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Environment Challenge

Burning the West?

Very few issues have gotten so much public attention, and so little Congressional attention.

The question at this point, since both parties recognize that climate change is real, is how hot will we get.  Or how cold? Or how much will be destroyed and how much will it cost us?

Essentially those who denied climate change, that is, those with big money interests and those who represent big money interests, got their way and blocked action on this issue.  It might have been just as well.

Just as well? How could that possibly be? Well, for twenty years, many countries have talked about addressing climate change, but have done nothing. The things they talked about doing, such as lowering carbon emissions, are very expensive. Too expensive? That is a strange way to think. It's kind of like saying, "The world is on fire, and it will burn us up if we don't put out the fire, but we lack the will and money to do it, and we don't like the solutions, so we all die." That's an extreme way of putting it, but it encapsulates the thinking.

The knee jerk reaction solutions, which lacked any sense of creativity, ran along the lines of "Cap and Trade." So we are in the position now of having accelerated and more extreme, natural changes, so we have to live with it, and try to mitigate further disaster. Further delay may cost us much more in the long run.

Short-termism and the threat from climate change - McKinsey & Company

Are there solutions? 

There are quasi-natural and made made solutions which are viable. They can stop the next 3 degree increase in warming, and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The most practical quasi-natural solution is simply planting trees. A tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and convert it back to oxygen. They also add beauty and cooling to the areas they are in.

The US emits around 5 billion metric tons of coal per year, 70% of which is produced by electricity generation and transportation. Mathematically, it would take 230 billion trees to balance that. The US has 2.3 billion acres. That would work out to 100 trees per acre. That's a lot of trees, especially since desert areas don't grow trees well. It would be the equivalent of returning the US to its pre-1900s forestation and more.

Another viable solution is to reflect more of the sun's rays back into space, through ground and cloud reflection, so that less electricity is required, and this is possible. Actually coating areas with reflective material where the frozen tundra is melting, would help stop the melting and reflect rays back. But this can also be assisted by making rooftops more reflective (white) and asphalt roads more reflective (white).

Converting more of the suns energy to other usable forms of energy would also cut down on the amount of the sun's heating.

So to stop the continuous, forever ongoing, increase in warming caused by ever increasing CO2 emissions, electrical generation and transportation need to be gradually replaced with forms of energy that don't create the problem.  Worldwide. The US is a leader in innovation, and selling innovative technology - wait a minute, we were leaders. Well, someone has to create it and sell it, and others are beating us to it.

There are a variety of technologies that can make great strides in energy production from natural sources. Some countries, even in the northern climates, have already gone to mostly solar and wind energy. Ocean waves are another great source of potential electrical energy generation. But energy storage is necessary because in many areas the wind doesn't always blow, and the tide goes out, and the sun doesn't always shine.

Batteries are not very effective for storing large amounts of energy. But there are other mechanisms that can work effectively, and really don't cost much.

  1. Converting water to hydrogen and oxygen for use in fuel cells. You can use wind, wave, heat, and solar energy to do the conversion, then use the hydrogen and oxygen to run fuel cells when those energy sources are off line.
  2. Passive air heating is another way solar energy can be used. The rays get absorbed behind the glass, heat air or water, and circulates naturally, using no additional power. These are much less expensive collectors than converting solar to electric. You can even use them in desert areas to drive turbines to create electrical energy.
  3. Hydroelectric reservoirs store energy by pumping water up into the reservoir from wind, wave, heat, and solar energy sources, and then using the water fall when needed, to power the hydroelectric generator.
  4. Any gravity device will work for energy storage and recovery. You can store wind, wave, heat, and solar energy simply by lifting tons of dirt on platforms, and then using the energy produced by the platform fall to drive electrical generators.  It's inexpensive, and there isn't anything difficult about it.

Just as well we didn't

It's just as well we didn't kill ourselves financially making changes - we need better, less expensive solutions. We're going to have to learn to live with the consequences of global warming, as well as get it stopped as much as we can, with innovative technology doesn't financially destroy us.

"We're powerless, and we can't afford it," are not solutions. We are a nation known for innovation. Currently each year we are burning hundreds of homes and thousands of acres in the US West. Hurricanes and tornadoes are getting stronger, and destroy entire towns. Torrential rainfall is increasing in areas where it rarely occurred. We're seeing a lot of weather extremes. Climate change is a strong suspect in all of these things.

Watch the movie, "Cool It." It has a balanced view and good ideas.