21 April 2013


It's a case of too little, too late according to the latest clean energy report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).  Nina Chestney from Reuters ~ "The development of low-carbon energy is progressing too slowly to limit global warming.  With power generation still dominated by coal and governments failing to increase investment in clean energy, top climate scientists have said that the target of keeping the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century is slipping out of reach.

" 'The drive to clean up the world's energy system has stalled,' said Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA's executive director, at the launch of the agency's report on clean energy progress.  'Despite much talk by world leaders, and a boom in renewable energy over the past decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago.'

.... "With the world still reliant on fossil fuels, the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is critical, but there are no commercial plants in operation.  The IEA has envisaged that CCS, which buries and traps CO2 underground, should play a major role in cutting global emissions and had forecast 63 percent of coal power plants should be equipped with the technology by 2050.

"However, there are only 13 large-scale demonstration projects in operation or being built, with the capacity to store about 65 million tonnes of CO2 a year.  This represents only a quarter of the storage capacity needed by 2020.

"New nuclear plant construction is also well behind target, and global biofuel production stalled in 2012."

As this link confirms, I've written numerous times about greenhouse gases, global warming, climate change, and sea level rise.  The implications for all life on Earth are profound.  Every natural cycle is already being interrupted, and severe weather events are becoming more intense and more frequent.

Consider that many of the world's major population centers are coastal.  A rise in sea level is already happening, and it will only become more pronounced as air and water temperatures rise, glaciers and polar ice sheets melt, and a self-feeding, runaway cycle arises.

To visualize this, here is a set of interactive maps of U.S. cities, which "show coastal and low-lying areas that would be permanently flooded, without engineered protection" ~ you can set the sea level rise selector to 0, 5, 12, or 25 feet.  The city maps include ~

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Boston, MA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Houston, TX
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Long Island, NY
  • Miami, FL
  • Mobile, AL
  • Jersey City, Newark, and Atlantic City, NJ
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York City, NY
  • San Francisco and Sacramento, CA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Portland, ME
  • Portland, OR
  • Providence, RI
  • San Diego, CA
  • Savannah, GA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Tampa Bay, FL
  • Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA
  • Washington, DC
  • Wilmington, DE
I have lived in four of those cities, and visited nearly all the remainder.  Now multiply the centers of culture and the numbers of human lives to all the coastal nations on Earth.  The destruction and loss are staggering.

And yet we continue to deny or ignore climate change, assuming it won't happen in our lifetimes.  But it is already happening.  The Arctic sea ice maximum in 2013 is the sixth lowest on record.  The 2012-13 Arctic freezing season never had a chance to fully establish itself.  Summer ice melt on the Antarctic Peninsula is now nonlinear, the fastest in over 1000 years.  As all that ice melts, sea level rises inexorably.  

As Bill Moyers challenged us, it is time to end the silence on climate change.  It is time to become fully, militantly involved.  Positive change can happen (as it has in Germany, where fully 65 percent of the country's energy comes from wind and solar power).  We must first inform ourselves, and then we must pressure our local, state, and national elected representatives to pass stringent laws requiring polluting energy producers (coal, natural gas, nuclear) and other polluting industries to clean up their act or face stiff sanctions, not excluding losing their license to conduct business.  We must promote and support clean renewable energy sources (solar, wind, tides, geothermal).  It makes environmental sense.  It makes economic sense.  It makes ethical sense.

But not in five years, not next year, not even next month.  Now.

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