Admit the cause of climate change
Kenneth Gough’s “climate follies” column (June 21) stated some good points on the issue of climate disruption, but misrepresented or failed to address others.
Following a years-long denial stance, he forthrightly admitted that climate warming is real, calling for action to solve the problem from an engineering standpoint.
He made no candid acknowledgment of the reason for the problem, though, which is that humans’ burning of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution has so massively amplified the natural greenhouse effect that it has become an inimical force that threatens a future livable world and already is a major risk to our own and world economies.
The World Economic Forum, in its Global Risks Report compiled for the Davos meeting in Switzerland in March, ranked as the very first of most likely risks for businesses the extreme weather events which climate disruption is spawning all over the globe. In terms of their impact, extreme weather events were rated second by the forum, following the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Did Mr. Gough miss the vast scale of the economic, social and human and agriculture-related consequences of the weather catastrophes now so common and, under basic physics expected to get much worse if the problem behind them is not seriously addressed? As revealed in the National Climate Assessment in November, they have cost the United States alone $1.1 trillion since 1980.
He seems correct in that we must rely on engineering and related research to solve the climate-warming problem. We need to switch away from the carbon-spewing fossil fuels, completely and as quickly as possible. At this point, development of engineering techniques may even be needed to remove or “draw down” some of the greenhouse gases with which — due to long denial — we have overburdened the planetary atmosphere.
Renewables are economical
Regarding “Climate follies and a multi-billion-dollar paperweight,” we agree the world is getting warmer. Like you, I too am a retired engineer and discovered there are things we can easily do to decarbonize energy production. I think your cost numbers are a bit dated on wind and solar, as they are now cost competitive with fossil fuels.
This is why, clean energy (wind and solar) have been the majority of new energy capacity worldwide since 2013. By 2016, renewables were two-thirds of new energy capacity, and the spread is growing. Solar was the biggest growth with 74 GW of new capacity with 50 percent of that in China.
Excel energy in Colorado just announced results of their auctions, and solar plus battery was cheaper than new gas-powered plants. The bid came in at $36/mw or one-third the cost of our current electric rates. India has a mad rush to install solar, as solar is cheaper than coal-fired electric production and they project by 2021 solar will be cheaper than just the cost of coal. They are currently bringing online a 2 GW solar plant, the world’s largest. Saudi Arabia announced a new 300 MW solar plant at $.0234/kWh as even they are abandoning natural gas in favor of lower cost solar.
I have been following the solar market for some time, as we are powering our house AND cars from rooftop solar. The system works well in less than sunny NE Tennessee. So, the cure is not only cleaner, but cost competitive.
Another painless option tested in British Columbia, Sweden, and Switzerland, is a carbon fee and dividend. Add a fee on carbon and use that fee to offset other taxes or give back directly to people. Rather than hurt those economies, they are the strongest in their respective regions.