Emissions reality vs the Green New Deal
Will politics and obstructive policy prevent climate defense?
Sixty years of sampling at the top of a 13,000-foot Hawaiian volcano show that the upward march of carbon dioxide in the world’s troposphere continues to climb steeply. But, there are still some who express doubts.
Those doubts are composed of disbelief that human-caused CO2 is to blame for this increase and they deny the increase will cause any significant difficulty. If those doubters and deniers are wrong, their place in human history will be ridiculed far beyond their heads being buried in the sand.
This week, President Trump convened a Climate Advisory Panel designed to establish an alternative theory or conclusion for global warming. This pushes back against what 97% of climate scientists and the majority of the public believe. The panel’s science members are from the other 3% and the effort is being made to divert attention from last fall’s National Climate Assessment Report by government scientists from eight departments and five agencies. Trump is known to have opposed that report while he worked to reverse coal emission regulations established by the Obama Administration.
Research and deliberation leading to last fall’s assessment was fully transparent with public reporting of discussion, documents and conclusions. The new Climate Advisory Panel is AdHoc, and will not be required to share any of what it covers (reminiscent of VP Dick Cheney’s gathering of fossil industry CEOs without public reporting while they formulated U.S. energy policy as a fait accompli in 2001).
The specific elements of the Green New Deal are not widely understood and are still being prioritized. This may be due to the odds of whether any one of its initiatives can become successful new policy in what is likely an uphill battle. Those already standing in opposition will see its multiple elements proposed as “larding it up.” Proponents see a chance to right a greater number of past wrongs—so they keep expanding the number of problems to be solved by GND. Unfortunately, this is the traditional legislative “sausage making” approach where multiple special interest “cooks” diminish the taste of the stew to satisfy hunger.
If the 60-year data trends are clear and 97% of climate scientists are correct, we are warming faster than expected. Arctic and Antarctic ice is calving off to oceans in large chunks, and the Arctic Ocean is expected to be summer ice-free by 2040. If the rate of warming cannot be stemmed by taking action like that contained in the Paris Climate Accord, terrestrial permafrost thaw at high latitudes will release methane from hundreds of thousands of square miles of bogs which will accelerate global warming as never before.
Such risks take us well beyond the realm of legislating political compromise or just tinkering with current policy and regulations. Legislative “sausage making” among politicians and special interests (the kind of governance the U.S. now has with unlimited campaign contributions) will have to bow to a defense against climate change. There can be little regard for the self-interests of “business.” Doing little or nothing guarantees this existential threat. Perhaps global warming and climate change are not the kind that will kill off the human race, but they ensure a series of disasters that no individual, insurance company, or government can afford.
As arable land and a steady water supplies disappear, there will be climate refugees massing to cross many borders for survival and small-to-large scale wars. These will add to the increasingly wasted public funds that could have been strategically deployed to enhance quality of life. All this because we allowed continued addiction to fossil fuels as an acceptable business and policy model.
The U.S. could start acting differently and that is what the Green New Deal attempts to foster. The election of more young representatives to Congress might help the chances of repaired climate policy by taking the money out of politics through the reversal of Citizens United. Whether anything like this is possible at the federal level is unknown. But the states have a growing record of helpful environmental and energy policies.
It was the states which brought the RPS (Renewable Porfolio Standards) program to the nation. It represents regulatory goals for boosting the fraction of renewable electricity to be achieved. California’s was set for 33% in 2020, but hit that target two years early. Its future goals are 50% by 2030, and 100% by 2045.
In the ACEEE graphic (above) we see the ranking of policies and regulations among states for buildings’ energy efficiency. It should be noted that there are other positive steps that have been taken, such as New York, which banned hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas. New York City has mandated that any new building or major retrofit must consider geothermal heat pumps among other options when dealing with heating, cooling, and hot water production.
Individual states have often become incubators of policy and regulatory alternatives throughout the nation’s history. Although bold, unified progress on the federal level is sorely needed and would enable the quickest turn on a policy dime, states will have to show evidence of proven remedies. These could help boost congressional commitment toward progress with decarbonization of the economy.
With the nation increasingly focused on the 2020 presidential election, it remains to be seen how much attention and action the Green New Deal can generate. It is a strong slogan with historical lineage that is very necessary to stem the acceleration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. The geo heat pump industry remains ready to respond with carbonless heating, cooling, and hot water, interacting with a renewable thermal resource.