What do I think, What can I do?

Posts tagged ‘climate change’

Sea Level Rise , “High Tide in the Main Street” book

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.
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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.

Green New deal and School strikes

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.

Off-Shore Wind Power

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.

 

 

2016 in 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.

Pope and Climate Change

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.

2014 a great year for climate change cause

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.