CAPTURE THE CARBON!
TREES! PLANT TREES!
Not this ...
At the original (Conference of Parties) COP 21
Global Climate Conference in Paris, December 2015, 197 countries agreed that we all have to commit to something
soon, and one of most reasonable ways
to start is to take advantage of what we already have: nature, particularly forests, since trees are one of the best absorbers
of CO2. Meanwhile, we will devise clever technologies to capture and store the stuff that is rendering cities
literally unbreathable, and investigate ways to change our old habits that create CO2.
THE POLITICAL BACKSTORY
"The era of consumption without consequences is over."
So said UN
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon during the April 22, 2016 Climate Change Meeting at the United Nations in New York City.
For the first time, an overwhelming majority of member states -- 197 -- signed the climate agreement reached in Paris
at the COP21 meeting in December 2015. In good faith, each country promised to submit its plan to reduce carbon emissions
to meet the COP21 goal of a global temperature rise of no more than 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) by 2020.
COP21 CONFERENCE IN PARIS,
12/12/2015 ... A WORKABLE AGREEMENT
Six months later, in October 2016, 81 signatories
presented their voluntary national plans, as agreed, to limit carbon emissions in their countries to an ideal 1.5°
C. All countries have basic economic, political, and sociological needs which COP 21 allowed them to take
into account. Signatories agreed to five-year check-ups, the next in 2020. In addition, global companies such as Exxon
and Bank of America agreed to shift to carbon neutral. Please see more on the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Hottest Year Contest
Until 2018 claimed the right to the title, emissions
for the year 2016 reached a level that will require a miracle to limit a global temperature rise of anything lower than
2°C (3.6°F), according to reports from NOAA and NASA. The WMO reported
that carbon levels globally exceeded 400 parts per million ppm (or 400 carbon molecules for every one million molecules
in the atmosphere) in what appears to be the entire year 2016, a level never recorded historically or prehistorically.
2016 year's rise in levels was due in large part to the powerful El Niño that swept east across the Pacific bringing
drought and reducing vegetation which absorbs CO2 naturally. Levels of methane and
nitrous oxide were elevated as well.
took the record for the most expensive in local weather damage around the world, especially in the United States. And it's
not over, even if it's not a smooth clean rise. 2017 measured 1.50°F, showing steady rises since 1977 at 54°F,
with dramatic leaps since then.
WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas reminded everyone that CO2 remains in the atmosphere
for 1,000 years, and even longer in the ocean. "The real elephant in the room is carbon dioxide," said Taalas.
COP 24 Katowicz, Poland
The most recent global get-together on climate change in 2018 in Katowicz attracted
23,000 delegates from 197 countries. They continued to refine the results of debates of the huge number of issues to present
the final structures for the Rulebook. The Paris agreement officially goes into effect in 2020, when the first report-back
summary is expected from each country.
The elements are the same: the world is composed of countries with sharply different GDPs and all the problems
that go with being a poor nation, as well as problems created by global climate change.
As host nation, Poland, thinking positively while waiting for alternative sources of energy to replace coal, their main energy source and one of the main generators of CO2 pollution,
produced some other uses for coal: soap, shower gel, decorative floor inserts, and earrings. (www,
CHECK ) Delegates reminded each other to be "more ambitious" in addressing consequences of making the transition
from coal to better energy sources; to take forests very seriously; and increase interest in "e-mobility." See:
CLIMATE CHANGE IS AN OPPORTUNITY
droughts, violent storms, and rapid, random, and merciless changes in lifestyles suggest we might be more fragile than
we knew. Working from the belief that our use of fossil fuels has significantly changed earth’s
climate, COP 21 specifically addressed the astonishing changes of the past 165 years without getting lost in scientific or
political arguments over whether or not climate change exists. They also agreed that it is everyone's responsibility to
engage in reducing carbon emissions and to create adaptive measures that work for all. http://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-the-final-paris-climate-deal
original Paris conference included businesses in the solution to take the burden off government and provide business smarts.
Reps from business, including Bill Gates, created the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a collection of billionaire entrepreneurs
dedicated to creating clean end affordable energy, experimenting with what Gates calls "audacious" ideas: http://www.breakthroughenergycoalition.com/en/index.html
Each of the 195 countries was coming from its own particular
concerns. The Marshall Islands, the Philippines, and others in the Pacific who are most-at-risk with measurable and scary
ocean changes already underway lobbied for more stringent changes to cap the temperature rise at 1.5o, rather
than 2° Celsius. A group calling themselves the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries was new this year: they are
countries with significant GDPs like China, India, and Saudi Arabia but which are still dealing with establishing equitable
economies at home. Even they committed to contributions for carbon reductions.
The big difference with this conference is that whatever commitment
plans countries come up with, they are not legally binding. Every five years they will be responsible for accurate and honest
reports on emissions reductions. Critics moan: It'll never work. But the thinking behind it is that without
a litigious sword hanging over their heads, countries will feel freer to experiment in inventing new ways to reduce and
You Tube's choices for 10 Best Climate Change videos.
SOME EXAMPLES OF ALTERNATIVES
THE SUN: SOLAR IMPULSE, One Example
Bertrand Piccard, co-developer with Andre
Borschberg of Solar Impulse, the first solar-powered plane to circle the earth, proved climate change can send us to new heights
of exploration. The Solar Impulse II successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean powered entirely by 17,000 photovoltaic
cells spread across its 72-meter wingspan on 22 April 2015, landing successfully in Mountain View, California. "The Pacific Ocean is done," Piccard said simply, before beginning the trip across the United States with Andre
Borschberg. From New York City, powered by stored solar energy that allows for 70 km/h (43
mph), Solar Impulse flew over the Atlantic Ocean, across Europe to Cairo, then on to Abu Dhabi to complete the round-the-world
trip begun on 9 March 2015.
On 25 July 2015 Solar
Impulse landed in Abu Dhabi, proving that the sun can provide the energy to circle the earth. "The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now," said Bertrand Piccard.
THE OCEAN: OCEAN WINDFARM : A Case Study
Block Island is four miles long, two miles wide, within striking distance of the Rhode
Island mainland, and a tourist mecca in the summer when its stable winter population of 1,000 people swells with "noisy
and busy" crowds. Some summer folk own houses; others are hotel dwellers for a week enjoying the isolation from cable
TV; and a fair number ride the ferries to spend a day on the beach.
But they all use power. All of this has been provided for years by diesel fuel brought
in by tanker to light the lights, turn on the stoves, and for better or worse, heat the homes and businesses of Block Island. In 2005 the Energy Policy Act gave the right to build
renewable energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf, giving the go-ahead for what is the first wind farm in the United
Overseen by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean
Energy Management (https://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Environmental-Studies/), the Block Island wind project was leased to Deepwater Wind New England (http://dwwind.com/project/block-island-wind-farm/ ) which provided the engineers who devised the best ways to sink the bright yellow stanchions deep into the ocean and erect
five mighty wind turbines, each 60 feet above the waterline with three elegant 28-ton blades, situated a half-mile apart and
about two and a half miles from Block Island. For the islanders the news was good: two sunken cables, carrying 25,000 megawatt
hours, enough to power 17,000 homes, reached the mainland and Block Island and brought them into the 21st century. Above all,
islanders said goodbye to an annual 40 tons of CO2 spun off by diesel fossil-fuel.
Underwater life is busy. The artificial reefs are home to
ecosytems of fish which attract sea turtles and humpback and endangered right whales on their April migration south. Fishermen love the huge schools of fish: "There's
always something there," said one. Numerous studies by NFWS, NOAA, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy,
the University of Delaware monitor the effects of wind turbines on big seabirds, small migratory birds, whales, turtles, lobsters,
and bats. A recent study released by the National Academy of Sciences found that ocean-wind powered turbines collect far more
megawatt hours than land-based wind farms (https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-10/cifs-hep100517.php).
the wind in a favorable sustainable wind area is only the beginning: plans are underway for windfarms in five or six more
states. BOEM has future plans in the Pacific to build a station powered by ocean waves, and another to gather power from underwater
turbines capturing ocean currents.
For a YouTube look at the windfarm, see https://youtu.be/Z-MZjeBWilQ
POWER IS IN YOUR FUTURE
experiments have been underway for a couple of decades, funded by the military.
Turning the ocean into electricity especially for islands like Hawaii
famous for big waves has taken longer because taming ocean waves and currents comes with problems involving the integrity
of the equipment: generally, the ocean takes what it wants. Off Oahu, Hawaii, however, two experiments test design and function:
one is a 50-foot wide doughnut, the other a 12-foot high buoy, testing among other things whether more energy is generated
from an up-and-down or a sideways motion of the ocean, both of which exist in that sea. The doughnut-shaped buoy, connected
to an underground cable, collects energy through its "wobble." Startups are being encouraged, and all thinking is
on the table. Hawaii's buoys: https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/stories/first-wave-energy-station-us-generates-power-hawaii. For swell energy, see: http://newatlas.com/wave-swell-energy-interview/49463/
TURNING THE BATTLESHIP:
COAL: It Takes Awhile
It is estimated that
half the world's population relies on wood and biomass for its energy. Coal, for example,
is a big bugaboo, but in some places, [See Poland, below] it's the most expedient source of energy --there's a lot of it in
the ground, and the technology has become a tradition for several generations of coal miners.
The trick is, clean coal technologies already
exist; it's only money and politics that slow down clean coal implementation, while better alternative non-fossil fuel-based
energy -- solar, wind, hydro -- is being developed. (For a bare-facts takedown on clean coal tech see: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/clean-coal.htm)
CARS: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
-- anything with fuel-injection engines -- are equally grounded in several generations' livelihood and comfort, and they are
arguably the chief cause of carbon emissions. But is everyone changing to a bike? No, but choices of alternatives
are popping up, and visions of electric emission-free cars gain ground annually.
BMW, producer of the popular iE [blue car below],
would like to see community-based charging stations where you could leave your car during the day when energy is cheapest,
and in apartment compounds to accommodate charging at night. Looking ahead, BMW Group spokesman Thomas Becker sees the possibility of integrating power in the car by placing solar panels on car roofs. Other possibilities
include plugging in to parking meters for quick charges at curbside.
The vision is there: All roads equipped
to handle automatic emissions-free vehicles without human drivers. Google, Apple and many others are devising amazing alternatives
to what we have now, as well as working on electric driverless public vehicles.
Other players in the electric car competition for 2018 are robust:
GMC released an all-electric vehicle; Ford Focus Electric will travel 100 miles on a charge; BMW, 114; and Chevrolet Bolt
200 miles [Red car on right]. BMW offers a lithium-ion eight-year, 10,000-mile battery in its i3. New cars are an unfolding story, and the future
for lowering carbon emissions in transportation is looking good.
recently announced all of its vehicles will be electric or hybrid by 2021, taking the challenge from Tesla's Elon Musk and
his affordable totally electric car, the Model 3, a sleek design priced at $35,000, that attracted several thousand
Elon Musk is a serious innovator:
He has invented
a road to Mars with an idea to populate;
His Space X reusable rocket has successfully taken off and landed several times back on
earth on a target
his huge desert lab in Nevada engineers are working on the ultimate battery https://www.tesla.com/gigafactory
Musk is also
investigating the possibility and practicality of connecting neuronal links in the human brain to digital impulses in computer
software, creating a kind of cyborg capability that will stave off the dominance of AI: Neuralink is a startup -- see https://neuralink.com/)
HOW TO MAKE CARBON DISAPPEAR
No political group will eliminate or reduce CO2
to the levels required to "save the planet." More radical techniques fall within the domain of atmospheric
scientists who, despite creativity and funding, come face to face with a simple problem: What's good for one geographical
area can spell disaster for another. The earth is a collection of networked systems. Ethicists tussle with the idea that no
one is in charge except what we call "Nature," a concept we don't always fully understand.
Some climate observers point out that cosmically, the earth is in the middle
of the Holocene Era which cyclically entertains an Ice Age every 11,000 years, and we are overdue, and we are certainly not
ready to undergo a new life in a prevalent Arctic atmosphere. For climate ethics, see https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/programs/ccgg
Messing with the climate to reduce
global overheating -- geoengineering -- is a hot topic among climate scientists these days. A few years ago, ideas to gather
carbon and bury it in the sea competed with plans to shoot it into space. At the Desert Research Institute at the University
of Nevada (https://www.dri.edu/), David Mitchell, an atmospheric physicist, has an idea to create fleets of drones that will fly above high cirrus clouds
in the upper latitudes in winter (think: cold), sprinkle them with dust that will create larger ice crystals and thinner clouds,
and open the atmospheric doors to space to allow more cumulated global heat to escape.
A similar project at Yale University, however, discovered that seeding cirrus clouds
affects the seasonal flow of Indian and West African monsoons. (See James Temple's article in MIT Tech Rev: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604081/the-growing-case-for-geoengineering/
Maps of the world can illuminate the states of some present and
future (possibly inevitable) climate change conditions. See a collection from the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/technology-44575392/maps-reveal-hidden-truths-of-the-world-s-cities
THE REAL VALUE
Doing our individual part to reduce our energy footprint
(all those things we know so well -- walk, don't eat meat, put out lights you're not using, take navy showers, and share,
share, share) has its own intrinsic value. Some will get rich devising ways to capture and store carbon. And the person who
invents the battery of all batteries will be enshrined forever. But where the rubber meets the road, it is children where
the value lies. They are most likely to suffer from asthma from polluted air, to be swept away in floods, to be denied schooling
because they must collect firewood for fuel, to be caught in epidemics, and to undergo the total disruption of a violent storm.
Anything that can turn this around is worth a lot.
And it is not just for the kids in the future,
it's for the ones around now.
2013, an F5 tornado swept through Moore, Oklahoma, a city of about 54,000 people in the middle of the afternoon, when kids
were getting ready to go home from school. Parents and teachers knew the tornado drills, but this one was quick, violent,
and weird: it drove a mile-wide path through the city, then turned around and went back, leveling the hospital, more then
1000 houses, and two schools. In the Plaza Towers Elementary School, a wall collapsed, killing seven children, sending the
survivors into a collective state of shock. The funeral director said he was in a unique position above and beyond just burying
the children. "We met with the mommies and daddies," he said, "and came up with not just a graveyard for children,
but a memorial to honor those seven souls." In several meetings with the parents who collectively remembered their
children's likes and dislikes, the community captured the children's lost innocence by illustrating their short lives in carvings
on stone benches placed outside the rebuilt school.
In a small town in Ethiopia last year, farmers were forced to change their several generations' style of farming,
by switching to terraced gardens. It involved major changes in lifestyle. In a meeting to assess the new farming techniques,
the town mayor concluded it was a success because "no children died."
"The era of consumption without consequences is over."
So said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon during the April 22, 2016 Climate Change
Meeting at the United Nations in New York City. For the first time, an overwhelming majority of member states -- 197 --
signed the climate agreement reached in Paris at the COP21 meeting in December 2015. Each country promised to submit its
plan to reduce carbon emissions to meet the COP21 goal of a global temperature rise of no more than 2° Celsius (3.6°
Fahrenheit) by 2020.
COP21 CONFERENCE IN PARIS, 12/12/2015 ... A WORKABLE AGREEMENT
Six months later, in October 2016, 81 signatories
presented their voluntary national plans, as agreed, to limit carbon emissions in their countries to an ideal 1.5° C.
All countries have basic economic, political, and sociological needs which COP 21 allowed them to take into
account. Signatories agreed to five-year check-ups, the next in 2020. In addition, global companies such as Exxon and
Bank of America agreed to shift to carbon neutral. Please see more on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
2016: THE HOTTEST YEAR EVER
In the same month, 2016 was declared
the hottest year on record on October 24. THE WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION issued a warning that carbon
emissions for the year 2016 had reached a level that will require a miracle to limit a global temperature rise of anything
lower than 2°C. The WMO reported that carbon levels globally exceeded 400
parts per million ppm (or 400 carbon molecules for every one million molecules in the atmosphere) in what appears to be
the entire year 2016, a level never recorded historically or prehistorically since several million years ago. This
year's rise in levels was due in large part to the powerful El Niño that swept east across the Pacific bringing drought
and reducing vegetation which absorbs CO2 naturally. Levels of methane and
nitrous oxide were elevated as well.
WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas reminded everyone that CO2 remains
in the atmosphere for 1,000 years, and even longer in the ocean. "The real elephant in the room is carbon dioxide,"
C0P22, Marrakesh. 2016
ADAPTATION IS COMPLEX
A month later, at the COP 22 meeting in Marrakesh, 47 of the world's poorest and most-threatened
countries established a Climate Vulnerable Forum with commitments to use 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2020.
Participants discussed the intricacies of adaptation and created a five-year work plan to address the effects of climate
change, including the consequential difficulties of migration, not just the physical movement of peoples, but the possible
loss of cultural identity, financial (and social) changes, and educational stops and starts. Discussion concluded with
the need to assess local idiosyncratic aspects of climate change,
as well as funding and transparency.
23, chaired by the South Pacific nation of Fiji, met in Bonn, Germany for two weeks in November 2017. Since December 2015
when the Paris Accord was signed by representatives of 197 countries committed to reducing carbon emissions with an ideal
goal of keeping the earth's temperature from rising more than 1.5°, global climate change has been the subject of the UN COP (Conference of Parties) meetings which,
although other previous conferences have tried in the past, is committed to forging real rubber-meets-the-road methods of
achieving what's possible to reduce carbon emissions.
On June 1st, 2017 President
Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris agreement, believing that we should negotiate a new deal that
is "fairer" to the United States. His administration, President Trump said, will work to create a new Accord
"where burdens and responsibilities are equally shared among the many nations. ... It's time to exit the Paris
Accord and to pursue a new deal that protects the environment, our companies, our citizens, and our country." See: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/01/statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord
In response to our resigning from the Accord on the federal level,
several individual states and cities, as well as private organizations and philanthropists agreed to continue
the current Paris Accord and cut carbon levels by 26-28% by 2025. Michael Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary General's Special
Envoy for Cities and Climate Change personally pledged several million dollars, which he fulfilled in April 2018, when
former Mayor Bloomberg gave $4.5 million to the Paris Accord. *COP 23 was a lively conference that opened new
initiatives, dialogs, and conflicts, meeting for the first time without the full support of the United States. Nevertheless,
some representatives of the United States were at the table, and a splinter group of American governors and billionaires
participated as the "We Are Still In" group.
*COAL: A group called Powering Past Coal Alliance, consisting of
more than 20 countries, with notable absences such as Germany and the United States, examined the possibilities of phasing
out coal use by 2030 in developed countries, and 2050 in other parts of the world.
*FOOD: Important discussions on agriculture and climate change, sharing world views on the management of crops
and livestock, addressed ways to guarantee a reliable supply of food for everyone on earth.
* NORTH AMERICA: Market solutions were the topic of
the North American Climate Leadership Dialogue, a group composed of representatives from Mexico and Canada, as well as
15 governors of the United States, who discussed transportation, carbon initiatives, and short-lived pollutants.
*BUSINESS: Global business
emissions trading was discussed in meetings with the IETA, the nonprofit International Emissions Trading Association.
Pictures, top left: Beijing in a recent air pollution crisis.
Top right: Forest (Photo©Andrey
Solar Impulse II getting
ready to take off from Payerne Air Base, Switzerland 13 November 2014. (Photo©Milko
Lumberport, West Virginia, where coal takes
windfarm, Bristol, Rhode Island in the sun and when a sudden fog enveloped the turbines. (Photos: Stephanie Ocko)
BMW's electric iE. (Photo: IBM)
Bolt (Photo: Chevrolet)
Tesla's Model 3.
Cirrus clouds, about 7 miles up, minus 40° Celsius, a cold band that traps heat on one side, reflects it back
into space on the other side. (Photo:meteorologiaenred.com/nubes-cirros-curiosas-como-pocas.html)
"Smile of the Adversity." Children help restore their village in Nepal
after a devastating flood in 2008. (Photo:©Dhilung Kirat, WikiCommons)