California Gas Price Hysteria

I feel compelled to write this. I’m tired of seeing the oil lobby’s propaganda (and influence over economy) spill onto people’s timelines via shoddy reporting by journalists after sensationalist stories. Yes, prices for gas in California have recently gone up. However, slamming the state’s climate change law (2004’s AB 32 – which was also upheld by California voters in 2010) is not only ignorant and wrong – it’s narrow-minded. For one, oil companies making a stir can cause prices to rise…which is exactly what they want to happen so there will be widespread public backlash. But not so fast.

A couple of years ago, Media Matters posted a brilliant smack-down of misinformation from the right-leaning Orange County Register. The paper’s claim was common among the American right: Tackling climate change will kill the economy so we shouldn’t do anything. Except that’s not correct. At all.

In fact, as the post pointed out, climate change policies not only save consumers money, they boost the economies where they are implemented. I highly recommend a read-through of the post – it’s informative and relevant now more than ever. Read it here.

If you aren’t able to at this time, here’s a quick overview some of the facts:

  • Cap-and-Trade policies are the best market-centered ways to decrease pollution and greenhouse gasses (via California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, International Emissions Trading Association, and the EPA)
  • Consumers will end up saving money (via the California Air Resources Board, a UCLA study, and a Stanford University study)
  • Existing Cap-and-Trade laws have resulted in economic booms (via the EPA, the California Air Resources Board, and economic consulting firm Analysis Group)
  • Cap-and-Trade (prior to the recent Frankenstein-esque rise of the Tea Party) has had bipartisan support across the country

Don’t be swayed by Big Energy’s misinformation. Cap-and-Trade is the most market-friendly, cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The planet is warming, feedback loops are being tripped and time is quickly running out to avoid the worst of climate change. Renewable energy is in the midst of a revolution, but this is still the time to rise above partisanship and pseudoscience – the planet depends on us to do so.



“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” Explained By Rolling Stone’s Bill McKibben

If you’re in the mood for a horror or thriller movie, look no further than the latest issue of Rolling Stone (August 2nd, 2012 issue). Look past the post-pubescent, sexed up picture of Justin Bieber on the cover and to an article that everyone should actually read, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Writer Bill McKibben paints a disastrous picture of the planet’s future and who enemy number one is: the fossil fuel industry.

Loads of data and science are presented in the article (in direct contrast to Fox News’ idiotic attempts to smear climate science as a liberal conspiracy, or something). For example, in order to keep the global temperature from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), we cannot spew more than 565 gigatons (565,000,000,000 metric tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere. At our current rate of increase, we’re set to reach that well within the next 20 years. If that doesn’t scare you, this will: Current global coal, oil and gas reserves (fuel we’re planning on burning at some point) is equal to 2,795 gigatons (2,795,000,000,000 metric tons), which is worth about $27 trillion to coal, oil and gas companies . That’s FIVE times the limit for a two-degree increase in global temperatures.

The planet is already becoming warmer, the oceans more acidic and Arctic ice is rapidly melting. As extreme as the weather has become, it’s sobering to realize that we’ve only increased the global temperature by 0.8 degrees Celsius. An 0.8 degree Celsius increase has broken 3,215 heat records across the U.S. this past June and created the conditions for the hottest rainfall in Earth’s history; This past Spring it rained in Mecca, Saudi Arabia….when it was 109 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be argued, as many climate scientists have, that even a two degree Celsius increase limit is too much.

alarming graph from NASA showing an undeniable global warming trend

The evidence is overwhelming. We know that climate change is real and that it presents drastic changes to our planet. The question is whether we will do anything to slow down the rate of temperature (and extreme weather) increase. We can change. We have the technology. What we lack is the will to act, as McKibben also points out…

We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.

Record profits by the world’s largest oil companies and cheaper goods are not what building a better future looks like. We have to get beyond the “cheaper = better” equation that has been the staple of industry since the Industrial Revolution. Capitalism itself is not the enemy: corporate greed and complete disregard for everything else is. Investing in and improving the efficiency of renewable energy technologies must become international priorities. As I said in a previous eco-themed post, the traditional concept of the lavish “American life” (bigger, faster, fatter, cheaper, etc.) is clearly and undeniably unsustainable. If we value the planet we live on or even our and our posterity’s future, we have to change.

Read McKibben’s brilliant article here.

My Little Eco Rant…

“Change!” It’s incredibly cliché and overused. When people say the word, it creates more questions than answers. From campaign slogans to kitty litter box instructions, that simple word creates an array of mental images. But, I’m going to say it anyway – We have to change.

The traditional concept of the “American Way” as established in the 20th century (bigger, faster, fatter, cheaper, etc.) is clearly and undeniably unsustainable. I realize that telling people they need to change the way they see reality isn’t exactly a winning campaign strategy for an aspiring politician, but it has to start at some point.

The world’s oil supply has been on the decline for decades and climate change has been accelerating, wreaking havoc in the form of crazier weather and more intense storms. The Earth itself is at a tipping point and yet most of the world’s leaders are more concerned with drilling for more of a dwindling resource (it’s called “fossil” fuels for a reason) than investing in and improving renewable, sustainable sources of energy.

America is the richest nation on the planet and leads the world in natural resource consumption…and we only account for five percent of the global population. We produce incredible amounts of waste and pollution, which is to be expected from a developed society like ours. However, the fact that other nations around the world are striving to become like us should be a motivation for us to set an example.

Faster, sleeker, sexier cars are fun…but do they really improve one’s life? Buying everything in bulk may be economical, but it isn’t always the best option. Cheaper, hormone-filled foods treated with large amounts of chemicals may be convenient and delicious, but they have disastrous health implications for the body and the planet.

Higher profits and expansion are key to any successful business, but it shouldn’t be the goal of life. Capitalism creates superior products and innovations, but it can also create massive amounts of poverty, pollution and waste. In short, it is not the cure-all for every ailment.

I have nothing against technological innovation or progress; I’ve always been a geek, fascinated with new technologies and the promise of a better tomorrow as depicted in pop culture hits like Star Trek. I am incredibly thankful that I live in a prosperous country like the United States. I love my country and am optimistic about her future…even if her priorities are frequently out of whack.

Things like improving the efficiency of solar power technology and increasing incentives for green technology and renewable energy sources should be some of our top priorities as a species. Governments need to pledge to follow international treaties that treat climate change for what it is: a global crisis that affects everyone.

I know this kind of “rant” may simply be seen as a stupid, tree-hugging, hippie, pink0-commie plea for change, or something…and I don’t care. Shrug away. Laugh it off. Call me young and naive. Continue living in ignorance. I care about the future of this planet. I’m not trying to boost my own ego…to the contrary – Long after I’m gone, I want humanity to be thriving and continually improving. I can’t, in good conscience, focus solely on my own life and ambitions and ignore the consequences of contemporary policies.

Simply closing one’s eyes doesn’t make the rest of the world temporarily disappear. Get real and do something. Live your life with the knowledge that your decisions have consequences. Vote for candidates who are committed to humanity’s betterment and survival. Stay up to date on scientific advances and updates. Realize that while you may live in a sovereign nation, you share a planet with billions of other people and millions of other species. Change. 😉

No Other Option: We Have To Combat Climate Change NOW

If nothing is done to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2017, climate change will wreak havoc on the planet, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

When carbon dioxide, along with other greenhouse gases, is released into the atmosphere in massive amounts (by the burning of fossil fuels),  it stays there for about a century and has a warming effect, where heat and light from the sun are trapped in the atmosphere. This results in higher global temperatures and more extreme weather. Last year alone, humans dumped more than 30 Gt (over 30,000,000,000 metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Scientists estimate that to keep climate change from becoming irreversible and devastating, global warming cannot go above 2C (35.6F). In other words, greenhouse gas emissions cannot go above 450 parts per million (ppm). Currently, they’re at 390 ppm and rising. At our current rate of consumption, we will reach our “carbon budget” by 2017, at which point irreversible change will occur.

Climate change deniers will say that this is wildly inflated or a liberal conspiracy to destroy mankind, or something. However, the IEA’s report is one of the most conservative estimates. Even our most optimistic report is frightening.

As scientists, activists and sane lawmakers have been saying for quite some time now, the world HAS to get serious about combatting climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, was adopted in 1997, put into effect in 2005, and expires next year. Many member nations, including Russia, Japan and the UK, have indicated they don’t plan on adopting a successor to Kyoto until 2018 or 2020. Worse yet, not only did the amount of greenhouse gas emissions increase in 2010,  the United States and China, the top two greenhouse gas emitters on the planet, do not have aggressive policies to reduce their emissions.

Yes, China has invested billions of dollars into green technology. However, most of their power still comes from fossil fuels. And with the current makeup of the United States House of Representatives, any action to combat climate change will be smacked down by a crowd that distrusts science and embraces ignorance to get elected.

We HAVE to reduce our emissions. A cap-and-trade program HAS to be adopted in the United States. Our dependence on “dirty” fossil fuels NEEDS to be replaced by dependence on safer nuclear, solar, wind turbine, geothermal and hydroelectric power. Research into fusion power NEEDS to be revisited. We MUST change our excessive way of life. Climate change is real. It’s happening. Weather has been more extreme in recent years and almost all scientists in a variety of fields agree that emissions MUST be reduced. Government and business should partner together to spark a technological revolution that will forever change the world.

 “What we are looking at is not an international environmental agreement – what we are looking at is nothing other than the biggest industrial and energy revolution that has ever been seen.”

– Christiana Figueres, UN climate chief

same picture found in the Guardian story linked above - credit: Rex Features


Other nations have bullet trains and excellent infrastructure AND are rapidly investing in green technology. The US has a damn fight on its hands when it comes to allotting more funding for infrastructure and investing more in green technology. The world is passing us by in the fast lane while we bicker and fight in a crumbling slow lane about not ever ever ever raising taxes for anything.

What happened? We used to lead the globe in technological investment and an with an excellent infrastructure that was the envy of world.

Thank you, Grover Norquist (and others like you).

Thanks to those like you, America lost a decade. Hopefully the country will wake up and thrive in this decade.


Our Energy Future: Solar Power

In 2007, the Discovery Channel aired a three-part special called 2057 , in which futurists and scientists theorized about how life would change and improve over the next 50 years.

One of the parts of the special, titled 2057: The World, explored how humanity would obtain energy to fuel our civilization. The episode followed a fictitious story line where astronauts aboard a space station were trying to develop solar panels that were much more efficient than today’s panels.

Modern solar panels are only 14-18% efficient because the material (silicon) used only absorbs a fraction of the power of sunlight. Current prototypes in developement are expected to raise the efficiency to nearly 40%. However, to compete with the power derived from fossil fuels, solar power efficiency has to be at least 50%.

Thankfully, in the Netherlands, scientists are working on creating an entirely new, super-efficient material for solar power. The promise: 80% efficiency. Say goodbye to the old days of dirty oil and coal.

Here’s a clip of the episode.

If you would like to continue watching the rest of the episode (to see what happens next!), simply select the “Watch on YouTube” icon on the bottom right of the clip. From YouTube you can select the other “parts” of the episode.