Climate change in the form of global temperature rise about 2C might be “locked and loaded” into the global electricity system already, according to a new study of projected power-plant emissions. We do not yet recognize how dramatic the shifts are that are required to keep global warming in check. The kids are right - we are rapidly flying into the clouds of a climate crisis, a time of unimaginable turbulence, without our seat belts fastened.
Think about it: 40% of Americans live in coastal counties. With rising sea levels and greater damage expected from storms, hurricanes and wave surges, much of coastal America will be in growing danger. Each year, predictably and unpredictably, the sea will inundate low-lying coastal areas. Rising sea levels will affect billions of dollars in real estate, destroying some of it and devaluing much of the rest.
The climate emergency is rewriting human history, year by year. We no longer have a choice between preventing massive climate change and putting adaptive measures in place - we simply must do both, with a speed that has never been seen in political, social and economic affairs. That requires a massive public education program by all professions and a massive commitment to training millions of professionals in new strategies for zero carbon design and climate adaptation/mitigation engineering.
Joe Biden released his Climate Plan this week, to mixed or tepid reviews. At what point will he advocate stripping the fossil fuel industry of all tax advantages and start asking everyone to pay the true cost of carbon emissions? A carbon tax means pain for all of us, and the last thing politicians want is to promise you pain! The vague promises of “making the polluters pay” ignores that our entire economy is still predicated on the promise of cheap, readily available and abundant fossil energy. The Clean Energy Revolution needs to be completed by 2030, not 2050, as Biden’s plan promises.
Two weeks ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee introduced a plan to address the Climate Crisis with an “Evergreen Economy Plan.” The plan proposes to “catalyze” $9 trillion of investment over ten years — with at least $300 billion in average annual federal spending leveraging approximately $600 billion in private and local government investment each year. Inslee’s plan is detailed, thorough and feasible, but has received little public attention.
A more efficient Trump Tower? Three related stories caught my eye in the past two weeks. First, New York City mandates energy efficiency upgrades at all tall buildings, including Trump Tower (lawsuit against the mandate to follow?); second, Amory Lovins is back with another paean to energy efficiency, a drum he’s been banging for 40 years; third, renewable energy mandates are incredibly costly compared to efficiency upgrades.
“Move Fast and Break Things” shouldn’t only be Facebook’s motto. Everyone engaged in climate policy needs to understand that we need to adopt a new kind of war footing: get new ideas into prototype as fast as possible, try them out, then choose the ones that can scale the quickest and most effectively. This is not a time for political candidates to tread cautiously on climate, hoping that people will divine their true intentions behind the rhetorical timidity.
A recipe for climate disaster! Barclays’ recent study shows how hard it is to cut oil use, let alone get to “zero net carbon” emissions by 2050. Under “most likely” scenario, world oil demand peaks in 2030-2035, with 2050 demand about 5% above today, 105 million barrels/day. What can we do to change this?
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke unveiled yesterday a detailed proposal a week after Earth Day for a net zero carbon US economy by 2050, costing a mere $5 trillion. In so doing, Beto ups the ante for every other Democratic candidate to respond with a similar climate change proposal. Bernie Sanders and Jay Inslee are already there, but that leaves 17 other stalwarts behind.
The first Earth Day in 1970 shifted the 1960s early environmental movement into overdrive. In September 1969, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson announced that a national Earth Day would be held the following April 22nd. As a student at Caltech, the announcement electrified me: Here was a cause I could support: a clean environment, focused on passing laws reducing air and water pollution.