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03/11/2016

Comments

William Bannister

I read the Pacala article, and I think that a lot of the options that were laid out are definitely reachable objectives for the next 50 years. The options that are most viable and realistically achievable are the 'category 1' efficiency based options. Technology is improving all the time, and variables such as fuel economy and power plant efficiency will naturally increase along with it, so those two variables in particular are easily attainable. Furthermore, the options to develop and improve the cleaner energy generation methods such as biofuels, nuclear, and wind energy are all also very likely to become far more dominant and widespread in the near future. In fact, for a different class paper, I found out at present the world is already adding more capacity for renewable power than coal, oil and gas combined, projected to be 4x greater by 2030. Also, the International Energy Agency stated that Solar could be the biggest source of energy worldwide by 2050, despite it being at around 1% currently.
These projections or facts show that there is hope for the renewable energy industry to become the dominant energy provider in the future, and so it is now up to the general population to change our tastes and preferences. What I mean by this is that, its of little use to have new and clean methods of generating power, or reducing fossil fuel emissions - if we don't take part in these methods. What I mean by this is, for instances like "reducing reliance on cars" or "substituting natural gas for coal", if consumers or firms decide to free ride and say "oh everyone else will drive less" then these options for removing "wedges" will not work to their highest potential. Until there is a robust method of ensuring the general populace abides by an energy conserving lifestyle, then reducing CO2 emissions is always going to be an uphill battle.

Owen Brannigan

I would like to focus my blog post on the Harvard Magazine article discussing carbon and climate change. I thought the portion on nuclear energy is worth discussion. Currently there are only 440 nuclear reactors being used and they are producing about 1/6 of the worlds electricity. Schrag suggests that to power the world through nuclear power we would need about 10,000 reactors. In the wake of Chernobyl disaster, he discusses how people are still scared of nuclear energy. I personally echo these feelings. Although I do not know a lot about nuclear power plants, I believe that increases in our dependance on nuclear power and further development of large plants could lead to disastrous effects. In terms of plants exploding as well as the technology falling into the wrong hands, I do not think that expanding nuclear energy usage would be beneficial at the scale Schrag suggests. We need to create a system in which multiple sources of energy are developed and utilized. In this new plan we need to take time to phase out coal, but not destroy the jobs associated with coal, without creating new ones.

When I looked at the pictures of how our world would look with a large sea level rise I was shocked. People's homes are already going under water and this map shows some severe changes that would drastically impact the world as a whole. The graph that later shows the progression of coal usage was also incredibly concerning. If the portion of the graph with coal goes beyond the 550 ppm, we will all be in serious trouble. With that being said, the current options are not perfect, but again I want to reiterate my belief that the key to solving this crisis is to attack pollution and carbon emission through a varied assault. They must use a variety of sources for energy as well as create new and more innovative ways to use energy. To do this as Scrhag points out we must work together and demand that the government take action on this serious problem. I believe this will happen soon as impending danger sparks the population to take a stand.

Katherine Pranka

One of the most fascinating things from the articles was carbon sequestration. While a lot of the science stuff was harder to follow, I think that this way of storing carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere is the way to move forward. I think its fascinating that we would need storage for 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 which could easily be exceeded. I think its ridiculous that this has not already been put into effect. Also, why not start using space in outer space to store carbon in this way? If technology was made available for cheap, then this could also be an answer to many problems. Alternative energy sources are also the way to go. My German aunt and uncle bought a sun collector 20 years ago and sell some to their power company every year, and this year, not only was it paid off, but it also earned them a profit. Things like this need to become more common place in countries that are less "green" than Germany. And wind power. I think wind power is great, mostly because there are 5 wind farms in a 30 mile radius of where I lived. It was a great thing for everyone involved, because the farmers who leased out the land had a constant income, and the land was being conserved, because it was being built on and the nutrients weren't being depleted. Also, we had relatively clean energy for living in the middle of nowhere.

Murray Manley

In Confronting the Energy Climate Challenge, I thought it was particularly interesting when Shrag discussed the Eocene. The last time the earth had comparable temperatures and carbon stored in the atmosphere (although scientists don't know the precise amount), was during the Eocene which occurred in the range 55-35 million years ago. However, when this occurred, the earth had millions of years to slowly adjust and adapt. Because climate change today is happening so quickly today, we are looking at an enormous potential loss in biodiversity, as well as many other complications such as the rising sea levels. When Shrag discussed the increasing levels of carbon, combined with our class discussion about limestone and absorption of water under Miami Beach, I started to wonder if there is a way of removing carbon from the atmosphere and reinserting it into the earth. Is there some sort of chemical or synthetic rock, coal, diamond, etc. that can store vast amounts of carbon safely in the earth's crust? This vaguely fits the description of a carbon scrubber, but unfortunately, even if such a substance was developed, we still would have to focus on lowering emissions and saving the corals and other biodiversity sensitive to temperature change. Unfortunately, this class and my Apocalypse Narrative English class have made me very cynical about the future, and especially about the future of the environment. This class, and particularly this week's reading, reminded me of the end of the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, in which the author says it is only a matter of time before we drive ourselves, the planet, or both to destruction.

Unless the US and China take the initiative today and implement climate change policy and carbon emission reductions, the world will be a very different place when our children and grandchildren grow up. Making people realize their bequest value, and realize that climate change is destructive even for those who aren't threatened by rising sea levels is seemingly impossible. Perhaps the best way to influence people is, after all, getting Leonardo diCaprio to state the looming adaptation costs if nothing is done in the near future to stop CO2 emisssions.

Walker Abbott

In “The Power Problem,” Graham Allison talks says that “nuclear power should not be regarded as an alternative to cleaner energy fuels or biomass or windmills. We are going to need everything- and then over time we will se how the economics sort out.” This echoes Schrag’s sentiment in the paper we read for Tuesday- this anthropogenic climate change is one big experiment. We can attempt to divert the progression of climate change and carbon emissions but all of our efforts will still be part of the “great experiment.”

My environmental ethics class met with Dale Jamieson today, an environmental ethics author. While discussing his recent book, “Reason in a Dark Time”, he brought up the example of Miami Beach’s issues with sea levels rising and how the current mayor was elected on a platform of dealing with this issue. I have really enjoyed how these two classes have overlapped this semester, and it goes to show that finding solutions to climate change will require and interdisciplinary approach that includes the sciences, ethics, and economics.

Schrag brought up the “inertia” of the climate change issue in both Tuesday’s reading and then again in “The Power Problem” article. Policies and other energy decisions that are instated today will be in effect for 40-50 years (Chinese old fashioned model coal plants for instance) and will have an effect on climate for many years in the future.

I do have one question- are the “wedges” of the stabilization triangle discussed in “The Power Problem” and “Stabilization Wedges” a standard measure across climate change discussion/ research? This is the first time I have encountered this idea but it seems to be a standard in these papers. One of the stabilization wedges involved hydrogen power, which seems appealing at first. Jules Verne said that “water will be the coal of the future,” and if that is truly the case, I don’t think hydrogen energy will be sustainable. Water resources are already limited, and if we add another burden (i.e. hydrogen energy) to our water consumption we will reach the end of this finite resource.

Mamie Smith

Personally, I'm so used to discussing (or maybe just thinking of) climate change in general terms. However, in "The Power Problem" article, it was enlightening and in a weird way refreshing to read about specific causes and specific changes to pragmatically change anything in whatever time we have left. For instance, after reading about all the negative impacts of changing to nuclear sources of energy, I was very opposed to working toward this change instead of any better one (wind energy, etc.). Still, after understanding more about the idea of a "diverse portfolio" for energy sources in order to have enough of a substitute and to make any progress, I'm a little more "open" to the idea. After reading Graham Allison's quote on p. 41-42, though, I don't entirely agree with her. I feel that we should not just allow economics to run its course and wait to see which energy source ends up to be the most widespread because of cost. In my opinion, we should control the process in a similar way we did for CFCs, leaded gasoline, or even fluorescent lightbulbs. The government should find economic incentives to encourage people/companies to invest in sustainable energy and pick up the pace over time (with even stronger incentives) to invest in energy is the most sustainable. Hopefully, this process that seems fairly slow would be fast enough to fit the studies/plans that Schrag's graduate students put together and even with so much uncertainty, would be the plan that luckily wins the roll of the dice.

Jacob Strauss

I found the commentary in the Harvard article on whether certain forms of alternative energy are scalable to be particularly interesting. Often it seems that proponents of green energy back a certain type- boasting that wind or solar is the solution to the problem. To hear instead that it has to be a combination of all of them to solve our was much different than what I hear in the public sphere or what government officials say in my home state of Montana about wind power replacing coal.

The goal to stabilize at 550 ppm was sobering to say the least, and their fears of not being able to meet that goal were not reassuring. When they discuss replacing coal it seems worthwhile to point out as we've covered in class that coal is not actually that much cheaper than other forms of energy- we just don't pay the full price when we pay our electric bill each month. From my time in China, it doesn't seem like people are too keen on raising electricity prices to slow coal consumption. Many people told me the pollution was worth it due to the economic gains and improvement in standard of living (outside of environmental quality..).

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