The possibility of irreversible climate change

A draft UN science report, expected to be approved this week, warns that we’re on the path toward irreversible climate change.  We can still avoid that by making significant cuts to CO2 emissions, but the question is, will we?  Unless you’re a Republican (sorry, but I call it like I see it), you’ve probably already accepted that the current situation is unsustainable and that immediate change is needed.  What will it take?  Fortunately, the answer is ‘not much’…well, apart from a decision to change (which in this political climate in the US, is no small feat!).  A report from Deutsche Bank finds that rooftop solar will reach grid parity in all 50 states in the US by 2016.  This means the cost will be the same or less than getting power from the electric grid (10 states have already reached grid parity).  Removing the ‘cost’ argument from the debate will help a ton.  What about the reality that solar power is not a 24/7 energy source?  Good news there, too.  Many companies have been working on energy storage systems, and they’re looking more and more promising (meaning, closer to production!).  The latest is interesting…a company called Alevo has been operating out of the spotlight (sort of in stealth mode, though not like some startups)…and expects to be producing hundreds of utility-scale (read:massive) energy storage systems within a year.  These 1MWh containers use lithium ferrophosphate and graphite tech.  It’s easy to perhaps dismiss Alevo as yet another company with dreams and promises…except this one has raised a billion dollars from Swiss investors.  Whoa.  So they have the technology, they have the money, and they’re taking over a former Phillips Morris plant in North Carolina.  This is a company to watch.  Then of course you have Solar City looking to include battery storage systems with every home solar installation within 5-10 years.

So the future is bleak if we do not act…yet advances in technology along with greatly decreased costs is looking to push renewable energy to the forefront, despite the best efforts of Republicans opposing it.  Now, just imagine how awesome that industry could be if it actually had broad support!  Oh well.  It’s a tsunami that can’t be stopped, I think…fortunately!

Polar ice disappearing fast

gletscherIce sheets over Antarctica and Greenland are shrinking at an incredible rate of 120 cubic miles per year, and accelerating (the rate of ice loss has more than doubled since 2009).  While part of Antarctica is actually increasing in ice cover, overall the continent is on a definite decline.  Most of the ice loss, 90 cubic miles per year, is as a result of melting in Greenland.  The data comes from the CryoSat-2 satellite measuring the altitude of the ice over the continents.  Scientists have been using satellites to measure ice levels for about twenty years now.  You can read more about this at this link.

It’s sad to see our society at such an advanced level technologically, yet turning a blind eye to this problem.  Man-made climate change is a fact and one that will have to be dealt with sooner or later.  It’ll be expensive, but the costs only go up over time.

Why climate change scares me

If you want to know why I feel the way I do about climate change, watch this video from a TEDx conference two years ago:

The speaker talks about the path we’re on, where it’s headed, and what that really means for us.  He paints a pretty dire picture…and it’s worth noting that this video is two years old.  In that time, there’s been no action taken, and no science found to refute these conclusions…yet we remain mired in place, unable to embrace the science and take action.

Melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet

gletscherScientist studying the ice in Antarctica have found that a very large area, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is melting at an accelerating rate, and has already reached a point of instability, where its melting will continue regardless of any actions we take to reduce the effects of global warming.  It is past the point of no return, so to speak.  The impact of this is expected to be a global rise in seal levels of several feet (up to 10 feet, potentially) over the next couple of centuries.  Yes, that makes it a problem that won’t affect us, but we have a moral obligation to future generations to provide them with the same potential for prosperity that we enjoy.

The cause of this melting is deep, warmer water being pulled to the surface by increasingly powerful winds circling the continent (which is generally believed to be caused by global warming).  As far back as 1978, scientists were warning that global warming could lead to this…and now it’s happening (unless you’re a Republican with your head in the sand).

Read more at the NYTimes.

UN issues more warnings on climate change…will the US listen?

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a new report concluding that climate change is already having a big impact on agriculture, human health, and water supplies, and are warning that these effects will get more severe over time.  The IPCC warns that governments and businesses need to take action immediately against these growing risks, though I fear that even the business-friendly GOP will be more focused on short term profits and gains than long term sustainability.

This is a follow-up to a report last year saying humans are to blame for global warming.  You can read more at the New York Times.

Leaked UN report warns of climate change consequences

A leaked UN report paints a grim picture for the future of our species on this planet.  It warns that climate change may be nearly impossible to solve if we don’t act soon.  Dealing with the result of our current course of inaction will require technology that doesn’t exist currently, and may not even be feasible.  The report acknowledges the economic damage that stopping climate change quickly will cause…but this pales in comparison to the damage that inaction will bring.  I’m not convinced that yet another report like this will actually drive change…not when there are so many special interests focused more on their own short term profit rather than ensuring a stable planet for future generations to enjoy.  Sad.

Read more in the New York Times.

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