What do I think, What can I do?

Archive for July, 2012

Even big oil companies detect risks from climate change.

Oil ExtractionMost important things usually involve contradictions, but this one is really incredible. This post explains with some examples the risks that big  oil companies are detecting for their business due to climate change, and they are clever to think in this way and forget all the propaganda that are helping to generate against climate change. But if they want to be really clever they could do better and research renewable energies shifting their current and profitable business. It would make sense economically, at least for all in the long-term.

The problem is that maybe they are more worried for their profits and the short-term. Climate change really needs a change of point of view regarding time perspective.


By the way, I have not read it anywhere but renewable energies could be quite vulnerable too due to climate change, for example hydro and wind energy. Solar could even improve in many locations. I think this deserves some attention with the long-term perspective.


Photovoltaic cells in our windows?


Old photovoltaic cell

Most of the energy we use comes from the sun, even if we are not too conscious of it.

Different kinds of solar energy are the most evident example, but the wind is also moved by the energy injected in our atmosphere by the sun, as well as the water of rivers and lakes. All biofuels are generated by photosintesis diven by sunlight and even the fossil fuels were produced that way millions of years ago. They are so energy rich because they concentrate the accumulation of energy in organic compounds produced during a long period of time.The exceptions to energy coing from the sun are only nuclear and geothermal.

So it is not strange to think that the Sun should be our main target to find the solution for our climate change problem. But it is not so easy. The whole earth receives a huge amount or solar energy in form of light but it is not so concentrated, and consequently not so easy to extract and use practically. For this reason photovoltaic cells have evolved slowly for many years (and because of lack of investment and production effort).

Nevertheless, knowadays there are many technological improvements in the solar field that could lead us to a successful energy revolution. The most real one is the steep reduction in price of standard photovoltaic cells, with this trend grid parity will be out of dicussion in many places in short time.  But it does not stop there, Heliatek german company says it is able to produce semitransparent cells (link in Spanish) able to be located in windows with sufficient efficiency even at low light conditions and not affected by heat. This would be very interesting as the integration in the buildings could be straightforward, the only problem is the the price is not mentioned. How expensive will it be with respect to the energy produced? I know a tall house near here with a whole surface of glass, it could be a terrific power station. Sometimes it is not the optimun solution what succedes is just a reasonably good one in the right place and right moment, we will see.

1ºC is 20 m, sea level rise

I read this post recently and found it a terrific explanation of one of the most direct and frightening consequences of climate change: sea level rise. (I also bought his book High Tide on Main Street but I will try have to read it later).

One of the figures he gives is the best summary for me: Roughly sea level raises 20 m for each ºC, based on historic data. It does not happen immediately, the huge ice sheets need time to thaw but once the temperature is fixed it is unstoppable. Considering a moderate target of 2 ºC for our future warming if we do things relatively well and stop current business as usual in a reasonable time, this would lead to a terrifying figure of 40 m sea level rise. Others sources mention basically 21st century predictions as this article ( Antonio Zecca, Luca Chiari, Global and Planetary Change.). It calculates a lower limit of 80cm this siecle and more for the next 200 years; or the NOAA, witch estimates between 20 cm and 2m.

The problem to solve in order to predict the sea level rise is very complicated. Even knowing the exact amount of water coming from Greenland or west Antarctica, or the exact temperature rise and subsequent water dilatation it would be complex as the seas are filling the land floating in the magma. So, we have to be conscious or the great error margins and the difference between coasts.

But anyway, going back to the 40 m, I think my house would be included there, some years ago, in some floods just 3 m were enough to reach the lower floor, so I will not be here to see it but it could be sad to my grandsons to say this part of the sea was our grandfathers house.

A long time before that, with much less, it is likely that some housing market will realise about that and the wonderful coastal second houses or investment values will drop sharply causing an economical and maybe financial crack, and even before the strong storms will become a great problem for inhabitants owners and insurance companies.

Subsidies for fossil fuels, I signed to finish with them

One of the most interesting campaings around Rio+20 has the goal of ending fossil fuel subsidies, as explained in Huffintongpost. It can be supported in this web . I supported it convinced of the opportunity and ethic value of this message even if I do not know very well its origin but supported by the signature of many NGOs.

Some data are really impressive, for example from climate progress  one of those cases involving $29.000 million  in carbon from public lands is denunced. Current miners strike in Spain due to a reduction of carbon subsidies is another example, although the difficult social contest in this case would require a different treatment like deviating this great amount of money to production of new sources of energy as a job source for the miners. As shown in the picture renewables are not the only ones subsidized now, and if the historical data are considered the balance goes even more to the fossil fuel side because energy has always been a state issue. This would be a question of fair bussiness in another contest, though not with climate change calling to our doors.

It is really stupid to hinder renewables expansion due to the costs whereas current mature technologies that are driving our climate mad get huge amounts of money. I really think that renewables are more expensive and that we will need sacrifice to cope with climate change; but, at least, we have to start with some minmum requirements like not subsidizing the source of the problem. This way it will be easier to measure the costs.

Climate Change and Science Fiction: Feed by Mira Grant

This nobel was nominated to last year Hugo awards and I could not read it then,  but I found another good opportunity this year as the continuation is nominated for 2012 Hugos, it is titled Deadline. I really liked both of them, more the first, even if I am not too fond of Zombie stories, in fact, I have started reading the third book in the trilogy: Blackout.
Apart from my reading tastes, in this post I wanted to note the splicit mention about global warming in the first book. The book is a distopia describing accurately and plausibly a world deeply changed due to a virus that makes dead go live again in form of hungry Zombies. This is the mayor problem in that scenario, it affects everything and have killed a lot of people from the initial raisings of 2014 (the action begins in 2039). But some other big issues of the world are mentioned in one moment and one of them is global warming. So, the author considers it a big issue even in a world severely underpopulated (for example, the whole India is left for the “infected”, and those ones live in a very low carbon style, do not use cars or lighting, or computers,…). That means that een in the case of drastic emission reduction path, Mira considers there is enough inertia to go on with climate change. It is true that in the rest of the book it is not mentioned again or noticed in another way.
In the second book, just one year later the most explicit effect of the climate is the last terrible storm, undoubtfully an extreme weather event.

In summary, two very nice science fiction books, not closely related to climate change but firmly believing in it.