What do I think, What can I do?

rito Moreno Glazier in Argentina

Photo from Perito Moreno Glazier in Argentina

I have recently finished High tide in the Main Street book, by John Englander, both Oceanographer and great blogger. It is the perfect opportunity to talk about one of the most evident and important consequences of climate change: Sea Level Rise. In this post I am not going to review the book, the short summary is that I liked it because it is clear, short and well explained. So, highly recommended. Instead of talking about the book itself I prefer to make a short list of ideas/data about sea level rise, some are from the book but the list is like a personal compilation. So let’s go:

  • Sea Level Rise is one of the most clear and stronger consequences of climate change.
  • The reason for sea level rise is mostly the melting of land ice. The ice over water does not change seal level. So the places to watch are, in strict order, Antartica, Greenland and Glaziers around the world. The water thermal expansion is a small effect in comparison.
  • Meters (the key factor and the most difficult):
    • The total range of melting is quite impressive. If all that ice is melted the sea level can rise mode than 60 m. In the ice ages the sea level was almost 200 m lower than today. A rule of thumb from historical records is 10 m with a temperature 2ºC more than now.
    • Greenland ice alone is 7 m of sea level rise.
    • In this moment the measurements are in order of mm or cm.
    • The projections for this century are a bit uncertain and depend on what we do but are in the range of 0.5 m to 1 m.
    • Those meters are in vertical. The translation in area lost in the cost strongly depends on the particular case, but it can be much more in flat lands.
  • Time:
    • Sea level rise needs some time, the melting is not immediate but lasts for a long time and it can not be stopped.
    • There are important tipping points difficult to predict. When some parts of Greenland or Antartica start to melt they will go fast to the sea and sea level will accelerate. It is difficult to say at which temperature will occur and this adds a lot of uncertainty.
  • Consequences:
    • Most problems start before too much rising: Stronger storms, coastal flooding, high tides, freshwater salinization,…
    • Economical consequences will be huge and will start in the moment we get convinced of sea level rise.
    • Many beautiful and expensive coastal areas will loose their property value.
    • The most extreme case are the islands that will become inhabitable. Some countries will disappear. How do we value them?
    • Some coastal zones will be protected with dams or other means but that is quite expensive too and the grade of protection will depend on the amount of sea level rise.
    • Only countries or regions with enough money and vision will be able to prepare protection measurements.
    • Some zones just cannot be protected due to soil structure.
    • Many specific infrastructures will have to be adapted many times
  • We have developed our civilization with a stable sea level and many infrastructures like harbours are built very precisely for a sea level.
  • Our civilization is concentrated in the coastal areas, for many reasons. Their change will have a deep effect.

Climate Activism

Time goes fast. Three weeks ago I was in the most intense #FridayforClimate, at least in my personal experience. I was with my older son and I finished with mixed feelings happy to see more people than expected, hopeful for the strength transmitted by young people and for the worldwide impact but worried by the lack of focus, at least in the demonstration I was. I wrote about it.

I am not able to make a reasonable prediction about this movement started by Greta Thunberg. Sometimes I see this personalization as a weakness sometimes as a strength, we all need models, and we all follow more easily people than ideas. The problem is when this model people is not able to meet the expectations. For the moment, Greta continues to get coverage and leads. For me the planet wide scope is key but the young people leadership is quite interesting too. They are going to live more time with the consequences of climate change, they have more personal reasons to be worried. Like in the judicial case of  “Juliana v US,” the lawsuit filed by youth plaintiffs against the United States claiming that climate change violates their rights. I do not think courts will solve this problem but those cases will generate political and social activism.

To get a successful climate change mitigation (the technical name to reduce the emissions and climate change) we need this activism because changing our energy production, transportation and industry will not be easy and will produce losers. This kind of sacrifices are intrinsically difficult for politicians, they can produce strong backfire like yellow vests movement in France. And activism helps for that, it helps a lot.

#EarthHour in 2019 (March 30th)

Another form of activism, not so young, was last Saturday’s #EarthHour, it is quite old, in fact, from 2004. 6 years ago I mentioned itand last Saturday I went to the local meeting with my family. We were not many this time, and I did not check if the power consumption effect was noticeable, but it still is another wolrdwide action, with many institutions involved and with a clear message in favour of energy use reduction, or, in other words, efficiency. I like this message, we need of concretion, and even more we need a world wide claim of concrete and urgent actions like a carbon tax, or stopping coal use, or reaching some reasonable co2 emissions per capita in a defined time. Undoubtedly, those campaigns can help, even more if they converge and maintain pressure until next cop meetings or elections.

From Pixabay (jplenio)

In the last times these two movements are attracting much attention in climate change.

Green New Deal is a strong political movement in USA. A couple of good explanations here: in New York Times and from Australia in Skeptical Science. USA and China are the two main economies David Appel likes it but he would prefer to separate climate change politics from other social politics. After reading it I partially agree but I prefer to connect with the next interesting movement.

On the other hand Greta Thunberg -the young girl that addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference and in January 2019, having just turned 16,  and was invited to talk to the World Economic Forum at Davos- has started and inspired a school strike against climate change. It has become a really strong young people movement worldwide and it deserves a post itself.

Both are important because have made mainstream climate change, both have helped feel the urgency of climate action that scientists are long ago explaining, both are reaching worldwide scope. At the same time they are different, Green New Deal is very political and School strikes are mostly social. Green New Deal comes from American politics and School strikes come from the cold northern Europe.

So I am very happy to hear in the news that climate change is a big problem and we have to act as humankind. This was really necessary both at political and social level. What I miss is concreteness in the message. It would be nice to focus on asking to close coal power stations, install yearly a good amount of renewables, support for governments speaking about end of fuel vehicles,… And it would be really great to ask a worldwide carbon tax that is one politics that would move many others. Concreteness is imperative as we need fast action.

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.

 

 

 

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.