In fact, I wrote a couple of posts many months ago with my first ideas about COVID19 and climate change but This pandemic year has changed all us after initial shock and our ideas with them. In this moment I feel moderately optimistic about getting better next year in the pandemic global challenge. The vaccine, the knowledge and the fast development of this kind of crisis help me in that hope.
But the climate crisis is different in many senses, the first is that the time scopes are not in the same range. Last year the term climate emergency gained strength. I like it because I agree we are approaching tipping points but emergency in climate is conceived in a decade and not in months or days.
In this moment it is clear that the CO2 emissions in 2020 will be significantly lower than previous year or expectations. The predictions say that 2020 emissions will be 34 GtCO2, 7% lower than in 2019. It is an important and unprecedented reduction, but will it be long lasting? Or the recovery will erase any improvement?
Fossil fuel industries suffer more from demand reduction, renewables fuel is cheaper. This can be critical for many coal power stations in the western countries.
Many new trends like home office or telematic meetings are a form of efficiency. Some transportation needs can be reduced permanently. It is possible, will be done? We will see. I have saved this year many European project meetings. Some were are lost but others were easily translated to telematic form.
Many countries will give strong stimulus packets and those dollars, euros, pounds or so will in some cases be connected to low carbon economy.
Electric mobility is becoming more real, slowly but visibly.
Have we gain consciousness of our fragility? At least some have and this will help for climate.
The “debate” is dissapearing
And the list of fears:
The first one is that we try to forget too fast this nightmare by recovering the lost time and delaying emission cuts. It could be too late.
But maybe my biggest worry is that we do not act with enough energy and we do not reduce emission at the needed pace. The pace needed for a climate emergency.
And of course many other smaller ones about transport electrification, heating, energy,…
After my previous post on this subject I have read many more writting about both great issues at the same time. I am surprised as there is not direct link but maybe the subjective link about great unibersal problems works not only for me. Also for others. One thing is clear, this pandemic has already changed the world in a incredible way. The hyperlinked and constantly travelling world has gone home literally, not even daring to go to next town. The increasingly important tourism and entretainment are simply closed. The families that are used to spend most of the day out of home are together all the day at home. The sport practise, profesional and personal dissapeared… We all hope to be short term but nobody really knows the medium or long-term effect in our economy, our jobs, our way of travelling, our way of staying with others, our view of differents,…
The virus is only the cause, the consequences in our health, our fear and the way we are going to get out psicologically from the lockdown can be quite surprising. We will see, hopefully in some weeks.
By the way to continue with the analogy / effect on climate change some bullet points:
The possible positive outcomes:
The reinforcement of scicence as the most valuable tool in epidemics knoledge may help to climate scientists
The acknowledgement of our weakness as society may lead us to more consciente of the dangers coming from climate change or other risks.
The experience of living with less and a simpler way may help to reduce excesive consumption and consequently gain energy efficiency as society.
The felling of acting together as a society, even a world society as all of us are in this pandemic to some extent can help us tackle other global problems like climate change.
Realizing that we can do great sacrifices when something important is at risk canbe extrapolated to climate change too.
I believe in home-working and tele-meetings and those options of doing things without going physically. Now we are forced, many companies and institutions are forced to that and this can show the posibilities to save some tons of CO2 in transport. I am not thinking in doing it all the time but it can be done with more frequency than now. It is a way of improving energy efficiency.
In the other hand there can be negative outcomes (the epidemics is by itself negative, for all the people dying and all the people suffering, in this case I am thinking in our long-term challenge with climate change):
Climate Change is a long term problem and Coronavirus is inmediate. We are better prepared to understand and react to short-term.
Many people mention the reduction of pollution and emissions. I am sure they are true but in energy consumption data I expected more differences considering the situation. This link to EU data surprises me with low energy reductions. We will se with more time, with year data for example.
Sometimes, after those kind of shocks the rebound is very hard and we can emit much more to compensate or to forget the problem that has gone.
A great crash in economy is, in my opinion, the worst way to face climate change. In the sort term reduces emissions but even more the efforts and investments neccessary to reduce them consistently in the future. This can happen dramatically.
We are producing a fast consumption of some goods as masks and gloves that will last and we are reducing mass transit use. As happened with Earth Hour last Saturday the urgency and worry makes us forget every other thing or challenge in our everyday life (it is normal). For example I went by car to my office the last days to avoid the train and reduce people’s contact.
In summary we have some time to think about, these are some of the links I read and enjoyed:
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.
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.
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.
This nature paper i quite interesting because it calculates economic costs of acting against climate change earlier or later. Usually the only question a bout time is when it will too avoid reasonable 2ºC temperature increment or 550 ppm CO2 in future atmosphere (it was 450 ppm target not so long ago).
Some voices say we do not have much time left to act if we want to assure a maximum 2ºC degree limit (in principle a quite safe limit). The following sentence from Michael Brune (Executive Director of The Sierra Club) in Sierra Club’s blog is a good summary of this idea:
We have a clear understanding of the crisis. We have solutions. What we don’t have is time. We cannot afford to wait, and neither can President Obama.
I agree with the concept. I do not know if nobody can’t be sure about the exact timing needed in climate change action; there are too many uncertainties in this calculus, some scientific, most social and economical. The immediate action call is more related with another word: Inertia. This word obtained from the basic physics is beautiful and at the same time frightening. It can be applied to a wide range of things and the basic meaning is that in some cases the things have a strong trend to continue being like they were; for that reason, to change them, the action has to be continued in time and patient.
The climate has its own inertiae, the oceans need time to warm up, once they do it they need a lot of time to cool down. And our human societies have a lot of inertiae too, electricity production system can’t be changed from one day to another. So, this urgency to act has to do with the response time of the climate change problem, if we start to act now we will harvests the results one generation or two later. In fact, we are acting to some extent, the renewable energy installations, the research on them and the reduction of emissions per capita in many important countries show some action. But our action up to know has been timid, has not stop the growing path of CO2 emissions, and even worse it is not guaranteed at all that with this action level the emissions will tip in a short time.
So, yes, I agree, if we do not act fast to get this tipping point we are likely to be short on time later. And here comes the very interesting conclusion of this study, it will not be only much better for our grandchildren, if will be far more cheaper to start seriously now. So let’s talk about carbon taxes to introduce this numbers in our economy.
This final part of the year is always an opportunity for making a balance.
In my opinion the balance is clearly negative as we are still sending not only too much CO2 to the atmosphere, we are sending more than ever. And this is the important part, because any possible improvement will not be effective until it gets a real effect on emissions.
The annual meeting in Doha, COP18, were not a significant step forward, and in spite of alleviating Obama’s victory and strong commitments in renewable energy as in Germany, the global emission path is still upwards with the driving force of emerging economic powers, mainly China.
I do not think the skeptics are winning the concept battle, I think there is more and more people convinced about climate change in most places of the world, the problem is that much more action is needed and fast. Maybe the two main topics this year have been the record low ice surface in the Artic and extreme weather events as Sandy hurricane, just in time to show american skeptics what is coming next. They are important because one is very visual (my cousin, not involved in those issues, told me se was impressed by the ice surface record), and the other very important for our everyday life.
I have not written about those two subjects for lack of time, as with many other posts I have in the waiting list, so my personal balance is that I have not written about many interesting issues I should but at the same time I am happy for writing more than previous two years, arriving to 100 posts, and above all, I have learnt a lot and I still want to write posts about climate change although I doubt about the approach or style.
So, happy new year and let’s hope we, the world, will go a step forward in 2013. Because we can and we must.
At home, we take part in a local group of vegetable and egg buy/sell. The idea is good and simple. A local producer grows vegetables (in this case ecological ones but it is not compulsory for this idea), it packs some bags every week with some variety of them depending on the season and leaves them on monday in one place. During that day the ten customers take the bags and discover the surprise of that week in form of fresh, healthy and local food. The payments are done for three months periods and the producer gets a fixed customer group that visit him/her every year.
There are many advantages as promoting local jobs in primary sector, avoiding complex intermediate markets, the confidence between customer and producer,… and the reduction of Kms for the vegetables and the associated CO2, I always consider funny that the lettuce I am eating has traveled more than me in the last year.
This possibility is possible, it is reasonable and it is growing!
There are many levels that matter in climate change, personal level, big international politics, national politics in the most influential countries,… but there are many other that may exert some influence, cities, towns regional governments, states in the USA…
Today there have been elections for the Basque parliament. The main idea related with climate change would be that from the elected 75 people 64 belong to parties that considered climate change real and important in their programs for those elections, it is a huge percentage. Basque government has a limited field of action in the most critical things related to climate change but this even reinforces the value of those intentions.
Will they become significant steps towards a carbon free future? I do not know but they show that in Europe climate change is not discussed, what to do or how much to do to avoid it yes, even more inside the economical and social crisis.
None of them means real life success but they are small steps towards it. And this is hopeful for me because transportation is one of the key aspects of Climate Change and needs maybe more innovation than others due to the lack of maturity of the alternative technologies.