Climate Disruption Talk February 2019
Climate Thought Leader
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology invited a second climate thought leader to address the continuing crisis recognized in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Karl Hausker, a world leader in public policy for mitigating climate change, spoke on February 8, 2019. He has consulted and developed climate models for the United States Agency for International Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Western Climate Initiative, and the California Air Resources Board. Dr. Hausker is especially attuned to the electricity and transportation sectors.
Net Zero Emissions Is Attainable
The United Nations panel urged that all countries of the world make immediate changes so that global warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees C. Anything higher will cause catastrophic, unlivable conditions on much of the earth.
Dr. Hausker stated that the United States needs to be operating at a net status of zero carbon emissions by mid-century, a mere thirty years from today. Dr. Hausker is a “big picture person” who has studied economic and public health connections and he knows that the U.S. can accomplish this daunting task with the technologies now commercial or almost ready to go to market. Amazingly, the possible pathways of changes he foresees would not destroy the economy.
100% Renewable Energy Sources NOT Recommended
For now, for this thirty-year window to move from where we are to where we must be, Dr. Hausker does not think shutting down all fossil fuel plants is the best solution. The massive changes required to quickly transform the country’s energy system to 100% renewable energy sources is more costly and more difficult than using a combination of strategies which relies on reducing carbon emissions and on removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it safely.
The Challenges Of Using Only Renewable Energy Production
If America chooses a 100% renewable system, it would need to compensate when wind and sunlight are not present. The predictable daily darkness can be calculated as well as seasonal variations in sunshine. Changes in wind have some predictability, but is less consistent. The patterns even vary over periods of years. Nonetheless, a country's entire power system must compensate for variations. That requires incredible storage capacity and over-building of power plants. How would we determine the minimum amount of back-up energy to store in order to keep the lights on in homes, businesses, and institutions? Furthermore, the United States currently lacks the ability to move power from one regional grid to any other location in the country. Transmission systems would need huge, rapid overhauls for 100% renewables to work.
100% Clean Energy Production Plan
The many models for blending wind and solar power with current energy fuels have these goals.
- Change every device which uses energy to have full energy efficiency - the highest efficiency possible.
- Switch all manufacturing and energy users from combusting fossil fuels to using electricity and zero-carbon fuels. Application examples are heat pumps for buildings, electric water heaters, and electric cars. America could change its overall use of electricity for energy from its current 23% to up to 50% in the next 30 years.
- De-carbonize the generation of electricity. Wind, solar-thermal, geo-thermal, biomass, nuclear, and solar voltaic production must all be exploited.
- The technology for carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage must be advanced as a national priority. Some believe that CO2 can be stored underground safely.
- Plants store carbon. Agricultural practices and home climate victory gardens must use every best practice for maximizing what crops and soil do naturally.
- The other greenhouse gasses must also be reduced.
The Challenges Of Using A Blended 100% Clean Energy Plan
This plan obviously requires sustained, rapid increase on power plant construction. It also requires business and public support of research and development of smart grids, expansion of renewable energy use, responsive energy distribution, carbon removal and carbon storage. None of these are cheap. The United States needs to embrace this with the same commitment it gave to winning World War II and to supporting the space program.
One philosophical appeal to the 100% clean plan is the safety in variety. The country is not "putting all its eggs in one basket."
The Problem Is Time Sensitive
Climate disruption can be slowed and eventually reversed. It would have been easier if the world started fighting the problem decades ago. Even now, our federal leaders have not appropriated the resources (through 2018) to take action.
If you know what needs to be done, please contact your representatives, and contact them repeatedly, until they get the message.
We can do this.
Again, We Can Do This
© 2019 Maren Elizabeth Morgan