Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day Climate Accord

This Earth Day, the big news is the signing of the Paris Climate Accord. I'm a climate pessimist, having observed for all-too-long the fact that corporations are willing to scuttle their long-term prospects in the service of next quarter's profits. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is a bit more optimistic than I am:

“The era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonize our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition. The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create.”

There is an entire industry dedicated to derailing efforts to decarbonize our economies, and the 'Masters of the Universe' who control the fossil fuel industry would rather burn the planet down than to submit to regulation.

I've been posting about this subject for years, and it seems like nothing has changed. This sponsored inertia isn't going to destroy the planet, but it'll probably destroy our planet, and we're going to take a lot of beautiful, interesting species down with us.

I believe that there are solutions to the problem of climate change... or at least mitigations. An array of 'alternate' energy sources should be put on a development 'fast track' with generous subsidies (which are now squandered on fossil fuel industries). More energy efficient appliances, vehicles, and habitations should be adopted. Carbon sequestration methods (even something as simple as reforestation) should be put in place. Moving towards a 'carbon neutral' economy isn't an easily accomplished goal, but it sure as hell beats a global environmental catastrophe.

I wish I could be more sanguine about this topic, but it's not that easy to pull off a hard-but-not-fatal landing when billions of dollars are spent to ensure that H. sapiens remains on a nose-dive of a course.


mikey said...

Well, two things. First, I think that it's becoming pretty obvious that the fossil fuel industry is in decline. Not necessarily on the basis of climate change - although that's a driving force in Europe and Asia - but because of fundamental economic shifts. Based on any metric you want to use - employment, equipment production, productivity - coal is dying quickly. Gas fired electricity generation is orders of magnitude cleaner, and will become cleaner going forward. And while these changes lower the overall growth of carbon emissions, the unexpected very fast adoption of renewables - especially solar - driven by the rapidly narrowing price gap has put tremendous pressure on the fossil fuel industry. As solar and wind approach parity with natural gas, simple capitalist greed will recognize the increased profitability of low and zero carbon generation. It's happening already, especially in Europe and in places around the globe, but it's even happening in the US. I'd direct you to note the price of oil has fallen and it can't get up. Oil is mostly used for transportation, as as mileage standards increase and electric vehicles begin to take a significant piece of the market, the need for crude oil will fall. It's instructive that even Saudi Arabia - the worlds largest producer of crude oil - recently announced a TWO TRILLION DOLLAR sovereign wealth fund to build a Saudi post-oil economy.

So, that said, I think you're way to pessimistic now. Driven by other forces than clear eyed logic, things have changed over the last couple years, and fossil fuels are just going to evolve out of existence over the next 20-50 years. However, ultimately, it's too late. We're already looking at 3-4° C global temperature rise and several meters of sea level over the next hundred years. The die is cast, and global warming is now an irreversible reality.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I (sort of) rescued a Black Rat Snake for Earth Day.

(Pats self on back.)

StringOnAStick said...

I'm an RDH in a downtown dental office (and a former geologist; yeah I know, weird), and the number of layoffs in the O&G industry has been high for a couple of years, and it hasn't stopped yet. One of my patients returned from vacation to find a 20% cost cut and 20% personnel cut last week, and that is in a privately held company that for years has prided itself on a"no layoffs, we stay right-sized" policy. Too bad the Koch's won't feel enough hit to their bottom line to pull back from their attempted party/government takeover.

I got a bid 2 months from Elon Musk's Solar City company, and it makes a huge amount of fiscal sense at very little cost, with them assuming all the equipment risk in perpetuity. Once we wrap up some other construction crap, that's on the top of the list. A concerted national effort like this would leave much more electrical generating capacity for electric vehicles.

I struggle with being pessimistic about it all too; we talked about this issue in my geoscience classes in the 1970's so it isn't like we didn't see it coming. What I did not see coming was how politicized it would become and how willing the fossil fuel side was to burn the planet down for $. One place I find solace is this: Alan Savory and the Savory Institute have shown time and again that we can sequester all the carbon we need to by changing how we farm and graze, and lock it back up in the soil where it belongs. Check this out: