. It hurt us all, but benefit the few.
Although we know it, and I commented about it before, this article is very revealing how the power of special interest blocks what we need as a nation. Note also the mental games and juvenile behavior of many Congresspersons. It also shows what a powerful and skillful president can do to overcome Congressional inaction. President Obama is either unwilling to risk it, or unable to muster the courage to fight harder. His approach of leaving it to Congressional action does not work.
"For today's legislators, short-term pain for future gain is a nonstarter."
From the Editor: We Need Some Carpenters
By: Jim Toedtman | Source: From the AARP Bulletin print edition | March 1, 2010
Angrily, President Lyndon Johnson went west late in 1964. For the third straight year, Congress had failed to enact a comprehensive health care plan for older people, and he pointedly blamed Republicans and conservative Democrats.
At a California rally, he shared an important Texas truth: "Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one." Nine months later, Congress enacted Medicare.
Four decades later, it's time for another generation of carpenters. Now it's less about revamping the nation's health care system and more about reconstructing our polarized and paralyzed political system. In fact, the federal government seems incapable of making any tough decisions. Grand compromise is a forgotten art. Short-term pain for future gain is a nonstarter. Instead, Capitol Hill politics has become a prelude to combat, when it's supposed to be about problem-solving.
Consider the forces at play:
Election year politics. All 435 House seats and 33 in the Senate are up for grabs. Recent Republican victories have energized Republicans and frightened Democrats. Now both are preoccupied with scoring talking points.
Capitol Hill politics. Members have long memories. Democrats and Republicans both carry grudges from when the other party had the majority. After closed meetings, ignored requests, insulting attacks and presumed slights, it's payback time. All this while American soldiers are losing their lives, 14 million people need jobs, and 30 million lack adequate health insurance.
Special-interest money. The Center for Responsive Politics tracks campaign contributions and lobbying spending on TV ads, town hall rallies, mailings and back-room arm-twisting. With health care reform on the agenda in 2009, no organization spent more on lobbying than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($144.5 million), which successfully opposed mandating employer-provided health insurance and closing a business tax break for health expenses. AARP, which does not contribute to political campaigns, spent $21 million on federal lobbying. The insurance industry, which spent $166.4 million in campaign contributions and lobbying last year, successfully opposed a single-payer system and minimized cuts in Medicare Advantage plans. Trial lawyers, whose contributions and lobbying totaled $63 million, blocked limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.
When Democrats proposed expanding Medicare to people between 55 and 65, hospitals and doctors, whose 2009 campaign and lobbying expenses totaled $200 million, targeted key senators and blocked it. With the nation's obesity problem in mind, another plan would have added a 3-cents-a-bottle excise tax on soft drinks and sugar products. But the food and beverage industry spent $30 million, a 50 percent jump from its 2008 spending, and killed it.
Health care legislation is never easy. But the current battle exposed a larger problem. Today, it's the house of politics and government that needs reconstruction. Bring on the carpenters.
There's plenty to do.
Jim Toedtman is editor of AARP Bulletin.
One of the most powerful, persistent, and overwhelming hindrance to our national ability to reduce GW is our arrogance. We believe we are due special consideration in the world.
This may be even the most significant element in our inadequate response to GW.
We think that whatever we have we have created, and we believe nature is here to serve us.
But that is not how the world operates. Nature does not care what we say or believe. Nature continues to respond to the unbalance we have created in its delicate natural cycles.
Our arrogance may stem from the immense, seemingly unlimited gifts nature gave us when we took over the US. Huge forests were covering much of the land, mighty rivers supplied us easy, low cost transportation, and all the minerals, oil and natural beauty were not yet used or destroyed.
We got the impression that we made all this wealth, and that we can use it as we wish. We ignored nature; it was here for us to use and abuse. It was seemingly unlimited.
Some thirty five years ago Professor Ian L. McHarg told us at UCLA environmental program that you must design WITH nature, not against it. This visionary architect and planner published his first book: Design by Nature, in 1969. In this book he projected his massage clearly against the traditional way that urban development must be imposed upon the landscape.
His craggy face was full of emotions when he discussed how irrational is the way we build our communities and also houses on angry coastlines. How much destruction will rivers continue to cause us as their floods overtake houses so near the flood plains?
Few listened to him. We ignored nature. And our governments, at all levels, continued to allow massive developments in unstable natural areas. The accompanying destructions have been so common, we are not even aware that we could have prevented many of them.There are some improvements, but limited. We continue to strip mountain tops to get our dirty coal with triple devastation: of the landscapes, of the air (local pollution), and massive GHG emissions.
We still believed that we are entitled to take from nature whatever we can. I read recently about a home owner in a flood plain that twice lost his home to floods, twice the federal government paid to rebuild it, and now he wants to do it the third time. And he believes he is entitled to be compensated for his stupidity, actually arrogance. He said he loves the beauty of being so close to the river.
And this American arrogance also shows its head when we are unwilling to reduce our massive emissions of GHG. We that emitted over 30% of all ACCUMULATED GHG TO DATE still believe we should not make any meaningful sacrifices to reduce GW.
But nature will continue on its way; global warming will continue to accelerate, global temperatures will continue to rise while we are arguing about it in Congress and the media.
Over the last several years it became clear to some astute scientists that our slow and ineffective way we have been trying to curtail global warming is not going to slow significantly, if at all, the earth's temperature rise. The magnitude of GHG release is so large that we are likely to be too late to stop the severe damage to our limited Earth.
New information from the National Science Foundation [NSF] indicates that mass release of previously stored methane that we hoped will remain frozen has already started. And if we do not curtails drastically and very soon our global GHG this release of Methane would grow so fast and so large that the earth temperature would climb beyond nature's ability to sustain life as we know it. I suggest you read the NSF short report in the link below.
National Science Foundation:
"The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world's oceans," said Shakhova, a researcher at UAF's International Arctic Research Center. "Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap."
A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov.
The research results, published in the March 5 edition of the journal Science, show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is starting to leak large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.
[All from NSF but emphasis by MG]
Read my recommendations:
We must turn upside down our approach to fighting Global Warming because time is of the essence:
Instead of regulating Greenhouse Gases to a level that may have no negative economic impact, we must reduce GHG to the maximum that could be technically and economically implementable.
The financial world has immense and almost final say on any significant effort to curtail Global Warming.
Without the willingness of financial markets to provide funds at reasonable costs, little can be accomplished.
So lets look at some dark corners of the financial market - derivatives and the power to control our government and Congress. Why, because derivatives, to a significant extent, added to and complicated the global financial decline we are going through now.
During our current financial trouble it is very hard to raise significant funds to build the exceedingly capital-intensive alternative-energy fields. We are talking about tens of trillions. Several trillions a year, as a minimum, to make the major changes needed. And very large financial institutions are needed to raise this level of capital.
My purpose, partially, is to show you why both the US administration and Congress are very reluctant to do any thing meaningful to control, to set some meaningful limits, on LARGE financial institutions. Or, saying it another way, our financial world determines to what extent our political system will operate to mainly benefit themselves vs. benefiting them and our society.
We are at their mercy. And their arrogance is huge, as was shown clearly on several special PBS FRONTLINE programs.
And I guarantee to you that their self- interest is by far larger than any national interest.
The financial sector was about 6% of the US GDP a quarter of a century ago. But as president Reagan and the Republican party destroyed much of the governmental supervision and control of the financial markets, three major things occurred.
First, a major tax cut for the 5% upper income earners shifted some $750 billions for the US Treasury to the wealthy, increasing our national deficit.
Second, we got the collapse of the Saving & Loan that costs the Treasury some $350 to $500 billions. Remember that all of these sums are in the old, much more valuable dollar, more than twice current value!
Third: the financial sector was freed to invent all kind of new tools to increase its business and profits and grew to 20% of U.S. GDP!
That means that one fifth of our economy is involved in shifting money around, from one institution to another. Some shifting around, loans, are obviously necessary for the functioning of the economy. But this huge sector, to a large extent, does not create real wealth, it does not build houses, does not build ships, it collects money, fees, interests, chargers, some of it illegally off- shore, to make that sector operators' very rich. Operating off-shore as Goldman- Sacks, an American corporation, did with its financial packages, is to bypass legal "constrains" in the US.
While this shifting of "non-existing" funds is going on, the financial institution takes its cut, both for arranging the deal, and also interest on the outstanding loans. Try to understand, non-existing funds means that when normal banks operate within the law, for example making small business loans, they have the legal right to loan out up to 15 times their capital. In the last decade, the loans extended by many of the massive financial institutions like City Bank, Goldman Sacks, Bank America, where 50 times or more of their capital. Which is highly leveraged, and thus risky. A small misfortune would drain their total assets trying to cover losses.
To increase their income they resorted also to derivatives, a highly complicated tool that is a very unique and specialized financial agreement, that people even in the financial sector, do not grasp much.
A derivative can be thought as: "derived from". Basically, it relates to some financial transaction.
"We didn't truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market," says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency - the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) - who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country's key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. "They were totally opposed to it," Born says. "That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?" PBS.
Why? The "regulators" were part of the brotherhood of the financial industry. Many in Congress were their beneficiaries.
It is so complicated that a 7/6/09 Fortune article said:
"SOME DERIVATIVES ARE SO DIFFICULT TO VALUE THAT IT'S POSSIBLE THAT BOTH PARTIES TO BOOK A PROFIT ON THE SAME CONTRACT."
And in the summary:
"THE FINANCIAL WORLD LOST AN ANCHOR WHEN DERIVATIVES INSTALLED THE IDEA THAT RISK COULD BE SHED AS EASILY AS IT WAS ASSUMED."
Now they could risk any amounts with limited if any risk - these "wise people" of the financial world believed.
According to a chart in that Fortune issue the total derivative outstanding in 2008 was some
600 Trillion dollars!
Again, six hundred trillions. The total global GDP then was about $45 trillions. That means that outstanding derivatives have been thirteen times the total global production of all goods and services.
Can you grasp this? I can not.
Remember, each derivative is suppose to provide profit to one of the parties. With so much theoretical (paper) funds in existence, even a very low fee can make hundreds of billons in profits. A fee of only 0.1% would provide a profit of $600 billions!
That is what you call real money.
Basically these are agreements between two or more financial institution that say, I am paying you this amount, that under certain future condition you will pay me so much money. If the condition did not occur, you have my fees as profit. If the condition does occur, you pay me the total sum we agreed on.
That is similar to insurance. Any one can insure any future event, from life insurance to safe-shipping insurance. You do not have to have any connection to the basic event. That means, you can take life insurance on a man on his deathbed without knowing him or have any relation to him. That is all legal. The only requirement, both side have to agree. Its their money.
But in our national disaster they did not risk their money. And they knew it - we had to jump in to rescue them. THEY WERE TOO BIG TO FAIL. That is the key problem. They gained privately, we pay for their risk if it is big enough.
Now grasp this one of many shenanigans by Goldman Sacks. In 2007 they realized that the bundling of many risky home loans were staring to sour, and are likely to be worthless. So they told some of their customers that these deals are likely to be highly profitable and sold it to them at a good profit. To increase their ill-gained profit, lying all the way to the bank, they went to AIG, the now famous American International Group, and "insured" that financial deal that they just sold. Goldman-Sacks (GS) was no longer having any risk with it, but they took insurance on it since they knew it will be worthless soon. Now, the bundle collapsed in value and GS demanded fro AIG the value they agreed to pay. AIG "knew" that all of these loans were good because they got very high rating from the rating agencies such as Standard & Poor. S&P lied, did not tell the true value of the financial bundle because they had large business dealings with GS, beyond their so called "independent" market analysis.
Here is what I copied just now from S&P Home page:
"Today Standard & Poor's strives to provide investors who want to make better informed investment decisions with market intelligence in the form of credit ratings, indices, investment research and risk evaluations and solutions."
S&P is still claiming that after they were found to lie and over-rate much of the risky financial packages called subprime mortgage loans. They were one of the key reasons for the global financial melt down. The losses from that global meltdown is not clearly known but in the order of possibly hundreds of trillions dollars. That means that the global community must tightens its collective belts very tight to accommodate the money we never had. The money we thought we had and we spent as if we have it.
And here is another outrageous act by our government. The US is covering the above unjustified agreement between GS and AIG and paying GS the full amount owned by AIG if it was solvent. However, I believe the Fed should have repaid just the fee GS paid to AIG, not the total they agreed on. The Fed put out nearly $200 billions to rescue AIG!
I wonder why?
Now, think about it. Until recently, across the globe we lived as if we had so much net worth we could do everything we wanted (obviously not the underprivileged). We bought mega homes we could not afford, furnished them lavishly and went to vacations paying a few hundred dollars a night. But these high spending was not in real money, it was all pretend money. It was not based on real value, on lasting market value. It was a flash in the pan. Money loaned by the banks. The results, as we know it, are the wide spread agony of unemployment, low income, higher tuition fees, lower services for the needy, lower ability to spend, and uneasy futures.
The irony is that many people complain as if they had these homes they are now lost by bank repossessions. They lost the furniture and the easy life style. But it was not there, and it was not theirs, it was a false promise.
The people in fast moving housing industry, from labor, suppliers, to contractors are now unhappy. They should be, it was not their fault. Again it was based on a mirage.
To add to the problem, we can not contain and regulate the financial industry. They are bigger, smarter, more financially endowed than any Administration, Congress or government agency could be.
When a financial writer discussed the potential of financial regulations with a financial professional, he told him "we are not worried about government regulation. You see, he emphasized, we have the best brains here, we can out smart any regulation." And he is right, the best brains in the last decade went to the financial sector to develop more exotic instruments and find more effective ways to overcome government regulations. Some 50% of Harvard graduates IN ALL FIELDS - went to work in the financial sector before the recent collapse.
By the way, the outlandish high bonuses paid most in the failed financial institutions are back to their old levels. These high bonuses had major impact on the "profit at any cost" approach the industry, from bottom to the top took. How else can you explain that no one from that sector waved the flag and warned the government about the nearly illegal activities taken place. Money can overcome morality.
Now, may be you can realize why it is nearly impossible to regulate the financial sector, and why Congress does what is being told by financial lobbyists.
And that is one of the key reasons why this country has little if any ability to have a society that many of us want. A society based on the some reasonable elements of the common good, such as health care to all, care for the underprivileged, and better distribution of the national wealth.
With this kind of immense financial power - the overwhelming force in our economy- we should not expect that most of the US industry, commerce, and financial institutions would willingly participate in reducing global warming. They see it from a very different perspective- what is in it for them. And both political parties are playing this game.
When we were starving as cave people and often had nothing to eat, we developed a strong urge for more food, and more possessions.
That essential need was justified in the past, it was a basic survival need. It is still driving most of us.
But it is no longer justifiable.
In most of the developed world we have a considerable amount more than we need for survival and also much more than we need for leisure. But, especially in the US, we can not let go of this urge of the past for more and more things. From food to luxury cars.
We can't overcome this way of feeling. Just look at our history for at least the last sixty years. It is now so much a basic part of our lives. We buy unneeded stuff even when we can not afford to.
To reduce global warming our wasteful consumption need to be reduced because every thing we do requires energy, more electricity, more fuel, and thus create more greenhouse gases.
This strong desire for more and more; bigger TV, larger cars, larger houses, is not ready, or capable to an intellectual change. You can not just decide to drop this long-held feeling. It works for a few, but not for the majority of the population.
These ingrained feelings have to change, to adjust to lower appetite for more. And it is very hard to change long-held cultural attitudes and it takes a long time. Unfortunately, global warming is accelerating so fast that our ability to reduce consumption is inadequately slow.
Since we are not able to change our ingrained desire for a more luxurious way of life, we must have governmental actions to curtail consumption. Higher taxes would do some of it. We have to pay back our immense national debt of about $30,000 per each man, woman and child!
May be the permanent decline in the economy that is going on will do some of it through lower wages. And may be more expensive products due to higher energy costs, would cut our abilities to have too much. But these may not be enough. We still believe that we in the USA can do anything we want.
It is a serious national dilemma. People wants all they can get, deep self-centerness. Congress wish for reelection will follow their wish and not what the country needs. How do you change this circle of inaction?
I have no answers.
I just wonder if it is at all possible to find the viable path to reduce global warming for a society that is governed by decision makers that are so removed from reality, and that have ingrained inability to grasp the total story, and value their reelection more than the need of the society?
After his excellent and realistic article in NYT (see my web Sunday) V.P. Al Gore is moving wisely into political activism.
Al Gore organization: Repower America Campaign, is calling for mass phone calls to our senators to approve powerful Senate legislation against global warming. This is an important realization that political activism is critical.
Please do your part and call today and the next two days to your own two senators. Info below.
Phones numbers can be available below.
Call again and again even if their line is busy, so they will know that many are calling. Keep their lines busy as much as you can.
Ask friends to do the same.
Here is Repower America email to me:
This morning we're kicking off an all-out, bare-knuckled, three-day calling campaign to demand the strongest possible climate and clean energy legislation -- with an goal of 20,000 calls from Repower America supporters alone.
Thousands of you took the first step and pledged to call your Senator today. Now, help kick our campaign into high gear by making your pledged call today -- and report it by clicking here so we can track progress toward our goal.
Senator Boxer: 202-224-3553
Senator Feinstein: 202-224-3841
Once you're connected, remember to tell the staff member you're speaking to that:
- You're a constituent
- You want your Senators to pass strong clean energy and climate legislation this year
- You want a strong bill that invests in clean energy, creates millions of jobs and sets a limit on harmful carbon pollution from all sectors of our economy
Then report your call here -- and spread the word about our massive 72-hour calling push by forwarding this email to your friends and family.
Let's blow them away.
The Climate Protection Action Fund's Repower America campaign
P.S. Looking for the phone number for a Senator from another state? Call the Repower America hotline at 1-877-9-REPOWER (1-877-973-7693) and enter your zip code, and you'll get connected right away.
This is a very good article by V.P. Al Gore about the current situation of the GW "debate."
I suggest you read it completely.
I was just reading a lot of favorable readers' comments on Dr. Joe Romm's Climate Progress website. They were commenting on House member Tom Perriello (D-VA) brave and strong speech about the inaction in the Senate on climate legislation.
Here is part Tom Perriello statement I copied from that site:
"I'm sick of starting with what can we get through the Senate; let's start with what solves the damn problem. Until the Senate gets its head out of its rear end and starts to see the crisis we're in, our country is literally at risk. Our economy is at risk, because these jobs are being created overseas. It should have the same urgency with this problem that it had bailing out Wall Street. We are swearing an oath to do what's necessary to protect this country, not do what's necessary to get a bill through the Senate."
Perriello repeatedly expressed his belief that Congressional inaction on jobs, national security, and scientific "challenge of our era" is due to a lack of courage and responsibility:
"- This is the challenge of our time-the jobs opportunity, the national security challenge, the scientific challenge of our era. Any plan that uses market forces to signal a carbon-constrained environment is going to move us in the right direction. People who don't support this kind of aggressive energy independence are just selling Americans short."
Here is my response to the readers' comments:
The comments of support and admiration of Rep. Tom Perriello are nice and supportive, but with all due respect, achieve nothing. What we need to do is act, that is: send financial contribution to his office to help him fight for his seat and also increase his ability to spread his message.
You see, industry spent last year over 3 million dollars per member of Congress lobbying for their views. Also, every House member has to raise substantial sums for reelection every two years, which takes considerable amount of his time. Typically he has to raise $20,000 to $40,000 PER WEEK, during his 2 years term.
All good congress members who fight global warming need financial support, so help them with money, not words.
I have wrote the above since we need to concentrate not on words but actions that may make a difference. In case of Congress members who represent our views we need to support them with money and letters. That means letters to the editors in your area, and letter directly to the Congress member.
Do not waste your time sending negative letters to those who oppose us, they would not listen, especially if they are Republicans. With negligible exceptions they are unmovable. After you send support to those who are fighting GW, then spend your energy on swing Democrats that may listen. Focus your limited time and energy where is may do the most good!
This second section is barely edited and also deserves expansion. If possible I may do it over time. But I believe it so important it should go out on the web now. M.g.
I. What is a Safe CO2 level?:
We do not know what is a safe level.
The IPCC used five different modeling tools, each gave significantly different results, which means that four of the five gave wrong answers. Nevertheless they averaged the five results and this is NOT SOUND SCIENCE.
We can not go back to the 350 ppm level of CO2, we will have to stop emitting it right now.
450? It would be very difficult at present inaction.
550 could be dangerous..
Basically we are dealing here with risk analysis since we have partial answers.
And mot important, we can not test our hypothesis since this is a one time global experiment. No way back.
Our inability to predict, is the roll of the dice.
In a warmer world all assumptions are wrong!
We witness that the ice is melting much faster than the models predicted..
The permafrost is melting in areas it did not melt for 40,000 years!
[m.g. - CO2 is now 389 pps. When we add the rest of the GHG we are now at a much higher level in actual heating impact on the earth, possibly 430 pps-equivalent. However, those gases may disappear at a much faster rates. Methane disappear in several decades.]
We are not serious about reducing GHG and fighting GW.
We have facts and laws of physics and we ignore them.
II. Ability of green sources to satisfy future global energy needs:
Very little. About 0.3 Terawatt. If we are lucky one terawatt, but it is not worth it.
We will need one half of all global unusable lands The key problem with biomass is that to get high yield you need to prepare the soli by disturbing it. The soil contains very high level of sequestered CO2. Disturbing the soil will emit so much CO2 that it will add CO2 to the air equivalent to 40 to 400 years of the amount of potential biomass output.
Even at 100% conversion efficiency we may get 7 Terawatt, but it is a dream.
The best thing is to leave the earth untouched.
[m.g. In addition- 13% of the global lands are barren or deserts. Much of these raw lands reflects effectively sun energy back to space. Planting trees on any of this would absorb considerable heat energy and increase GW].
We are using about one third of the practical maximum and the total can not go beyond 1.5 Terawatt.
All wind on earth not enough. Probably 2 to 3 Terawatt all over the globe together.
A good source but not enough to make immense contribution. In California for example, most of the high quality = high winds sources are already used or close to it. Wind resources in Kansas, for example are at night and not suitable for export when demand is low.
I am not for or against nuclear power, but it is the only proven energy solution that can be scaled up to the level needed. But since we need globally 10 Trillions watts and each power station is one billion watt, we need 10,000 nuclear power stations. That means one new nuclear power station on line every day for the next forty years! An impossible task.
It took decades to have the current 440 nuclear plants around the world.
There is only one place in the world, Japan, that produce the safety enclosures, and they make 5 units per year.
Even if we could build one nuclear station per week, it is insufficient since it is too little.
There is not enough raw uranium available for all these stations either. A considerably more fuel efficient nuclear systems must be developed.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) - CO2 sequestration:
Can not be done in the ocean, it will acidify it too much to sustain life.
The only proven techniques used to increase oil output is high pressure CO2 Into empty oil and gas fields. Only 30 years capacity is available.
The question of safety paramount since even if just one percent leaks in many years it would elevate the CO2 to unacceptable levels we try to avoid by sequestration.
In addition, we do not know if it will work.
Note: 40% of global oil supplies go to global transportation such as ship and airplanes. This can not be easily requested because of its mobility.
[Effective CCS is practical only with stable sources.]
We need to experiment with CCS, it but it is not promising.
Not enough energy close enough to the surface, will need to dig several miles at great costs.
Ocean energy: insignificant amount can be extracted.
In the US, by Congressional act we use 30% of our corn to supply 2% of the transportation fuel. Crazy . Need smarter laws.
[m.g. One of the worse act of congress in the energy area to date. It demonstrates the lack of ability of Congressional staff to evaluate technical proposals, and/or the ability of lobbying to overcome any factual data and sense. Corn - ethanol should be stopped now see my previous blog: Wrong way of fighting global warming.]
We are facing the contrast between the laws of politics and the laws of physics.
Sun supplies 600 TW which is enough for all future needs.
One hour from the sun is enough for total one year use.
At ten percent efficiency at mid US states we can satisfy all US needs.
Bad aspect: Not a small project, in fact huge.
You will need a million solar roof EVERY DAY. We will be a billion roofs behind in five years.
PV IS NOT USEFUL NOW. The current way is useless and very expensive.
Need new technology that will be cheap land easily applied like paint.
Solar Thermal power is practical and economical. The main problem for large central thermal solar power is - no sun some of the time. We may have 8 to 10 hours storage but not 36 hours that some times will occur. Electricity must be available realizably 99.98% of the time, and some rainy days always will happened with need for longer storage.
Water needs for central power generation, either nuclear or Solar Thermal is not critical. We can build close water cycle cooling. The reason it is used sparingly now is that it is cheaper with open water cooling. Increase of cost by close cycle is manageable.
The best storage now is elevated hydro storage. Much of the available storage are used. High amount of storage require:
Very large storages are needed. The energy in one gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 55,000 gallons of water up the dam.
1. We need a lot of energy, more than we grasp.
2. We depends too much on fossil fuels - this must be changed
3. We have 3.1% growth in energy use. And population growth.
4. All natural gas utilities must stop selling natural gas before 2050.
5. No saving in energy -conservation- can change the situation, when we look at it from a global scale.
WE HAVE THREE BIG CARDS:
A. POTENTIAL SEQUESTRATION.
B. NUCLEAR, BUT A VERY BIG GOAL
C. AND/OR SUN; MUST BE CHEAP AND MUST HAVE LONG TIME STORAGE.
Additional key points:
I. WE DO NOT HAVE YET ALL THE TECHNOLOGIES WE NEED. WE NEED A LOT O DEVELOPMENTS- ESPECIALLY STORAGE FOR SOLAR and WIND.
II. We must grasp: TWO DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSING SITUATIONS
1. IT WILL COST A LOT OF MONEY TO ELIMINATE FOSSIL FUELS
2. WE CAN NOT AFFORD TO FAIL - WE MUST DO IT, ELIMINATE CO2 EMISSIONS.
It is not about cost/benefit analysis since
We do not know the cost
We do not know the benefits
THE EARTH IS DOING ITS THING DAILY-
[m.g. sun heats the surface, we emit GHG and the earth is heating up mostly by us- and we are doing nothing even to slow it down.]
THE DECISION IS RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW
His slides, not too directly to these points, are available at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/seminars/lewis/lewis.pdf
Lecture by the famed Nathan S. Lewis of Caltech,
California Air resources Board- ARB 2/23/10
I just finished listening to today's (Tues.) video presentation by this well known Caltech professor on global energy needs in light of the limitation of global warming.
Because of the length I will present my notes in two parts, this is the first:
He expanded on his famous 2007 article in Caltech Engineering and Science (volume LXX no.2). He emphasized the following very critical points:
The most important thing he warned us is:
YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE NUMBERS.
We are discussing here scientific and engineering facts. Realistic way of looking at the global energy needs.
1. We will not run out of fossil fuels in the next hundred to 150 years.
2. The key problem is we must stop emitting any GHG before 2050 to limit serious damage to the global climate.
3. We do not know at what CO2 level the climate damage would be within acceptable limits, without catastrophic tipping points. The only thing we know that it was acceptable before the industrial revolution at 280 ppm. Even at the "ideal" limit at 350, we do not know the long term impacts.
4. We do know what GHG emissions would be too high and the GW impacts too severe, and likely to cause a "tipping point" change. Perhaps the worst case of such an event would be the release of huge amounts of methane now sequestered in permafrost in the arctic. The carbon release could be very large and the greenhouse warming effect could be immense, as a one ton of methane has as much warming effect as 20 tons of carbon dioxide
5. CO2 is nearly a non degradable gas. Three quarter of it may disappear in 500 years from the atmosphere by chemical reactions of by dissolve into the oceans (and the dissolving could cause such a change in pH (acidity) in the oceans that bad effects occur in the oceans, one being the disappearance of coral reefs, which are rich sources of food and growth for sealife that people depend on. The rest will stay much longer. To have some modicum of safety we need to stop all GHG emissions by 2050.
6. It may take some 3,000 years to restore the global climate to pre industrial levels without any additional CO2 after 2050.
7. The amount of global energy use is so high, that we can not fathom it. It developed over a century and a half, spread around the globe, to build to current levels. We are facing dire situation, no time to reduce GHG in conventional economical ways, and too much GHG to replace with green energies.
At the approaches proposed to date, it is nearly impossible to replace global fossil and wood burning energies with non emitting sources to restrict the growth of GW in time to prevent catastrophic events.
8. The energy stored in fossil fuels is so dense, it takes immense amount of non-emitting power plants, such as one nuclear power plant a day for the next forty years to produce the equivalent global energy demands.
9. We do not have yet all the energy technology we need. We need at least to develop new, economical energy storage system.
10. Energy demand will increase since already we have 2 billion people without electricity. They want some electricity to live a better life. [Three additional billions will be added by 2050.]
11. Our rate of energy use is 13 trillion watts. Unfathomable amount. About a quarter of it in the US. China will surpass us in the not too distant future. India will add to the immense increases.
12. The US is wasting the largest amount of energy therefore it would be the easiest for us to decrease our energy intensity. Other countries can not cut their waste since the total use is negligible per person.
13. The US uses three times the per capita energy compare to Switzerland or Japan.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them
When I directed the Solar energy office at the California Energy Commission my staff thought that I should approve every one of their proposed projects. When I explained that the state does not have money to waste, they did not want to hear it. It was difficult to those enthusiastic environmentalists to accept the idea that we needed to focus on our main goal: cut global warming, and that each project was just a potential tool among many. I explained to them that each project should be evaluated for its potential cost and benefits, that we needed to do life cycle costs analysis, etc. before we would proceed. We made our significant contributions in wind energy, when we analyzed the path and potential outcomes well - but that is another subject.
That enthusiasm with minimal thinking is prevailing also now among green supporters, environmental organizations, and our Congress and governments. It is often hard for them to realize that we do not have money and time to waste fighting GW.
Here are just three recent examples of clear thinking that expose highly expensive but illogical national green programs. However, despite the negative facts Congress is continuing with its make- believe solutions. It's support of Corn-ethanol has a highly negative impact now.
It is extremely hard even for good decision makers to control with their emotions. Clear thinking is a rare commodity in our society.
1. The Green Case for Cities
Forget the solar panels and the rain barrels-if you want to save energy, leave the suburbs.
by Professor Witold Rybczynski (The Atlantic October 2009)
....The problem in the sustainability campaign is that a basic truth has been lost, or at least concealed. Rather than trying to change behavior to actually reduce carbon emissions, politicians and entrepreneurs have sold greening to the public as a kind of accessorizing. Keep doing what you're doing, goes the message. Just add a solar panel, a wind turbine, a hybrid engine, whatever. But a solar-heated house in the burbs is still a house in the burbs, and if you have to drive to it, even in a Prius, it's hardly green....
Putting solar panels on the roofs doesn't change the essential fact that by any sensible measure, spread-out, low-rise buildings, with more foundations, walls, and roofs, have a larger carbon footprint than a high-rise office tower-even when the high-rise has no green features at all."
2. A Clunker of a Climate Policy
"The recent car-upgrade program is an example of how not to address CO2 reduction prudently
The Cash for Clunkers program offers a cautionarytale for the future of climate change control. The federal program paid individuals up to $4,500 to replace their "clunker" automobiles with new, higher-mileage vehicles. Part of the purpose was to give a lift to the ailing auto industry. Another part, at least it was claimed, was to mitigate climate change by getting old high-carbon-emissions vehicles off the road. But billions of dollars were spent quickly without clear answers on what we were getting for our "money....
"....Clearly, not every method of reducing emissions makes equal sense. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company has recently published estimates of the abatement costs of various technologies (www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/greenhousegas.asp). Highly efficient lighting, appliances and vehicles, along with better insulation and other technologies, can save more in energy costs during their lifetime than the upfront capital for installing them: they are better than free to society...."
3. Biofuels-Reverse Alt- Energy Insanity,
By Paul Rauber, Sierra mag. Nov./Dec. 2009
"Biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are popular with a lot of people for a lot of reasons. They replace the fossil fuels burned in cars and trucks that account for nearly a quarter of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. They reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And--not least--they promise vast new markets for U.S. agribusiness. ...."
"....All of the above make them very attractive to Congress, which has enthusiastically embraced renewable fuels. In 2007, Congress mandated that domestic biofuel production rise each year, reaching 7.5 billion gallons in 2012. For most cars, this means ethanol, largely derived from corn....."
"Sounds great, right? Only one problem: Biofuels from corn, palms, and other vegetation can make global warming worse. Princeton University researcher Tim Searchinger has shown that producing corn ethanol has twice the warming impact of gasoline. Even trendy substitutes like switchgrass can double emissions."
(Emphasis are mine, m.g.)
Dr. Holdren, I believe, is one of the most aware scientists about the real danger of global warming. Again and again I have seen him pointing to the time-criticality of global warming. I also believe that even the green media and blogs ignore his warnings for too long.
Every thing I have read from him is of critical importance; he is succinct and also profound. Despite being an adviser to the President, global warming does not get sufficient attention in the White House. There, as elsewhere in the country, we go on with our business as usual, as if we have all the time in the world to start cutting down our vast greenhouse gas emissions.
From Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, testimony before the House Select Committee hearing of the State of Climate Science,
Wed. December 2, 2009, Chaired by Congressman Edward Markey.
"...the current state of knowledge of global warming is sufficiently clear to state that failure to act promptly to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases is overwhelmly likely to lead to changes in climate too extreme and too damaging to be adequately addressed by any adaptation measure that can be foreseen.... "
I have written several times about the flimflam of our Congress.
For those who are unfamiliar with this term here is it:
flimflam - a swindle in which you cheat at gambling or persuade a person to buy worthless property.
That is the way we handle our national problems. And in the past, this self interest was damaging to our national interest but most of us were not hurt too badly by it. Usually "only" the powerless members of our society did. They have little political power. The beneficiaries often were the wealthy, the upper 5% of the population. Over the years they got financial benefits in the trillions. Both Democrats and Republicans are part of this game. The Republicans, clearly more than the Democrats.
But when they are doing the same now with our massive financial problems and the inaction on global warming problems, we all will be suffering because our future looks cloudier.
Here is what the Nobalist Paul Krugman wrote recently about the way Congress is handling our financial problems:
" Don't blame Obama. There's only so much one man can do even if he is in the White House. Blame our political culture instead, a culture that rewards hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than serious effort to solve America's problems. And blame the filibuster, under which 41 senators can make the country ungovernable, if they choose - and they have so chosen.
I'm sorry to say, but the state of the union, - not the speech, but the thing itself - isn't looking very good."
I fully agree with Dr. Krugman.
What can you, individually, do?
Write your two senators, and phone them, and tell them politely what you think about them. Tell them to think about our national needs first, their own selfishness second.
And ask other people to do the same. Our inaction let's them continue to abuse their power. The power we are giving them.
When many act, they MAY, listen.
USCAP, the lobbying alliance of over two dozen environmental and business groups that was highly influential in shaping the climate bills in Congress, is shrinking. Recently, ConocoPhillips (CP) and BP have dropped from the Climate Action Partnership because the leading bills do not do enough for the oil and gas industries, they claim. And they are right, the bills are giving special privileges to the coal and electric power industries by supporting the illusionary "Clean Coal" and other measures.
From GW point of view, the opportunity of replacing old, highly polluting coal plants with cleaner higher efficiency natural gas is disregarded, and that change could reduce significant amount of GHG more rapidly than "clean coal" may do. These two companies want their share of the high profit that will be generated by the climate bills. Why only support the coal and electric? When you start giving candies around, all the kids want them in equal measures.
Some may look at the demand of CP and BP as unrealistic and disruptive to the already too timid House Bill, I do not.
With all the respect to the heroic effort by Congressmen Waxman and Markey for putting the House bill together, it was immensely inadequate. In order to put something through they had to give special considerations and support to so many Congresspersons that the final bill was a joke. Over one thousand pages long to give these special interests. It did almost nothing to reduce GHG COMPARE TO THE NEED. And that is the thing we need to focus on- will it achieve significant reduction, will it be accepted by other global emitters to induce them to substantial action. And the answer to both is - NO. You may easily mislead the American public, but not foreign governments.
Politics in the art of the possible, they tell us in Congress, we had to compromise that much to get something accomplished. I understand, but do not agree.
When we are facing the continuous AND RAPID escalation of global warming, when we clearly see the rapid melting of the North Pole ice sheets and Greenland's most massive glaciers. When we actually see and measure the rapid decline of glaciers all around the world, when we measure increases in global temperatures of the oceans and air, we know that GW is escalating at a much faster rate than the IPCC projected just three years ago. Again, we are in real troubles already. We do not have time for half measures.
These Congressional half measures that have the deceptive goal of cutting our GHG by just 7% compared to the MINIMAL NEEDED, would have negligible impact on the temperatures rise caused by GW. Several European nations are offering to cut their GHG by 30% by 2020 if we do the same!
When we deal with the upheaval that GW is expected to cause around the world, misleading ourselves is not an option. Our Congress and government often mislead us to believe that their actions are superior and would accomplish all the promises they are stating. We know it is clearly misleading us on GW.
I rather we face reality and deal with that fact than mask it by half measures that would accomplish almost nothing.
Half measures lull us to complacency and inaction.
The term "Climate change" was coined by people who oppose the scientific facts, gathered over decades, that the earth is warming due to our vast use of fossil fuels. It was coined by the people on the right that deny global warming and was designed to reduce social concern about this serious danger to humanity. President Bush dictated the use of this calmer term in his administration to reduce urgent requests by scientists to start reducing our emission of greenhouse gases from fossil use.
The term Global Warming, on the other hand, focuses our attention on the real situation, on the continuous increase in average global temperature. This temperature increase was measured across the globe for many years, and demonstrated to cause damages on global scale, from mass extinction of species, to rise in ocean levels, to rapid melting of ice pole and glaciers around the globe.
If we continue to use this fabricated term "climate change" we will continue to mislead the American public and lull it to even more complacency while the danger of GW is rapidly increasing.
The following article is about energy related research at Idaho National Labs done by one of my sons, Dan Ginosar, PhD.
Road to efficiency
Inventor favors small steps to energy independence
By SVEN BERG. From the Post Register in Idaho Falls, Idaho on Feb. 12, 2010: email@example.com
It is odd to hear a nationally recognized inventor say the world shouldn't immediately count on transformative technologies, some of which he helped invent, as a path to energy independence and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet Dan Ginosar, who has collected at least 18 patents in his career and won Idaho National Laboratory's Inventor of the Year award in 2008, is emphatic when he says there is no silver-bullet technology that will cure the United States' energy woes -- at least not right now.
Instead, he believes the country should focus on a range of cheap, partial solutions that cut its overall energy consumption. Those partial solutions are mostly ideas already in use but worthy of expansion, he said. Some have been tried at one time or another and abandoned.
Improving efficiency standards for new and existing homes.
Using more natural gas to produce heat and electricity.
Increasing the number of carpool lanes in large cities.
Using heat produced in power plants for commercial purposes and to heat homes instead of letting it go to waste.
Replacing 25 percent of the fuel in coal-fired power plants with wood.
Sexy? No. Doable? Ginosar thinks so. In fact, he estimates the U.S. can cut its energy consumption by more than 30 percent by instituting these policies, which he said would all but eliminate any need for foreign oil. He said his proposal would cut greenhouse-gas and other harmful emissions while saving consumers money.
"You start small. You start low-cost. You start low-risk," he said. "And then you build."
Throughout his career at INL, Ginosar has helped develop a variety of technologies, mostly in the energy field. Shortly after arriving at the lab, he collaborated with Bob Fox, 2009's Inventor of the Year, on a cheap, easy method of producing biodiesel from waste grease discarded by restaurants and sewer plants.
"When you get to 18 patents, you're nationally recognized," INL spokesman Keith Arterburn said.
Ginosar believes lofty ideas like electric cars and widespread conversion of hydrogen to energy are worthy pursuits. But they won't be ready for large-scale deployment for years, perhaps decades, he said. The U.S. needs to take strong steps right now toward energy independence and reduced emissions, Ginosar said.
Ginosar describes his proposals as an on-ramp to the country's road to energy independence and efficiency. In the slightly longer run, he calls for expanded use of nuclear energy, biofuels and a complete phasing out of coal as an energy source.
"The only good thing you can say about coal is it's cheap," Ginosar said. "But its effect on the environment is really unfathomable -- how horrible it is."
Burning natural gas, huge amounts of which have been discovered within the U.S., produces half the carbon emissions that come from coal, he said. Burning coal also releases other harmful emissions such as uranium and mercury.
What about clean coal?
"I have a hard time saying those words together," Ginosar said.
Ginosar worries that trapping carbon emissions underground -- a central component of the clean-coal concept -- could cause massive subsurface disruptions. Besides that, he said, building clean-coal plants could require up to four times the upfront capital as a natural-gas power plant.
(Emphasis by Dr. Matania Ginosar)
There is a possibility that humanity is approaching the limit of our ability to manage the complex and interwoven global mechanisms we are so dependent on. It is also possible that our human limitations are inborn and our minds are more limited than we believe. Often good, knowledgeable people make major errors.
The recent near collapse of the financial markets, and our inability to grasp and act to reduce the escalating danger of global warming suggest to me that humanity is in great risk. Our world may be too complex for us to manage sensibly. And our old ways of dealing with national and international problems may no longer work.
Why did we not act earlier? Rational people would!
The current collapse of the global financial mechanism should not have been a surprise to economists, to the financial system, legislators and government. Ten years ago we got a very scary lesson, the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund. During one tense weekend there was a danger that the global financial markets would collapse with the failure of that huge hedge fund. How could we ignore that lesson? May be we are unable to grasp this kind of danger despite having large numbers of highly regarded economists in academia, government and the financial markets. This is not just politics, both parties were deeply involved.
Look at that immense risk: "Long-Term Capital Management, used its $2.2 billion in capital from investors as collateral to buy $125 billion in securities, and then used those securities as collateral to enter into exotic financial transactions valued at $1.25 trillion", [NYTimes]. This is an immense ratio of nearly 600 to one! Banks are allowed to extend loans at a ratio of up to fifteen to one.
This is like me going to a bank offering them a thousand dollar in collateral, and asking for a loan of a half a million dollar so I can speculate in unregulated securities. Incredible!
The rescue of the global economy occurred during the Clinton administration guided by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. "In a statement issued after markets had closed, Mr. Rubin said the Treasury Department had been closely following developments related to Long-Term Capital. Congressional Republicans also announced they would hold hearings exploring all aspects of the hedge fund industry, including regulation and supervision." [NYTimes].
"Mr. Rubin disputed the idea that hedge funds should be regulated like banks and put under some form of Government control. '' I don't think it is a question of reining people in,'' Mr. Rubin told reporters in Washington. But he said Long-Term Capital's situation had raised some concerns. ''There are questions about disclosure and other issues, and my guess is there will be a lot of discussion and debate about that,'' Mr. Rubin said." [NYTimes]..
This kind of speculation opened the gate to others: "just don't worry, all will be ok" type mentality. We had clear warning, many in power said they would investigate but nothing happened to limit the range of immense speculation. Why? Not everybody is corrupt, stupid or self serving. There are many good people.
It is very complex, there are a number of causes, but there is also a possibility that we are basically unable to do much better. Here are the views of two scientists about our limited ability to think:
1. "Any modern investigation into how we think must illuminate why we're so bad at it. " We're totally committed to a view of how the mind works," she says - in short, we believe people are rational - "but most of the time, human behavior isn't based on an explicit, rational, considered decision." And our irrational tendencies are all too apparent. "[The mind] makes us make systematic mistakes over and over again, as individuals but also as societies."
Rebecca Saxe, specializes in Social Neuroscience at MIT
2. "People tend to assess risk like cavemen did. We pay heed to immediate threats - a rabid dog or poisonous snake- while ignoring abstract ones, such as pollution."
Arnon Lotem, Tel Aviv University, Dept. of Zoology.
This last point may be one of the key reasons why we can not deal realistically with long range problems. People who are concerned about global warming see it as a distant event and so do inconsequential things to reduce it by being green at home, which gives them satisfaction but can not make any difference on a national scale. Individually we may be unable to think the problem through. And thus are somewhat complacent and do not raise the substantial public outcry that drives bold political actions.
One of the most difficult things is to admit the limitation of one's knowledge and capabilities. We should not ignore our limited capabilities. We need to understand and accept them so we can compensate for our limitation.
IT IS CRITICAL TO KNOW WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW, AND OUR OWN LIMITATIONS.
In an article in today's highly respected Climate Progress web site they were discussing the desire of many industry leaders for fast, bipartisan, political decision on the rules of the game for global warming. Actual laws would allow industry to proceed with large investments in various fields and would reduce our large unemployment too. However, in my views, from the point of global warming, a fast, but inadequate = wrong, laws by the Senate, would not be desirable. With the Senate current too- modest guidelines even compared to the inadequate House bill, we would not move forward. But much stronger legislation could.
They ended by saying root for the current bipartisan effort to put a bill through.
Here is my response there:
They should not be rooting them for success but put substantial grassroots pressure on conservative Senators. There is very little GRASSROOTS, citizen's pressure, on Congress. Partially because environmental groups are not energizing their vast membership to effective political action. They claim millions of members, where are they? Why they are not politically active? It is a political struggle more than anything else.
Many Environmental organizations have budgets in the ballpark of $50M to $100 millions. They are not focusing their resources where they can make the most impact on the political gridlock. Much of these huge funds go to support their own staff, some to do direct lobbying, that is, telling member of Congress the facts on global warming. But this information has almost zero impact on the Congressional votes.
Senators and House members respond mostly to money for reelection coming from industry lobbyists, and on the other side, to large, and effective public pressure. Facts, information do not make much impact to these opposers of GW.
I have directed effective lobbying on swing Congressional members in several states in the past. (See ginosaronglobalwarming.org today's' comments about that experience).
I believe it is critically important to change tactics. Time to educate massive amount of environmentalists on the critical importance of public pressure and their need to participate in it. Mass mailing of emails are disregarded. However, telegrams, phone calls, individual letters, coupled by individual emails, NOT MASS emails, could make impacts on swing Congress members.
In the previous writing on this issue I suggested , in part, that in many cases people brain activity may determine their ability to grasp the global warming issue. Some opposite views may be that it is more likely to be lack of knowledge, lack of education, political orientation, or just normal self-interest.
Here is some supporting information for my above proposition:
First some background:
During President Reagan period I directed a small political organization named Target Congress with a goal to contribute to the national effort of reducing the danger of nuclear weapons. We developed and used methodical, scientific, and practical tools to increase the effectiveness of peace activists on this issue.
We were privileged to have the support of outstanding people like the outstanding Benjamin Spock M.D., former U.S. Senator Dick Clark, former US Representative John Moss, David Brower- founder, Friends of the Earth, actor Mike Farrell, Edward Snyder-Executive Director Friends Comm. On National Legislation, Judith Lipton, M.D., National Board of Directors Physicians for Social Responsibility, and other outstanding people. We developed grassroots pressure on swing US Congresspersons in several states to vote against nuclear weapons.
We worked closely with many national peace organizations such as Common Cause, SANE, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, and helped them adopt more effective methods for creating grassroots pressure.
We got advice from some outstanding and practical academicians how to influence public attitude, on effective communication techniques. We analyzed the voting record and District characteristics of each member of Congress in the country, did statistical analysis of Congressional votes, and studied other practical issues relating to motivating liberals to effective political action. We verified and improved on the advice of our experts during our nine years of in-the-field experience. Many of the techniques used in grassroots lobbying today are based on the experience gained then.
One of the most experienced and practical professors specializing in public communication advised us the following:
Studies on effective methods to influence people indicated that most people have set convictions and are unlikely to change their minds on political and social issues. Here were some of the results:
We can divide the population to three general groups, those who agree with the proposition, those who disagree, and the undecided middle. There is almost no way to convince the opposers to change their basic attitude. More information, more discussions do not help. Only some people in the middle, the swing group, that are already inclined somewhat in our direction, may agree eventually with the new information. But, those that were the hardest to convince, will, over time, return to their previous believes. We can only persuade people who are already inclined to agree with us to move a little further in our direction.
This experience add confirmation to the brain ideas discussed previously. It indicates to me that we are rather set in our ways socially and politically. People's attitude some times change overtime, but it may change only after some significant life experience and/or slow personal growth and may takes many years. Therefore, the energy spent to try to convince deniers of GW is wasted effort. We need to work only with people who are already inclined our way to convinced them for greater political participation.
I just finished reading a detailed, multi year study: The Neural Basis for Self-Control, by Antonio Rangel, PhD, associate professor of economics at the highly regarded California Institute of Technology - Caltech. It tries to answer the following :
"You're on a diet, but you really want a piece of chocolate cake. What's going on in your brain as you struggle to resist temptation?" [Caltech, Engineering & Science, Fall 2009]
We are talking here about basic research of brain functions, finding specific zones in the brain involved in different aspects of the decision-making process and the differences in the brains of people that have self-control and those who do not.
I studied this report in detail to try to see if we can relate the findings in this research to the global warming problem: to see if we can project from this study of self-control and answer the following question:
What could be the basic difference between people who accept the reality of global warming and the urgent need to fight it, and people who reject the existence of GW or unwilling to fight against it.
I see a considerable similarity, because both areas are involved with a person's ability to grasp the difference between short term desire, and long term implications. Let me explain:
The Caltech study indicates that there are at least two different locations in the brain that are involved in the decision making- eat the cake or deny it because of long term health impacts. One area of the brain is involved with the short term decision, and "sees" only signals of immediate desire: I want that piece of cake.
Another area of the brain is involved in the long term impact, which is the eventual negative health impacts of eating the cake.
In people that have little self-control only the first area of the brain is active - the desire for the cake is very pronounced in the brain. However, in people with self control, their second brain area is also active and overcomes the "desire" of the first brain area of immediate gratification- eat the cake. That second "control" brain area stops us from reaching for the cake.
There are at least two other important aspects of this study:
1. In general people with lower IQ's are more likely to have brain activities in only the first area of the brain- the one responsible for immediate satisfaction. The other, controlling, brain area is not too active.
2. People with strong self gratification (low self-control) are also inclined to be more emotional and have other aspects of less self control.
I do not believe that this type of brain activity is limited to food.
Here are some possible implications to global warming:
1. Many people who reject GW may have this attitude because of their specific brain activity. They may have more activity in the "first area" of the brain - the low self-control area, the immediate gratification area. And they have limited activity in the second, "control" area. Which means, they want to continue to have their "cake"- the current wasteful energy ways, and are less able to grasp the long term implications of global warming- the "health of the Globe" implications.
I am not ignoring here the legitimate concern of people for their immediate needs: food, shelter, jobs, security. But we must work to achieve both current basic needs and long term human survival. For many years we ignore the later and did nothing of value to date. We ignore the near future at our peril!
2. People who are easily driven to anger by zealot deniers of GW, like Rush Limbaugh, may have the same brain activity of people with low self-control: they have limited long term brain sensitivity.
And here is an even more significant aspect of these less self-control characteristics:
These GW deniers, these easily angered people are considerably more effective politically than the more easy-going, more "mellowed" "liberals" who believe in GW. These deniers make a lot of public noise, way out of proportion to their numbers because they are angry and that motivate them to action.
On the other hand, most "liberals," by their nature are not motivated to move, to take any political action. In effect, they are not helping the fight against global warming because they feel good for being on the "correct side" of the issue, and therefore are satisfied being "right.".
Again- most "moderate" people are often ineffective politically because they are "nice" people.
That may be one of the main reasons why despite the fact that the majority of the voting public believes that global warming is real, very little is done politically. These "good" people have limited anger, minimal action, and thus they have limited voice.
My staff and I have witness this inaction for many years in thousands of good people when we worked for social change in several states.
The above brain limitations probably does not apply to political leaders on the Right, most Republicans and conservative Democrats, they understand the reality of GW, they are bright and their brain is well developed. But their brains and personalities have developed to distort facts for their own end game, their political goal - destroy the Democratic agenda, destroy the Democratic president. Any common sense of these conservatives is overcome by their zeal to destroy- they are unable to realize that their conduct is deeply damaging their own country, and are hurting also the people they are suppose to represent.
We view the Right, the conservative elements in the country, as ignorant, and worse, for rejecting the reality of global warming and the fact that it is human-driven. It seems to me that it is natural for the political Right to reject the proven fact of global Warming because - The fear of change is their core belief.
Let's try to understand rather than accuse. The basic component of the political Right, the Republican Party and Conservative Democrats, is based on fear. Fear of the "others"; fear of minorities; fear of change; fear of gays; fear of "the enemy". They want to retain what they have; it is understandable desire.
The political Right is "conservative", meaning: no change. Let us stay in the past, the imagined "glorious" past that the US had. Therefore they have a fear of government and fear of regulations. Let "free market forces" determine our economy. Have the "freedom" to have guns to protect ourselves from any enemy. Every one should be "free" to do what he believes in - the old wild West of John Wayne is still in their blood. In our national blood too.
The "Conservatives" are not "bad" people. We all have some measures of this fear of the unknown, fear of the future. Because of this fear-based approach to life, the "conservatives" also fear global warming. And they are justified to fear GW because it would be very upsetting to our mostly comfortable, even luxurious way of life. To effectively fight global warming, the US, like other wealthy nations, would have to reduce its wasteful ways and would have to cooperate with other nations to help sustain the global climate. We will have to have "sissy" green energy, rather than "solid, reliable" coal and we will have to drive smaller, more energy efficient cars.
We must understand this fear. This is not a joke to them, it induces considerable fear of the unknown, the lost of the imagined "solid" reliable past of their lives.
How can we help them deal with this justifiable fear?
Henry Paulson, the Secretary of the US Treasury during the end of the Bush administration and the person most responsible to stopping the financial collapse in 2008 just appeared on the Charlie Rose PBS program. He said [my own words] that only when a very big collapse is about to occur there is ability to overcome the lethargy in government and Congress and take decisive action.
We must remember that this is not possible with global warming.
By the time we see clear evidence of damage to our global environment by global warming.
By the time we will know that global fishing deteriorated so much to cause near starvation to millions across the globe.
By the time we know that ten of millions do not have fresh water to drink.
By the time we see mass migration from hot, dry zones to more moderate climates.
By that time there would be very little that could be done.
By that time no legislation, no financial support, and no time will be available to stop the rapid escalation of global temperature and the wide damages caused by it across the globe.
If we do not cut Greenhouse Gases globally very soon, we would not have a second chance.
From a political point of view, many say, there is no way to legislate a carbon tax in the USA. Most businesses want cap & trade to allow them to continue to emit greenhouse gases as long as they can at the minimum cost. And Congress obviously is highly "influenced" by the business lobby. Money speaks lauder than reality in Congress.
We continue to lie to ourselves, and most of the environmental movement is keeping quiet about this issue. But it is bigger than C&T, it is fiction vs., Nature.
It is obvious that carbon tax is a much superior approach to cutting GHG. But it will force the fossil fuel industry and the electric power industry to change their customary ways of large GHG emission, and will reduce their profits. And the financial sector will not be able to speculate profitably with C&T permits. So they all oppose it vigorously.
Lets' summarize the differences: (Good info in Harper Feb. issue by Mark Shapiro)
The superiority of carbon tax is that it is more accurate means of cutting GHG.
It is easier to tax, easier to monitor, and harder to evade. As a result it is easier and faster to implement, requires relatively low administration, and thus less costly to the economy.
In short, you know what you are dealing with, and you can achieve the results our nation needs.
Cap & Trade has all the opposite characteristics: It is considerably more complex, by at least ten to one, very harder to monitor, easier to falsify data- to claim you did more than you actually achieve. And since C&T is very hard to monitor it will NOT cut GHG by the amount expected. Studies of the European experience indicated that the claims were some 30% higher than the real cuts in GHG. It is clear that if businesses will find any loopholes, they will use them extensively: less cuts in GHG, higher cost to the public.
And one of the most appealing aspects to the financial sector of C&T is a very big and hugely profitable financial trading in C&T Permits and Futures. It is estimated to be in the many trillions dollar range - much larger than the recent financial speculation that brought us to the current global economic near-collapse.
The pressure by the all powerful financial industry in the US may be the largest forcing element in the C&T picture. When they are expecting profits in hundreds of billions, no limit is set on their lobbying. The financial sector- now a powerful 20% of our total US economy, has immensely powerful political influence that the environmental sector is unable to comprehend. The financial sector controls our country more than any other sector since it is the largest sector, and the one with the most amount of ready lobbying cash. And the one with a very low morality. (see the recent PBS exposition of the banking industry).
Now add to the above that the IPCC underestimated the speed of global warming, and that we must add a safety factor to the needed reductions- we do not have neither time to delay action and we should not tolerate half measures. Nature does not care about our political games.
And that is what I am leading to; Our country is governed to a large extent by the laws Congress pass. Even the president has limited ability to influence Congress. And it is obvious that Congress is unable to function in the interest of the nation. Congress does not want to do what the country needs - curtail the rise in GHG emission. (Obviously some Congresspersons are much better than others, but the majority rule.)
We need true leadership and we do not have any now: Leadership means willingness to risk, willingness to put the national interest above your own.
As long as Congress does not face the reality of its actions, the reality of nature, as long as Congress continues to mislead itself and believes in convoluted ways represented by Cap and Trade, there is very little likelihood that the US will cut its GHG emissions by the required amount to limit the expected rise in global temperature. We must set a realistic example to the developing world.
I include this discussion under global warming because I want to show you how the US is operating with low morality, lies and deception in our every day life.
This damaging behavior would destroy our national effort to fight global warming, because many institutions and industries will use similar tools to cheat, to mislead, to escape the laws that could help us fight global warming.
And the US used to have some of the highest adherence to our laws. Just think what will happen in China, India and other developing countries where national laws are rarely adhered to.
We still ignore reality with our lack of any national effort to restrict global warming. Congress is selling its responsibility to the highest bidder, not working for our urgent national needs.
It is so sad to see our country with such a good constitution, with so many promises, with so many good, decent people, deteriorating to the level it has, by deception and lies. The people with power- that means money, have been doing nearly everything they can to gain more income and more power at the expense of the average person.
Yes, the United States' economy and our political system are based on deception and lies. From one side of the country to another the average person has to continuously struggle to keep his/her head above the water because of the wide-spread deceptions in the financial sector, in most of the economy, and in much of our state and federal politics. This economic burden has been increasing for several decades and reached it zenith during the housing crunch. And it is continuing since Congress is under the thumb of donors to their reelection. Our federal government is part of this deception by not preventing it, and by letting it continue. Both political parties are part of this problem.
The deceptions and lies are in front of us but we ignore them because we want to think nicely about our country. It is time to open our eyes, see reality and not bury our heads in the sand. Unless we open our eyes to these facts, they will continue to damage our country and cause a larger and larger percentage of the population to struggle for survival.
Let's look at some details:
1. The powerful advertisement industry: Buy, buy, buy.
I have watched several times the 2 hour PBS program on the Advertisement Industry. It is fascinating how they research tirelessly, using the best brains in our universities, to find how to appeal to our raw, base emotions to pressure us to buy, buy, buy. They use sex, the macho feelings, the desire to impress our partner, elevate our bruised ego, the need to show off. These elements and more have been utilized to strip us of our ability to make rational decisions, both economically and politically.
A minor example: the price of whatever we want to buy is misleading. We buy gas at $2:99 a gallon. So who cares? We are smart and educated, we know it is really $3:00 a gallon. But is it that simple?
First, not every one is smart and educated and has the time to discern this common deception. The best brains in the marketing/advertisement industry have been developing methods to mislead us to think every thing we buy is less expensive than it is, that is much better than it is, or that it will make us better persons, or improve our "unfulfilled" lives. You may say, I am aware of these, I am above these manipulations. But the relentless twisting of our minds is an effective psychological tool that has proven very successful. The best paid brains, with the highest IQ, have been working tirelessly to find way to mislead us to buy things we do not need and do not really want. Look how we have been consuming beyond our abilities for years, putting us in deep personal debts many can not come out off, and the country can not afford.
Our economy has tanked. We have over 10% unemployment, yet we purchased 30 million large, wide screens TV in 2009. The drive to "see the football game" on your new, high definition TV overcome logic and your empty wallet. You have no money in the bank, you owe money on your expensive credit cards, you have no assets, you can not afford to buy this huge flat screen TV, yet you buy it and proudly show it to all your friends. You would not be able to pay your bills, or you will borrow at higher and higher interest rates, but you must have this "necessity."
We watch TV five hours a day. Well designed, appealing advertisements have worked on us, drip by drip, for decades, without your awareness, to let your emotions overcome our common sense. In fact, very few Americans do have common sense when it relates to any thing we want, when it relates to money- to health, to food intake, and recreational drugs.
We strongly object to the notion that we are manipulated, but how else can you explain the nation-wide mania of buying more and more things we can not afford nor need while ignoring our empty bank account?
2. The Banking industry buying Congress:
I just watched a PBS program how the banking industry is lying to us and how it is controlling Congress. The banking industry carry so much political weight that it even impacts the federal controlling agencies that are supposed to protect the public from bank manipulations.
The country is running on the easy availability of money, to any one who is willing to pay immense fees could get a loan. Some of the interest rates are: 466%. Yes, that is true when you get into any of the thousand of early paycheck shops mushrooming across the country. And the people using these services are the least able to afford them. And they are repeating these draining experiences monthly. They do not know better, they do not know how to stop the cycle. Don't blame them, you never were in their shoes! These are the people the government must protect.
But this is only one of many financial institutions that are bilking the public from the left to the right.
It is a fascinating story how the banking industry fought against limiting their credit cards hidden fees and high interest rates. They make tens of billions in profits every year by donation of some $30 millions to members of the Senate Banking Committee. An immense return on investment.
After a lot of public protest and anger, Congress finally put some constrains on the credit card business. But immediately the banks developed new tools to milk card holders by increasing interest rates arbitrarily and reducing credit limits. Watching the arrogance of the spokes lady for the banking system left me cold: you made new rules, we react to them and did every thing allowed us legally to increase our income.
Both the banks and the federal agencies "controlling them" are against limiting the high interest rates people have to pay. The banks say that as long as the rates are clearly stated, the buyer should be aware. The problem is, as a specialist on the issue explained, the bank statements are misleading, hidden, and hard to understand. And the people who suffer the most are people with low income, low education and probably also low ability to grasp the complexity involved. Congress allowed the bank to take advantage of the people less able to deal with this high and confusing interest rates and special payments.
Here is an interesting gimmick Congress use:
The Democratic chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Senator Chris Todd said that he is not affected by the $6 millions given to him over the last few years by the banking industry. Not at all. Look, he said, I initiated a bill to control them much further, but I did not have the votes. How did he do it? It is very simple, he developed a bill, with advice from the banking lobby that he knew would not pass. Then he can show that he is defending the public, without a fear that his proposed bill will pass and hurt bank's income - his sponsors. Senator Todd seats for 23 year on this committee, and he knows the rope. Look at his web site and read the lies he says about him protecting the public financial security: "...Chairman will continue to focus on helping working families and protecting our nation's economic security."
(You can see this important Frontline program, dated 1/26/10 on PBS.com,)
3. Congressional stability- a job for life, paid by lobbyists.
With some significant exceptions, Congress does not represent the will of the American people, it represent the will of powerful corporations.
Congresspersons want power above all. I have taken courses, and learned about Congress studying each and every member of the Houses some years back. Their voting records, their district composition, their attitudes too. I also talked privately with several Congressmen. I watched their faces, listen to their emphasis, paid special attention to their body language. Fascinating how similar is their desire for power, for being special - one in a million (actually one House member per three quarters of a million).
An historian wrote that President Teddy Roosevelt was addicted to politics before, during and after his presidency. When one is addicted to any thing, he/she stopped representing the need of the public and fight diligently to continue to be in politics. And that is what most members of Congress have been doing for a long time. And for the last few decades it is beyond control. Every house member has to go for reelection every two years. This is mostly TV struggle that costs several millions in many contested districts. They have to raise thousands of dollars every week from the time they land first in Congress. Money controls votes and money mostly comes from lobbyists. And most of the money from big corporations. Which will have even less limitations after the latest supreme court ruling.
Many congresspersons remain in their seats for decades, and those are the most influential and get the most amount of lobbying money. Which means: the longer you are in Congress, the more influential position you have and the more money you receive to achieve the desire of your sponsors- the people with money. To many Congresspersons deceive us, they use double talk, some cheat and steal, and they are still reelected. Forget about representing the needs of their district or state, their need for continuous power is the motivating force in their lives.
As was said may times: We have the best Congress money can buy.
The self interest of Congress members is why we, the richest country in the world is unable to solve almost any of our important national problems. It is so well known, no one is surprised, money is controlling our politics- but most Congress members would deny it. And we shrug our shoulders and do nothing.
Here is what a highly influential commentator just wrote about Congress:
"So we're paralyzed in the face of mass unemployment and out-of-control health care costs....Blame our political culture that rewards hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than serious effort to solve America's problems. And blame the filibuster, under which 41 senators can make the country ungovernable, if they choose - and they have chosen.
I am sorry to say this, but the state of the union - not the speech, but the thing itself - isn't looking very good."
Paul Krugman, Noble prize winner economist. NYT. 1/29/10
4. The Housing Collapse.
For several years, millions of homes were sold under false pretence. It was a wide spread deception. Most of it by immoral real estates, lenders, loan officers and their unethical organizations. We are not talking here about a few CEOs heading unethical financial corporations and banks. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of our nice neighbors, people like you and me. They go to church on Sunday and help their kids with their homework. But they did not stop to question the wrongs they were doing, because the extra large amount of money they were pocketing told them they were right. After all, every one was doing it.
This dishonesty is a deep national disease. Spread all across the country, with wide participation all across the housing/lending business. Take what you can and forget how many people you are cheating.
How many of us would have participated in a scheme like that if we could have been so prosperous overnight too?
Money and power control our country to an extreme extent. It is no surprise, most of the time it was like that. The disappointment is that we did not grow up yet to grasp how we are destroying the country.
That it the way the game is played in the US. And we have no voice in this game.
How can we expect that the effort to slow global warming will have a chance with this selfish bend of our country?
We are inclined to be very hard on global warming deniers accusing them of stupidity and much worse. This may not be justified, since we are also deniers but to a different extent.
This is not just an intellectual issue of understanding the essential scientific facts and accepting them- it involves most of our emotions too, much more than almost any other issue. And when we deal with emotions and long-held beliefs it is extremely hard, some times impossible, to alter them.
Those of us who claim that they fully understand the danger of global warming and believe we need to cut down our greenhouse gases to stabilize the climate, are also deniers of some serious aspects of global warming, such as the likelihood of catastrophic events and runaway temperatures that would make our globe uninhabitable!
Very few of us grasp internally the immensity and the time-criticality of this global problem and, therefore, we rarely act with energy, consistency, and with outrage, to influence the fight against GW. We have to pressure national decision-makers: Congress members, to change our business-as-usual approach to GW.
How can we believe that GW is dangerous to human survival and still say: "leave coal plants operating," "do not increase my cost of energy," or "I want to drive as I much as want," "wind turbines and power lines are important, but not in my back yard,"-which are just a few examples how we continue to ignore the severity of GW.
It is not surprising that we just talk and not act, no one can be blamed for it- it is the American way of concentrating on personal satisfaction first and foremost, and on national or global issued last -even when they are the survival of civilization!
Again, it is a highly emotional issue and many can not deal with it in a rational way - that is, making sacrifices commensurate with the immense danger we are all facing. Instead of action, of pressuring Congress, we feel good because we are on the correct side of the issue. We feel good knowing that GW is serious, but we do not do a thing to change the situation. We want our comfort above all.
This is NOT an intellectual pursuit. Knowing the facts about GW does not alter our life-long beliefs of how the world operates. And our own world seems to be so stable and benign now - why should we reduce our comfort, let some one else pressure Congress. "Anyhow, it does not matter what I do."
The fact is that we have people on all sides of the GW spectrum, from those, on the Right, to the Left:
1. Those who do not accept the existence of GW at all,
2. Those who admit it exists but not man- made, so we do not have to do anything,
3. Those who agree it is "man-made" but we have time to slowly modify our energy production, such as continue to use coal power plants,
4. Those towards the Left, who believe time is critical and we need to make major reduction in energy consumption and move fast to depend on green technologies ASAP.
5. But even those do not grasp the full gravity of the issue; they too want the comfort of our wasteful society and expect our careless way to continue.
And any shades in between the above. It is a continuous spectrum of deniers that interfere with our national ability to act decisively to curtail GW. To act with some clear disturbances to our customary way of running our society.
It is not surprising that we have such a wide spectrum of "deniers." GW is the most disturbing development in modern human history, after we emerged from the last ice age 12,000 years ago. A substantial part of the population is unable to grasp GW because of lack of education combined with inability to grasp complex issues of this magnitude. And others are not able to grasp the evolving danger since it is in the distance and did not touch their own world yet.
Fear often moves people to action, but by the time we are able to sense, see, feel the severe damages from GW it would be too late. The train would have left the station already. Clear signs are already here: melting of the polar ice, melting of the Greenland glaciers and most of the glaciers around the world- but we do not see that and do not feel the impact. So why worry? Some one else will deal with it....
We need more people to dedicate themselves to fight GW. I hope you have the ability and courage to be different, to care enough about humanity to seriously get involved because it is very hard to move out of our comfort zone to fight global warming. It takes inner dedication, consistency of thinking, continuous courage, to overcome our natural desire to ignore this problem.
Here is an unvarnished email conversation among five friends deeply concerned about GW, three with PhD in science, on the problems of public apathy and Congressional inaction on global warming:
In a message dated 10/28/2009 3:02:45 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Matania Ginosar writes:
We are idiots in the US, playing the game as if there is no urgency. We are trying to solve a serious global threat by old institutions and old thinking. GW is at least a hundred times graver than WWII. If we fought WWII that way we would have lost the war!
Do we think the rest of the world does not grasp our selfishness?
"Ultimately, members of Congress must be able to explain the impact their vote will have on monthly electric bills and a gallon of gasoline," said Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a centrist think tank. The administration gave a nod to the economic trade-offs Tuesday when it sharply narrowed the number of facilities that would be subject to new emission-control rules. "
How ignorant of reality of GW can we be? And these are the good guys, our liberal Federal Gov. claiming to be eager to fight GW
Matania -- The US population is very far from seeing this as 100x WW2. But you know that and your job is to try to get people to see it. I think the disappearance of arctic ice, glaciers, and polar bears are the most likely to convince people in US, but those are not Pearl Harbor. Before Pearl Harbor, the US was 50/50 for or against getting in, maybe even 70/30 against.
On the quote about costs: Yes. That is very bad view of a lot of our fellow citizens and consumers. To fix the world, energy (electricity and also fuels) will have to cost more (30% more?) and food too (20% more? 40% more?)
Subject: RE: Politics as usual re GW - Poll by Pew Research Center
One indication of the view of the U.S. population on global warming is discussed in the articles referenced below. A recent poll by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that:
"There has been a sharp decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising. And fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem - 35% say that today, down from 44% in April 2008."
The poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4. It included 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, and it claims a margin of error of +/- 3%. According to the Associated Press article on the poll, Jon Krosnick of Stanford University was surprised by the Pew results and described them as "implausible". Krosnick has been conducting surveys on attitudes about global warming since 1993.
Andrew Weaver, a professor of climate analysis at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, in commenting on the poll results said that politics could be drowning out scientific awareness. "It's a combination of poor communication by scientists, a lousy summer in the Eastern United States, people mixing up weather and climate and a full-court press by public relations firms and lobby groups trying to instill a sense of uncertainty and confusion in the public."
See the following URLs for more information:
Associated Press article on the poll results:
Survey Report from the Pew Research Center:
From: Matania Ginosar
One of the reasons is because our politicians are talking about job creation, green energy, about the insignificant cost the energy bills would cost individuals. They have trivialized it.
The media is to blame too since it is sensation oriented.
Who control the media, a small amount of well off people, very few now.
The president to Congress, even the best ones such as Boxer and Waxman, are trivializing it together. They think using the sell methods of small lies by the Republicans is a road to success. "Frame the issue right".....
Tell the truth to the people even if it will shake them-it should shake them. Global warming is real immaterial how much we make it a green-jobs issue.
You can lie to some of the people some of the time but you can not lie to most of the people most of the time. And that what we are doing now.
Remember Boxer @ Waxman are running for re-election in 2010. It's Platitude Time! Only when you are running against an incumbent is the Earth going to hell in a hand basket if you retain that person. When one is in office all's well that ends well if you re-elect me. (I'm just full of clichés)
From: Matania Ginosar
A person with integrity and wisdom knows that he/she are not the center of the earth and this issue is more important than their position. But very few of us are so dedicated and willing to give our power and comfort. But that is the essential cause of the global warming problem. Every one think about their own benefit and the hell with the rest of the world. Remember the financial and housing crises? Me first the hell with the rest. We will go down the drain with GW if we proceed this way. And it is very possible that we are on this path already. Human are very limited creatures.
Mat, it sure is hard to ignore these emails. You have discovered the true "cause" of human caused GW. To use one of Howard's pithy sayings, "We have met the enemy and they is...US!"
I think you hit the nail on the head when you asked, "Who among us is so dedicated and willing to give (up) our power and comfort?"
I think Buddhist psychology would say that we tend to personalize this problem and then it is all about "me" and not about "us". You are saying that the "default" position of humans is to be self-centered and not compassionate. I hear you. I understand what you are saying. So now that we both "know" this and both believe it to be more or less true, what can we do about it, or can we do anything about it? Or is it mainly dealing with ourselves and those around us, since we can't really influence these others that we don't come into contact with to change their behavior? I guess I am thinking of climate change in Buddhist terms.
The agonies, deaths and suffering in Haiti are profound now. Over fifty thousands probably died in the earthquake. A much larger amount of people are homeless and in need of food, water and shelter. A huge amount of human misery. Without minimizing the tragedy in Haiti now, it is nothing compare to the eventual suffering of millions of future victims of global warming. But we can't see it, it is in the future, we can not feel it, nor see it on TV, so we ignore it. But the certainty of massive human suffering from global warming is very high. How high depends on our actions on GW now.
We see the pictures of the current suffering in Haiti; it is now and very real. We can identify with the suffering, it touches us. But we can not visualize, nor accept the much larger suffering global warming is certain to bring us. We do not believe GW is for real.
This is the sad case with global warming. We have a keen failure of the imagination. It is in the future, it is not a sudden sharp, singular event that can trigger our emotions now to act, to minimize it. We can do considerable amount now to reduce the likelihood of tipping points- those catastrophic events that would cause immense amount of human agony in dimensions we can not yet grasp. It is in the future and we have no human experience to compare it to or to handle it.
Just one example how future agonies from global warming would be so much larger than today's Haiti. The melting of the Himalayas glaciers. I have heard a recording of Dr. Pachuri (IPCC chair) talking with great pain about the expected drying of the main sources of water to much of India and China. Hundreds of millions of people get their water from the Himalayas glaciers, and in less than 50 years they are expected to barely provide enough water to a vastly larger population than today. What could be done for them if we do not fight GW now with all the tools at our command?
To decisively change our way of using energy and converting to a green energy sources requires imagination and courage beyond any thing we had done before.
FDR was able to prepare us for WWII because it was something we could visualize, since war was in our collective experience and the suffering in Europe was going on for years before we joined the fight. But not so with global warming. It is a slow, steady increase in damage to the global climate. However, the number of deaths, and human suffering from global warming would be many times larger than the fifty millions who perished in WWII. The immense migration of uncounted millions from GW would be so much larger than the huge population changes that resulted from WWII, or the separation of India and Pakistan after their independence.
And yet, we continue our business as usual in Congress, in our government, in our businesses, both in the US and elsewhere.
Are we so frozen in our inability, in our unwillingness to see the future that thousands of reputable scientists are warning us is coming?
Are we without any common sense?
A practical approach to cut US GHG by 19%
by replacing coal plants with natural gas combined cycle (NGCC)
Our electrical system was designed to supply reliable electricity at the lowest cost, which most of the time was done well. Without blaming, utilities and regulators concentrated mostly on low costs and did not give priority to our national long term needs, especially global warming (GW). But, GW demands a change in this approach: National considerations must be primary concern, not just costs. With limited increase in generation costs we can cut greenhouse gases (GHG) significantly. And since the benefits are national, the costs should be borne nationally too.
Goal: cut GHG as much as possible, as quickly as possible, at acceptable costs
Replacing Coal power plants by NGCC can reduce US GHG by 19%. This is a proven, readily available technology to use in larger quantity.
Several key ways available to cut GHG, first is conservation and energy efficiency.
Here only coal generated electricity is discussed since it is the largest GHG emitter.
Electricity generation emits 35% of US total GHG.
Coal plants emit 80% of that = 28% of all US GHG.
Replacing coal plants with NGCC would cut GHG to 1/3 of coal; a reduction of 19% of total US GHG emissions!
Approach: Mandatory laws, with compensation to customers, workers and owners
1. Reduce use of gas and electricity for winter heating nationally by intense conservation: result 50% cut in older structures, 80% reduction in new structures.
2. No new coal plants allowed - (until Sequestration of CO2 is proven reliable)
3. Only NGCC permitted from fossil fuels - or plants with same low GHG emissions
4. Start with replacing old coal plants with low remaining life, say 5 to 7 years
5. Even higher energy efficiency: Use smaller NGCC plants closer to industrial sites to use the waste heat for industry by combined heat and power (CHP)
6. Reduce PUC ability to hinder CHP with a national authority
Because NGCC plants have fast response they can work well with higher percentage of wind and solar thermal energies to supply base power.
Note: In summer 2009 - 28 new coal plants were under construction, 7 near constructions, and 13 permitted, a total new capacity of 26,000 MW. Plus 47 coal plants are in early stages.
1. Low NG plant usage: The average capacity factor, actual utilization compare to the maximum possible, of coal power plants is 74%, but that of existing NGCC is only 42% in the US, partially because the fuel cost of natural gas (NG) is higher by 3c per kWh.
At a cost increase of 3 c/kWh we can immediately cut GHG significantly with current equipment even before we start this program.
2. Some major questions raised by this proposal:
A. Why depend on another fossil fuel and not go directly to green technologies?
B. Where will we get the NG?
C. What will it cost?
D. How long will it take, or, how complex is it?
E. Note about energy waste and remedy by CHP
A. Why NG and not wind or solar?
Power generation relying on nature, such as wind, solar (and even hydro power), fluctuate and their fluctuations are also unpredictable. Cloudy days effect solar; changes in precipitation change dam storage, and winds are unpredictable and may be more so with increase in GW. Therefore, we must have solid, human-controlled power sources that emit the lowest GHG possible. The only proven technology we now have is nuclear power.
As much as I wish we did not need nuclear power, we will have to use it also in our mix of limited-GHG energy sources. The probability of severe global damage by GHG is much larger than the possibility of damage from nuclear power. However, due to great misconceptions and fear of nuclear power, it will take too long to overcome political resistance and public fear to install sufficient nuclear power plants.
The only currently proven, readily available technology that we can use at reasonable cost, I believe, is NGCC. We can not wait for the ideal, we must do what is possible and fast. And we must have reliable electrical power to sustain an industrial, electricity-based society while cutting drastically our GHG.
Geothermal has limited sources of energy at current technology and costs. Biomass should be tried soon with a large scale setup. Coal Sequestration is not a proven technology, and may not have low enough probability of CO2 escape.
Note: Germany with intense effort for green energies for years, is adding some 50 new coal plants.
B. Where to get the added NG?
Total US yearly natural gas consumption is 23 Tera cuft (10^12), for electricity generation: 6.6 Tera cuft; residential: 5 TCF; Commercial: 3 TCF; industrial: 7 TCU. US imports negligible amount of natural gas beyond our imports by pipelines from Canada and Mexico. We export an insignificant amount to Japan from Alaska (via LNG, i.e., liquefied natural gas). Some 20% of US electricity is generated by NG and it consumes 20% of US NG. During the summer when residential and commercial heating drops drastically, electricity generation from NG doubles to some 40%. Industrial use does not change much by season. It may be lowered by 10% to 20% by additional conservation and efficiency, since it is mostly for material and processing. Industrial use went down over time to cut costs, and because US industrial production has declined. Residential and commercial NG use is mostly for space heating and can be cut significantly by conservation and efficiency. In addition to reducing NG by conservation and efficiency, electrical use is also cut down during winter, in most parts of our country. Many homes in low electrical cost zones, with hydro or coal generation, use electric space heating, which consume substantial amounts of electricity. This could lower need for new NGCC.
Conservation can cut heating consumption in existing homes by over two to one. This saving in NG will be available for electricity production which would allow almost doubling current use of NG for electricity. Additional NG could be extracted from within the US if the demand and higher prices are there to support it, as demonstrated in the last few years with price fluctuation of NG.
Recent technology innovations increased US natural gas reserves by some 50%. In addition the NG industry is starting to exercise its political muscles to use more NG for electricity production.
In case this is not enough over time, we may need to import LNG for expanding use of energy into the US if our conservation and efficiency are not done with sufficient intensity. Canada and Australia can be our major sources for our imports.
C. What will shift to NG cost?
NGCC have higher efficiency and half the emission, thus 1/3 of emission per kWh of coal.
The increase fuel cost is $50 per ton of CO2 reduced, compared to coal. (In comparison Photovoltaic is more than $600 per ton of CO2 under favorable future conditions.)
For the electricity market, coal is $2.00/MMBtu (million Btu) [2c/ 10,000 Btu] and NG is $7.00/MMBtu [7c/ 10,000 Btu]. At 10,000 Btu/kWh for coal and 7,000 Btu/kWh for NGCC the increase is 3 c/kWh above coal. NGCC plants have lower cost than new coal. NGCC has up to 50% efficiency, existing coal is 31%. New NGCC plants cost about $1,200 per kW, are faster online, and there is a tremendous environmental damage from coal plants in addition to high GHG. Coal plant cost is higher because of the higher complexity of the coal input system and the extensive air pollution control required.
If the total increased cost is distributed nationally the price of electricity may rise by 2 c per kWh.
D. How long will it take, and how complex is it?
This proposal is a massive undertaking; it involves up to 700 coal facilities (often more than one plant at a site) in many states with yearly income in the order of $60 B. Political resistance to phasing out coal plants is massive. It may take 20 years to fully accomplish and must be done in conjunction with mandatory national conservation and efficiency drives to reduce the amount of NGCC needed. But the environmental benefits are also considerable, more than can be obtained by partial approaches.
THE ELECTRICITY GENERATION, and DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM IS VAST.
(Ballpark calculations.) Capital investment in electricity generation (of some 1000 billion watt total,) is very large: To replace the 70% of total current electricity generation that is generated by fossil fuels, with "Green" technologies will cost over two trillion dollars, if cost drops to $2/watt, (it does not include the "smart grid".) Note, capacity factor of green energy is less than half of NGCC. Our hope for future low cost green technologies is not likely to reduce this estimate. Moving a technology from R&D to full market penetration is a very long and costly process.
IT WILL COST MORE: US investment in our current electrical system is in the order 1.5 to 2.0 trillion dollars. With depreciation, it is worth less than half this amount. All new "green" technologies, from wind, solar thermal electric--let alone the very expensive photovoltaic technology--are considerably more expensive than current coal and natural gas systems. Over time the elimination of input fuels to coal and NG systems will level the expenses; however, the vast initial investment would not easily come from private capital unless the legal and economic uncertainties are reduced and stabilized.
E. Note about our energy waste and remedy by CHP.
We waste 60% of our input energy during central station electricity generation. This wasted heat is often cooled by scarce fresh water. Typical efficiency now is 33% while two thirds is wasted. Combined Heat and Power (CHP), or cogeneration, is the use of this wasted energy. In some countries in Europe it is used to a much higher level (possibly 40%) than the US (around 8%). This is a critical waste of energy resources, and we must use this throw away heat to reduce our energy use and imports. Note that only about half of this wasted energy can be practically used.
A third of all our energy input, now wasted, is recoverable.
Utilities and the Department of Energy must spend intense effort to use this wasted energy! It could have major impact on our GHG, energy development, importation, and use!
Utilities should be rewarded for cutting its wasted energy. This is not the case in many states.
Those of you who have the technical background and the desire to understand the global warming issue in more depth should study the following analysis by Dr. Martin Weitzman, a senior, highly regarded Harvard economist. He is dealing here with the issue we mostly ignore - the likelihood of catastrophic climatic events. But he is bringing up much more than that. (If you do not understand the economic equations, just skip them and read the rest- you will learn a considerable amount.)
Although it is for environmental economists, I believe it is critical for policy makers and environmentalist to grasp the essence of his thoughts.
I have a few quick comments about his work below.
The possibility of catastrophic climate change is characterized by deep structural uncertainties in the science coupled with an economic inability to evaluate meaningfully the welfare losses from high temperatures. The probability of a disastrous collapse of planetary welfare from global warming seems non-negligible, even if this low probability is very difficult to quantify. Through informal reasoning, elementary examples, and simple numerical exercises, this paper attempts to convey an overview of some of the background uncertainties behind extreme climate change. I argue that the tails of the relevant probability distributions should not be ignored because they are likely to be fat with probability and important. A few implications for climate change analysis and policy are explored."
Some of the key points Dr. Weitzman is making are that we have basic problems in our assessment of global warming. Our system of understanding and predicting GW is flawed. Also, we do not know what we do not know and we do not take this into account. Also, we ignore the low probability of potential catastrophic events because we do not know how to deal with them (and, in my own view, the potential outcome is too overwhelming for us to face, so we ignore them.)
I hope to write about it in later, but it is ludicrous to me that we are "predicting," seemingly with great assurance, a certain global temperature rise associated with a certain GHG level. May be these are the calculations of our various models, but we already know how wrong the IPCC predictions could be. How the deterioration of the glaciers and ice sheets advanced much more rapidly than predicted just two years ago. We also do not take sufficiently into account the limitation of our knowledge and the unpredictability of nature.
Where are the safety factors we should have in this crucial process for human survival?
When engineers design a structure we put a safety factor into it, say double or triple the design requirements associated with bridges, and buildings, because our assumptions and calculations may be wrong and the materials we use are not uniformly strong everywhere.
When it comes to GW we think we know the relationships between GHG and global temperatures and what we have to do to slow down the process. We do not factor any safety factor into it as far as I have read.
And take into account the cheating, the mistakes, the propensity of humans to distort and to lie to further their own personal interest, starting with our own Congress, and we realize how the process of fighting GW with today's tools is deeply inadequate and unrealistic.
Even if we were able to globally agree to cut GHG by 20% to 30% by 2020 (from 1990) we are not out of the woods by any means. We simply are unable to grasp that we have to change much more than just conserve and put green technologies all over the world.
As a minimum we will have to reduce population growth drastically, we will have to reduce the growth of our standard of living. We will have to share our wealth better with the deprived, starving portion of the world population or they will demand to waste energy and emit large amounts of GHG as we have been doing for centuries.
I believe to save humanity from immense amount of suffering due to GW we need to turn upside down the way we approach the fight against GW. Instead of doing the minimum we are able without disturbing the status quo, we need to concentrate our effort and do the maximum that is humanly and economically possible to cut GHG as soon as possible.
I. The magnitude of the problem is immense:
Dr. Holdren said that the more elements of GW you understand: energy, oceans, climate, politics, the more depressed you would be.
I understand his point since the complexity and difficulties we would be facing trying to make real changes in our energy consumption are staggering and very difficult. We are minimizing the magnitude of this immense effort and often erroneously compare the transition to past advances in computers and electronics that went down in price with mass production, and were easily adopted by consumers. This comparison is misleading and immensely wrong. Computers and electronics are based on continues miniaturization and minor material and energy consumption.
In immense contrast the energy field is huge; the extraction, transportation, refining, and distribution of global fossil fuels are the largest industrial efforts on the globe!
And it is worse than comparing a bird to an elephant. They are both living things but one eat seeds the other chunks of forests.
The global fossil energy industry uses and transports massive amount of materials across the globe, has a market value in the order of $20 Trillion, and it will do almost anything it can to maximize its income and increase its dominance for as long as it can. Replacing cheap and highly polluting coal would be the toughest fight of all. They have been able to control Congress for many decades, as it is evident today.
Another problem is that the media, and most decision makers and their stuff, are not aware of the magnitude of the issues involved and assume that we can turn on a dime. And we are hiding the negative reality from ourselves and also from the supporting public. We are still talking as if it would be just a pain free, money and job-making opportunity.
There will be major gainers and major losers in the process. We must make sure that those who profit actually achieve critical reduction in GHG and do not do so at great cost to society. And losers should be compensated if their loss is due to public need.
II. GW impacts are hard to accept. It is beyond any previous human experience.
A. Even with all the media coverage, it is still extremely difficult to accept the full magnitude of the danger pose by GW, even for people who study and support the effort to curb GW. We look at the coming danger and reject most of it because it is depressing and we do not want to believe it. Our lives, but especially our children's and grandchildren's lives would be negatively impacted. We want to escape this reality. It is normal to use some level of denial when our wellbeing is threatened, especially when we are powerless to change the situation. This is a necessary defense to keep our sanity. It takes a lot of internal struggle to face the reality of GW.
It is also very hard to fathom the danger of GW because our vision of the world is incomplete, or even distorted. We can't grasp the immense interwoven elements of nature and how fragile the balance of nature is. GW is now destroying this delicate balance.
B. Even educated people, even many scientists, think that they have a reasonable understanding of nature. We do not. The natural world is immensely complex, interconnected, fragile, and way beyond our knowledge. We are now just scratching the surface of understanding of some elements of it. Even our ability to monitor changes is very limited compare to the needs.
A few days ago the political director of the highly respected environmental organization NRDC made very positive remarks about the "accomplishments" in Copenhagen. The credentials of the man are outstanding, but with all due respect to him and NRDC I believe he is way off base. The failure to face reality and agree on some 30% reduction, from the 1990 level, by 2020 is setting us back tragically.
May be it was unrealistic to expect this commitment across the board, but at least the Europeans and the US and other developed countries should have agreed on it. We have produced the largest amount of GHG to date. We have accelerated global warming more than all other nations combined. And it would be the easiest for us to reduce our GHG. Remember, each kWh we cut reduce the input energy by 3 kWh.
Optimists about Copenhagen may not like to face the current reality of GW, or they may think that positive thinking would somehow change the situation, or think it may lead us to action instead of despair. I do not believe this approach is effective. Unless we face the increasingly more dangerous reality of GW we will placate ourselves to accept minor "solutions" that would not reduce the danger to humanity from GW.
It is evidently clear that while we are giving positive spin to our international failures, GHG emissions are rapidly increasing. The improving global economics will soon wipe out any past slowdown in the rise of GHG.
President Obama is not involved enough - it is critical that we have a powerful national leader to push our effort against the Status Quo. However, the president does not personally grasp the seriousness of GW. He may grasp it intellectually, but it did not touch his gut yet. You have to feel GW to move to real action, and to take the needed political risk.
Let's be realistic for a change: We are in immense environmental trouble and the evidence is that the IPCC estimates have been too conservative. And we have nothing of value to date.
There is another serious problem, the poor effectiveness of the environmental organizations in the US. Businesses trying to retain the fossil fuel industry have spent some $100 million in lobbying Congress in 2009. They achieved their goal - nothing has changed. The environmental groups have collectively a budget of several hundred millions! What did these organizations accomplish with these immense resources? Very little. The environmental organizations and most of their staff are dedicated and want to reduce GW. But, the environmental movement, the President, and Congress are operating in the Business As Usual mode because:
AS LONG AS THE PRESIDENT, CONGRESS AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT ARE NOT RISKING THEIR POSITIONS AND LIVELIHOOD, AS LONG AS THEY ARE BOUND BY THEIR NEED FOR INCOME, POSITIONS, OR POWER - THEY WOULD BE INEFFECTIVE IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO SERIOUSLY CURTAIL GLOBAL WARMING.
We need massive grassroots pressure on swing member of Congress. I would like to know why the environmental movement does not use its immense financial resources to create systematic grassroots pressure across the country.
They know about this method, I also discussed it with some of the top people in this movement. They said they are doing it - have you seen any evidence of it? I have not.
They have the money. They have millions of members - where are these people? Why Congress members do not hear from them on a mass scale?
The environmental movement failed us to date.
When will they wake up to the time-criticality of global warming?
It is difficult to visualize the impacts of global warming since it is a small change in temperatures mostly. We do not grasp what small changes in temperatures, just one or two degrees can do. It is a huge change. They can turn a lash forest to dead trees by beetle infestation; it can melt the snow on our mountains so fast that even large rivers reduce their water supply in the summer to a trickle. And it even can turn habitable areas to deserts.
But these are words, not evidence that we can easily grasp and motivate us to action; motivate us to put pressure on our Congress.
The time-lapse chorography shown via the link below hopefully will wake you up to the reality of what is already happening to our environment by global warming. These pictures show how major glaciers are collapsing at such a rapid rate that we finally grasp what a small temperature rise can do.
And this is occurring now, and it is only the beginning.
- Photographer James Balog shares new image sequences from the Extreme Ice Survey, a network of time-lapse cameras recording glaciers receding at an alarming rate, some of the most vivid evidence yet...
Recived today by email from USGS. We already know that the summer ice in the north pole region is decreasing rapidly, more rapidly than predicted by scientists just two years ago. Verifying the deterioration by geological studies helps us "see" the near future clearer. But there are the blinds among us that still do not beleive GW is already upon us and that we need to change the old ways we generate and use energy.
USCS: "There is increased evidence that the Arctic could face seasonally ice-free conditions and much warmer temperatures in the future.
Scientists documented evidence that the Arctic Ocean and Nordic Seas were too warm to support summer sea ice during the mid-Pliocene warm period (3.3 to 3 million years ago). This period is characterized by warm temperatures similar to those projected for the end of this century, and is used as an analog to understand future conditions.
The U.S. Geological Survey found that summer sea-surface temperatures in the Arctic were between 10 to 18°C (50 to 64°F) during the mid-Pliocene, while current temperatures are around or below 0°C (32°F).
Examining past climate conditions allows for a true understanding of how Earth's climate system really functions. USGS research on the mid-Pliocene is the most comprehensive global reconstruction for any warm period. This will help refine climate models, which currently underestimate the rate of sea ice loss in the Arctic.
Loss of sea ice could have varied and extensive consequences, such as contributions to continued Arctic warming, accelerated coastal erosion due to increased wave activity, impacts to large predators (polar bears and seals) that depend on sea ice cover, intensified mid-latitude storm tracks and increased winter precipitation in western and southern Europe, and less rainfall in the American west.
"In looking back 3 million years, we see a very different pattern of heat distribution than today with much warmer waters in the high latitudes," said USGS scientist Marci Robinson. "The lack of summer sea ice during the mid-Pliocene suggests that the record-setting melting of Arctic sea ice over the past few years could be an early warning of more significant changes to come."
Global average surface temperatures during the mid-Pliocene were about 3°C (5.5°F) greater than today and within the range projected for the 21st century by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Read the full article at http://micropress.org/stratigraphy/.
Scientists studied conditions during the mid-Pliocene by analyzing fossils dated back to this time period. The USGS led this research through the Pliocene Research, Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping group. The primary collaborators in PRISM are Columbia University, Brown University, University of Leeds, University of Bristol, the British Geological Survey and the British Antarctic Survey. Learn more about PRISM research.
USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.
**** www.usgs.gov ****"
The House of Representatives is an institution that does not serve us well. To a large extent it is a failure, especially as far as the fight against global warming is concerned.
We have a strong sentimental attachment to our national institutions but it is time to wake up. Our Congress was developed in the horse- and -buggy days when things moved very slowly. A letter took weeks to arrive. A trip to Europe took a month, nuclear weapons were not even a dream, and global warming did not exist.
There are many good people in Congress but they have little influence. Congress is unable to deal effectively with today's rapidly changing world. Most of its members are self-centered and focuse their attention to a large extent on reelection and personal power. Global warming is a clear and dangerous example. Every year we find that climate changes accelerate faster than was calculated.
Just two examples of Congressional failures:
1. With all due respect to Congressman Waxman and Markey and their deep dedication to fight GW, the bill they crafted to reduce GW is some 1400 page long. This excessive length indicates how nearly impossible it is to get an effective bill to fight GW through the House. Nearly every Congressperson that supported their bill had the ability to add his/her own special provisions to the bill- which weakened the bill considerably. Some say it is nearly useless to make any impact on the fast accelerating climate change.
The end result is that we got a bill that misleads us to believe it can fight GW. In fact the goal they set to cut our GHG emission 20% by 2020 is a fake - a sleight of hand. The IPCC stated that we need to cut our GHG by a MINIMUM of 20% compare to 1990. So this bill just changed the starting point by FIFTEEN years, to 2005. By doing so they in effect cut our commitment to just 7%.
This action is tantamount to a pure lie!
And many scientists believe that 20% reduction by 2020 is far too low to reduce the danger of GW sufficiently. European leaders volunteered to reduce their GHG by 30% by 2020 compare to 1990 if the US will do the same.
The Senate is even unable to do as little as the House did on global warming legislation.
2. I want to focus here on the ability of Congressman Dingle to stop any increase in the average car mileage for many years. One single House member can do so much damage because the House allowed him to do so.
Mr. Dingle is representing the Auto Industry from Michigan for about a half a century (1956) and received some $600,000 donations from the three American auto makers in the last ten years or so.
He was very influential in the House because of his seniority and his very safe seat. He was the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee for years and even before that stopped attempts to increase our auto industry CAFÉ standard-that is, the corporate average fuel efficiency standard. Congressman Waxman, an outstanding liberal man, fought him and repalced him. This should have been done many years ago.
Some numerical facts: A quarter of US energy input comes from oil for transportation. That is, almost one quarter of our GHG emissions comes from the great inefficiency of our car and truck fleet. (Oil emits less GHG than coal, which is about 22% of our energy input, almost a wash)
This is not just a bad act of Mr. Dingle part; it is a profound malady of the House. He was in power for too long and should have been removed from his powerful position long ago. Most House members supported his power to do so because he could send favors their way from his senior position.
He was also cleaver to be pro environment which allowed him to outsmart even the environmental movement that gave him an award for his liberal environmental stand, while in the same time Mr. Dingle did one of the largest environmental damage in the world. He- with the support of many members of the House - was able to sustain the extreme increase in GW from our use of large, gas guzzlers cars.
Here is the duplicity of the House: (The Senate too) While most Congresspersons were shouting that we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil to increase our military security and financial security, they actually allowed Dingle to increase our dependence on foreign oil, on foreign governments and increase our balance of payment problem by sending hundreds of billions a year to buy oil.
We do have the best Congress money can buy.
No wonder just 20% of the public trusts it.
And we do nothing about it. We don't trust them and we forget about them. Smart? STUPID.
We behave like small children, we pout.
Time to act.
What you can do?
Contact your 3 members of Congress regularly and tell them briefly your views.
Without your action they only hear the lobbyists.
Part II of: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOUNDING GOOD AND DOING GOOD
In all our discussions we must be firmly remember that GHG emissions are increasing the danger of catastrophic climate changes and are driven to a large percentage by electricity generation from coal power plants. And in the drive to electrify some of our transportation, more electricity would be needed.
Let' compare the direction of electricity generation in the three countries we discussed earlier:
Germany plans to eliminate their nuclear plants by 2020 and increased its dependence on Coal, now 50%, but hopes for eventual use of CCS to reduce its massive GHG. This is a hope rather than concrete path.
The US (50% of electricity from coal) has no plans to replace its aging nuclear plants (20% of electrify) due to high costs, lack of public and governmental support. Most important is the opposition from unaware public which is wrongly influenced by the mistaken, emotional driven policy of most environmental organizations. It would be difficult to overcome the misperception of an emotional society that has great difficulties accepting facts it does not like. Also our political system is polarized, unable to face reality, and to work for the common good. In the nuclear power case, the Democrats are the stumbling block.
We will have to pay premium above the price of coal for power from non polluting sources. There are several promising ways to cut the cost and increase the safety further of nuclear power plants. We are not doing adequate R&D in this crucial area. Emotionalism should not govern our national policy.
China is installing nuclear power stations as fast as it possibly can TO REDUCE THEIR DEPENDENCE ON COAL. Nuclear power is much more expansive than coal, why else are they doing it?
Eleven nuclear plants are operating now and they are planning to add ten new plants each year for the coming decades, possibly some 20% of the power of their new coal plants.
"Today, China's nuclear plants can produce about nine gigawatts supplying about 3 percent of the country's electricity. Three years ago, the government set a goal of increasing that capacity more than fourfold by 2020.
The government will soon announce a further increase in its targets, to 70 gigawatts of capacity by 2020 and 400 gigawatts by 2050, said Jiang Kejun, an energy policy director at the National Development and Reform Commission, the main planning agency.
Electrical demand is growing so rapidly in China that even if the industry manages to meet the ambitious 2020 target, nuclear stations will still generate only 9.7 percent of the country's power, by the government's projections."
Nuclear power has the potential to be a reliable, solid source of base power. They have demonstrated that for the last three decades in the US. They improved their availability to some 92%. That is, they have been on line producing electricity 92% of the time.
Nuclear is one of several non emitting energy sources we should use. However, even if it was totally safe, even if it was economical now, we can not rely on more than a portion of our power from it (20 - 40%?) because it takes to much time and money to build them.
The most critical and the first thing to do is cut our energy waste and cut our energy consumption.
Every kWh we cut reduces three kWh of input energy because most current thermal power plants are typically 33% efficient. And old coal plants have notoriously low efficiency - some 145 coal power plants are operating now that were constructed before 1950!
Congress allowed these old plants to operate under a "grandfather" agreement, escaping even basic air pollution regulations.
How is it possible that Chancellor Angela Markel, of Germany, Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of England, and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France could offer at Copenhagen to reduce their greenhouse gases by 30% by 2020 while President Barak Obama can offer only 5% reduction?
It is because the European leaders have the support of their people and president Obama does not have it. Why? Because the Europeans are more global citizens; they have suffered through many wars, they are not naïve, and they are also more interested and more aware of the rest of the world. However, the majority of our American people are nice, simple, caring people, but they are also quite naïve. We have had it quite easy. We did not suffer any destruction from the time of our civil war, and even during WWII our losses were the least by far of any major participant in the war. And our economy benefited from the war effort. We think we are special and invincible.
The problem is not primarily lack of knowledge and understanding of facts by many of our leaders. It is also, or may be mostly, an emotional and psychological dilemma. It is very hard to acknowledge within your own soul that humanity is on a verge of irreparable damage. It took me several years before this reality broke my own emotional resistance; and I have been educated as an environmental scientist. I also have been aware of global warming for decades and spent years developed alternative energies against it.
From the ending of the last ice age we had it relatively easy. We never experienced any global danger of this magnitude before. It is not only Republicans that deny GW, many Democrats in Congress and across the country are more interested in their reelection than the survival of humanity. They are unable to grasp reality. It is not that they are bad people, they are too limited, too self absorbed, and do not have enough courage to brake with their "business as usual" mode. In the same time we have some outstanding industry leaders that are willing to be pioneers and stake their position and income to push for a more aggressive fight against global warming, such as the presidents of Duke Power and PG&E utilities.
I believe our president is not able to grasp the full reality of global warming despite the advice of some good people around him. He may understand it intellectually but when it is critical to act and go beyond his political comfort zone, he is not willing to risk his political future to fully alert the American people to the danger we are facing. His political advisers are not grasping the global reality yet.
It is not sufficient to be better than president Bush. President Obama did not show yet the characteristics of a leader of substance, and of a leader suitable to these critical times.
We are not willing to accept that global warming is posing real danger to all the people of the world. Even those who are against global warming have been doing little to change the political status-quo. They have not gone beyond their comfort zone to protest, to create massive political pressure or any thing else that would make a difference. They feel good that they are against global warming. But beyond a small minority of activists do you see any great movement doing anything of substance? I do not.
America is such a vast country it is hard to see beyond it. We are so focused on our own community, state and country as if the rest of the world does not exist. Most of the American public is unsophisticated, and unaware of what is going on in the rest of the world. At the same time poles find that we are now have the most isolationists' attitude from the time of WWII. We do not grasp within our guts that global warming has no boundaries and we are all in the same boat.
We have been accustomed to think that the American strength will get us everything, from the latest I Phone to an easy conquest of Iraq. After all we have the strongest military power in the world, and we have the largest economy. But we also are the most lied to, mislead people on earth both by business and our own government and politicians. No wonder we regress to be so self-centered, so self-involved we can not see nor accept reality.
And the power of money (essentially legal bribes) in our politics is so powerful, Congress can not pass any meaningful bill that benefits the majority of the people.
I just watched again a two hour documentary on the US Advertisement Industry. Amazing how they have developed the most appealing, powerful mind-bending approaches to force us to buy almost anything they want to sell us. We are so much lied to in business, so many in the banking and real estate business justify their lies by: "every body does it" that it was natural for many of us to participate in the mass lies that produce the financial collapse of the last few years. The financial industry used the same tools if bending facts to mislead people to buy and commit and speculated to such an extent that the economy tanked. But the people on the top remain very wealthy.
And the problem with global warming is that our politicians and leaders across much of the country are using the same proven techniques to mislead us to believe whatever they want to.
As long as we will continue to be so self absorbed, so uninterested in the reality around us, so unaware of the world beyond the US, then our destiny would be to be the most disliked country on earth, and with a good reason, we are not willing to reduce our standard of living one iota to allow some of the poorest people on earth to have just one decent meal daily.
WE are not so strong any longer and our unwillingness to participate in the fight against global warming will backfire on us from all sides.
The physical world will survive with much higher temperatures but the people will suffer endlessly unless we cut our greenhouse gases drastically and soon. And we are the country that emitted the maximum amount to date and that continue to emit some twenty tones of CO2 per person per year. If China did that it would emit four times what it emits today. And four and a half times more than we do now.
What may be the answer?
Without US leadership and example China would not reduce its emissions as needed. The US must cut its emissions of all GHG by at least 30% by 2020 as the Europeans are willing to do. We have so much energy waste that it is not too difficult to do it if our political system pass the right laws without catering to the interests of the coal and power industry, but the interest of humanity.
We can not escape from our responsibility and let the global climate deteriorate even more rapidly than it does now. Our leaders must rise to the occasion, and I do not know how to force them unless we get involved in political pressure on a wide scale. No environmental organization has done anything of substance in this area yet. Only their leadership is involved as if mass grassroots pressure is ineffective or not possible to create.
It would be impracticable to wait until the general public sees and grasps the damage and then panic into action. It would be too late to reverse the escalating climate deterioration.
It seems to me that the United States is the key stumbling block to getting a satisfactory international agreement. We have it all and we do not want to give our standard of living up. The largest cumulative GHG emissions came from us in our persistent quest to a higher standard of living. We never cared how the rest of the world is managing and this may have to change.
Our perception is that we have the least to lose from increasing temperatures. This is mistaken. Our heated climate will impact our way of life noticeably, much more than we can now grasp. Almost everything in our lives depends on the whether. And unstable climate has substantial impact on the boundaries of our weather.
We are a society that is accustomed to high standard of living and we do not want to give that up. All our economy is driven by false advertisement to consume more, to expect more. For too long we got our way because we have the largest economy, but many see now how unstable is our economy and how much money we owe the Chinese and The Japanese (about the same amount).
Other nations are not willing to listen to us much longer. Especially China. They made extreme sacrifices by reducing their population by 400 million unborn kids, while we did not make any effort yet to cut our GHG. However, China also knows, for example, that the future decline in their water supply from the Himalayas is going down rapidly. China must fight GW for its own survival.
Without China (and India soon) agreement to cut its GHG drastically while they are also increasing the standard of living of their poor (60% of their population), nothing of substance can be done globally. With all their immense capabilities I am not sure that they can do it by themselves. It is a monumental task that must be done rapidly.
BTW, one of the most outstanding thing in this total Copenhagen fiasco is that this is the first time, I believe, that we will understand globally how we are dependent on one another, and that the global politics of the past must change, or else.
Or, WHO FIGHT GW THE MOST: GERMANY, US, OR CHINA?
Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
I. The common belief:
The common belief is that Germany is working hard to reduce its carbon footprint by aggressively installing green energies, especially photovoltaic (PV).
The common belief is that the US should follow Germany's example and surpass it with a larger amount of green energies.
The common belief is that China is doing little to reduce its carbon footprint. After-all, they are adding more than one coal power plant a week to its already heavy dependence on coal-generated electricity.
II. The reality:
Germany is producing only one third of one percent (0.3)% of its electricity from PV and spent $70 billion to do so. However, wind supplies 7% because it is nearly economical now. Because of the high subsidies, for PV especially, the cost of electricity is so high that some manufacturing companies are considering moving to other countries. Germany with eighty million people, and substantial local supply of coal, decided to eliminate all their nuclear power plants and thus will increase its reliance on more coal plants, already producing 50% of its electricity.
US. We have done nothing to date to reduce our immense GHG emissions. Only talk, no action.
We have three hundreds five million people and the largest global economy. We are the second largest emitter of GHG, and the largest cumulative emitter to date. Our per capita GHG emission is close to the largest in the world.
Do we want to reduce our GHG footprint substantially or copy Germany erroneous direction?
That is: Germany's huge spending on irrelevant PV performance, and their escalating reliance on coal plants?
Do we have so much money to burn without reducing our GHG?
Now 50% of our kWh is from coal; 20 % nuclear; 3 % renewables; 10 % hydro.
China: 1,350 million (4.5 times US), the largest GHG emitter, and will have the most profound increase in GHG in the future. China' one child per family policy cut their population by 400 millions in three decades. China must reduce the deep poverty of 800 million rural people (60% of population) thus dictating large increase in electricity demand. However, contrary to most other nations, they are building nuclear power stations as fast as they can manage. Their goal is to reduce their key dependence on coal generated electricity.
Germany decided to go green when the Red-Green coalition came into power over a decade ago. It decided also to eliminate all nuclear power by 2020. And it gave substantial subsidies and made other laws to encourage wind and photovoltaic.
Here are the results:
Wind energy supplies 7% of the electrical demand. Good!
Photovoltaic supply 0.35% of electrical demand, yes, about a third of one percent, at very high cost
Coal plants supply 50% of its electivity, and many more coal plants are in the pipeline.
Their minister of energy said that their decision to eliminate nuclear power dictates that they will continue to depend on a larger and larger percentage of coal plants.
Is this what we want to copy in the US? More coal generated electricity which already emits some 40% of our GHG. We get 50% of our electricity from dirty coal and the idea of "clean coal" is a dream, with R&D that will take a decade and may cost in the order of a hundred dollar per ton of carbon to collect and store permanently underground. That translates into about 10 cents per kWh. About three times current price of coal-generated electricity.
We have not built any nuclear power station for the last three decades and most of our nuclear plants are approaching the end of their useful life.
China is expecting 200 million people to migrate from their poverty stricken farms to the cities in the next ten to fifteen years. They will need more housing, industry and considerably increase in energy for that.
Currently 80% of its electricity is produced from coal. China is adding 2 coal plants, probably about 1000 Megawatt total, per week. They are also building nuclear power plants.
What are the options for China?
Could the Chinese government try to stop, or drastically slow, this migration? First they will be condemned globally as dictatorial and most important, the Chinese government will have a revolution on its hands.
Do we want a revolution there? I do not believe so, it would be much worse to the world.
China has been doing more than any other country to reduce its footprint on this globe!
China cut its population by 400 millions in the last three decades after the Communist leadership set the 'one child per family' policy. Their goal was to reduce China population to 750 millions within a century.
Compare this to India that does little population control and is expected to have a larger population than China within less than 20 years. Sixty years ago India had 250 millions, half the population of China, 500 million. Now they have almost the same population.
However, China can not continue to depend on mostly coal power plants, as we shall see next time.
Next, comparing the nuclear option to coal in the above 3 countries..
From Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, testimony before the House Select Committee hearing of the State of Climate Science,
Wed. December 2, 2009, Chaired by Congressman Edward Markey.
Create EFFECTIVE political pressure on Congress
In the first part I concluded that to reduce the immense amount of GHG emissions in the US we will need enormous efforts, and will require trillions, way above the size of the Second World War.
In the second part I concluded that individual energy reductions are helpful and satisfying, but achieve insignificant reduction in the US GHG emission.
Secondly, to make significant impact on GHG Congress must make many mandatory laws such as conservation laws and also forcing most GHG emitters to reduce their emissions.
We are not creating effective political pressure on Congress at present to make these laws. The House passed bill is a compromised so diluted to attract support, it is ineffective and would not bring us to the targets needed to slow global warming noticeably. The Senate pending bills may be even worse.
Creating effective political pressure requires sophisticated, systematic ways. Experience demonstrates that a relatively small number of active people can create significant counterbalance to the powerful influence of lobbyists on members of Congress. Most of us do not create pressure our Congressional delegation. And the grassroots pressure by environmental groups is ineffective.
How do I know this, I organized pressure on Congress for a decade on another liberal issue. I directed a citizen lobbying effort in several states concurrently as head of a national organization "TARGET CONGRESS" and it was successful when we did it with dedication.
People can influence some of their Congresspersons. Especially those who are on the margin (swings), those that are not yet sure how to respond to GW. We can not wait until the damage to our climate is so obvious that they will finally act. It could be too late.
Let's look at Congress quickly:
Many things that I will be saying here may apply to most members of Congress, obviously not all; some are outstanding.
All politics is local, said the famous leader of the House Tip O'Neill. We need to accept that and build our pressure on that fact.
The most powerful force influencing members of Congress is their desire for power. It is intoxicating. Think about it, each member of the House "represents" the desire of three quarter of a million Americans!
Their desire for power keeps them running for office again and again despite the extremely difficult demands on them and their families.
To retain their seats they will do many things to satisfy the people in power in their region. Congresspeople actually believe that they are doing the best for the majority of their constituents even when they vote for the sheer benefits of the selected few.
Most members of Congress vote according to their needs for reelection. To continue to retain their powerful position.
I have seen it in action; I have met privately with several and talked to the staff of more of them. We all know that, we have seen it again and again.
One of the key tools they need for reelection is the short, 30 seconds TV ads. These ads cost millions and that is why they have to seek vast amount of financial support for their reelection. The extreme Left and Right voters are not influenced much by ads. The targets of these ads are the undecided voters.
Without going further into the complexity of the election process, let's see what pressure is exerted now by us, the people who believe GW is dangerous to humanity.
Here is the limited way many environmental groups are lobbying Congress now:
1. Environmental organizations together have millions of members and have a total budget of hundreds of millions. Considering the potential power we have there we have achieved very little because very few members do any thing politically.
2. Each organization has its own lobbyists that work hard and diligently to educate members of Congress on the energy and global warming issues. But, they are not backed up by noticeable pressure on Congress from their own members.
Environmental organizations are using mass emailing techniques most of the time. They send emails to their supporters and ask them to click to send automatic email to their Congress members. The idea is to make it very easy to supporters to act, since most do not.
Congress members ignore this type of mass emailing since these auto emails are externally motivated and do not represent the individual and ingrained views of their constituents.
When I discussed this with a very high level staff of a national environmental group he justified this ineffective technique by saying that it helps the organization find potential activists and to raise more money.
Sometimes environmental organizations suggest that you use your own words instead of the canned message. It has little impact too since the Congressional staff receiving the messages can easily see that this is an organized effort. These auto emails are better than nothing, but not by much.
And here is a sad example of wasted efforts:
V.P. Al Gore, which I respect and admire, heads an organization: Repower America. What they do lately with great fanfare is putting your views on a common video site. It is personally satisfying but this does not pressure Congress members to action.
There is a significant difference between something sounding good and being good.
Here is what we need to do now:
We must focus our grassroots pressure on our own members of the House and the Senate. We must pressure them by individual methods on a regular basis. Tell them to vote to reduce GHG drastically and soon.
Since very few people are doing it, your combined effort suggested below represent to the Congressional staff the views of a thousand inactive people.
When you get an alert by email, or when it is on your mind, instead of taking the easy way out, force yourself to make very brief personal phone calls to your two senators and House member.
Call their Washington DC office.
And call their district office.
And write a one paragraph letter to these two locations.
And send a brief personal email to their DC and local offices -separately.
They do not correlate all of these messages and will count them as if coming from many people.
Motivate others to do the same.
This 20 minutes effort, once or twice a month, is more effective than the mass emailing and other less political methods we now used.
And that is a little price to pay to fight global warming.
The December 09 issue of National Geographic has a very clear diagram of our greenhouse gas and global warming problem. You can see it below on:
It starts with:
"It's simple, really: As long as we pour CO2 into the atmosphere faster than nature drains it out, the planet warms. And that extra carbon takes a long time to drain out of the tub."
I suggest you study this short article that is on the web site above even if you do understand the criticality of GW because it is presented in an effective and clear-to-understand way.
Please look for the second diagram on the second page too.