Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
See the Tabbed Pages for links to video tutorials, and a linked list of post titles grouped by topic.
This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The Will to Change: Private Enterprises Reduce Their Emissions
average temperatures have been at record levels month by month up to the time
of writing (August 2016), and for most years since 2000.When attention focuses on the U.S., the number of days in a year above 100ºF
(37.8ºC) is forecast to grow dramatically, for example by 2060 and 2100.
Contrary to the
operating strategies of large fossil fuel companies, we present here examples
of two companies and an industry that embrace the changes demanded by the
growing global warming crisis.A large
electricity generating utility, NRG Energy, is developing renewable energy
sources as part of its electricity portfolio.The American trucking industry embraces the regulations just issued
requiring trucks to be more fuel efficient and to emit lower amounts of
greenhouse gases.Apple, following
examples set by Walmart and Google, is contracting with renewable energy
providers for long-term supplies of electricity to fulfill its growing needs.
the challenges of global warming American capitalism has to rediscover the
positive entrepreneurial attitude that led to American expansion in the last
two centuries.Fossil fuel companies are
resisting such change.But the three
examples presented here show what can be achieved when will prevails.They illustrate the “can-do” approach that will
successfully address global warming.
temperatures in 2016, month
by month, are higher than in recorded history for the same month in earlier
years, according to the U. S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Three of four recent heat waves
yielding record high temperatures were caused at least in part by man-made
global warming .
Number of days in
48 states of the U. S. in each year in which the temperature
exceeded 100ºF (37.8ºC) historically averaged from 1991 to 2010 (upper left),
and projected for the case that no measures are in place to abate emissions of
greenhouse gases, for 2060 (center) and 2100 (lower right).In each map, NEUTRAL
SHADING characterizes 0-5 days per year; TAN,
5-10 days; LIGHT ORANGE, 10-25 days; MEDIUM ORANGE, 25-50 days; and FULL ORANGE, more than 50 days.The BOLD NUMBERS give the historical or projected number of days per year over 100ºF
for the cities named.
The data for the
recent past in the upper left map show that the area around Phoenix, AZ and the southern plains are already very hot, as many
Americans already know. But if worldwide
emissions continue unabated for the rest of the century warming of the climate will
continue.Climate Central projects that much
of the U.
will have more days over 100ºF in regions that are now relatively
temperate.By 2100 this trend yields
projections for drastically hot climates in the California central valley, the southwestern desert, and
much of the central Great
all across the South to the Atlantic coast.These results reflect that projected global average temperature
increases at any time are directly related to the additional amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases, GHGs) in the atmosphere at that time.
Extremes of heat of
the extent shown in the above graphic strongly suggest that agricultural yields
may suffer seriously, and that human wellbeing may be severely affected.
industries grasp the need for reduced emissions.NRG Energy is the largest independent electricity producer in the U. S.The power industry emits the most GHGs,
mostly as carbon dioxide (CO2), of any sector in the economy,
burning vast amounts of fossil fuels to drive generation.In 2014 NRG was the fourth largest emitter in the power
David Crane became
its Chief Executive Officer in 2003.Although his earlier experience had been in the conventional power
industry, shortly after taking over he undertook to transform a significant
portion of NRG’s generation into renewable energy
production.He invested in the Ivanpah
thermal solar plant in the California desert, and in a smaller solar panel farm
in Massachusetts, as well as wind energy and electric car
charging stations.Mr. Crane stated“It’s the destiny of NRG to be a
leader, to create a more sustainable and prosperous future while winning the
fight against climate change.”One year ago NRG set the goal of reducing emissions by 90%
The Ivanpah plant,
however, encountered problems; it produced less power than expected, and a May
2016 fire in a major component damaged its ability to generate
electricity.NRG also faced competitive challenges from
solar panels, whose price was falling more than expected.
As a result, the NRG board and its investors lost faith in Mr.
Crane, and he was replaced late in 2015 by the company’s Chief Operating
Officer, Mauricio Guttierez.Mr. Crane’s
problems may have been due to his ambition to implement renewable energy too
fast.Indeed, Mr. Guttierez is
continuing to steer NRG along a similar renewable path, but at a
more measured pace.In retrospect Mr.
Crane’s vision served an important function, pioneering a positive culture in
the company to expand the role of renewable energy in its operations.
trucking industry worked to prepare new fuel standards in collaboration with the Federal
government and some environmental organizations.Currently the nation’s truck fleet averages
about 6 miles per gallon (39 liters per 100 km) of fuel.Although trucks number only 5% of the
vehicles driven they produce about 20% of the CO2 emitted by
transportation vehicles.The industry
was involved in the negotiations leading to the final rule, winning its
support.The rule imposes an improvement
in efficiency of 25% over ten years, producing an estimate of US$170 billion in
savings over that time and reducing fuel demand by 2 billion barrels in the useful
lifetime of a tractor.The costs of
modifying the tractors to achieve this efficiency are recovered by the
long-term savings in fuel use.PepsiCo
provides an example of corporate support for the rule.Its chief executive said “The
steps we have taken to boost efficiency of our fleet … have significantly
reduced emissions while lowering our operating costs.And we are committed to doing much more.”
complements the Obama administration’s earlier rule governing passenger
vehicles, whose fuel efficiency is to double over a similar period of time.
In its editorial on
the trucking rule, the New York Times wrote “it is heartening, if not downright
astonishing, to see an industry targeted by an aggressive rule to reduce GHGs
welcoming that rule. It is also heartening to be able to provide proof … that
regulators and industry can, in fact, produce a mutually acceptable result”.The Times contrasts this case with the fierce
opposition of the American electricity industry to President Obama’s Clean
Power Plan, the rule intended to reduce emissions from large power generation
Apple Goes Green.The
technology company Apple is on track to furnish most of its electricity demand in the U. S.
from renewable sources – solar, wind and hydroelectric power, both in California (where its head office is located) and
elsewhere in the U. S.Its demand is
growing rapidly, because not only is it building a new corporate headquarter
campus and increasing the number of retail outlets, but importantly its power
needs for cloud storage are growing rapidly.
Like Walmart and
Google, Apple has been granted federal recognition as a wholesale provider of
electricity, permitting it to operate nationwide; in fact its main customer
will be itself.For example, about 50%
of its needs will be provided by a 25 year contract with First Solar’s
California Flats solar farm, now under construction.Apple’s motivations are both environmental
and economic; renewable energy provides carbon-free power, and its contract
costs are highly favorable.Google’s
Gary Demasi, director of operations for data center energy and location strategy,
praised Apple’s strategy, saying “Renewable
energy, from a cost perspective, is now competitive with other forms of energy,
much more so than it was a few years ago.”
in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and its development into an economic
power, were fostered by a positive attitude with respect to enterprise, a
“can-do” culture that saw unmet needs, overcame obstacles and created
successful enterprises in the private sector.Machinery and technologies were
invented, matured into widespread use, and perhaps declined as progress in
allied fields overtook them.But in the
late twentieth century scientific investigations showed that certain
technologies had dangerous or toxic side effects on society, demanding new
creativity to overcome them.But the
industries in question, instead of rising to the challenge, sought to entrench
themselves in the status quo, resisting change.Instead of continuing with a “can-do” mentality, they adopted a “won’t
change” mindset, overtly resisting change, seeking to continue reaping profit
from their tainted technologies.The
conventional energy industry, based as it is on burning fossil fuels, is a
prime example of the “won’t change” framework.It promotes continued use of fossil fuels indefinitely, just as it has
for more than a century.It fails to
concede the unintended harms wrought by use of fossil fuels on the global
climate, and dismisses or belittles the damage foreseen by continued release of
The three cases
outlined here, NRG and its changing culture of developing
renewable energy, the American trucking industry embracing the regulatory
changes that will reduce GHG emissions, and Apple’s development of its own
renewable energy sources, are all examples of a resurgent “can-do” operating
culture in American enterprise.This
attitude is essential in addressing the worldwide crisis of global
warming.These companies and groups have
embraced the existence of the problem and recognized that they can play a
significant role in minimizing its future effects.They shun the “won’t change” approach shown
by many.They accept the challenge that
global warming confronts us with, and proceed enthusiastically with a “can-do”
attitude.The winds of change are at