Just imagine gigantic masses of ice melting, flooding major cities around the world. Or a slowing down of the Gulf Stream ocean current, bringing more extreme weather events to Europe. You might think these events are looming way off in the future. But on a geological timescale, these tipping points are not that far away.
But there’s reason for hope. In 2015, governments of the world reached the Paris Agreement. It was a diplomatic miracle, six years after the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit, and it laid out important ground rules for slowing down global warming.
But will the Paris Agreement actually stop climate change? Not by itself. In order to face the climate crisis head-on, we’ll have to move quickly. How can we transform our economies and societies to move forward? This is what we are going to explore in this series.
In just a hundred years, human ingenuity has brought us airplanes, plastics, televisions and the internet. We are operating a space station orbiting the Earth, and remote control rovers on the surface of Mars. So, isn’t it pretty safe to assume that we will find engineering solutions to climate change as well?
In this episode, we’ll look at ideas to geoengineer the climate – with a critical eye. We will talk to two experts in the climate field about fertilizing the oceans, sucking carbon out of the air and creating an umbrella of aerosols around planet earth to keep the sun rays away. Our main question is: How feasible are these ideas, and what are their side effects?
First we will talk to Neth Daño. Neth is the Asia Director of the ETC Group. ETC is an organization devoted to issues surrounding new technologies with potential impact on the world’s poor and vulnerable. We reached Neth in Manila, and the first thing she explained to us, was how Filipinos feel about climate change.
"Climate change is actually being felt clearly in the Philippines as a whole where I live, in particular in Mindanao Island, the southern part of the Philippines. In the past few decades there is actually more and more typhoons that enter the country, and not just more in terms of number, but more intense typhoon – with more rains, which actually cause more flooding and affect communities in the coastal areas. And the Philippines is an archipelagic country comprised of more than 7000 islands, which means that ninety nine percent of Filipinos live within 10 kilometers’ area from a coast, and it is these communities that actually suffer most when typhoons come. My daughter who lives in Manila actually just live about 300 meters from Manila Bay, and we're actually struck at how intense flooding could be, every time there's a typhoon in this area. And we have experienced one of the worst drought seasons from the La Nina phenomenon last year, no, in the year before that, which has actually massively affected agricultural areas in particular, and also urban populations because of scarcity of water. So, it's really a now threat – it's a threat that's already happening", says Neth Daño.
Maybe you remember the headlines: In 2013, the strongest typhoon ever hit the Philippines. Tropical storm Haiyan, which the Filipinos called Yolanda. It was a massive typhoon that swept through the eastern part of the islands and killed more than 6,000 people. In the city of Tacloban, a highly urbanized area, Yolanda devastated entire neighborhoods. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, and coincided with the nineteenth United Nations climate summit in Warsaw.
See more here.
The battered U.S. coal industry is showing flickering signs of life. Yet the prognosis for Big Coal remains dim.
Coal prices are about double what they were a year ago. Rail car deliveries of coal are up 16 percent this year. The more than 50 coal mining companies that went bankrupt over the past couple of years have unloaded billions of dollars of debt. And President Trump has vowed to roll back environmental regulations that the industry says are part of a “war on coal.”
The stocks of coal companies have enjoyed a “Trump bump,” thanks to the president’s pledges to “bring the coal industry back” and “put our great miners and steelworkers back to work.” Half a dozen big companies have seized the moment to issue stock or sell bonds to raise money from investors willing to wager on the effects of a friendlier Trump administration. Peabody Energy, the nation’s biggest coal behemoth, hopes to win court approval to come out of bankruptcy in April.
But the obstacles on the other side of the ledger remain daunting: Coal-fired power plants continue to shut their doors. Bountiful supplies of U.S. shale gas are keeping natural gas prices low and competitive, and renewable sources of power generation are growing rapidly. Though most experts expect U.S. coal sales and output to top last year’s levels, they also expect the decline to resume in 2018.
“The coal industry is saying it’s back. It’s not back,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. “This is a fool’s errand.” The institute is supported by a variety of liberal philanthropies.
Some coal companies will survive, and some could thrive. Metallurgical coal will be needed to make steel in India and China and in the United States, especially if there is a boost in infrastructure spending. And thermal coal will still be used to generate electricity for years, even if at lower rates.
But to show profits, coal operators will have to trim output from the oldest, least-efficient mines in Appalachia (where Trump garnered crucial votes in the election) and shift their focus to the Illinois Basin and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.
Those big open-pit mines need fewer workers — doing nothing to help Trump bring back jobs for “our great miners.”
“A lot of people conflate two primary things: the coal industry and coal jobs,” said Chiza B. Vitta, a coal analyst at Standard & Poor’s. “Even if the coal industry were to do better, that doesn’t translate into coal jobs. Over time the process has become more and more efficient, and they’re able to mine with fewer and fewer people working.”
Some analysts don’t even expect the industry to do better.
“Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail would also suggest that coal is about to see a big lift in the post-Obama era, but the reality may be less rosy,” Citigroup said in a series of reports to investors this year.
“The regulatory environment for coal should improve under Trump’s presidency,” the bank said. But, it added, “comparative economics for coal, renewables and gas place clean coal firmly at the bottom of the stack in the U.S.”
See more here.
Google has long stated its ambitions to run its global operations solely on renewable energy, and now it wants to lead by example. The company has updated its interactive Sunroof map that helps people estimate whether it makes sense to install a solar panel on their roof.
In a new blog post, the Big G announced it has updated the interactive map to include data for all states in the US, including information about the solar energy potential for more than 60 million buildings across the country.
The initiative, which the Mountain View giant initially launched almost two years ago, essentially leverages visual data from Maps and Earth to generate 3D models of the total amount of sunlight that reaches your roof.
To accurately provide such information, the tool takes into account “weather patterns, position of the sun in the sky at different times of year, and shade from nearby obstructions like trees and tall buildings.”
Google also took a moment to share some insightful statistics pertaining to the solar energy opportunities in the US. According to its findings, almost 80 percent of “all rooftops analyzed are technically viable for solar, meaning those rooftops have enough unshaded area for solar panels.”
Leading the charts is the city of Houston with “estimated 18,940 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of rooftop solar generation potential per year.” Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio and New York complete the rest of the top five.