SMCDFA Climate Change Task Force

Starting off in 2023...

One of our Task Force Members - Greg Loew, Professor Emeritus from Stanford, wrote an article after COP27 in Egypt on Global Warming. So far, the SMCDFA members who have read it think that it contains excellent analysis and recommendations worthy of consideration.

 

Here is a recap below, and here also is a link to the article in its complete form. It is very much worth the time it takes to read it.

The article first covers the basic science that is driving global warming. We are currently not on track to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was to keep global warming to a rise of not more that 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid the worst case, most disruptive impacts of climate change. Already the impacts have been dire, with 1/3 of Pakistan damaged by flooding and the growing ferocity of hurricanes on the U.S. east cost and Puerto Rico, just to name a few. The rising sea levels caused by melting glaciers and the polar ice cap and the thawing of tundra with its massive release of methane will cause an irreversible phenomena to our living systems.

It's important to identify the largest contributors of ghg emissions with their emissions per capital and total GDP along side. This comparison was presented in Bill Gates' book in 2020: "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster" and it's presented below.

Table 1: Largest country emissions and GDP statistics

 

Countries in

2022

Gtons Tons/ Capita % of Global Emissions GDP in $Trillions
China

14

10 28% 18.3
United States 4 12 8% 23
European Union 3 7 6% 17
India 3 2.3 6% 3.5
Russia 1.7 1.1 3.4% 2.1
Japan 1 .08 2.0% 4.5

 

The main accomplishment from COP27 was that the wealthier countries agreed to create a fund for countries who have already suffered damage and losses. How big that fund is and who benefits from it is yet to be determined. 

The several chapters from Bill Gates' book describing solutions are summarized in this article with some of the solutions highlighted and grouped around the major needs for energy use currently: electricity, manufacturing and construction, agriculture, transportation and buildings.

The article refers to the idea of a green premium that was introduced in Bill Gates' book. The idea is to methodically assign a premium to each new innovation of either less than one or one or more than one. The index would be used to help evaluate and choose between solutions that, if supported and promoted, would help combat global warming. A premium of less than one means that the new solution is less costly than the process or thing it would replace and is therefore much more likely to succeed in the market and get implemented.

The article also looks at past U.S. Presidents' positions on global warming and how Conservatives today may be climate deniers in public only because they are concerned that combatting global warming will negatively impact the economy and alienate a main campaign supporting block, namely the fossil fuel industry.

To answer the question of who pays for global warming, per the article, "We don’t know exactly what it will cost to fix it, but we know that the people who will suffer the most if it isn’t curbed are the poorest." It is known that global GDP annually is around 96 Trillion dollars, and per the chart above, half of that is generated by the U.S. the Eurpean Union, Japan and Russia combined. If the U.N. is asking that $200Billion is set aside annually to combat global warming, surely that is affordable, especially if you compare that to the U.S. military budget of $858Billion / year.

The article next makes suggestions for what governments, state and local bodies, and individuals can do to help.

Governments

  • slow down population growth
  • increase R&D investments for solutions
  • Support solutions that are viable so that they can make it into the market and succeed

State and Local Governments

  • Enact policies that will help drive toward less use of fossil fuels and reduction of greenhouse gases. Policies like:
    • fuel efficiency standards
    • banning fossil fuel appliances in new construction
    • reducing food waste in landfills

What State and Local Governments should NOT be doing are accepting policies like the one that the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) recently passed, the NEM3 rules for new solar installations after April 15, 2023. Whereas, before, solar customers were getting credit at the same rates they were getting billed if they gave surplus power to the grid, now, under the NEM3 rules, they'll only be getting 25% of the credit they would have received with out the rule change. This makes the payback of the solar installation much longer and it makes for a much less palatable financial decision for homeowners to make when they should be getting incentivized for wanting to transition to renewable energy.

Individual Consumers

For this section, and for the Conclusion, the article is copied exactly here below, rather than recapped.

"Finally, we as individual consumers have other options. We can buy electric cars, which will be helpful as long as we recharge their batteries with clean green electricity and we can install heat pumps outside our houses to get rid of natural gas. We can switch from cow to soy or oat milk (just as good), and to paraphrase Nancy Reagan, we can “just say no to red meat!” The cattle ranchers and butchers will not love us for this and will fight these steps tooth and nail, but they will have to adapt. Cows and sheep may be grown just for leather and wool. Free-range poultry, fish (even farmed) and other seafood may still be used for human consumption, helping us lower our cholesterol and heart disease. Third-world countries can make important contributions in these areas.

Never underestimate what individuals can do. One example that stands out is former Professor Art Rosenfeld at UCB and LBNL who completely revolutionized energy conservation standards, first in California and then everywhere else. He developed new heat-trapping windows, new light bulbs, caused industry to double the efficiency of refrigerators, and computer-modeled the improvement of buildings for temperature control. Art ended up becoming California Energy Commissioner and working for the Clinton Administration, where he probably inspired VP Al Gore with his ideas. Art’s innovations spread all over the world.

Conclusions

The famous economist John Maynard Keynes pointed out that demand is what pushes the economy into action. And fear is a strong promoter of demand. When Covid-19 hit humanity as an existential threat, government and the private sector didn’t waste much time to work together to produce vaccines, even though many people were vaccine deniers. The danger of the Maldives, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Florida and coastal cities like New York and San Francisco being under water and creating millions of refugees is just as scary as the pandemic and should trigger even greater demand.

The world spends close to 2 trillion dollars per year for defense, including horrible nuclear weapons, with very little popular objections but argues ad nauseam over a small fraction of this sum to fight global warming. As I have argued in my book “The Human Condition,” our species “Homo” doesn’t deserve to be called “Sapiens”. Will we ever wake up?

Here is my final suggestion. As a scientist who worked all his life with particle physicists, I am keenly aware of the prestige and excitement created annually by the Nobel Prize. Why not ask Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg to create a billion-dollar fund together to establish the Gates-Bloomberg Prize to save our planet?

Let us act collectively now before it is too late. Greta Thunberg and our grandchildren will be here in 2050 and they will never forgive us if we don’t."

 

Where Has Our Focus Been in 2022?

 

 

SCOTUS Decisions –

The SCOTUS decision in West Virginia v EPA weakens the regulatory authority of the EPA and renders it dependent on Congress to legislate the path to transition to renewable energy.

 

SCOTUS also rejected Bayer AG's (BAYGn.DE) bid to dismiss legal claims by customers who contend its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer as the German company seeks to avoid potentially billions of dollars in damages. And the EPA is now forced to take a fresh look at whether the active ingredient glyphosate poses unreasonable risks to humans and the environment.

 

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant –

The plant was scheduled to close in 2025, but in light of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the rise in the cost of energy, California is now considering investing in the necessary improvements to extend its use. It produces 8% of the state’s energy and improvements would use $6Billion in infrastructure funds and also cost PG&E funds for decommissioning. Meanwhile, it poses a serious seismic risk, it is uneconomical to operate and it has constant negative environmental impacts – flushing 2.5 Billion gallons of heated water into the ocean every day and killing 1.5billion fish each year in the process.

 

Solar Regulations –

We looked at the issue that the path to install solar arrays on multi-family units that are not low income are fraught with obstacles, and elevated the issue to our local representatives.

 

Local Municipal Climate Action Plans –

Members have increased their understanding and involvement in their local communities’ respective climate action plans.

 

Reducing the Use of Single Use Plastics –

We are learning of the impact of Single Use Plastics, and supporting alternative approaches to packaging and consumer practices.

 

Planning a discussion on socially responsible investing –

If there is sufficient level of interest among our members and friends, we will plan an event that addresses the issue of socially responsible investing.

 

State Legislatorial Developments –

This group has spent a significant amount of time learning about the issue of regenerative agriculture and the benefits it would have on fighting climate change, conserving water and restoring soil health which is under global threat. Currently, a bill has passed the State Assembly and has passed through two committees in the State Senate. That bill is AB-2649 Natural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Act of 2022. It builds on existing law for farm practices that promote soil health and carbon sequestration and sets goals that 60Million Metric Tons (MMT) of ghg be sequestered annually by the end of 2030, and 75MMT annually by 2035. 60MMT annual removal is equivalent to removing 13 million cars from the road. – Please write to your State Senators to ask them to support this bill.

 

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COP 26 Updates of the Good & the Bad

   

Quote from Secretary General of the United Nations: "We are digging our own graves" - referring to continued fossil fuel extraction / production.

   

China, the European Union, India and the United States contributed a little over half of all the green house gas emissions.

   

 

Good

Bad

   
Initial Agreements Around Deforestation & Methane Reductions. China, Russia, Australia & India are not parties to Methane agreement
   
  Brazil has promised to crack down / end illegal deforestation this decade, but is extorting billions of dollars from the international community for conservation efforts. Deforestation was declining in the 2000's but under the current administration since 2018 has been rising again.
   
  Indonesia has pledged to reduce illegal clearing of rain forest, but has not been terribly effective and wildires - intentionally set - have contributed significantly to the problem.
   
Satellite monitoring of carbon dioxide emissions will be a great help to monitor progress.  
   
Without global conferences like COP 26, we would be projected for a warming of 4.0 degrees celsius by 2100. With current pledges, we may see a rise of 2.4 degrees. To stay within 1.5 degrees celcius, we would have to decrease current emissisions by 50% by 2030.  
   
Canada & Japan have put in stricter targets in the lead-up to Glasgow. However, Canada & Japan have put in no policies in place to achieve those targets.
   
South Africa has explained their path to exit their dependence on coal, which can help other countries design their path.  
   
  Not enough countries are contributing $$$ to help poorer countries shrink dependence on fossil fuel and adapt to effects of climate change. Target is $100billion / year.
   
  Inequality Kills - in areas such as food, housing and healthcare - The current system wastes about 1/3 of food produced. Climate change will reduce about 1/3 of current crop yields. Pasta prices will rise 50% next month. Demand on food banks will increase as donations will dry up. Wealthy will drive up cost of housing in areas that are not threatened. And the distribution of vaccines and care for those stricken with COVID has shown how the healthcare system suffers from inequality as well.
   
China pledged that its emissions will peak sometime before 2030 and that it will be using 25% renewably energy by 2030  
   
European Union & United States will reduce their emissions to 50% BELOW 2005 levels by 2030. Neither government has put policies in place to achieve their targets.
   
India's emissions per capital is one quarter that of China, and one seventh that of the United States. India pledged to get to Net Zero by 2070, which is not helpful, and it needs contributions from wealthier countries in order to accelerate  its targets.
   
United States pushing other countries to reduce Methane to "buy us time and keep the 1.5 degree target within reach". The u.s. alone has pledged to decrease methane 30% by the end of the decade.  
   
The U.S. treasury secretary is working with other international banking community  to get their portfolios alligned with the Paris Agreement to get companies that they finance to have credible plans to achieve net zero emissions.  
   
There has been an agreement with 136 countries to have a global minimum tax of 15% on foreign earnings by 2023. The provisions in the Reconiliation bill would make the U.S. compliant with this global agreement.  

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Biden's_Infrastructure_and_Families_Plans.jpg

(Above is a display of the Biden Administration's Infrastructure Plan and Families Plan From NY Times published May 12, 2021 from The Learning Network)

SMCDFA Climate Change Task Force Document (July 25th, 2021)

How can we reduce further climate disasters Learn about the impact of Climate Change and its Causes - here are some resources:

● Read Bill Gates’ book on this subject. You can also read Chistiana Figueres’ Book. She was the chief negotiator of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

bill_gates_book.jpg     The_future_we_choose_book.jpg

 

● Be aware of where the 51 billion Tons of Greenhouse Gases (CO2, CH4, NO2, CHC) the world emits annually come from*:

GHG Emission Sources

World

U.S.

Making things (steel, cement, plastics, etc.)

31%

22%

Plugging in (electricity)

27%

27%

Growing Things (plants, animals)

19%

10%

Getting Around (Planes, trucks, cargo ships, cars)

16%

28%

Keeping warm and cool (heating, cooling, refrigeration)

7%

12%

*Source: pg. 55 “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates

● Be aware of environmental justice issues exacerbating poverty, hunger, homelessness, creation of refugees, etc. Here is an article that presents several good books on the subject.

 

Some personal actions you can take to help fight climate change

Here are some things the task force is already doing.

● Drive as little as possible or buy an electric car, or use alternate transportation like biking, walking or mass transit.

● Discourage CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operations) by minimizing meat consumption and by carefully selecting meat sources.

● If you live in a single-dwelling home and can afford it, convert your gas heating furnace to an electric heat pump, your gas water heater to an electric water heater, and install solar panels on your roof.

● In San Mateo County, sign up for ECO100 plan (100% renewable electricity).

This article from Futurelearn.com contains good background information on these and other actions for going green, i.e. sustainable, and why a person’s carbon footprint matters.

Public Actions you can take to help raise awareness and make fighting climate change a top priority

● Be in touch with local politicians and encourage them to promote climate friendly policies, write letters to the Editor, and discuss these plans with your family and friends.

● Support Biden’s latest Plans on the Environment and his efforts with world leaders to implement vigorous international agreements on fossil fuel emissions curtailments.

● Support federal, state and private R&D to reduce 51 billion Tons of greenhouse gases to zero by no later than 2050.

● Support organizations that promote world reduction in population growth. 10 billion population by 2100 may be unsustainable.

● Help change current regulations that make it difficult or impossible to install solar panels on condos and multi-dwelling apartment houses.

● Tell PUC and local officials to favor renewable sources of electricity and make sure local Climate Action Plans (CAPs) require new buildings and single-family homes to be all electric.

● Support work toward achieving sustainable agriculture that includes production of food and fiber using methods that eliminates production of net CO2, ensures judicious water management and usage, prevents harm to biological ecosystems and habitats, protects health and safety of farm workers and ensures equitable production in the future that meets the nutritional and fiber needs of all people.

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  • Flavia Franco
    published this page 2021-04-09 13:02:04 -0700