Climate 101

Cars that burn up the roads

Two articles appeared next to each other on the front page of the WSJ on August 18: ‘US Car Plants Shift to Top Gear,’ and ‘Decade of Drought Threatens West.’

We need to connect the dots.

The manufacture of 60 million new passenger vehicles in 2012 worldwide, 99% of them burning gasoline or diesel, guarantees us more extreme weather disasters.

With rising carbon emissions making the atmosphere warmer, increasing storm surges, floods, droughts and wildfires will destroy infrastructure, water resources, homes, and jobs.

The federal government gives tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and installation of solar panels that can be used to charge them, and also requires automakers to increase energy efficiency.  This is great, but we should do more.  A carbon fee should be imposed to make purchasers of fossil fuels to pay more of the actual costs of using those products.  Taxpayers now pick up the tab for spill clean-up, disaster aid, flood insurance, crop insurance and military protection of oil shipments.

A tax on oil, coal and natural gas at the wellhead, mine or point of entry, increasing each year, up to $100 per ton, with revenue returned to households would help level the playing field and allow more profitable production of clean energy alternatives.   With a tariff on goods from other countries not imposing a carbon fee, we could also encourage worldwide adoption of clean energy.

Clean Energy is Patriotic

A response to a comment that ‘environmentalists are anti-American’.
Top military advisors have repeatedly stated that US dependence on fossil fuels is a serious vulnerability for our national defense for several reasons.
First, the relatively small amount of oil and natural gas reserves on US territory, 4% of the world total, means that the prices and reliable provision of these fuels are not within our control. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydrogen and algae fuel could all be manufactured in America, by Americans, and purchased for American security without giving favors to other countries or obligating us to meet their demands.
Second, the disruption of the climate mostly caused by burning fossil fuels is a threat to peace. Increasing droughts, floods, rising seas, acid oceans and fires are reducing food and water supplies and increasing instability, unrest and pressures to emigrate, a serious pressure on our military.

The cost of fuel is another factor. In 2010, army installations spent $2.1 billion on electricity. A $10 rise in the price of a barrel of oil costs the military an extra billion.A strong American industry manufacturing green energy and efficiency technology would be of great benefit to our military. Changing electricity sources for military installations to clean energy would help scale up the industry and reduce prices.

Finally, there is a safety factor. Installing solar panels and insulation on tents to reduce fuel convoys saves troops’ lives. Reducing use of flammable and polluting fuels is better for our health. 

It is thoroughly American to protect the purity of our waters, the stability of our climate,  and the freedom of consumers to choose new and improved products free from unfair competition by entrenched monopolies.

Gasoline Costs

The average US household spent nearly $3,000 or 4% of yearly income on gasoline in 2012, according to a WSJ report on new government data.
Well worth it! We certainly wouldn’t want to mingle with people who ride trains and buses, or heaven forbid, bicycles.
It’s worth the time spent in exhaust-belching traffic jams and searching for pricey parking spaces, worth the money shelled out for car payments and maintenance and insurance.
It’s worth sending 20 more pounds of warming carbon dioxide into the air with each gallon of gasololine burned. Before too long, we will have Bahama-like weather in New York, be able to dive out of office windows directly into the ocean, and get no sand between our toes.
It’s worth spending up to 15 times more on transportation to have our own, personal, greenhouse gas dispenser.

Wake-up call duly noted. Now what?

Extreme climate predictions most accurate, report finds, according to a Seattle Times/Washington Post article “ The world could be in for an increase of some 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, resulting in drastically higher seas, disappearing coastlines and more severe droughts, floods and other destructive weather.  Such an increase would substantially overshoot what the world’s leaders have identified as the threshold for triggering catastrophic consequences.”


Ok, so, what do we do? Personally, live a lower carbon lifestyle – dance more, drive less, plant more, purchase less, insulate your home, wear sweaters, vacation near home, skype your distant friends & family, and lobby for policy solutions.. Locally, get institutions to invest in green energy instead of fossil fuels, (see and install energy saving technology, tell your friends and neighbors what you are doing and invite them to informational events. Nationally, lobby for a carbon tax and rebate (see Citizens Climate Lobby), for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels, against oil pipelines and natural gas fracking, and for increased government incentives for investment in solar, wind, water, geothermal, wave, and tidal energy, efficiency technology, smart grid, electric vehicles and batteries.
A green energy economy is possible. The Jacobson and Delucchi plan,, explains how investment in solar, wind, water, geothermal, wave, and tidal energy, combined with energy reducing technology, smart grid, electric vehicles and batteries can supply most our needs. They suggest replacing all new energy with these by 2030, and replacing pre-existing energy by 2050, resulting in consumer costs similar to what we are spending today.
The energy from burning oil, coal and natural gas allowed us to build a civilization, with research facilities, and communication devices that allow us to make a transition to safe, affordable clean energy. Those who are afraid that sustainability will not help the economy are misinformed. It is precisely to save our loading docks, airports, highway system, computer capabilities, and the health of people who run this infrastructure that we need to stop investing money in last century’s fossil fuel energy and build American energy industries that will free us from the monopoly of fossil fuels and also save our mountains, trees, agriculture, water supplies and shorelines.

Costs of global warming

An article in the WSJ describes how ‘Much of Sandy’s Flood Damage to be Covered by Cash-Strapped Federal Program’


In 1980, when the science of climate change moved from theory to reality, people said, ‘Well, we’ll have to do something.’ In 1990, the threat still seemed quite distant, the predicted melting of ice caps, floods, storm surges, sea level rise, droughts and forest fires. By 2000, the temperature of the Earth was rising faster than predicted, the Arctic was melting away, and changes in sea currents and tundra methane indicated that ‘tipping points,’ changes in natural functions of the Earth with potential for widespread destruction of basic life systems, might be starting. Many nations, US states, and municipal governments began to shift to more efficient use of energy and increasing use of green technology like wind, wave and solar power. However, the US Congress failed to act.

Billions in damage claims from this storm will be born by taxpayers, more costs will never be recovered, and many lives were lost.

Data shows that the frequency of heavy downpours (defined as the top 1 percent of rainfall events) has increased by almost 20 percent on average in the U.S, as a result of climate change over the past 50 years. Severe weather events will increase for several   decades, even after we stop burning fossil fuels.  It takes decades after release of excess CO2 for it to raise the temperature of the huge Earth. So the planet’s temperature will keep rising for at least another 20 years, and then stay high for  centuries.

It is time to deal with the problem.

The corporations selling the oil, coal and natural gas, the fossil fuels that emit the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is the main cause of this imbalance in the climate, have failed to coordinate an appropriate response. Responsible corporate behavior would be to shift their investments and production into geothermal, wind, solar, battery, algae fuel, smart grids, efficiency technology, and other products that could replace the burning of the fossil fuels. With a few insignificant exceptions, they have not done this.

Isn’t it time for the federal government to protect us from increasing damages from overheating the climate. A tax on carbon that increases every year would give the petroleum industry a measured incentive to shift to production of green technology.

We do not have to keep burning fossil fuels. We can reduce US energy use by 20% just with regulations requiring buildings to be more energy efficient.   Wind and solar electricity are already cost competitive in many places and smart grids can handle different and new energy sources. Worldwide demand for solar technology is surging. America has the engineering and entrepreneurial expertise to create a new industrial base of green energy that can out-compete fossil fuel, revitalize our economy and protect our shores.

Who earns more – climate scientists or oil company executives?

Are climate scientists faking results because they are “greedy for funding and lustful for power?”

In 2011 the pay  of the CEO for Exxon was $34.9 million. and the pay for the CEO for Chevron was $24.7 million.  At Penn State, the average tenured professor earned about $120,000 last year, and a new hire a bit less than $70,000.

MapLight  data shows that oil and gas companies donated $15,078,146 to Republican Senators and members of congress.  Environmental groups meanwhile, donated $2,847,072 to Democrat Senators and members of congress