Another Earth Day is nearly over, the 45th day in which celebrate and talk about trying to protect the only place in the universe that we can live without massively complex technology.
There are some really good thing and some really not so good things today.
The parent company of LEGO has made a commitment to offset 100% of their entire company electrical needs through offshore wind farms by the year 2020 (which is less than five years away!). The parent company, KIRKBI A/S, already owns 1/3 of a North Sea wind farm off the coast of Germany.
The Detroit Zoo recently announced an initiative to turn the 400 tons of animal poo it receives each year in electrical energy. They are building a bioreactor that will turn the waste into methane, which is basically natural gas, and use that to power their animal health center. The remaining material is converted into compost for use in the zoo.
In an unsurprising, hopeful, but unlikely scientific discovery, two scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have announced a more accurate model of the Arctic and Arctic sea ice. The good news, if we lower the total temperature of the planet, then the sea ice in the Arctic will come back. The bad news, we’re no where near even maintaining what we have now, much less decreasing the temperature of the planet.
It’s funny in that the group of people ignoring climate change often say how much we should let business be the drivers. Well, the insurance industry is very aware of the dangers of climate change and a report (PDF) called: Bracing for the Storm How To Reform U.S. Disaster Policy To Prepare For A Riskier Future. Let me quote a few interesting bits from the article.
In the 1950s, nuisance flooding along the Atlantic, Gulf, and West Coasts typically occurred less than once per year at any given location. Today, that flooding occurs, on average, about once every three months.
The data that supports this is from a research paper: Sweet, W., J. Park, J. Marra, C. Zervas, and S. Gill, “Sea level rise and nuisance flood frequency changes around the United States,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOS CO-OPS 073, 2014
The federal government, however, continues to focus on post-disaster response instead of pre-disaster preparedness and mitigation. Current policy sorely lacks incentives for mitigation at the federal, state, local, and individual levels, leading to underinvestment before a disaster hits and soaring price tags after the fact. The federal government shoulders an increasing percentage of the costs, leading to a growing fiscal burden.
Faced with current realities, the federal government needs to pursue forward-thinking policies that confront the risks head on. Federal policy needs a complete overhaul to incentivize mitigation efforts such as the use of natural barriers and smarter and safer building, which have been proven to save lives, property, and taxpayer dollars.
That is what the government should be doing, not listening to some senatorial clown with a snowball telling us that climate change isn’t real.
The current president, despite several issues I have with him, is seeming to make climate change a focus of his last year in office. Last year, he met with the president of China to announce both countries plans to help battle climate change. Today, the US turned in our plans to curb climate change to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This outlines our goals and our plan of action on meeting those goals. You can see the US and other countries plans here.
The submission, referred to as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), is a formal statement of the U.S. target, announced in China last year, to reduce our emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and to make best efforts to reduce by 28%.
This is a good thing, and despite the nay-sayers, this could really improve business and the economy.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, jobs in renewable energy reached 6.5 million already and are expected to exceed 20 million globally by 2030.
And that’s just jobs. That article goes on to say that by converting to renewable electricity production, the US could save 150 billion dollars annually. I suspect that’s money that we’re now giving to various Middle Eastern countries for their oil, but we sure could use that money here.
The fast food industry is even taking steps. When a powerhouse like McDonald’s steps up, the implications could be global. McDonald’s has 36,000 “restaurants” in over 100 countries. They announced a commitment to end deforestation practices in their entire supply chain by 2030. This, admittedly nebulous plan, will affect 3,100 companies that direct supplies to McDonald’s and covers everything from food sources to frying oil to the crappy paper cups they use. You know what would be an awesome incentive? If you bring your own cup to a restaurant, you get a quarter off the price of the drink.
Now for the bad news… and why all this is so damned important.
2015 is already shaping up to be the warmest year on record. As the Slate reports.
All major global temperature-tracking agencies have ranked January, February, and March 2015 as among the warmest three months on record, respectively. Collectively, those numbers mean 2015 has been record hot so far. What’s more, the last 12 months (from April 2014 to March 2015) was the warmest 12-month period on record, according to the NASA data. The previous warmest 12-month period ended just last month, so don’t write this one down in your diary in ink.
The warming Pacific may be behind the weird weather we’re having. In spite of parts of the US having some of the coldest weather on record, the rest of the planet was unseasonably warm. Despite the talk of the polar vortex, the root cause is the warming Pacific Ocean.
It is shown from historical data and from modeling experiments that a proximate cause of the cold winter in North America in 2013–2014 was the pattern of sea surface temperature (SST) in the Pacific Ocean. Each of the three dominant modes of SST variability in the Pacific is connected to the tropics and has a strong expression in extratropical SST and weather patterns. Beginning in the middle of 2013, the third mode of SST variability was two standard deviations positive and has remained so through January 2015. This pattern is associated with high pressure in the northeast Pacific and low pressure and low surface temperatures over central North America. A large ensemble of model experiments with observed SSTs confirms that SST anomalies contributed to the anomalous winter of 2014.
The paper is by Dennis Hartmann who describes the results in this blog post.
It’s good that people with some clout are starting to take climate change seriously. Twenty years ago, the only people who cared were a few rich Hollywood B-list celebrities and a few wacko hippies… but now we see that they were right. More importantly, everyone sees it and is starting to take action. The real question is, will it be enough action soon enough to prevent some real catastrophes?