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Climate Stew Blog

Some good news about Renewable Energy around the world.

Every week Prescott Allen Hazelton, one of my team members who lives up in New England, sends me 20-50 links on climate change. I read through these and handpick just three. This time around I have selected articles about renewable energy. There is a race to develop new technologies and use existing ones so that we can meet our energy needs without burning greenhouse gases. Electricity is essential for most people in the world, well, except maybe my Amish neighbors.

I used to think that if we switched to wind and solar, our energy needs would be completely met by clean renewables, but I didn’t understand about intermittence–the need to fill in the gaps when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Natural gas has been filling in some of these gaps, but we need to discover ways to store more energy and find alternative ways of addressing the alternative energy downtimes. (You can learn more here: Intermittent Energy Source)

Although wind and solar are not yet 100% clean sources because of the intermittency issue, they are still a whole like cleaner than burning coal, which is what has been the standard fuel source for many power stations globally. Everyday more and more alternative energy options are expanding. Here are three stories about renewable energy in the US, Denmark, Germany, India, and beyond.

Half of all New Energy Capacity in the US This Year is Renewable

According to the latest  Energy Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, solar and wind energy constituted more than half of the new generating capacity in the country for the first half of 2014.  Solar and wind energy combined for 1.83 gigawatts (GW) of the total 3.53 GW installed from January to June.

Global Warming: How will it affect women? Will technology save US?

Global Warming. Will technology save us? I know many of us hold onto a hope that some great invention will solve all of our climate woes. As you will see in our third link, addressing global warming will take more than just technology. But first, when I think of Global Warming, I don’t typically think of polar bears, bees, or sea coral–not that the threats they face are not real or urgent. I instead think of the people affected by climate change. I can’t help but think of myself and my husband and our friends and family in North America, Europe, and Southern Africa, and things we value that are at risk of being lost forever along with the feelings of fear over the uncertainty of it all.

I also think of other people–farmers, women in Subsaharan Africa, and poor and working class people in cities around the world who have always had to deal with more pollution in their communities than their richer neighbors.  Before we look at technology first let’s consider links to two stories that look at people disproportionately affected by climate change–poor communities in California cities and women in Jamaica.

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For the past 18 months the state of California has implemented a carbon cap-and-trade program collecting millions of dollars from companies who pollute. According to the original law, 25% of the revenue is suppose to go towards poorer communities adversely affected by pollution. Because of a budget shortfall last year, Governor Jerry Brown diverted that money (500 million dollars,) but at last these funds are going in the right place.

Under the new budget, about $230 million, or 26 percent, of the $872 million cap-and-trade money will go toward environmental justice efforts. That includes $75 million to weatherize low-income homes and $25 million for transit and intercity rail networks in poor communities. A program called Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities run by the state’s Strategic Growth Council will get $130 million to plan and build new housing and add amenities like public transit to existing neighborhoods.

Calif. Earmarks a Quarter of its Cap-and-Trade Riches for Environmental Justice by Amy Nordrum, Inside Climate News

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Throughout the developing world, women and girls are expected to face a harder time of it because of global warming. A recent series of papers out of Jamaica looks at some of the impacts of natural disasters and drought based on gender.

Apart from hurricanes, water shortages and droughts are also consequences of climate change which impact the poor and vulnerable within the society. Women and children in rural areas often find themselves having to go in search of water for domestic use.

“Women in general make up a large number of the vulnerable in communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources to survive,” said Tesi Scott.

Women said more vulnerable to climate change, Jamaica Observer

 

If you want to learn more about climate change and women, read the UN’s Women Watch page, Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change.

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I find that my mind repels the idea that Global Warming is as serious as scientists say it is. Who can grasp the magnitude of the crisis without denying it in part or negotiating its impacts away? “Well, I recycle,” we say trying comfort ourselves believing that if we each did our part, we will ultimately lick this current crisis. When we realize that our individual efforts do not even begin to come close enough to addressing the problem, we look to science and innovation for a cure, “Surely technology will save us.”

No doubt technology will play a large part in helping us to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We will need to develop all sorts of new technologies to capture carbon and create new energy sources that do not pollute. We are not there yet, and we need to dispossess ourselves of the notion that we can simply rely on technology to pull us out of the climate mess. Doug Struck of the Boston Globes recently wrote about a talk given by a Swiss scientist visiting the US.

“Technology will bring us a long way. But we will need also a change in our lifestyle,” he said. “It’s a grim message, but a true message. Science and technology is useful, but if you want to save the earth, you need also to work on the other side, on reducing our energy use.”

No magic bullet for climate change, Swiss scientist says by Doug Struck, Boston Globe

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If you want to get involved with a group of people working hard to change the way we use energy through a market-driven approach that will curb consumption and encourage alternatives to greenhouse gases, check out the Citizens Climate Lobby.

A Wall Street Investor Repents and an Australian Sewer Giving Back

For years I endured unnecessary and harmful gay conversion therapy in hopes that I would at last one day be 100% heterosexual and masculine the way the world around me demanded. The gay to straight “ex-gay” leaders at the time repeated the mantra, Change is Possible! While I was distracted attempting to change my sexuality, right under my nose the planet changed, the atmosphere grew toxic, and the temperature continued to rise. Today I am happily gay and genuinely alarmed about Global Warming. But as Prescott reveals in the links he sent me this past week, all sorts of changes are happening all around us–yes the planet we live on but also our fellow earthlings and how we respond and adapt.

As always, from the many articles Prescott forwarded to me, I have selected just three Climate Change links. Let’s begin with a story of change:

Some like Tom Steyer, a long time Wall Street investor, are waking up to the crisis upon us all and making big changes in their lives. Steyer used to invest in fossil fuels, but through a recent editorial in Politico, he set the record straight and explains how he left his investment job to take on Global Warming action as his life’s work.

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Let me be clear—climate change is bigger than any one person. I believe it is truly the most pressing issue we face, and one that if not addressed will have profound consequences for our kids. As a very senior and very conservative investor friend told me, “You never put the entire enterprise at risk. That’s bad business.” And yet, that’s what our society appears to be doing.

How Climate Change Changed Me by Tom Steyer

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The one issue I have with Steyer’s piece is that he falls back on a common belief often among liberals that, “If we each just do our part, we will beat this thing.” Change the car you drive and those lightbulbs and don’t forget to recycle. That feel-good, we-can-do-it message is a form of climate change denial. All those individual changes are good, don’t get me wrong, but we need to come to the place where we understand and accept the science. Global Warming has been ignored so long and has proceeded so far that our individual actions at home and on the road will make little difference. We need to act on larger scales. We need governments and businesses to change the way they operate. Prescott gives a good example from a town in Austria. Each citizen immediately has a lower carbon footprint because of this one big move by their town.

Vast amounts of hot water from household appliances, businesses and factories gurgle down the drain every day, wasting not only H2O but also another precious resource: heat energy. Not, however, in the Austrian town of Amstetten, where a pilot project by the local utility company is “recycling” this energy from a place where normally few dare to tread — the sewer.

Austrian town ‘recycles’ heat from unlikely source — its sewers

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If you want to learn about how cities in Sweden have been so successful in getting energy from burning their trash (without polluting) that they have a garbage shortage, read Sweden imports waste from European neighbors to fuel waste-to-energy program.

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While Alaska recovers from record flooding, the drought in the Southwest of the United States worsens. Ian James wrote a moving, informative, and thorough piece about alarming water shortages hitting the Southwest.

The biggest reservoir in the United States is dropping 1 foot each week. Lake Mead’s rapidly sinking water level is set to reach an all-time low in July, driven down by a 14-year drought that scientists say is one of the most severe to hit the Colorado River in more than 1,200 years.

The water behind Hoover Dam supplies vast areas of farmland and about 25 million people in three states, and this critical reservoir stands just 40 percent full.

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Some researchers say climate change in the Southwest is also essentially “water change” because the biggest, most difficult adjustments may be forced upon the region by worsening water scarcity.

Vanishing Water–An Already Strained Water Supply, Threatened by Climate Change 

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Check out previous editions of Prescott’s Climate Links and feel free to leave your comments below.

 

 

Greening Islam and Dealing with the Little Brat–El Niño

Over the past three weeks Prescott has stuffed my inbox with over 50 articles climate related articles. I have selected just three for you to read. This curated list of climate related articles are specially chosen to give hope and direction as we see the world changing around us.

Three Climate Links

The Brat is Back! No doubt you have been hearing speculation about how bad the next El Niño cycle will be. Samantha Larson at Grist offers a simple to understand tutorial about the whole thing replete with cute stick figures and a video.

Everything you need to know about El Niño–and More

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When someone has proposed legislative action to address climate change (Carbon Tax, etc) immediately the cries of “JOB KILLER!” rises from the collective heap of do-nothing  but moan politicians. Turns out addressing climate change will NOT harm the economy.

Hunter Stuart at Huffington Post writes: No, Cutting Carbon Emissions Won’t Ruin the Economy. If this topic is interesting to you, also check out the new REMI study results that outline the positive economic impact in the USA of a Carbon fee and dividend.

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Audrey Quinn has created an engaging comic about Climate Change in the Muslim world. Facing Serious Climate Impacts, some Muslims put their faith in going green.

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It’s about Civilization, Stupid! Prescott’s Climate Links #2

Prescott has been busy finding links about Climate Change for us. Below are three links. The first two are definitely scary, but offer some direction for how to respond. The third shows a community creatively (and cheaply) adapting.

But first:

A college that hosts an annual talk to highlight the seriousness of climate change recently rejected our proposal to present, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? In his rejection email, the scholar organizing the climate event stated:

The performance you describe is not the sort of thing we want to do. The goal of our climate change series is to get everyone’s attention to the seriousness of the situation and I wouldn’t want to introduce what you’re calling a “human rights” perspective at this time.

(Try reading it aloud with a posh British accent)
I understand that comic queer performance art is not everyone’s bag, and he likely doesn’t understand exactly what I do to help my audience grasp the seriousness of the issues I present to them, but what I found close minded in his response was the refusal to include a human rights lens to climate change. This is not just about weather or the extinction of species–huge serious stuff I know–it’s about people, humanity, society, civilization.

Three Climate Links

Nasa Study Concludes when Civilization will End, and it’s Not Looking Good for Us Hold onto your seats as you read the following article.

Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Too bad it’s not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.

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The worst-case scenarios predicted by Motesharrei are pretty dire, involving sudden collapse due to famine or a drawn-out breakdown of society due to the over-consumption of natural resources. The best-case scenario involves recognition of the looming catastrophe by Elites and a more equitable restructuring of society, but who really believes that is going to happen? Here’s what the study recommends…
-FilmsForAction.org by Tom McKay

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U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods It’s here. It’s Queer how it is happening. It’s Climate Change in the USA.

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.
-NY Times by Justin Gillis

See the map
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Mexico Experiments with Adapting to Climate Change Naturally–and on the Cheap Mexico and Central America have already been hard hit by storms, soil erosion, and other effects of climate change. Here’s an example of an effective local response to climate change.

Hernandez acknowledges, sure, the government, NGOs and others working here could build expensive things like levees and concrete walls to keep potentially vulnerable communities safer, but The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with local NGOs, wants to show that an ounce of natural prevention can go a long way to improve the region’s resilience to climate change.
-PRI.org by Jason Margolis