Monday, November 24, 2014

Climate change developments

A few things caught my eye over the weekend. First, and most excitingly, the price of solar and wind energy is dropping significantly, to the point that they are competitive with gas and coal. While that sounds technical, the bottom line is that cheap energy is what people want, so if solar and wind energy can be produced cheaply, we are well on our way to getting rid of carbon emitting fuels. The sticking point, the article notes, is that both are still intermittent: you don't get energy from a windmill on a calm day. So, the issue is whether someone can develop a good battery. Hopefully with Elon Musk on the job, we can overcome this technical barrier and stop relying on dirty fuels.

Second is that scientists have proposed a link between climate change and the "polar vortex" incidents that are becoming more common. Warming in the Arctic changes the jet stream flow, bringing down the polar air onto unsuspecting places like Denver, which a few weeks ago experienced a 40 degree drop in temperature in 6 hours. When I graduated from Cal in 2008, the graduation speaker said that instead of climate change people should be calling it, "Global Climate Destabilization." Fairly apocalyptic, but that name fits this jet stream movement pretty well, if in fact it is traceable to climate change.

Finally, the NYT has a series on the oil industry in North Dakota. Since deposits there recently became accessible, the economy there has boomed, but so has the industry's influence, to predictably foul effects.  Part I and Part II so far.

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