Archive for the 'Global Climate Change' Category

Use More Renewable Electricity

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019
Photo of a solar array image from Wikipedia

While our government in Washington is struggling to deny climate change, we can take action locally. Our electric coop, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), offers easy ways to do this by purchasing renewable power.

Isn’t all electricity the same? Yes, it is, if it comes through wires attached to the electrical grid. Let’s look at reasons you might want to use electricity generated in a renewable way. Do you have asthma like I do? Millions of other people in our country suffer from this and other respiratory afflictions. Breathing is made more difficult by the fine particles that escape from coal fired power plants and by smog that comes from the ozone generated by natural gas development. Those tiny particles are invisible but cause atmospheric haze. Worse is that they are also responsible for loss of life due to cancer and heart attacks.

We are already suffering the effects of climate change. Despite the welcome snow this month, southwest Colorado is still at the worst level of drought. The huge 416 wild fire last summer was much too close to home. Climate change has prolonged the forest fire season and has helped to create many more mega-fires. We are seeing the effects of anthropocentric climate disruption already! One action that we can take to slow climate change is to use less electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.

In addition to fouling the air, power plants are some of the biggest users of fresh water, which they use for cooling. Although some of the water is returned to streams or rivers, it is hotter, which can be fatal for fish and other animals. Some think that nuclear is the safest source since it is less polluting.

Every source of electricity has its drawbacks, unfortunately. This is why I sometimes write about energy in columns that focus on human population. Almost everything that people do has detrimental effects to the natural world. We can decrease that impact by decreasing the number of people, by consuming less and by technology. Using renewable power is one way of minimizing our impact.

LPEA has 2 voluntary programs to promote renewable or “green” power generated by solar, wind or hydro. Our electrical cooperative can provide part or all of your electricity from these renewable sources. The extra cost is minimal, only about 50¢ a month for the average LPEA member. A call to their friendly office staff can give you more information. They also have a program to fund local solar arrays. This Renewable Generation Fund is currently helping to support 4 projects at nonprofits. 

Your first step should be to look for ways to use less energy. That saves money and diminishes one’s impact. Turn off lights you don’t need, and install dimmers if you don’t always need to run lights at full brightness. Our local 4CORE specializes in home energy efficiency. It offers ideas to decrease waste of electricity and rebates for Energy Star® appliances.

LPEA has a great program to reimburse you for half of the cost of certain efficient LED bulbs. These use only a fraction of the “juice” of traditional incandescent bulbs and are more efficient, and safer than compact fluorescents. I’ve taken advantage of this program in the past, buying a few LEDs at a time, but I went hog-wild this year since it is the last year of the program. Soon almost all the light in our home will come from the sun or LED bulbs! LEDs are much improved and the price has come down dramatically. To find out more about this rebate program go to www.LPEA.coop—but be careful to follow the instructions carefully.

We are tied to Tri-State Generation and Transmission for all of our electricity except what is generated locally. Despite the decreasing costs of solar panels, soon people won’t be able to install solar arrays because the contract with Tri-State, which limits the amount of power that can be generated locally. Because so much of their energy comes from burning coal, they are rumored to be the most polluting power supplier in the country. Tri-State has been slow to convert to renewable sources but it appears that they are finally seeing the light; they are installing a huge solar array north of Trinidad, Colorado.

We can be proud of our electric coop for its support of renewable power, especially with its new policy to cut its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030, while keeping rates low. We need to keep pressure on Tri-State to increase their low limit on locally generated renewable power.

©Richard Grossman MD 2019

Acknowledge this Symptom of Overpopulation

Monday, October 29th, 2018

By the time  you read this it will be too late to attend the Climate Change Symposium. However, there are several points I want to make by broadcasting information about this symposium:
A small group of committed activists can make a difference in their communities. The Fort Lewis College Environmental Center is a wonderful organization that has reached hundreds of students through the years; their two person staff has taken on this large project with some volunteers and great aplomb.
It is important to involve young people–by the latest count, we will have over 300 high school students attending
Top speakers are willing to come to a little community such as Durango. Katharine Hayhoe will be in Canada, but she will reach us by a video made just for this symposium. We will also be showing one of her YouTube videos. Travis Rieder will be at his office at Johns Hopkins University but communicating by Zoom. Dr. Rieder spoke in Durango a couple of years ago and won a lot of praise for his presentation on the ethical imperative of having small families.
Thank you for reading!
Richard

 

“Humans are at the centre of global climate change: …social change is key to effectively respond to climate change”   IPPC Special Report

Do you remember the politicians in North Carolina who passed a law in 2012 that prohibited calculating sea level rise based on climate change predictions? They said only historical trends could be used.

That law, promoted by real estate developers, postponed planning for the consequences of climate change. Only 6 years later they were visited by a wrathful storm that dropped 3 feet of rain on parts of the state!

I wonder how the legislature feels now that they have been visited by reality in the form of Hurricane Florence. (Although the law concerned sea level rise, immense precipitation caused the damage.) My hope is that legislators have learned that they cannot mess successfully with the laws of nature and physics.

Many of the changes we’re experiencing now are due to anthropogenic (human caused) climate disruption. The list includes more destructive hurricanes; the estimated cost of Florence is 38 billion dollars and the human toll is 53 deaths.

Michael is the most recent hurricane; it was another monster. Almost a category 5 storm, it hit with terrifyingly destructive winds. There was “unimaginable destruction”, to quote Florida’s Governor Rick Scott. “So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything. Homes are gone. Businesses are gone.” 

Yet Scott does not believe in climate change. Apparently staff at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were told not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” after he became governor.

Why have we been punished with so many destructive storms recently? Part of the problem is that governments are failing to recognize that climate change is increasing the frequency of these deadly and costly storms. Even a slight increase in the air and water temperatures gives significantly more energy to form cyclonic storms.

Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma wrote a book about climate change titled “The Greatest Hoax”. I don’t think that people in Florida and the Carolinas will be reading that book much now.

How is it possible that some people who don’t believe that climate change is real, or think that it is all just natural cycles that are causing it? How is that possible when these people know that humans are increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? How does one talk with someone who denies climate change?

“Climate Change Solutions” is the second symposium at Fort Lewis College on the subject. It will be held Tuesday October 30th. Last year’s meeting focused on the science, this year will focus on ways that individuals can help deal with this global problem.

The symposium is coming just in time! Evidence is mounting that there is urgent need for solutions to climate change. Earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report which can be summarized: “…drastic action must be taken in limited time to avoid severe and worsening consequences.”

Highly respected climate scientist Kevin Trenberth was one of the speakers last year. He wrote: “…humans are the main agents of change.” This is a bit ambiguous; in context, he meant that climate disruption is anthropogenic. It can also mean that we can also solve this global problem. Trenberth explained the destructiveness of this summer’s storms thusly: “While hurricanes occur naturally, human‐caused climate change is supercharging them and exacerbating the risk of major damage.”

Climate Change Solutions will have 2 sessions, starting at 12:30 and 6:30, at the Community Concert Hall on the Fort Lewis College campus. Because cimate change will affect today’s kids much more than my generation, we have invited several hundred students from area high schools. All College people will have free admission.

A member of US Senator Michael Bennet’s staff will urge people to vote for politicians who don’t deny climate change, and update us on what is happening in Washington to fight this global disruption There will be suggestions about effective ways to talk to climate change deniers.

Another speaker will tell us about the most effective way to quell climate change. You guessed it! Climate change is really a symptom of overpopulation and of overconsumption. Choosing to have a small family is the most effective action in the long run an individual can take. We also need actions that will work in the short run.

For more information about Climate Change Solutions and tickets search the calendar at: https://www.durangoconcerts.com. I hope to see you there!

©Richard Grossman MD, 2018

Compare Climate Change Strategies

Monday, November 6th, 2017

 

Recently I asked some authorities on climate change: “what is the most effective way of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions?” They gave stock answers about decreasing consumption. “If you were my students, your grades would all be D’s” was my response.

They are, unfortunately, not alone. A recent study listed the 4 most effective activities that people can do to decrease their emissions. Three of them are what you might expect, while the most effective one—by far—might be unexpected.

The measure used by the authors of this article is tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year. The average person in the USA causes about 16 tonnes of CO2 to be released annually. (a tonne is a metric ton; roughly equal to our ton of 2000 pounds) Here are the 4, listed from least to most effective.

Eat a plant-based diet. This has health benefits as well as aiding the environment. It is clear that eating meat, especially red meat, is bad for your health. The effects on the world around us are also negative—excessive use of water, sewage lagoons that pollute ground water and dead zones in the ocean from animal waste. An individual’s annual saving by avoiding meat is almost a tonne.

Our transportation system depends on fossil fuels, which generate CO2 when used. It makes sense that avoiding air travel and not driving a car would decrease carbon emissions. Giving up both air travel and your car would keep 4 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Buying “green” electricity is quite effective, and is inexpensive—thanks to our electrical cooperative. Switching from power produced with coal to renewable sources prevents 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions—and makes our air healthier.

The most effective thing that an individual can do to reduce his or her carbon footprint is to have one fewer child. The effect is strong because of the “carbon legacy” of a child born in a rich country. The carbon footprint of the individual child is significant, but the legacy of all that person’s progeny (who will go on for many generations) is huge. A child not conceived reduces a person’s carbon footprint by 58 tonnes! Yes, the one best action an individual can take to reduce his or her carbon footprint is to choose to have a small family—or no children at all.

Unfortunately, most people who study, write and teach about greenhouse gas reduction don’t consider the impact of childbearing. The authors of the paper mentioned above also studied governmental recommendations to reduce emissions from the EU, the USA, Australia and Canada. Not surprising, they found that the recommendations all focused on less effective actions.

Likewise, the paper examined the content of science textbooks. They searched several textbooks used in Canada for suggestions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Very few of the recommendations were for the 4 most effective actions named above.

To quote from this paper: “It is especially important that adolescents are prepared for this shift [to reduce carbon emissions]. They still have the freedom to make large behavioural choices that will structure the rest of their lives, and must grow up accustomed to a lifestyle that approaches the 2.1 tonnes per person annual emissions budget necessary by 2050 to meet the 2 ° C climate target.” They went on to write: “Furthermore, adolescents can act as a catalyst to change their households behaviour.”

They also compared less effective and highly effective interventions: “…a US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives.” The paper concludes: “Some high-impact actions may be politically unpopular, but this does not justify a focus on moderate or low-impact actions at the expense of high-impact actions.

I hope that the importance of childbearing gets across at the Climate Change Symposium to be held Thursday afternoon, November 9th. This Symposium will be a new venture for Fort Lewis College Lifelong Learning programs. It will feature 5 outstanding experts speaking on a topic of major importance. The keynote speaker is internationally known scientist Kevin Ternberth.

The Symposium is now history for most people reading this. I hope that the importance of population growth has been driven home by the article by Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas that I used as the basis for this column. It is “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions” and can be found at: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541

© Richard Grossman MD, 2017

 

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.