Soldiers in combat against climate change

CaliforniaGeo 8-5-17

Climate change “denier,” President Trump

A growing army of citizens, institutions, corporations, governments and cities (on multiple continents) are fighting climate change.  Their efforts grow from previously planned commitments to the Paris Accord of December, 2015.  Many of these soldiers have accelerated their efforts as an antidote to the Trump Administration’s official U.S. withdrawal from scheduled efforts.  The U.S. walked away from the policy measure supported by over 190 nations shortly after Trump took office.

Bloomberg put his money where our mouth is

What’s at stake-

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was disturbed enough over the U.S. about-face that he personally committed to contributing the $16 million cost of keeping up U.S. progress for the first year.  Part of that concern was undoubtedly due to his familiarization with damage by Superstorm Sandy, and the threat to municipal infrastructure posed by rising sea levels.  Such failures could displace millions of New Yorkers (and many millions more on the east, west, and southern coasts of our nation).

The battle lines are clearer every day between those who embrace renewable energy to limit the combustion of hydrocarbons and those who don’t accept climate change and cling to the status quo.  Apart from the difference in these belief systems, there is another issue that climate scientists fear.

More detaching ice shelves in the future

Influence already felt-

The build-up of carbon in the atmosphere is growing quickly and temperature records continue to fall.  Sure, there has been both warming and cooling of the planet over ancient history.  But with continued warming there will come a point where CO2 reversal cannot save us from even more CO2 release by millions of square miles of melting permafrost.  This will flood the atmosphere with the carbon from half-rotted muskeg bogs underneath the permafrost.  Continental glaciers have been receding for decades, and Antarctic ice shelf separation into the open ocean removes the “plug” that previously held back billions of tons of ice from reaching the ocean.  In the summer of 2017, one of the largest released to date was the Larsen C ice shelf at 2,200 square miles and hundreds of feet thick.  Its floating displacement at present raises ocean levels the same as when it will become completely melted.

As one of the greatest CO2 contributors, the U.S. has an automatic moral responsibility to achieve a larger-than-average carbon reduction among all nations.  Developing nations want higher living standards and fossil fuel development is the quickest path to achieve it. We should develop carbonless renewable energy systems not only for our own carbon reduction, but to provide proven renewable energy options that can keep those nations from copying the U.S. history of hydrocarbon consumption.

Re-balancing reversals of policy-

Ever since the Trump Administration’s attempt to gut all of the Obama Administration’s policies to reduce coal emissions, environmental advocates have expressed concern about damage to air quality.  They needn’t worry.  Adequate market signals via government policy have already been sent and acted on by the electric generation industry.

Solar photovoltaic generation has produced power more cheaply than coal for some time.  In some markets, it’s nipping at the cost of natural gas, too.  Larger wind turbines are doing the same thing, although at a slower pace.  Offshore wind turbine installations are now being built off the east coast after suffering delaying tactics by fossil advocates.

There has been a reduced emphasis on large, central electric generation plants.  When renewables displace this capacity, they cause these plants to run intermittently, raising the cost per kilowatt-hour.  Balancing electric generation and consumption on the grid has always been a challenge.  Until recently, solar PV was increasing this problem every year.  Lately, a new solution has been found.

Re-inventing the transmission system-

Grid storage by the use of advanced batteries and two-way power inverters has allowed utilities to accept daytime solar overabundance but store it for later use.  Until this development, the only storable electric energy was behind hydroelectric generation at lakes and rivers.  The advantage of battery storage is that they can be deployed anywhere that serves the utility best, and it is not conditioned on any other resource.  Capture the sun and store it as direct current energy for only the cost of the infrastructure and its management—the fuel is free. 

—Bill Martin