COP21 Paris: “What was once unthinkable is now unstoppable.” #ClimateChange #ClimateAction — United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon
COP21 Paris: “195 nations have risen to the challenge of climate change.” — UNFCCC
The COP21 Paris 2015 deal attempts to limit global atmospheric temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and the measures adopted in the agreement included provisions for reviewing progress every five years, and for $100 billion dollars a year in climate finance for developing countries.
After difficult two week-long COP21 negotiations, representatives of 195 countries of the world reached a unanimous landmark climate change accord in Paris. The historical climate deal for the first time made all the nations of the world to commit to cut greenhouse gas emissions to help reduce disastrous global warming effects. The deal is partly legally… Continue reading COP21 Paris – un Succès!
COP21: Examining the case for nations to meet reasonable CO2 emission targets by adopting a two-track plan to lower CO2 emission levels, while still adhering to the longer-term INDC model as suggested by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and COP21.
Example: U.S.A. bans coal-burning by 2020
Conversion of all existing coal-fired power plants to natural gas (such conversions are now a mature industry)
CO2 emissions from those converted power stations would drop by half
Eliminating the non-CO2 pollutants and particulate emitted by coal burning — some of which are very toxic to humans, livestock, and agriculture, and damaging to exterior concrete and metal
A total solution to the fly ash disposal problem
Water usage falls from 1100 gallons per MW to 800 gallons per MW
As natural gas becomes a baseload energy, gas prices would stabilize
Healthcare costs would fall
Agriculture costs would fall
Infrastructure costs related to exterior concrete spalling and metal pitting would fall
More coal available for export
Significant progress towards tapering U.S. emission levels would occur by 2020 from a single (and simple) regulatory change.
All of the natural gas-fired power generation extant in America after 2020 would need to continue producing electricity (especially to provide power at night) as more solar and wind power capacity is added to the U.S. grid. Utility companies that invest in natural gas power plants prior to and even after 2020, could therefore be assured their investments would remain as an important partner in the primary energy generation mix.
In that way, the United States could facilitate relatively rapid progress on short term CO2 emission reduction targets/non-CO2 related externalities — and continue to work towards meeting the (long term and non-binding) DDPP targets that are fine-tunable over the coming decades.
The question, “Is there any doubt that global warming could threaten plant and animal life on the planet?” no longer seems relevant due to the astounding amount of quality research done in recent years which proves we do, in fact, have a problem.
One wonders about the other question, “Are our politicians up to the task at hand?”
Don’t lose hope yet! There are some inspiring examples of environmental stewardship in the world
100% Now: Albania, Bhutan, Belize, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iceland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway, Paraguay, Tokelau, and Zambia, are countries that produce virtually 100% of their primary energy generation (electricity) via renewable energy, while Samoa will hit that standard by 2017. (All of these countries produce a minimum of 95% of their electricity via renewable energy, and all of them have plans to meet their 100% target within a few years. As always, easy access to low-interest financing is one way to enable those targets to be met by 2020)
100% by 2021:Costa Rica will hit its renewable energy target by the end of 2021. At present the Costa Rican electricity grid is powered by 94% renewable energy, but many days of the year renewable energy production exceeds 100 percent of demand allowing the country to export surplus electricity.
100% by 2030: Denmark and Scotland and are well on their way to hit 100% clean electricity generation by 2030 — while the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati in the South Pacific expect to become 100% clean energy powered by 2050 including all transportation.
90% Now: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Laos all produce more than 90% of their electricity via renewable energy and have ambitious plans to increase those targets. Limited funding is a factor.
80% Now: Canada produces over 80% of its primary generation from renewable energy (hydro-electric dams and nuclear power stations, with assorted minor solar power and wind power installations) but has, so far, has no plan to convert the remaining 20% of its electricity generation to clean energy.
80% by 2025:Nicaragua has an aggressive renewable energy program to replace its primarily fossil fueled primary energy (electricity) with renewable energy. The country is blessed with radiant sunshine, healthy wind resources and volcanoes (geothermal) all it lacks is the financing to accelerate its planned targets.
80% by 2050: Germany, an advanced country of 82 million people gets almost 40% of its annual electricity from wind, solar and biomass power and has an ambitious tw0-track programme underway called Energiewende that is simultaneously a) shutting down all of Germany’s nuclear power stations by 2022 (completely decommissioning them by 2045) and b) replacing that lost power generation with wind, solar, and biomass power.
By 2050 Germany expects to meet 80% of its electricity via renewable energy, and further plans to curtail energy use by 25% due to additional energy efficiency. The scale and speed of transition to clean energy in Germany is astonishing and enjoys broad support among the public.
20% by 2020: In the United States, primary energy (power plants that produce electricity or district heating, or both) are the single largest source of CO2 pollution.
And, although a slow starter, the United States has made rapid advances toward a cleaner energy grid. Early legislation such as the Clean Air Act (1970, amended 1990) has now been joined by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
It’s notable that the U.S. now spends more than any country in the world on its transition to clean energy and is quickly switching out of coal (good) to natural gas (better) and renewable energy (best).
China has the second-highest spend on renewable energy globally and breaks global solar and wind power installation records every year. By a wide margin.
And yet, all of it together isn’t nearly enough to lower our present carbon emissions to a safe level
Not even close actually, as the carbon bender we’ve been on since 1988 is mind-numbing.
“By the end of this year, more than half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution will have been released since 1988 — the year it became widely known that these emissions are warming the climate.”
“The Global Carbon Project (GCP) estimates that in 2014, we will release a record 37 gigatons (GT) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, and manufacturing cement. That’s a 2.5 percent increase over emissions in 2013, itself a record year.”
“This brings the total industrial carbon dioxide emissions since 1751 to an estimated 1480 Gt by the end of this year. And, remarkably, more than half of these emissions, 743 Gt, or 50.2 percent, have released just since 1988.” — Peter Frumhoff, Director of science & policy, Union of Concerned Scientists
Most people are. Some 80% of North Americans want stronger government and corporate action towards cleaner energy, more efficient buildings and electric vehicles. Which is great.
But in 2014, some $548 billion dollars of subsidies were paid or otherwise granted to the world’s fossil fuel corporations. And they’re in no mood to give it up.
Why would they?
Ever since large-scale coal, and oil and gas extraction began around 1920, fossil fuels have been getting massive subsidies relative to their imprint on the economy.
If the plan at COP 21 is to remove those subsidies from the fossil fuel companies, then there is no point in anybody showing up there. At all. Because as far as plans go, that must surely be voted; “Least likely to succeed since there were rocks.”
If the plan is to legislate ever stricter air quality standards (to the point where it has any real effect on total global emissions) get ready to pay even more subsidies — perhaps double. Yet, if that’s the plan, we might be wise to support it as we don’t have a second Earth to fall back on.
A more effective plan would be to leave fossil fuel subsidies at their present level and begin to match renewable energy subsidies to the fossil fuel subsidy rate, based on the barrel of oil equivalent (BOe) standard and let the market work on a level-playing-field basis
In that way ‘fossil fuel companies’ would morph into ‘energy companies’ — instead of remaining coal-only, oil-only, or natural gas-only companies.
Stand back and watch the CO2 emissions fall through the floor if that ever happens! Standardizing renewable energy subsidies to match coal, oil and natural gas subsidies, means that real and profound change would begin to take place throughout our energy sector.
It should be pointed out that a very good case could still be made for keeping natural gas alive and thriving (with the same subsidy regime) to fuel the transportation sector.
Because of the (over-hyped) variability of renewable energy (the Sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow) a massive shift towards natural gas (hundreds of times cleaner than coal, BTW) or battery storage will be needed to balance electrical demand. Perhaps both.
Natural gas (CNG) cars and trucks are affordable right now and can use the present distribution system as gasoline and diesel vehicles, while battery technology approaches the point of affordable battery systems for cars and trucks.
Although there is reason for hope at COP 21 in December 2015, the few examples above represent only a handful of nations acting on the scientific warnings about global warming
There are almost 200 other nations that must become convinced of the need to act on climate change this December, and many of them will be negatively affected by sea level rise, drought/heat waves, premature deaths caused by air and water pollution (China 410,000 per year, the U.S. over 200,000 per year, and Europe over 400,000 per year) and desertification.
Using Green Infrastructure to ‘Climate Proof’ Our Cities
One of the consequences of our changing climate is an increase in the severity and frequency of storms and other weather-related events in many parts of North America. A 2014 TD Economics report called Natural Catastrophes: A Canadian Economic Perspective estimates that by 2020 the cost of severe weather incidents to Canada is expected to be… Continue reading Green Infrastructure to ‘Climate Proof’ cities
10 Things We Learnt From Reddit About Understanding Climate Change
Two professors of cognitive psychology – Stephan Lewandowsky, from the University of Bristol, and Klaus Oberauer, from the University of Zurich – did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) this week. The topic up for discussion was: “The conflict between our brains and our globe: How will we meet the challenges of the 21st century despite… Continue reading Reddit AMA: Cognitive Dissonance and Climate Change