What do I think, What can I do?

Wind Mills Image taken from Pixabay from Oimheidi

The wind is more powerful and constant in the sea. In fact, it has been used for many centuries to cross the oceans by brave sailors who knew quite well how to find favourable winds. But moving ships is one thing and harvesting wind cost-effectively another different one. I have always had doubts about off-shore wind power to become an important energy source because harvesting energy in ocean conditions is more difficult and transportation is an additional cost. But the data are telling me I was not right.

Last year, 2018, was not so good for climate change. However Europe installled 2,6 GW of new off-shore wind power, as shown in WindEurope statistic data. This is an increment of 18% in off-shore wind power capacity in 15 new parks. Quite good numbers that show a steady growing trend. UK plans to have 25 GW in 2030 and Germany 20 GW. Other countries (Poland, France, Belgium) in Europe also have plans. Europe has been leading this technology but in USA there are many projects currently and China is starting too.

Some concrete examples are:

  • The project called Gemini Wind park will be the first and important step to transform Duch fossil power generation into renewables and it is starting to be built.
  • Hywind in Scotland is quite special as it is a floating off-shore, for the moment floating off-shore is quite expensive compared to fixed one but it has a huge potential and it is expected to get cheaper.
  • Gode Wind 1 y 2 in Germany with more than 500 MW of power.
  • The news about the first off-shore wind power auction that did not need any subsidy was great and really significant although it has to be qualified as explained in the German post Germany to get free offshore wind! Wait, what?.

In this moment off-shore wind only represents 2% of electricity production in Europe, less in other important economies, but it is growing and growing steadily. The technology is becoming competitive and the resource is vast. Moreover, it is and opportunity for oil companies to “recycle” their activity. In my opinion this is good because it can soften the transition if some of the greatest losers (oil companies) get some compensation and besides their experience can be helpful for deploying off-shore wind and this can help reduce costs and times faster. Getting new renewable and competitive electricity sources is very important, it helps in the fast transition we need and diversification will help in the intermittency problem.

Even more, these examples and data were all about the “fixed” off-shore wind, however the floating wind mills would allow a further development, more wind in different locations and another jump.

 

 

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Crossroad. Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels .

Last year I haven written much about climate change. But I continue reading, thinking and worrying. It has been grey year, disappointing for many things and hopeful for others. So let’s put in black and white my personal balance:

In the most significant part I would locate the IPCC Special Report on 1.5ºC. It deserves more explanation, but the main point, in my opinion, is that scientific community concretes to the world the time limit to act in order to be in the safe side of climate change and the time limit is narrow. We are close to the crossroad

In contrast, the world CO2 emissions have increased significantly. And this is by itself the bad news, but considering the crossroad concept it gets even harder to assume, it is like saying something clearly to the world and getting the wrong answer immediately. This way there is no way. Last year was the 4th hottest until now but next record will be here soon.

COP24 did not get a political serious compromise and thermosolar is not growing fast either.

In the positive trends, there are many hopeful signals:

  • Coal continues to decline in many countries and globally. Coal is the first fossil fuel to quit.
  • UK in its brexit decision turmoil continues to be a great example, reducing power consumption (decoupling from economy), coal and emissions.
  • Off-shore wind power seems to be a reality, in UK and in many other EU countries.
  • Electric mobility seems closer. Maybe not in numbers but the felling is that some governments and auto industry consider it feasible. Or at least more feasible that ten years ago.
  • Energy storage seems closer too. Battery costs go down steadily. This is a key factor to increase renewables in many electric systems.
  • Photo-voltaic and on-shore wind power are profitable without subsidies in many countries. This changes the game, even more for developing countries. They do not have to decarbonize, just do not have to carbonize.

Most of those sentences deserve a dedicated post. I will try.

urgent

In the last couple of years my perception is is that climate change community is translating more and more the sense of urgency. Something has to be done but not tomorrow. This sense is applied to sea level rise, to the reasonable temperature limit, to extreme weather events, … In fact, changing the “acceptable” temperature increase limit from 2ºC to 1.5ºC is in itself quite stressing and makes climate change objective quite hard to achieve without immediate and strong international action. This urgent action need is becoming more and more general.

My felling about this urgency is a bit contradictory:

  • I completely agree that we are not doing enough. Emissions have not start to decrease consistently, and there are more that 20 years now that climate change was widely recognized as one of the worlds leading challenges. Even worse, the required changes are societal and economic challenges that need strong commitment for a long time. The solution will not be fast.
  • However, the urgency has a risk, some risks in fact. It can disturb the main long-term objective; it can distort the climate change history; and it can be very disappointing if no short-term success is achieved.

Maybe my felling is very related to the conflict between long-term and short-term in society, in my life and in climate change. Anyway, urgent action is needed, at least to start a long, difficult but necessary journey to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and avoid too much climate change.

 

I have been quite absent from this blog last years but not from Climate Change news, so I dare to give an opinion about 2016.  2016 was the hottest year on record, it was confirmed by all agencies, NASA, NOAA, WMO,… It is true that “el Niño” effect helped a lot but breaking global temperature records in 2015 and 2016 confirms that Climate is changing and it is changing now and fast. And this, although expected, is really bad news because it means that we have less time left to reduce our CO2 (and some other GHG) emissions.

2016 Hottest year on record, figure from NASA.org

 

 

 

Maybe a positive influence is that skeptics do not know what to say after loosing their hiatus argument, they will come back with it in some time. Nevertheless they are happy because one of them in in the White House and nobody really knows how much he can hinder Climate Change fight (some even consider he can be positive). I think that having a man that doubts about climate change ruling the most powerful economy in the world in years that are critical to get a real and serious global climate agreement is, definitively,  a problem.

To end positively, two important good news: a record new renewable energy capacity was added last year (with lower costs); and coal was passed by renewables worldwide. A good example is brexit UK coal use reduction, historical in the country that started industrial revolution with it.

Last days the most commented climate change news are the words coming from catholic church’s leader Pope Francis in a encyclica called Laudato Si.  It is everywhere,

  • in climate change webs it is celebrates and extensively commented: climate progress, carbon brief, skeptical science, quark soup…
  • In skeptic webs it is criticized: whatupwhiththat, or this one.
  • In general newspapers it is mentioned profusely. For example, New York Times has 22 news in their climate change channel last week (12-19th June), 17 are about Pope’s encyclica, including an editorial. relationship with poverty, american politics reactions, or critics to current global market. Many others like BBC, El Pais (in Spanish),… It is well described in this post.
  • In Google a simple “Laudato Si” search gives 2.000.000 answers.

So,is this document a turning point in climate change? I agree with Carbon Brief‘s post that explains it is very positive and influential but just that. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world but the two great actors (USA and China) are not Catholic and most influential catholic states are among the “convinced” in climate change (Italy, Brazil, Spain). Even more,  if this document is clear and with a lot of media attention, the opinion of catholic church with respect to climate change was not different with previous Popes. Nevertheless, in my opinion the three most positive points of the encyclica are:

  1. The moment is crucial. We need commitment and clear ideas in the governments and public opinion to start a way now that will avoid greater problems in 50 years. This document helps in this sense, to gain commitment. This year COP in Paris is a great opportunity to start a serious change.
  2. Many people in several western countries listens contradictory words about climate change, or they do not get a sense of urgency. The Pope will be a new word for them, as it is a highly respected opinion for many people and can help them inform more or get conscious about climate change. Every people’s opinion counts in this issue, at least to some extent.
  3. Finally Pope Francis connects the fact of the poorest with climate change. Climate change is becoming a great problem for them in many ways and this is the way it will become an humanitarian problem to the eyes of many people.

The news maybe was present  in many media like NYT, and celebrated in the climate blogs like climateprogress or carbonbrief. Last year was the first one in the recent history with reduction in CO2 emissions without a great war or economic disaster.  The wind power was important in this achievement increasing 51477 MW of installed capacity. By countries China started to change its emissions trend with less coal and more wind and sun,  UK also fell 9%, on the other hand the USA stopped the emission reductions from last years, increasing a 0.7% due to coal use.

Is this the beginning of a successful story?  Of a peak in the global emissions? and a path to a control of climate change in the next decades? I hope so, but it is too early to claim any success as this level of emissions is very far from the one we need is approximately 400% higher. But this is the first step we needed to start the emission reduction pathway and to get the felling that some effective actions are being taken. I dare to say that this step was at the same time the easiest one (technically) and the most difficult one (psicological and socially). We will see if we remember it in the future as a good start of many other steps.

Climate change is not only about the polar bear or arctic ice. The consequences will be and are just over the corner and they are getting expensive. Some experts are using this argument convincingly. This was also the clearest message in Tony Blair‘s decided climate change action.  Insurance companies are repeatedly showing their opinion about climate change risk assessment. And the consequences in some sectors are starting to be economically noticeable as last  California’s water crisis affecting beer production. Or two from las winter: winter sports and destructive storms.

There will be more and more, attributions will grow at the same pace and some will realize that the economic cost of a low carbon economy (real, no doubt, in my opinion) is small compared to the cost of inaction. The problem is that the first one is short term and measurable, the former medium-long-term and more difficult to measure precisely. It is not again about environment and economy it is about short term and long term, and mainly about the well being of our descendants in one, two or three generations and so on.