Category Archives: Energy & Environment

Comments related to global energy use, the presumed-to-be-impending energy crises, and related impacts on people, the economy and the environment. Global warming and other environmental issues.

COP28: The prelude

COP28, the 28th Conference Of the Parties has begun this week with representatives from 200 countries. The main theme of the conference is fast tracking the transition to zero net emissions of greenhouse gases and, specifically, to get half the way to zero by 2030. Further, the goal is to limit global warming to 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial levels. What are the chances of success?

First, note that the world exceeded 1.5C for a day or more just recently. Global average temperature continues to increase monthly. Most of the increase is due to China, the United States, the European Union and India. Most of the ill effects of that increase fall on other countries, particularly those that have low emissions. So what should happen during COP28?

Continue reading COP28: The prelude

Remodeling central cities

In January and June I wrote about the impending glut of office space in downtown areas. This is the result of the widespread adoption of telework starting with the Covid crisis. Now, more than three years later, it appears that the teleworkers remain resistant to full-time work in those central offices. Although the number of days they do come to the downtown office have increased, the average appears to be between two and three days per week. City centers clearly need remodeling.

So, the dilemma remains for the owners of all these office-dominant buildings. In many cases rental income is not just down, it’s seriously less than expenses. The problem has expanded to other areas as well. Businesses that depended on the daily influx of all those office workers now find that the flow has been cut at least in half. Once crowded sidewalks are now almost empty. Shops have been closed. Tax income has dropped for the cities. Crime rates in downtown areas have increased. The central cities as we knew them seem to have died.

But the buildings are still there. All that expensive real estate still exists. It would be foolish to just let it rot. So, what should we do to save the situation? Here are some ideas.

Continue reading Remodeling central cities

A gleam on the horizon for the climate

Most of my writing on climate change has shown some level of despondence. So far. But now I’m beginning to see a gleam on the horizon. Despite what has happened this summer. The ungainly ships of state are beginning to turn around. Here are some examples.

The United Kingdom

The UK’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has been walking back some of his government’s promises on climate. For example, he has been pushing back several green targets from 2030 to 2035, including a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars; relaxing the phaseout of new gas boilers; and cessation of drilling for oil in the North Sea. His reason is that he doesn’t want to unduly burden citizens with the costs associated with these changes.

Continue reading A gleam on the horizon for the climate

Climate check: August 2023

At the end of what is generally the hottest month of the year in the northern hemisphere, I suppose it’s time to do a climate check for August 2023. Here’s list of some of what has happened, in no particular order.

Hurricanes

  • Hurricane Hilary turned from a Category 4 Pacific hurricane into a tropical storm as it threatened Southern California for the first time in 84 years. There was at least one fatality and almost 3,000 people were displaced by it.
  • Typhoon Doksuri struck northern China, causing the most rain to fall in Beijing since records were first kept in 1883. It also caused a severe risk to one of Xi Jinping’s pet projects: Xiong’an New Area.
  • Hurricane, then Tropical Storm Idalia devastated sections of northern Florida. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power and rescuers pulled dozens of people from flooded homes.
  • Franklin will go down as the first major hurricane 2023 season: a category three with winds of 115 mph 120 mph. This one is not a threat to land.
  • NOAA forecasters predict an “above normal” hurricane season as a result of record warm sea-surface temperatures.

Heat

  • NOAA forecasters predict excessive heat across the south-central US.
  • Climate change continues with an annual temperature increase of 0.14F (0.078C)
  • The 10 warmest years in the historical record have all occurred since 2010.
  • Heat domes seem now to be an annual phenomenon in the US and Europe as the jet stream reconfigures itself.
  • Canadian wildfire emissions are 6 times higher than average this year. A forest fire in Greece is the largest ever recorded by the European Union.

Trend

The temperature trend is up everywhere. Global warming continues apace, with little substantive prospect of a change in its rate. Governments and industry worldwide may be described as inactive at best, regressing at worst, with little prospect for change in the near future. They all are kicking the can down the road; maintaining their promises for 2030 or 2050 but failing to make significant progress toward their announced goals. The UK seems to be the leader in that trend, with Rishi Sunak waffling on, or even negating previous decisions on drilling for oil in the North Sea.

I suppose that I should apologize for being impatient but I’ve been putting up with this foot-dragging for more than a half century now. I’m tired of it. If you’re with me, keep yelling at the climate perpetrators to make real, positive changes. Otherwise it will steadily continue to get worse.

Happy September!

Heat: Altering the future

Heat is altering the future on this planet. If you haven’t yet personally experienced the effects of global warming, you surely must have heard about them. July, like June, has produced record-breaking temperatures world wide. If that’s not bad enough, the future will clearly get worse every year, according to almost all scientists who study the phenomena.

Unless we, collectively, do something about it. The sooner we act, the quicker this trend will slow down. By acting I mean stopping putting carbon into the atmosphere. Stopping, not reducing. Every additional atom of carbon dioxide or methane in the atmosphere makes thing a bit worse. Regardless of its source.

Basics

For example, Phoenix, Arizona, has had 31 straight days in June-July with the temperature at or exceeding 110F (43.3C). For reference on the human impact of this temperature, NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has a handy chart showing the relationship between temperature, humidity and human survival. Note that 110F with only 36% humidity makes sunstroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely and heatstroke possible with prolonged exposure and.or physical activity. Even at 10% humidity those problems are possible. But for 31 straight days? Next year it might 40 straight days.

Of course Phoenix is a desert city and its humidity tends to be low in summer but the point is that the annual number of really hot days is increasing faster than seems possible just a few years ago. Kim Stanley Robinson’s prophetic book “The Ministry of the Future” begins with a story about a (fictional) city in India that suffers a devastating heat wave that kills most of its population. Review that NOAA chart for your own location.

All of this is because we continue to pump more carbon into the atmosphere, day after day. That has to stop if we are to survive long term. If we are to stop the boiling.

My blog in May, written by Lucy Reed, focused on what you personally can do to relieve climate stress. I’m focusing here on the broader picture of what must be done to stop climate change. There are three main objects of needed effort: government; polluting industry and us.

Continue reading Heat: Altering the future

Coping with Climate stress

Reports of growing climate disasters keep arriving. If you continue to read them the result may be an increase in your stress levels. Here are some comments from Lucy Reed of GigMine on possible options for de-stressing while also doing something positive to change the future.

Five Ways to Cope with Climate Anxiety While Making a Difference

Paying attention to climate issues can be stressful, especially when spending hours per week trying to stay informed. Sometimes, it can be easier to check out and not pay attention to prevent an overload of anxiety. Statistics show that 60% of young people feel worried about the environment. Thankfully, there are ways to make an impact while taking care of your mental and physical health. Today, JALA International shares five ways to cope with climate anxiety while making a difference. 

Continue reading Coping with Climate stress

Energy tradeoffs in a distributed world

When I started my research into telework my goal was to reduce the time and energy spent in the daily commute to work in a world where commute distances and times were steadily increasing. As global warming accelerates it is time to look at the bigger picture: energy tradeoffs in a distributed world.

At the heart of this concept are distributed networks as initially developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense (now called DARPA). Their core idea was that, to avoid being shut down by attacks on key facilities, distribute and interconnect the facilities so that removal of one or more won’t affect the operation of the whole network. The system just works its way around the damage point. The Internet grew from that start.

Here’s a brief look at four types of network-related tradeoffs in the world’s growing dominance of electricity.

Continue reading Energy tradeoffs in a distributed world

Near Future Estimates: Telework and Climate

Now that we’ve arrived at a new year it’s time to consider what might be coming up with respect to telework and climate change. The short answer is that the future of telework looks rosy while the future of the climate continues to be grim. Further, although telework is looking good some of its disruptive side effects are definitely appearing. While global warming continues pretty much unabated, reductions in the rate of increase appear on the horizon.

Here are some details.

Telework

A major side effect of the Covid pandemic was the almost instant rush of office workers from downtowns to home offices. Now that Covid is essentially over in the United States and Europe, if not in China, many tradition-minded executives demanded that their employees return full-time to their central urban offices. That usually didn’t work. Those millions of workers who have experienced working from home for more than two years are resisting going back to the old ways full time.

Continue reading Near Future Estimates: Telework and Climate

COP27: A little bit of this, none of that

The 27th United Nations Conference of Parties has limped to a close with results that are disappointing at best. The delegates did agree to provide some forms of help to the countries most affected by climate change but nothing about the gorilla in the room: climate change itself. It was little bit of this (help), but none of that (serious change in emissions). So another year has passed without a serious international effort to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, the sources of climate change.

Here are some details plus a bit on the other Conference of Parties, COP15.

Continue reading COP27: A little bit of this, none of that

The climate countdown: 2022 edition

This year’s international conference on the climate, COP27, begins on Sunday, November 6th at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The previous conference, COP26, resulted in a number of promises to reduce the production of greenhouse gases (GHGs) with the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. COP27’s goal is to see how well the world has been doing so far and to plan what must happen next.

The key issues are: is global warming better or worse than it was in COP26; how fast is global warming changing and in what direction; how close are the facts to what was promised last year and what must be done to reach the 1.5C goal?

It’s time to check the evidence so far and think about alternative futures.

Continue reading The climate countdown: 2022 edition