Solar Energy Costs Less Than Fossil Fuels

Imagine you could put solar panels on your home, pay nothing for materials or installation, and cut your electricity costs by 30-40% for the next twenty years! Five years ago that would have been a pipe dream, but today it’s reality thanks to a drop in solar panel prices, efficient rooftop installation, and renewable energy incentives. Solar is at or below grid parity in large swaths of the world, and will continue to become less expensive than dirty fossil fuels (And we’re not even including the external climate change costs of fossil fuel emissions).Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.01 AM

Forget the whole climate change problem. People are going solar because it’s cheap, and that is a wonderful thing for the economy and our planet. The environmentalists among us go solar, wind, geothermal…not necessarily to save money, but to do what’s right given the state of our climate. Unfortunately, climate change science is not yet clearly understood in the public’s eye. Oh, we’ve made huge gains in the awareness and concern for climate change, but there’s still a significant and vocal group of deniers and skeptics clouding the issue.

So let’s forget the climate change concerns and stick to the bottom line: Solar energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. More specifically, electricity generated by solar energy costs less than electricity derived from fossil fuels. Discussion over. To hell with the climate. Go out there and get those solar panels on the roof and start saving money. Encourage your town board to put up a few of those fancy wind turbines for good measure, and feel good about yourself. In the process, you’ll join the majority of Americans interested in renewable energies over more traditional fossil or nuclear energies.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Save yourself money and divest from fossil fuels. Seriously. Investing in a deadly energy source is risky business. Check out gofossilfree.org for more info.

Learn more about renewable energies by signing up for this free newsletter: https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/account/user/register

Fossil Fuels Have Broken My Heart

I’m going to be honest. I love fossil fuels and how easy they have made my life. I love how they provide heat during the cold winter months. How they are always there when I need them for my automobile. And how they help generate the electricity that powers everything in my house, including this laptop computer I’m working on. Yup, I’m truly, truly in love with fossil fuels. And it’s breaking my heart to have to say goodbye.Screen shot 2013-08-02 at 6.46.44 PM

Fossil fuels are the last carbon pool for humanity to tap into. First through agriculture and then most recently with the industrial revolution, carbon pools helped our populations grow without bounds. The creature comforts fossil fuel carbon provides can not be denied. And as humanity merrily used her expansive frontal lobe to expand technological advancements through fossil fuel carbons, the side effects of a growing love affair grew. We didn’t fully recognize what was at stake when we started drinking at the fossil fuel pool, but we do now.

The Fossil Fuel Pied Piper called us on a happy march through an industrial and technological age that seemed without end. Our giddiness with each new advancement, be it the steam engine, gas-powered auto, or air conditioning, left us blind to the growing calamities of a world steeped in carbon dioxide emissions. We could conquer anything. Dam the raging Colorado River. Break the speed of sound. Put men on the moon. Create artificial intelligence. But there was a price, and now we’ve got to face the daunting reality of a changing climate. It’s dry in California. It rains hard in the Chilean desert. It snows heavy in Boston. And high tides are getting higher and higher. Yes, it’s time to end the fossil fuel age.

I’m sorry my love, but I’m leaving you. Some of my friends will think I’m crazy to throw a good thing away, but you and I know better. You’ve hurt me, and you’ve hurt others. You weren’t honest with me. You didn’t tell me the damage you would cause. And you’ve made me so dependent on you. It’s not going to be easy for me, but I’ll find someone new. Someone cleaner than you. Someone who will be part of the solution, not the problem. I’ll get by. And what’s left of you will remain where you belong: in the ground. Good bye.

Two 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

AND

Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.

Mitch McConnell’s War on Climate

I am so tired of hearing Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell constantly declare war on the Earth’s climate. Any time he utters “War on Coal”, what he’s really saying is “dig baby dig” and “burn baby burn”. And his latest fiasco of paving a complex, strategic series of actions for other like-minded climate-denying politicians to follow in efforts to block the EPA from controlling fossil fuel emissions is so very disappointing and frustrating. Worse yet, Mitch McConnell compromises our nation’s credibility to fight climate change.Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.27.13 PM

I guess Mitch is unaware of the tremendous environmental damage coal has caused to the climate. I guess severe storms need to get more severe; oceans more acidic; western droughts more crippling; polar ice caps more threatened; rising seas more concerning; and the future of humanity more dire before he’s willing to stop the craziness.

How do we fight the politics of climate deniers?  How do we bring logic and understanding to the climate change conversation? How do we tell Washington, state and local governments “enough is enough!”? Well, two organizations worth your time are The Climate Mobilization and Climate Reality Project.  Do this world a favor and join both. Then go out and raise hell about Mitch and the other deniers creating confusion and havoc about climate change. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

Climate Change Is Not A Religion

I believe in God, and my faith has helped me cope during tough times. My trust in a greater entity is steeped in what I’ve learned through my religious practices, particularly the Sunday sermon. I’ve learned where to find God in my life, and I’m comforted in my beliefs. But when it comes to climate change, I’m not a believer. Climate change is not a religion to be followed or believed in, but a scientific body of evidence studied and confirmed by every national and international science organization worldwide. No, there’s a sharp distinction between scientific fact and religious beliefs, and climate change’s scientific evidence trumps faith or beliefs.OneWordE-26

It’s hubris to “believe” climate change doesn’t exist, or that present day climate change is something to be explained as a natural occurrence. Natural, yes, when it occurs over millions of years, or when a six mile wide asteroid strikes the earth, creating winter-like conditions across the planet. Unnatural when human activity elevates atmospheric greenhouse gases 50% in less than 200 years by tapping fossil fuels to sustain an ever-growing population and thirst for creature comforts.

I’m not sure what God thinks about the mess we’ve created, but I doubt God approves of how we’re addressing the problem.  What is happening runs contrary to God’s words. The least of us are suffering the most. The love of money is the root of all climate change evils. And climate change is directly and indirectly killing or harming many of God’s creatures. I do believe God is sorely disappointed.

I pray God will help the “deniers” and “skeptics” who don’t believe in climate change to “see the light”. I pray that people like you and me will speak up and demand action now, while there’s still time, to end the fossil fuel era. I pray for my daughter and the sons and daughters of others, and those yet to come, that we don’t burden them with a sick planet. And I pray for all God’s creatures as they instinctively, and for many unsuccessfully, try to adapt to a rapidly changing planet.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Go to your favorite quiet area and make a list of all Earth’s treasures you are thankful for. Whether it’s blue skies and warm southern breezes, or red cardinals and chickadees at the bird feeder, jot them down and then reflect on what might happen to these treasures with unchecked climate change. Finish your reflection by making a list on what you will do to fight climate change. Then go out and do it.

Carbon Footprint, Green Electrons, and Climate Change

Charge the smartphone this morning? Listen to the Morning Show while getting dressed for work? Have Pandora or Spotify running in the living room wirelessly on that new Bose Soundbar while brewing coffee? Take an extra long hot shower to shake off the morning chill after yet another night of Polar Vortex winter weather? Odds are your electric meter, like most Americans’, is working overtime during the morning hours as you prep and ready yourself for another day on planet Earth.Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.38.52 AM

The role electricity plays in our lives cannot be overstated. We need electricity. We crave electricity. We relish electricity. And ironically, we rarely, rarely think about electrical energy until the power goes out or we receive our very reasonable electricity bill (yes, reasonable compared to the cost of electrical energy in other parts of the world). Americans love their electrical energy so much they consume a whopping 20% of total global energy output even though they represent only 4.5% of Earth’s human population. Couldn’t we do with consuming fewer electrons?

“The greenest electron is the one that’s never used,” said Nilda Mesa, director of New York City’s Office of Sustainability. I found Mesa’s comment in a recent New York Times article on New York City’s efforts to slash fossil fuel emissions 80% by 2050. Kudos to New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio for their ambitious effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions AND save the city hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Hell, if New York City can slash electricity use to the tune of 80% fewer fossil fuel emissions, we can too!

We speak so often of renewable energy technologies. Solar panels, wind turbines, passive solar homes, smart grid technologies, energy storage devices, etc. . . . Technologies that will make fossil fuels energy dinosaurs in the not too distant future. Renewables are a grand and major part of the climate change solution. However, without addressing rampant energy consumption and ever-increasing global population numbers, we’re not going to win the climate change battle.

Conservation gets short shrift in the climate change news media. Perhaps it’s not as glitzy or sensational? Who knows? What we do know is if you turn your thermostats down at night during the winter, you will burn less oil or natural gas. We do know that LED and compact fluorescent bulbs use a fraction of the electricity that incandescents do. And we know turning lights off when out of a room, insulating the attics in homes, caulking around windows and doorways, and a myriad of other energy conserving measures reduces energy use. Just imagine what would happen to the pace of climate change if we buckled down on our energy consumption? We can do this!

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Use this carbon footprint calculator to learn how many tons of carbon you and your family members release into the atmosphere each year. Then discover and act on ways to reduce that imprint.

 

Climate Change White Lies

Question: “Does this outfit make me look fat?” Response: “Not at all. You look great.” Question: “Did you really like my mother’s meatloaf?” Response: “Yes. It was the best meatloaf I think I’ve ever eaten.” Question: “Are you sure you’re not mad I dropped your iPhone in the lake?” Response: “No. I’m glad. Now I can buy a new one.” Question: “Are humans causing climate change by burning fossil fuels?” Response: “No, no. Climate change is happening because the sun is getting hotter.” Comment: Whew. Good news! I was starting to worry.

Sometimes people tell little white lies so as not to offend or worry others. And sometimes people tell lies to profit from others.Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.01 AM

We like to be reassured. Whether it’s about looks, relationships, or performance, it feels good when your worries and concerns are assuaged. But when the emperor has no clothes on, well, then there are problems. Years ago a supervisor gave me sage advice when he said, “Surround yourself with people who will tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.” What wonderful advice. After all, don’t we all want to know the truth so we can do the right thing?  Usually, but sometimes the truth hurts. I don’t think anyone wants to hear they’re trashing the planet, and it’s not pleasant knowing that burning gasoline to get places in our cars contributes to climate change, or that our dietary choices have planetary ramifications. And who can bear to think they’re leaving their children and future generations a planet that may have lost the climatic conditions necessary for a healthy biosphere? Sometimes it’s just easier to believe the lies.

Big oil, coal, and natural gas know this, and just as with the tobacco fiasco of yesteryear, they are working hard to tell little white lies so we idle along as the planet gets hotter and the future bleaker. The recent news about Willie Soon is yet further evidence of Big Fossil Fuel funding “scientific” studies  designed to cast doubt and little white lies about anthropogenic (human caused) climate change. It’s so much more assuring to think changes in the sun, not human activity, are causing climate change.  We like to hear the things we want to hear, and the fossil fuel industry is happy to whistle sweet nothings in our ears. Be honest with yourself and dig deeper for the truth which 98% of all climate scientists know and will tell you: Humans are changing the Earth’s climate. Then go out there and do something about the problem.

Two 5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

AND

Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.

We Can Manage Climate Change If We Believe We Can

Think back to something in your life where you made a difference. Perhaps it was leading a community cleanup project, fixing a leaking kitchen sink faucet, or speaking at a public event. Do you remember how you felt? The “I can” attitude as you persevered through the challenges and struggles? Or what about an event that wasn’t so successful? An effort that didn’t get finished, or an outcome less than hoped for? Was the same “I can” attitude present in that failure? Most likely there was a strong sense of doubt in your mind. Social scientists tell us our mindsets, sense of grit or self-efficacy, directly relate to our successes and failures. Which means we’re going to need some serious The Little Engine that Could mindset if we hope to conquer something as big and formidable as climate change.Screen shot 2012-11-10 at 7.27.31 AM

To fight climate change we will need what Albert Bandura defines as “self-efficacy,” or “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). This is The Little Engine that Could mindset: the ability to keep chugging along past obstacles and challenges until you’ve attained your goal. We’ll need to battle the misinformation, fear, confusion, and malaise that detract from the urgency of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. And the first course of action will be to focus on the small successes we’re experiencing in this major effort.

Success breeds more success. And with climate change, there is much to celebrate. More and more people are having difficult conversations with deniers and skeptics, and public perceptions about the urgency of climate change are moving favorably towards acceptance and action. Countries are negotiating climate change policies, and the fossil fuel industry is on its heels desperately fighting to quell divestment programs. We can and will succeed through a concerted effort.

Do you believe you have the ability to fight climate change? I believe in you, so let’s go out and make a difference.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

One way to go out and make a difference is by joining The Climate Mobilization.  If you want politicians and other leaders to fight for policies and laws that support climate change efforts, then please join The Climate Mobilization.

 

Geoengineering: A “Mr. Fix-It” Solution to Climate Change

Geoengineering will fix climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing solar radiation. Sounds damn impressive.  Oxford defines the term as “The deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth’s climate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming.” Well, we’ve been so freaking successful altering the environment over the past 100 years that one can only imagine the scale of change we might trigger through deliberate efforts. Controlling the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth’s surface? Removing carbon dioxide, a highly stable molecule, from the atmosphere? Come on!Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 8.10.53 AM

Seriously, let’s not over-estimate our capacity to geoengineer a “fix” to the climate change problem.  We’ve made a mess of things because we’re not truly in control of this planet, and the hubris to assume we can “fix” things through geoengineering is frightening. Take a look at where Congress stands on the topic. Listen to those who support this notion of man “fixing” climate change, and you’ll find these are the same folks who claim they are not scientists, deny or refuse to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change, or claim the whole thing is a hoax. Yet, these individuals support geoengineering. Ask yourself why (hint: think fossil fuels).

We know how to fight climate change without opening geoengineering’s Pandora Box. Move to renewable energies, reduce meat consumption, conserve energy, control global population with quality education, stop burning fossil fuels, replant trees, etc. We don’t need a fleet of sulfur aerosol spewing planes circling the globe 24-7, nor do we need iron fertilization of the oceans. There are safer, more effective models that are at hand now. Again, stop and think why anyone would risk this lovely planet to geoengineering. When you do, you’ll realize geoengineering is yet one more ploy by the fossil fuel industry to drill baby drill, and burn baby burn. We must do better.

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Global Divestment Day occurred this weekend, and though the event has passed, divestment continues to be a powerful way to break our fossil fuel addiction. Want to support renewable energy, then push divestment of fossil fuels.  Go to Fossil Free to learn what you can do.

 

The deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth’sclimate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming.

“On Deck” For An Unenviable Climate Future

“You’re on deck!” For those who have played the game of baseball or softball, the sound of a coach uttering those three words to you are joyful reminders of the excitement, joyousness, and hope of an enduring game. The anticipation of getting your shot while loosening up in the on deck circle is a mind game. You study the pitcher, swing the bat in time with the pitch, and imagine what may be when it’s your turn in the batter’s box. It’s wildly satisfying as you ponder the possibilities of your baseball prowess.  With the bases full, a grand slam would be a royal flush equivalent. Bases empty, a solo shot far beyond the outfield wall, or a screaming liner up the middle are equally sweet. Your time is coming, and you’re getting ready.Photo by Francisco Herrera

The metaphor of being on deck intrudes beyond America’s pastime. Just the other day a good friend lamented the declining health of an elderly parent, finishing with the line, “And I’m on deck”. Yup, we’re all on deck in the game of life. We are born, grow to adulthood, and in most cases marry, raise a family, see the children off, retire, and ultimately pass on. Through all life’s innings, there is excitement, hopefulness, successes, failures, loss, wisdom, nostalgia, and acceptance for what’s to come. And that is how the game has been played throughout history. Until now.

Being “on deck” for today’s youth is more of a warning than an opportunity . Climate change has altered our children’s possibilities for a better life. Their future is bleaker as oceans warm, sea levels rise, weather gets weirder, floods intensify, and other climate change nasties become reality. I’m an optimist. Always have been and hopefully always will be. But I’m also a realist. We need to do everything in our power to make certain the youth of today and generations to come have something to hope for. To have a planet where being “on deck” as a youngster is a good thing. A hopeful thing. A desirable thing. Let’s fix things now so life on planet Earth is a fair game for generations to come.

 Photo by Francisco Herrera

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Join Live Earth  and be one of a billion voices demanding our leaders take climate action on climate change now.

When Ocean Meets Home

Ever have water in your basement? Uninvited water from a creek that rose above its banks or water rising up from the ground with a spring thaw? What a nuisance. Years ago I lived a few hundred feet from the side of a small mountain in the Southern Adirondacks, and without fail, every spring when the snow melted and the ground thawed, we’d get a few inches of water in the basement. To remove the water, I would use a flat snow shovel to push the water across the concrete basement floor towards the sump pump. Fortunately it never got more than an inch or two deep, but it was problematic. It was an inconvenience. Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.05 PM

Ever have sea water rise up and flood your property and home? Salty water that saturated the ground, contaminated your drinking water, and severely damaged your home? I can’t even begin to imagine such a scenario. Most others can’t either unless they’ve been directly impacted by a major coastal weather event such as Superstorm Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, Hurricane Katrina….. But if you are a small island state nation resident, salt water lapping at your door has become frighteningly all too familiar.

A weak low pressure system, a lunar high tide, or fetch driven waves are all culpable for flooding. You might wonder, why build a home so close to the ocean? I mean, people should know better.  Right?  Well, small island nation cultures span centuries, and until recently managed just fine the periodic hurricane or typhoon.  Sadly, periodicity, predictability, and consistency no longer are the rule as climate change impacts gain momentum. Today, much like Norfolk, VA, Miami, FL, and other low-lying cities, sea level flooding is common.  The stark and unfair difference between residents of small island state nations such as Majuro in the Marshall Islands and those in larger countries is acreage and altitude. Where do you go when you’re living on an island a mere ten feet above sea level at its highest point? If you live in Miami, you move inland or out-of-state. But for the 25,000 Majuro residents, there is no place to move other than to another country. In the end, you have become an environmental refugee.

I have Facebook friends living in vulnerable small island nations, and their alarming comments and pictures posted earlier this month on Facebook are another reminder of the suffering climate change is causing. While I lament the nuisance water that occasionally got in my basement, friends are threatened by loss of home and place. Their (and our) suffering is sure to grow many fold as atmospheric anthropogenic gases increase and sea levels continue encroaching inland. From the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change Report, “Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century. Under all RCP scenarios, the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971 to 2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets” (IPCC, 2013, p. 25).  In other words, we must act now.

(Photos of Majuro, courtesy of Dustin Langidrik).

 

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Join Live Earth  and be one of a billion voices demanding our leaders take climate action on climate change now.

IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex, and P.> Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.