What do I think, What can I do?

Archive for September, 2012

News about costs of climate change and vulnerability

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I was gladly surprised to read this news in a local newspaper. It is also in the Guardian for example, but not in every important media. It mentions a report by DARA about climate vulnerabilities for all countries and continents in the world. After a quick read I am convinced it deserves more time and analysis from my part. However, the headlines in the newspapers is enough for a first opinion. It mentions the 1.6 drop in GDP that is caused currently by climate change. It would be enough to counteract the crisis in many countries where many fossil fuel supporters are blaming renewables energy costs for their costly electricity. And the most important issue, this economic effect is happening now, not in the unpredictable future of next generation, so what can we expect for our children? Are the renewables so expensive or climate change makes the fossil fuel far more costly? Many climate change hawks emphasize the economic balance, is not a bad strategy as counteracts the main problem of the main solution: the renewable energy.

Summary of my climate change snapshops from my holidays in the Canary islands

My holidays are getting very far, evolving into not very clear memories. Yet I wanted to write a summary post with my thoughts and I have been delaying it, but today, in one way or another I have posted it.

When I travel, I frequently look for images or facts related with climate change, renewable energies,…  This year I have even post some of them as:

My mental short summary now is that Canary islands have a lot to lose from climate change because having a wonderful climate any change will likely be negative and climate is central for the two main economic sectors there: agriculture and tourism. But, this scaring risks can also become opportunities as the experience of making El Hierro a renewable island shows, and I firmy believe in the potential of Canary islands. In fact, the same stubbornness of La Palma inhabitants not to allow any new industry they consider contaminant could lead them to a more renewable energy. They have two great advantages,  they do not have to feed a large electricity hungry industry and they do not suffer from cold or heat at their homes (for the moment).

By the way, why not try to reasearch geothermal generation possibilities in islands with active volcanos,  if they are useful to amuse the tourists by cooking tasteful meals (in Lanzarote) they could also be useful for something more productive.

Climate Change Snapshots from my Canary Island Holydays (IV)

This summer I was lucky to enjoy some vacation days in the very nice Canary Islands, concretely in Tenerife and La Palma. It was just holidays but Climate Change appeared, subtly in certain occasions I want to share with you again in this post as did in the previous ones.

In this case I share a fact, slightly negative but an opportunity at the same time. We hired a car in Tenerife. Certainly the cost was very competitive and it was with Hertz company. But it contained a disagreeable surprise, the deposit was full of gas and it was directly charged to us. This condition was not clear when we booked the car and supposed a considerable increase in the price for a three-day use of car but in my opinion the worse thing is related to one story the seller explained me at the desk:

As one customer was so committed to “use” all the product bought, that before returning he finished making rounds in the parking lot of the hiring company until depleting the car fuel

This customer was quite extreme, even ridiculous to waste his holiday time this way but he was just following the feelling created in most of us after facing one of those experiences: to waste the fuel because it is paid, because I hava been forced to pay it.

I have nothing in particular against Hertz company, there were very nice otherwise and I was told that this kind of practise is widespread in Tenerife nowadays due to the low earnings of the hiring companies. I even had  a very good surprise in the past with Hertz when the offered me a Prius car (like mine) in sustitution of another smaller one a trip some time ago, showing some commitment with Hybrid cars. But those commitments are of no use if you incite customers to burn gas without sense and add some more Kgrs of CO2 to the atmosphere, this kind of small actions show clearly that our conscience of climate change is still quite theoretical in the best case and that there are many opportunities for improvement of energy efficiency, without doubt the most CO2 saving of any energy source and cases like this, the most profitable one too.

Venecia and Climate Change

Venice collage from Wikipedia

Venice collage from Wikipedia

Some places are more worried about climate change than others, or at least shout be. It is normal as some enjoy a wonderful weather that can only be worsened, or depend a lot on their current climate or sea level. This is the case for Venice This study shows (link in Spanish)the flood frequency will increase in this wonderful city. And floods in Venice affect 75% of the city old town, it is one of the hefty prices of being so special.
Will this be definitive for Venice’s sustainability? I do not know but certainly they will have to be very aware of Greenlands melting to think about clever mitigating measurements if they do not want to become the most beautiful diving center in the world. Anyway, they will not be alone, the rest of us will suffer many other consequences of climate change some of them unpleasantly unexpected, and many will not have resources for the most basic mitigation.

El Hierro, a renewable island

A map from El Hierro island

A map from El Hierro island

El Hierro is the smallest of the main Canary islands, with only 278 Km2 and 10000 inhabitants maybe for this reason it was the perfect place to accomplish an ambitious project: Get its electricity only from renewable sources. 5 wind mills will be enough for that but supported by an energy storage system, when the mills are not producing electricity for the grid they will feed pumps to raise sea water to a natural deposit. In case electricity is needed and there is no wind a hydropower station will work with this water coming from the deposit. A more detailed explanation is here.

Although small (10000 people) this project is ambitious and promising at the same time. Why? Because it works in a scale between the big country and the familiar house but at the same time it is a complete electrical system as Canary islands are not connected to other grids and for this reasons they have been reluctant to introduce too many renewable sources that would challenge the stability of their small grids fueled with diesel power plants. So it has been easier to try a total replacement (although fuel power plants will continue to be operative for backup) that a mixed system.

At the same time this is an opportunity, because Canarian electricity is expensive, more expensive than standard renewable technology and I haven’t found the cost of this project but it would not surprise me to find it is cheaper in the long-term that standard power production in El Hierro. This data would be great to make a more precise assessment.

Anyway, the most important achievement of this project in my opinion is that renewables have been able to become the main power generation source in a whole electrical system that clearly is in another scale compared to a household. It is a 10000 people scale distributed in a 278 Km2 location. By itself it will not change the general emission trend of the world because even if there are 700 million people living in islands, most of those inhabitants live in much greater islands. But it is a step to change scale and every difficult achievement has been done step by step.