• Dec 5, 2012
Climate change was barely mentioned during October presidential debates, but that doesn't mean the public doesn't care. After all, climate change affected Hurricane Sandy, and that got some media coverage. Some analysts say climate change is just part of historic weather patterns that humans have little say over but most scientists say humans play a big part in the matter, in part through our increasing consumption of fossil fuels.

The power sources required for generating electricity play a large part in CO2 emissions, and it looks like that will be increasing. What would it take to change over energy power to renewables such as solar, wind or hydropower instead of coal or natural gas? Three experts on renewable energy recently published a letter in Nature that calls for an immediate moratorium on adding to the fossil fuel infrastructure.

Keith Barnham, of the Physics Department at Imperial College London; Kaspar Knorr, of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology, in Kassel, Germany; and Massimo Mazzer of the CNR-IMEM, in Parma, Italy, write in "Progress towards an all-renewable electricity supply" that they believe that solar could fuel all the world's electricity power plants as early as 2020 using existing technology, a little energy storage and subsidies that might be no higher than Feed In Tariff structures being used in Germany. The scientists also question whether Germany's drive toward renewables has been as costly as critics claim. They argue that it has actually brought down the cost of peak energy prices.

For Treehugger writer Sami Grover, it's a simple equation: reduce fossil fuel consumption and transition energy over to renewables. Grover writes," a huge part of the climate change battle is simply defining what is possible... We are learning each day how massively underpriced fossil fuels are in the face of the destruction they cause."

There are activists out there trying to do something about climate change, like protestors occupying power stations or "hack-tivists" tweaking Big Oil. Along with generating electricity, the climate change implications for cars are massive and play a role in several global automakers building fossil fuel reduction into their sustainability campaigns. Will all of this be enough? According to Grover, "It's time to aim big or give up." An end to expanding fossil fuel infrastructure certainly fits into one of those two categories, and it's not giving up.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 39 Comments
      Anderlan
      • 2 Years Ago
      Make it law that the only fossil electricity is from gas, and only to fill the wind and solar troughs. Make the gas so expensive, or the wind and solar so cheap, that wind and solar are built out to where there is excess capacity most of the time.
      Mami
      • 2 Years Ago
      We're past the point of no return.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mami
        .. so stop worrying :) And besides, the earth has gone through heat peaks and ice ages every ~150,000 years for eons. We are in a heat peak, and will see an ice age in the next few thousand years regardless of whether your coworker drives a hummer to work alone or not. Look at the vostok ice core data an you will see it. Enjoy the time you have here! Seriously.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          @2wm Well maybe you just s!ck at it! ;-)
          2 wheeled menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          You're talking to the guy who builds and rides electric bikes as his primary form of transportation.. The problem is that nobody else does so. I spent 5 years trying to convince everyone around me to change and not a single one did. What kind of effect have you had?
          2 wheeled menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          ( let me clarify one thing - i don't mean to say that electric bikes are the only answer; they are just one of the answers of many to reduce fossil fuel usage in transportation )
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          @ Anne, I'm curious, like most people who care about the environment, you express outrage at the prospect of environmental pollution. From a human point of view, there isn't much point in having a pristine planet without human existence ! Likewise, the planet doesn't care, what ever changes occur ! Global warming, etc isn't bad for the planet, only for the sentient creatures on it's surface. But simply complaining on the internet, while demonizing the only industries with the capacity to maintain society long enough to implement any real change, isn't helpful. To tackle the coming problems of oil depletion, bio-spheric pollution etc, we need to harness all our resources and concentrate on the largest priorities that can be achieved, rather than waste time, money and support on futile projects with no real capacity to be either upscaled, or attract sufficient support to become useful. Our best hope is creative technology. We must maintain a society that can create new technology, and have sufficient capital to implement the benefits of advanced technology.
          Anne
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          4 billion years ago the earth's surface was a barren wasteland of a thousand degrees or so. Would that make it ok to scorch the earth in a global all-out nuclear war? It has happened before.... The fact is that we are changing the climate NOW, and that would not have happened without the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. To think that what we're doing now will not have consequences is naive.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          @anne No! Maim said that we are past no point of no return, so that settles it! I will now drive more, breath harder, buy products shipped on those cargo ships marco hates so much (for good reason), and I will not hug a tree. Unless it is a really attractive tree.... Then, well, we won't talk about....
        brotherkenny4
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mami
        Humans are no more capable of acting in concert for the betterment of the species than microbes in a petri dish are. Enjoy your life as much as you can because our leaders have no intention of stopping the end of mankind. By the way, we don't know when that will be, only that it will be some time.
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Of course there should be a moratorium. But the ignorant populace would see it as an assault. You need to speak firmly to the people, tell them the situation and the need. And not just block fossil fuel use but also provide the alternative. But the politicians are scum. You might as well expect Hitler to introduce humanitarian policies.
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        @Giza Plateau "You need to speak firmly to the people" You're beginning to sound a little like the guy from Linz, yourself !
      Actionable Mango
      • 2 Years Ago
      There should be a moratorium on increasing the population.
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        They are doing that in china. Europe, Russia, Japan, and to a lesser extent, the USA are doing just fine with that. In Spain the productivity rate for women is 1.1 children, and in Italy it is 1.2. The immigrants and immigration pick up the slack, because oddly, although the left loves the social programs and also pushes population control, the social programs require an increase in population. Hence, immigration, yay! Factor that in with multi-culturalism, and some of the smaller nations of Europe, and even larger nations, are past the point of no return. Both with their people and cultures. Denmark without Danes.... Will the people that replace the existing people have the same attitudes on women's rights....the environment.....?
      bluepongo1
      • 2 Years Ago
      If the USA optimized the unoccupied desert areas with solar tower/steam turbine power plants it could probably shut down most other power plants.
      Dave
      • 2 Years Ago
      I want to see her without the polar bear mask
        Anderlan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave
        How do you even know it's not a dude? Also, if I were in charge of that demo I would have not only a pissed polar bear, but pissed Superman and pissed Santa Claus ;-)
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Anderlan
          With hippies it is sometimes difficult to tell... Both tend to be very hairy...
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is not in any way at all feasible. It's so stupid as to not even bear mentioning. Also, Germany killed those feed in tariffs or at least hugely pared them back. I like green energy. I have solar panels to cover my electrical use. But solar panels have a roughly 3x energy payback over their live. And they offer that payback over 30 years. So that means to make them requires as much energy as they will give back in 10 years. Now, this is not a terrible thing, as they will last over 10 years. But say you wanted to switch all of the US to solar this year. This would require expending 10x as much energy this year as the year before. And this would be completely impossible without fossil fuel energy to do it. We do need to get to switching, but a moratorium on fossil fuels isn't anywhere near feasible right now.
        dgaetano
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        "But solar panels have a roughly 3x energy payback over their live." It's actually 7.5x to 30x. And of course, with economies of scale, it will go up. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/35489.pdf From the report: "With energy paybacks of 1 to 4 years and assumed life expectancies of 30 years, 87% to 97% of the energy that PV systems generate won’t be plagued by pollution, greenhouse gases, and depletion of resources."
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dgaetano
          Anne: Almost from the start. Again, I am talking about the pace of switchover. These people want a fossil fuel moratorium. I am pointing out that we cannot make a switch to green energy quickly without a great increase in fossil fuel use. Again, I am not against the increase, but these people are and I am pointing out they probably have to give a little on their moratorium in order to reach their goals. Your argument that the reduction in fossil fuel usage already in place pays for this, but the problem is these people are not taking that into account.
          Anne
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dgaetano
          Rotation, "We cannot currently make new clean energy systems without using fossil fuels." Yea, the Myhrvold dogma. It is not true. Do the math. The reduction in fossil fuel use due to the panels already produced and generating electricity vastly outweighs the energy use by solar panel power plants. The net effect is positive almost from the start.
          Kurt
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dgaetano
          A solar powered solar panel factory. Brilliant!
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dgaetano
          Okay, that's great. That makes the payback quicker. But the problem is still there. We cannot currently make new clean energy systems without using fossil fuels. But those calculations may not apply to making as many solar panels as I was speaking of: 'Today’s PV industry generally recrystallizes any of several types of “off-grade” silicon from the microelectronics industry, and estimates for the energy used to purify and crystallize silicon vary widely.. To calculate payback, Dutch researcher Alsema reviewed previous energy analyses and did not include the energy that originally went into crystallizing microelectronics scrap.' If you want to make enough PV panels to cover a huge percentage of the world's energy requirements, you won't have enough cast-off scrap microelectronics silicon to reprocess. You'll have to make silicon material specifically for these panels and that will raise the energy input.
          Ryan
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dgaetano
          Unless you use a massive renewable energy plant to build new solar panels...
          Anne
          • 2 Years Ago
          @dgaetano
          typo "solar panel power plants" --> "solar panel factories"
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Kaspar Knorr, Massimo Mazzer, Keith Barnham, priceless ! I mean, you couldn't pick better names if you were writing a movie script ! But earnest articles like this are really designed to attract a reaction from all the crazies ! A " fossil fuel moratorium" the statement would be really funny, except unfortunately, these extremists attract a lot of negative publicity, and destroy all the hard work of real environmentalists to garner public support for real programs.
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Question - what is that fuel called that the cargo ships use, that you don't like? I forgot...
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          @ EZEE You make a valid point. Simply abolishing the use of a single oil product, (Marine Grade No.6 fuel or Bunker Oil) would create more environmental benefit, than a crazy scheme like this. But these people are not about any real positive outcomes just the exuberance of students, being 'radical'. We are getting very close to perfecting non-methane emitting livestock. Such a breakthrough can be implemented within 10 years. It will cut livestock greenhouse gas emissions by the same as the entire world fossil fuel transport emissions. (while improving the health of the livestock). Just these two measures would have a dramatic impact on GW/CC man-made pollution, and do many times more good than all the disruptive calls for useless gestures, and crackpot schemes. But 'activists' don't really care about the environment. Their real purpose is the same old politics, wrapped in a new flag.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      If the world population doubles in the next 50 years or so, people will freeze to death because of this. We won't let this happen.
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      Pseudo scientist Lesage has concluded the earth is under going global climate changes because of man-made pollution. Then he concludes that Hurricane Sandy is the product of this climate change. Lesage deserves a Nobel Prize for original science. Since Homosapiens have been on earth a mere micro-second when the history of the earth is measured on a 24 hour clock, cautious scientists are not ready to concede there has been any global climate changes as claimed by special interest groups. Special interest groups have made the mitigation of air pollution a growth industry. Early air pollution regulations were directed at 'smog,' which is principally the by-product of airborn hydrocarbon reacting with ultra violet rays. With tighter gas tank, evaporative cannister recovery system, and elimination of the carburetor, airborn hydrocarbon escaping from automobile's fuel system has reach negligible levels. At the next phase of air pollution control, EGR, catalytic converters, electronic ignition, and computerize engine controls substantially reduced the NOx emissions while eliminating unburnt hydrocarbon emissions. At this point, the special interest groups decided to up the ante or vanish into the air. With 'smog' no longer a primary issue in air pollution as before, the special interest groups transitioned to a general air pollution catagory called 'green house' gases which includes CO2, a product of all living aerobic organism as well as ICE. As the production of CO2 is the necessary by-product of the oxidation of organic compounds, the special interest groups have assured themselves job security. And by using some fancy logic that links CO2 to global climate changes, the special interest groups have also assured themselves the opportunity to be heard. Repeating mindlessly that 'Green House Gases' are the cause of global climate changes, the masses are akin to Gregorian chants. 'Green House Gases' has become their savior. The current 3 stage diesel emission control .
      Grendal
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah. Like China, Russia, or Africa would jump right in on that. Worldwide economy would collapse immediately.
      harlanx6
      • 2 Years Ago
      We couldn't feed the poor of the world without carbon based fuels. The rich will always eat, but this would be genecide for much of the 3rd world. Don't you nerds ever think about unitended consequences?
        brotherkenny4
        • 2 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        What a big softy you are Harlan :>) Although, I don't think your correct.
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