The US also put in about 1.5 gigawatts of new solar power last year.
In some markets, such as Texas, installing wind turbines for electricity generation is now actually cheaper than building natural gas plants! Reflecting this trend toward wind grid parity, more new wind capacity was added to the US electrical grid than natural gas, which was itself no mean shakes. Gas puts out less carbon dioxide than coal, but fracturing it from underground rock formations may release so much methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) that it is a wash with coal. Both coal and gas plants need to be mothballed as quickly as possible.
The bad news is that the US still generated 5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, the highest per capita in the OECD nations! We are poisoning the world and provoking catastrophic climate change, and all the good news about wind and solar doesn’t offset our massive contribution to looming environmental disaster.
Specially bad news is that 1.4 gigawatts of new, dirty coal power was brought online in 2012 in the US. That should be illegal! Coal is poisoning us and our world! Carbon dioxide in the quantities we are producing it is a toxin for the world. Not to mention that we are being mercury-poisoned by dirty coal emissions!
If you care about your children, call your state representative (look him or her up) and demand that building new coal plants be made illegal. Now! We don’t need it. Put in wind and solar instead. In many markets it wouldn’t even be more expensive, and if you count in the cost of nerve poisoning by mercury and loss of seaside real estate, wind is dirt cheap compared to coal!
Likewise, call your city council representative and demand that your city generate its own electricity with wind and solar, taking it off the coal grid (this is especially important in the Midwest, where typically 65 percent of electricity generation comes from coal). And if you can afford it, put solar panels on your roof. You can cut your electricity bill 20-40% even in the Midwest. And invest in crowdsourcing solar projects (Warren Buffett is investing in solar, why shouldn’t we?)
We can do this from the bottom up. We can’t wait for the backward Neanderthal tea partiers in our Congress, who practically eat lumps of coal for lunch and wash it down with a petroleum martini. There isn’t much time to bring the carbon down, America. 2020 is a deadline, and it is only 7 years off. Goals of being 20% green by 2020 won’t do it. We need a major national movement and transformation, on the scale of the Civil Rights movement. Because clean energy and a non-warming world are a basic civil and human right that we deserve and will only get it if we demand it.
Can we sue the Koch brothers and all the other dirty-energy, climate change-denying moguls yet for the billions they are costing us in climate disasters every year because of their poisonous carbon emissions?
“2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year.”
The temperatures set records in 19 states and they were warmer than average in all of the lower 48.
Frankenyear was also the 2nd most destructive on record, lashing the nation with 11 catastrophes that reached at least $1 bn. in losses — including hurricanes, drought, wildfires, tornadoes and the great storm surge in New York City. Hurricanes are fed by warm water, and warmer water makes them more destructive and longer-lasting. It was the unusual warmth of the ocean off the New York coast that allowed Sandy to strike up there with such force. The average surface temperature of the earth has increased one Centigrade degree (1.8 Fahrenheit degrees) in the past century, and is heading for a calamitous 4 C. degrees increase in this century.
It was the 15th driest year on record. In summer of 2012, a massive drought smothered 61% of the country. Hawaii likewise was extremely dry, with drought in 63.3% of the state. On the mainland, wildfires raged through 9.2 million acres of forest, the third highest on record. The Mississippi River is so low that bigger river ships can’t go out on it, stretches of it are deserted like a ‘ghost town,’ and some of it could be closed altogether as it heads below 3 feet in depth. Ironically, the Mississippi carries a lot of hydrocarbons like petroleum, the very fuels that are causing its current travails.
Climate is extremely complex. We may yet see some cold years. There is some thinking that the melting of ice at the poles could temporarily cool the oceans and reduce temperatures for a while. But the longer term trend is not only toward hotter, it is toward a kind of hotter that human beings may find it difficult to survive.
What can be done to forestall this coming set of global disasters?
1. Tax carbon emissions.
2. Close all coal plants as soon as humanly possible.
3. Move rapidly, as Germany and Scotland are, toward wind, and solar, and wave and other renewables ( geothermal, new hydroelectric, etc.). Any government subsidies, stimulus, tax breaks that could possibly be provided for this would save trillions in climate damage down the road (and not that far from now).
4. Call out corporations, states, and countries that decline to reduce their emissions on a short time scale; as public attitudes change, especially on the bench, it may be possible to begin suing them successfully for the property damage they are doing (English law in the Lockean tradition is very good about protecting property).
The heat wave or “dome of heat” afflicting Australia may produce a record temperature of over 122 degrees F. (over 50 degrees C.). For temperatures above 122 F., Australian weathermen have developed a new color scheme, purple, which they hadn’t had to use before (the last record temperature in that range was just about 122 F. on one day in 1961). The average temperature across the country is unprecedentedly hot nowadays.
Climate change is implicated in this disaster. Average temperatures have risen 1 degree Centigrade in the past century, and may rise by 5 degrees C. (9 degrees F.) by 2070, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
Nine of Australia’s 20 highest recorded temperatures in the past century have occurred since 2000.
New Scientist notes that the most recent The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report assesses that fire dangers will increase in southeast Australia by 25 percent by 2020 and by as much as 70 percent by 2050.
COP18, the Climate Change Conference held in Doha, Qatar, is a dismal failure, with the United States and Russia being the chief villains. The failure of the world’s leaders to have their hair on fire about the extreme challenges of the climate change we are producing with our carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions has imperilled some countries more than others. Subsaharan Africa is in the firing line for the worst effects of climate change. But the low-lying areas of West Bengal and Bangladesh, and of the Egyptian Delta, are especially vulnerable to the one-meter sea level rise that the COP18 failure has ensured will occur within 80 years.
Here at geology.com there is a useful web tool that lets you see what the world looks like with a 1-meter (about three feet) sea level rise, which is now certain to occur by the end of this century. Actually, in past eons, a one-degree Centigrade increase in average temperature has produced a 10-20 meter rise in the seas. We are certainly going to exceed a 2-degree C. increase, so we could see a 20-40 meter increase, i.e. 60 to 120 feet. Obviously that would put a lot of our current land under water, but it will take a long time for that extreme rise to occur. The seas are very cold, very deep and very big, and circulate slowly, so that they will take thousands of years to warm. Once they do, human beings will be in big trouble. And even these enormous, icy bodies of water will warm up a bit by 2100, causing sea level rises of at least a meter, and maybe two. This is what Egypt would look like with a one-meter rise (and no, you can’t build sea dikes to deal with that kind of increase):
The city of Alexandria, celebrated in the poetry of Cavafy and the novels of Lawrence Durrell– with its 4.5 million population– has no more than 80 years to live. Note that Alexandria is bigger than Chicago (inside city limits), America’s third-largest city. The Delta city of Damanhour, where Muslim Brothers and their rivals clashed last week, leaving a young man dead? Under water. The ports of Damietta and Rosetta? Gone.
Alexandria is a key port for Egypt, with necessary infrastructure, through which 4/5s of the country’s imports are brought in.
For all those still confused by the BP, Exxon-Mobil, American Enterprise Institute, Koch Brothers, Heritage Foundation, etc. stupid noise trying to muddy the waters on how Big Oil and Big Coal are causing massive climate change, here is a painless little documentary that explains how the world actually works.
Suitable for sharing with those annoying climate-denying relatives you’re about to be immured with for the holidays.