By George Harvey
All year, we have been seeing news on climate change. Much of this comes from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This organization has issued a series of dire warnings over the past year, telling us that there is no scientific doubt whatever that human beings are causing serious, destructive climate change. They say that if we do nothing, the result will be a long series of disasters unlike anything human beings have seen before. They also tell us that we can do something about it.
Studies of peer-reviewed scientific literature show that 97% of all scientists publishing on the subject agree that man made climate change is real and dangerous. The other 3% did not necessarily disagree, but had not stated their position. One study found only one author out of over 9,000 was a climate change denier.
Early in the year, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont told us, “The scientific community across the world is sounding the alarm. Climate change is real and it will have devastating consequences around the globe unless we act boldly and decisively.” He proposed a fee on carbon and methane emissions. He has also introduced a bill to end tax breaks and subsidies for oil and coal companies. Both ideas were backed by scientists and leading economists, but both were blocked in Congress.
During the last six months, we have seen climate conditions getting worse. We have seen a period of months in which worldwide heat records were set. The record cold we had last winter in New England was caused by record heat in Siberia pushing cold arctic air down on us.
In November, we got news that October was the third in a row to break temperature records world-wide. With at least two other record-setting months this year, we are almost certainly going to finish with the year being the hottest on record.
We also got something more alarming. Waters off the Canadian coasts were 4° Celsius (about 7° Fahrenheit) above normal. This was not alarming merely because of the number, but also because it was true of parts of the Pacific coast, the Atlantic coast, and even Hudson’s Bay.
What is the good news? For one thing, the price of solar power has dropped so low that it is out-competing natural gas, not only in much of the world, but in much of the United States, where natural gas prices are lowest.
For another thing, the price of wind power is so low that it will out-compete anything nearly everywhere. At the same moment that we hear calls for more natural gas pipelines to supply power in eastern New England, the federal government is auctioning land off Martha’s Vineyard that can supply up to 5 gigawatts of wind power, enough for half the houses in Massachusetts.
Also, batteries for backup power have started out-competing natural gas peaking plants in price. That does not even account for the fact that given a smart grid and more electric vehicles, the financing for those batteries will be largely in the form of ordinary automotive loans.
The world is changing fast. Fortunately, we can still choose what it will be.