By David M. Greenwald
This week Davis will discuss once again on its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. A big focus locally seems to be on a mandate for electrification.
While building energy is currently only 15% of Davis’ total emissions, the city still believes “this is a significant goal to meet the City’s carbon neutrality target.” Staff adds, “Electrification reduces GHG emissions by replacing natural gas appliances with electric appliances if the supplied electricity is carbon-free (can also be referred to as 100% renewable).”
Staff notes, “Unlike the transportation sector where vehicle manufacturers have set aggressive targets to increase electric vehicle sales, there is no industry-wide commitment to decarbonizing existing buildings, which places most of the responsibility for action at the community level. The Building Energy actions in the CAAP primarily emphasize voluntary compliance, through education and outreach.”
I continue to wonder just how impactful local level change will actually be given the enormity of the global problem.
There is pretty much only bad news on the climate change front today.
This morning, the Washington Post has a story, “Near the end of 2020, as the covid-19 pandemic continued to rage, a few climate scientists and energy experts made a prediction. They estimated that emissions from fossil fuels — which had just plummeted thanks to the global pandemic — might never again reach the heights of 2019. Perhaps, they speculated, after over a century of ever more carbon dioxide flowing into the atmosphere, the world had finally reached “peak” emissions. They were wrong.”
According to a report released last month by the Global Carbon Project, “carbon emissions from fossil fuels in 2022 are expected to reach 37.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the highest ever recorded.”
The Post writes, “That means that despite the continued fallout from the coronavirus pandemic — which caused emissions to drop by over 5 percent in 2020 — CO2 emissions are back and stronger than ever.”
I think at the time, we all saw a potential for a gamechanging move – and the lack of strong leadership fumbled the opportunity.
During the past century, “carbon emissions have only ever fallen in one circumstance: crisis.”
Coal is a huge problem and the biggest culprit now is not China, but India.
“Coal is the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, releasing 820 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions for every gigawatt of electricity produced,” the Post notes. “India’s use of the world’s dirtiest fuel has skyrocketed. India’s coal use is set to increase by 5 percent in 2022, on top of a 15 percent increase the year before. All of that means that in the past two years, emissions from burning coal have increased by almost a gigaton.”
Finally, while developed nations have seen their emissions declined, “that decline hasn’t happened nearly fast enough to counterbalance the growth in emissions from developing countries.”
Meanwhile CNBC this weekend published a story, “Parking lots are becoming as important as cars in climate change efforts.”
Among the key findings:
- France will require all parking lots with 80 or more spaces to be covered by solar panels.
- Major corporations in the U.S. are switching to solar energy for both the cost benefits and net-zero goals related to climate change and carbon reduction.
- Solar carports and rooftop solar are the design options that businesses from grocery stores to warehouses are more likely to deploy as costs come down.
Finally, an ominous article this weekend in the NY Times, about The Texas Public Policy Foundation, that is waging a national crusade against climate change.
“The Texas Public Policy Foundation is shaping laws, running influence campaigns and taking legal action in a bid to promote fossil fuels,” the Times reports.
The group is “an Austin-based nonprofit organization backed by oil and gas companies and Republican donors.”
Reports the Times, “With influence campaigns, legal action and model legislation, the group is promoting fossil fuels and trying to stall the American economy’s transition toward renewable energy. It is upfront about its opposition to Vineyard Wind and other renewable energy projects, making no apologies for its advocacy work.”
The group “has spread misinformation about climate science. With YouTube videos, regular appearances on Fox and Friends, and social media campaigns, the group’s executives have sought to convince lawmakers and the public that a transition away from oil, gas and coal would harm Americans.
“They have frequently seized on current events to promote dubious narratives, pinning high gasoline prices on President Biden’s climate policies (economists say that’s not the driver) or claiming the 2021 winter blackout in Texas was the result of unreliable wind energy (it wasn’t).”
So in the midst of all of this, we are going to have the Davis debate over electrification.
But while I understand that the cost to the individual is prohibitive, a recent report found that “insufficient action on climate change could cost the U.S. economy $14.5 trillion in the next 50 years. A loss of this scale is equivalent to nearly 4% of GDP or $1.5 trillion in 2070 alone. And over the next 50 years, nearly 900,000 jobs could disappear each year due to climate damage.”
In April, CNBC reported that according to White House estimates, Climate change could cost the US at least $2 trillion per year by the end of the century.
Meanwhile the UN climate science panel’s highly anticipated report this spring warned that slashing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will require greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025.
Bottom line: things are getting worse and they are going to cost a lot to either fix or adapt.