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Ellison Johnstone
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It is great to see that BrightSource Energy and Abengoa Solar are working together to produce a new massive solar plant in California, especially as it represents an international force working toward increasing renewable energy use. I think it is extremely important that cooperation like this, from companies based in different countries, quickly increases as we continue to try to reduce climate change. The new plant planned for California sounds like it holds a lot of great potential for reducing carbon emissions. The only problem that stands out to me is that, even with its massive size, it only provides 200,00 homes with electricity. Although this is obviously a great start, it only puts a small dent in energy use in California, let alone the entire United States. As we have talked about, it is going to take a great effort to really curb climate change, with lots of different kinds of renewable energy and a combination of approaches. This plant is definitely a step in the right direction, and hopefully will become a source of inspiration for other renewable energy projects in California and around the world.
This article provides some very hopeful statistics for the future of energy use in the U.S. Obviously, as important a state as New York is, it would make an enormous statement if it really converted to all the renewable sources mentioned by 2030. Other states would surely follow New York's lead. However, I cannot help but think that this goal is rather unfeasible in consideration of where public opinion and is at today. Although public awareness of climate change and the options available to combat it are growing, there is still much room for improvement in increasing public knowledge. As we have seen in previous articles read for class, much of the public is not even sure that the planet is warming or that human activity is causing climate change. I also think that the general conception among normal citizens is taking such drastic actions as this article suggests would be extremely costly. In light of the recession that we are still trying to climb out of, this argument would be magnified. In my experience and research, it seems that the the public just does not listen when they are told that expenses will be made up for down the road. People tend to only focus on the costs at hand, and those costs would be very large for New York. As much as we have looked at climate change in class, it seems very obvious that these costs would be worth it. It is incredible that they could occur with a potential economic benefit in the long term. It seems obvious that New York taking these drastic actions to convert to all renewable energy is something that should occur immediately. However, I just have serious doubts about the public's willingness to support such a switch. The ultimate success or failure of such a plan may just depend on politicians and how they handle the situation.
Reading this article and all the comments everyone has made, I'm honestly shocked at just how severe the air quality problem is in China. Although I had heard and read about air quality issues there, I definitely did not realize their extent. Reading first hand accounts from some of my classmates really brings the problem to life and adds a very personal touch on how environmental issues are seriously limiting the lives of people living in China. I think that environmental issues are often hard to grasp because many times they are "invisible," but in this case it is quite the opposite. The issue is explicitly displayed, impossible to escape from seeing. Because of this, it seems even more shocking to us that so little has been done to help prevent such pollution. This is obviously a sentiment that many previous comments have addressed, but it is nonetheless a very significant one to think about. As Holley mentioned, it is also very difficult not to begin to question what is going on in our own country when we start questioning the action that has been taken (or better said, not taken) in China. The problem may be more visible and widespread in China, but we all know there are huge environmental issues in the U.S. as well (not to mention really bad air quality in many cities throughout the U.S.). I think a very important take-away message is that we need global cooperation to fight against environmental damage and climate change. It is easy for us to look at the problem in China and blame them, but much more difficult to examine how the U.S. is equally ignorant about many of the environmental issues it has as well as the need for collective action with nations such as China.
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2013 on Off The Charts at Jolly Green General
Like others who have commented, I was surprised to learn of both the magnitude of the damage produced by black carbon as well as the lack of knowledge about the pollutant by the general public. Despite being a little skeptical of some of the statistics found by Doherty and her colleagues, I still believe that black carbon presents a serious issue in combatting climate change. It is certainly hopeful that black carbon does not stay in the atmosphere for nearly as long as carbon dioxide does. I think that this presents an opportunity to us to really stem climate change if we can somehow act to reduce the right sources of black carbon very quickly. However, I have some serious doubts about the process of creating effective policy out of the existing knowledge of black carbon. It has been difficult to create policy to reduce carbon dioxide despite very strong and reliable evidence that it is causing massive climate changes. Black carbon is a much less well known issue, which will make it more difficult to rouse the public into supporting policy regarding it. Furthermore, if there is not hard and fast statistical data about its effects, this problem will be compounded. Finally, I also have concerns about the plausibility of black carbon policy in developing countries. Such nations are where major problems result from soot coming from small cooking stoves. Although the technology may exist to easily replace such stoves, I would guess that the costs of doing so would be extremely high. Creating and implementing policy on black carbon, then, will be a major hurdle in future years. However, if it can be done, there is the potential for major progress on climate change.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2013 on Worse than we thought.... at Jolly Green General
As Maggie expressed, I am especially encouraged to hear of this new 45% reduction goal because of the first article we read that expressed doubts about the RGGI moving forward in the right direction. It's even more encouraging that business leaders in the region are excited about the new goal, as RGGI goals have proven to be economically enticing to businesses over the past few years. To me, the program seems to be a win-win. It has benefitted consumers, energy companies in the Northeast, and the climate. In class, we often talk about the tradeoffs involved in protecting the environment, but in this case, there seems to be almost no negatives involved in reducing environmental damage. As the article explains, the most common arguments against a cap-and-trade system fall flat in the face of the environmental and economic gains of the program. I think it will be very interesting to see what other regions or states adopt similar policies in the near future as the success of the RGGI becomes more well-known and celebrated.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2013 on Hurray for Market Forces!!!! at Jolly Green General
I agree with many of the comments above that have expressed concern with jumping to conclusions about causality between climate change and natural disasters. However, I also agree with the author of the post who believes that the article is worth passing along because of its message. As we all know, in economics we often have to simplify reality in order to create models that can hopefully shed light on real-life situations. In this case, I think we can acknowledge that direct causality may not exist, but still accept the message from this article as valuable information. The message is that something needs to be done in the United States about climate change. We are clearly lagging behind almost all other "advanced" nations. The article hopes that the prospect of more droughts and powerful hurricanes will push the American people to embrace a tax like other advanced nations use. However, if you're unsure of the link between climate change and natural disasters, simply substitute another effect of climate change into this statement. Perhaps the loss of natural habitats from the emission of carbon touches home more for you. Maybe its the threat of poor air quality. The fact is that there are a multitude of negative changes occurring due to cimate change and global warming. Whether or not causality between natural disasters and global warming has been proven, there are plenty enough incentives for the US to implement a system of taxes on emitted fuels and carbons.
As many have noted in previous comments, several problems arise from the possibility of developing nations being redressed from major polluting nations. To begin, quantifying “loss and damage” incurred as a result of such polluting would be nearly impossible. How does a nation sort out damages resulting from other particular nations, for instance? Although this may be plausible in some cases, it certainly is not in many others. Additionally, many “developing nations that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change” are heavy polluters themselves. As the article states, such a developing country as Qatar has the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world. How can a nation distinguish, then, between damages from other nations and damages resulting from its own polluting? Again, in many cases this would prove to be impossible. So although this thinking is theoretically sound, it is just not sensible, at least in the present. I do, however, believe that there is some hope for the future of some kind of system to bring polluters to court for their contributions to climate change. With advancing technology and research into climate change, it may be possible in the future to better identify the exact perpetrators that cause particular environmental damage. However, if poor developing nations are found to be the perpetrators, then would such a system really be a success? The article explains how an “adaptation fund” was set aside to help poorer nations to adapt to inevitable climate change. However, would this money be better directed to means for such nations to prevent their own polluting? These developing countries may not be contributing as large a volume of pollution as nations such as the US, but I believe it is still extremely important that they take measures to prevent their own pollution. Clearly, huge polluting nations bear a great deal of responsibility in preventing global climate change, but perhaps smaller developing nations could lead the way for the world as examples of low-polluting nations. This may be a small first step, but with the lack of progress with this issue over the past two decades, it seems to me that any step forward is a step in the right direction.
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Jan 20, 2013