Article on Democracy and Climate Change

I read an interesting article on CNBC about the role of our democratic government in addressing the issue of climate change. I thought I would share it. You can read the article here.


Extreme climate change fighting ideas

I’m also as critical of extremist climate change advocates as I am of climate change deniers. I feel a big source of the difficulty we have convincing the public is the fact that there are some real kooks saying things that just turn people off.

Here is a National Geographic article on extreme climate change ideas. Some aren’t so bad (painting roofs white is a very good idea and already practiced in many areas of the world). But, some are not very good at all.

Take a look for the fun of it, if nothing else.

Solutions Aren’t Easy

Part of the problem with convincing a skeptical public that climate change is a problem is convincing them that there really isn’t an easy solution. We have been trained by TV shows to believe that scientists can solve any problem within 60 minutes and still leave time for commercials. If you ask someone if they believe that kind of scenario they will look at you as if you have lost your mind. ‘Of course not!,’ they’ll tell you. But, then they will turn right around and say that there is an easy solution to any given problem. We can solve the gas shortage tomorrow because scientists will come up with a car that gets 500 miles to the gallon. Everyone knows that and it is just the corporations that are preventing it. They don’t want to loose money. Right?

Wrong! But, if someone believes that you can never convince them otherwise. And, that is part of the problem with climate change. So many people believe an easy solution is out there, so they don’t believe we should worry about global warming. But, as this study shows, solutions are not nearly as easy as people want to believe.

As reported in Physics Today, this facility in Norway is working on carbon capture technology. Basically, the idea is the address global warming by removing the extra carbon dioxide we are putting in the atmosphere. However, they have found the process is very expensive. And, it uses a lot of energy. The generation of energy typically puts carbon dioxide in the air. You could use nuclear power or hydroelectric power, but unless you are building new power plants just for the carbon capture facilities you will be taking power away from other users and that power will have to be replaced with power from some other power plant. It is highly probable that the carbon capture facility will actually result in even more carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere and doing it at great expense.

Then, there is the other extreme, the people that just say we need to stop putting greenhouse gases in the air. Sounds good, right? Wrong again! Just what are we going to do without so that we can stop putting greenhouse gases in the air? Are we going to do without electric power? Are we going to stop using cement? Are we going to stop putting fertilizer on our crops? All of these have serious consequences and would result in greatly decreased standards of living. And, the lower your income the more your standard of living would be affected. The rich will still live well. It is the middle class and the low-income people that would bear the burden.

So, what is the solution? I don’t know. But, I know we aren’t going to find it in 60 minutes and between commercial breaks.

Good News on Solar Power – Sort Of

An article in Reuter’s today stated that the world’s electrical generating capacity from solar cells is expected to rise to between 207.9 gigawatts and 342.8 GW by 2016. It is certainly good news to see we are developing solar capacity. But, there are drawbacks, as well.

The first thing to understand about solar energy is that it is not cheap. In fact, it is very expensive in comparison to other sources of electricity. In the U.S., the average rate for electricity is about $.09 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). But, not all generated electricity is equal. Currently, nuclear power is about $.10/kWh; coal is about $.08/kWh; and natural gas is about $.064/kWh. Solar power tops them all at about $.15/kWh. This is more than 66% higher than the average and almost 2 1/2 times what it costs to generate electricity with natural gas. To convert over to solar power would be a gigantic economic hit for the country.

The good news is all of this is the price of solar power has been dropping very rapidly over the last couple of decades. It has even dropped by about 25% since 2008. And, as more and more solar power plants are built and demand goes up, the price should drop even more. It is estimated that solar power will reach parity with other forms of power generation within the next decade.

But, the other bad thing about solar power is that the manufacture of solar cells is not environmentally friendly. The manufacture of solar cells involves using some extremely nasty chemicals. As the tonnage of the waste products from solar cell plants builds up we are experiencing a crisis with storage. And, unlike nuclear waste, this chemical waste will be poisonous for all eternity, it will not decay into something harmless. It is strange to note the similarities between the solar cell industry and the nuclear power industry, but environmentalists don’t seem to care about the solar cell industry problems.

The good news on this front is that the industry is working to reduce the hazards involved.

If we continue the way we are, we will reach the point where solar cells are safe and economical to manufacture and install. At that time, they will become a real competitor to traditional sources of power.

All of this illustrates the point that there are no easy fixes for the climate problems we find ourselves in. It took hundreds of years for us to get to this point, we are not going to fix it over night, or even quickly. We need to learn to agree on this, that we need to take steps, but those steps need to be rationale, well-thought out and not extremists.

Doing nothing and doing something very severe would both be extremists and both need to be avoided.