News Archive:

COP27: Green hope growing in the desert

To read the orig­i­nal in the Novem­ber 5, 2022 Jor­dan Timesclick here.

COP27: Green hope grow­ing in the desert

World lead­ers gather anew in Egypt for COP27 to address the exis­ten­tial threat of the cli­mate cri­sis; while solu­tions exist, the world needs to see action and imple­men­ta­tion. To achieve this, the global com­mu­nity needs both grit and optimism.

1120225212745865568544Screen Shot 2022-11-06 at 6.28.45 PM
COP27 should be about col­lab­o­ra­tion, green accel­er­a­tion, and, most impor­tantly, bring­ing to life exist­ing con­cepts and solu­tions to scale and cre­ate much-​​needed green jobs. A metaphor­i­cal cross­ing of the Red Sea is needed to halt the cur­rent tra­jec­tory to 2.8°C or more of global warm­ing. It is time for finance to step up.

In 2012, at COP18 in Doha, a pilot facil­ity for pro­duc­tion of food, energy, water, and reveg­e­ta­tion of desert areas was launched. Today, a few kilo­me­ters from where COP is tak­ing place, the Sahara For­est Project pro­duces tons of veg­eta­bles far into the Jor­dan­ian desert, in saltwater-​​cooled green­houses, with their own renew­able energy, plant­ing trees in the desert.

Not every­one believed, back in 2012. But see­ing was believ­ing, and it still is.

At the dawn of the 2000s the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of trans­port seemed a vision more than a pos­si­ble real­ity. In 2009, when Bel­lona brought the first four Tesla Road­sters in Europe to COP15 in Copen­hagen, it all became a bit more real. Today, we can acknowl­edge mas­sive strides taken over the last 13 years.

Not every­one believed, even in 2009. But the nee­dle was moved. See­ing is believing.

The adage may be old and slightly worn out but has never been truer. Can a few elec­tric cars solve the prob­lem? No. But can it click the right gears into place? Absolutely.

Renew­able energy has been doing this for years, with rapidly declin­ing costs for solar, wind, and stor­age tech­nolo­gies all trans­form­ing the energy sec­tor. Replac­ing fos­sil fuels in use has also become a no-​​brainer in many more appli­ca­tions, with heavy con­struc­tion machin­ery the lat­est addi­tion. Man­u­fac­tur­ers are increas­ingly becom­ing aware of the fact that not only is elec­tri­fi­ca­tion good for the envi­ron­ment, it is also good for worker health, noise lev­els, and the pock­et­book. In indus­try, car­bon cap­ture and stor­age is becom­ing viable as a large-​​scale solu­tion for process emis­sions that are dif­fi­cult to get rid of.

And while dam­ages and losses of cli­mate change con­tinue to increase with each pass­ing year of inac­tion, the global com­mu­nity is still stuck try­ing to deliver on the 2009 pledge to mobi­lize the mere $100 bil­lion annu­ally from devel­oped to devel­op­ing countries.”

But tempo is lack­ing. Imple­men­ta­tion is lack­ing. Scale is lack­ing. And not least, finance is lacking.

Get­ting money to the right projects is with­out doubt one of the great­est chal­lenges in the fight against cli­mate change. Our cur­rent mea­sures for accel­er­at­ing fund­ing, both for adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion, are fail­ing. And while dam­ages and losses of cli­mate change con­tinue to increase with each pass­ing year of inac­tion, the global com­mu­nity is still stuck try­ing to deliver on the 2009 pledge to mobi­lize the mere $100 bil­lion annu­ally from devel­oped to devel­op­ing countries.

We need to have a hard look at chal­lenges fac­ing the cur­rent cli­mate financ­ing. At the same time, we need to take a view beyond this one pledge, toward new mech­a­nisms for financ­ing a just and green transition.

A par­a­digm shift is needed in cli­mate finance, a Cli­mate Finance 2.0. This new par­a­digm can focus on cer­tain key issues.

One such issue is infra­struc­ture. Large-​​scale infra­struc­ture projects are hugely impor­tant to roll out much-​​needed renew­ables, as well as decar­boniz­ing harder-​​to-​​electrify indus­trial processes across the world. But project deploy­ment is slow, and projects suf­fer from lack of pub­lic fund­ing, long lead times, chal­lenges fac­ing per­mit­ting processes, admin­is­tra­tive hur­dles, and issues related to pub­lic acceptance.

Another issue is defin­ing projects “of com­mon inter­est” eli­gi­ble for cli­mate financ­ing. An inter­na­tional mech­a­nism chan­nelling cap­i­tal to projects of com­mon inter­est could cre­ate a global stamp of approval, send­ing pos­i­tive mar­ket sig­nals and mobi­liz­ing addi­tional pri­vate cap­i­tal either into projects directly or to asso­ci­ated projects rely­ing on shared infrastructure.

These are not just exam­ples, but a vision, and a pos­si­ble real­ity. Now more than ever we need action and lead­er­ship. This is why it is so impor­tant to show­case all the solu­tions that actu­ally exist today, high­light­ing their many ben­e­fits, and build­ing bet­ter sto­ries for cli­mate action as a pos­i­tive for the cli­mate but also for coun­tries, cities, com­mu­ni­ties. This is also why we are at COP27.

We are on a tra­jec­tory for 2.8 degrees instead of 1.5. The slo­gan for COP26 in Glas­gow was “keep­ing 1.5 alive” — it is cur­rently on life sup­port. Still, every day we see new and inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to the cli­mate and envi­ron­men­tal crises that the global com­mu­nity is try­ing to solve.

See­ing is believ­ing. Now let us get them some funding.

Dan Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley.  He has served at the World Bank as chief tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ist for renew­able energy, and as sci­ence envoy in the Obama admin­is­tra­tion.  He has been a coor­di­nat­ing lead author of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change since 1999.

Twit­ter: @dan_kammen.

 

Fred­eric Hauge founded Bel­lona in 1986, at the age of 20. Through aca­d­e­mic work, legal action, and non-​​violent activism, Bel­lona has changed the opin­ion and set the agenda on envi­ron­men­tal issues in Nor­way for almost three decades. Hauge was elected in 2007 as vice chair­man of the Euro­pean Commission’s Tech­nol­ogy Plat­form for CO2 seques­tra­tion (ZEP). The same year TIME Mag­a­zine named him “Hero of The Envi­ron­ment”. In 2009 he became a board mem­ber of the EU Bio­fuel Plat­form (EBTP), and one of the found­ing part­ners of the Sahara For­est Project.

Elon Musk says ‘population collapse’ is a bigger threat than climate change. Is he right?

USA TODAY

Elon Musk says ‘pop­u­la­tion col­lapse’ is a big­ger threat than cli­mate change. Is he right?

At the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val this sum­mer, many atten­dees rev­eled at the “Top Gun” reboot, a throw­back to the past. But on the side­lines a smaller crowd wit­nessed some­thing more solemn: the pos­si­bil­ity of a dark and tragic future.

Plan 75,” a film by Japan­ese direc­tor Hayakawa Chie, explores the poten­tial dan­gers of her country’s aging soci­ety, where nearly one-​​in-​​three peo­ple are cur­rently 65 or older. Set in a near-​​future dystopia, the film depicts a nation whose health­care and pen­sions sys­tems have become so over­bur­dened by the elderly that the gov­ern­ment aggres­sively mar­kets a pol­icy to pay for final bucket list items and then euth­a­nize any­one over 75.

While tech­ni­cally the stuff of sci­ence fic­tion, demog­ra­phers say the film arrives at a time when human­ity really is aging.

The global fer­til­ity rate has decreased by half since 1960. In coun­tries respon­si­ble for 85% of the world’s gross domes­tic prod­uct – the United States, Ger­many, Japan, even China and India – births have fallen below the “replace­ment rate,” mean­ing that unless off­set by immi­gra­tion, pop­u­la­tion will begin to decline as older gen­er­a­tions depart.

The United Nations cal­cu­lates the world pop­u­la­tion will now peak in 2084, before start­ing to fall by the century’s end.

An elderly man walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Japan is the world's oldest country, with 3-in-10 people over the age of 65.

An elderly man walks by an elec­tronic stock board of a secu­ri­ties firm in Tokyo, Fri­day, Aug. 19, 2016. Japan is the world’s old­est coun­try, with 3-​​in-​​10 peo­ple over the age of 65.

In a world where economies are designed around growth and social sys­tems depend on the young sup­port­ing the old, for­ward thinkers are begin­ning to won­der what comes next.

Con­sider Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and busi­ness mag­nate, now most promi­nent among their ranks.

Pop­u­la­tion col­lapse due to low birth rates is a much big­ger risk to civ­i­liza­tion than global warm­ing,” Musk wrote on Twit­ter this sum­mer. “Mark these words.”

But is he right?

Pop­u­la­tion con­cerns are noth­ing new

For cen­turies, humans have pon­dered the ideal size of humanity.

But experts warn such efforts usu­ally end in folly, and that our species has within its grasp solu­tions to pros­per whether pop­u­la­tions rise or fall.

It’s up to us and how the world responds,” said Lau­ren John­ston, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Sydney’s China Stud­ies Cen­tre and eco­nomic demographer.

For much of the last few cen­turies, those fret­ting about over­pop­u­la­tion have had the spot­light. In 1798, Eng­lish scholar Thomas Malthus pub­lished an influ­en­tial essay that laid out an idea known as the “Malthu­sian trap,” which holds that pop­u­la­tion growth inevitably exceeds food and other resources, lead­ing to famine and poverty. The work inspired anx­i­ety in Eng­land and helped lead to the first national cen­sus of Eng­land, Scot­land and Wales.

Such con­cerns echoed loudly in 1968, when Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor Paul Ehrlich and wife Anne Ehrlich pub­lished “The Pop­u­la­tion Bomb,” a book that pre­dicted global famine lead­ing to the deaths of hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple within decades.

But most experts say such pre­dic­tions have not come to pass. Par­tic­u­larly in the past 50 years, a “Green Rev­o­lu­tion” in agri­cul­ture has used new farm­ing meth­ods to reap more calo­ries per acre of land, lead­ing world hunger to decrease even as the pop­u­la­tion doubled.

Although stud­ies show such prac­tices have cre­ated addi­tional prob­lems – dri­ving water pol­lu­tion, con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change, and per­haps even decreas­ing the nutri­tional value of food – John­ston points out that many nations are now fac­ing the oppo­site of starvation.

In most coun­tries there has been a suf­fi­ciently pro­duc­tive response to pop­u­la­tion growth that there hasn’t been a famine,” John­ston said. “Now there’s obesity.”

Under­pop­u­la­tion on the horizon?

As con­cern over hav­ing too many mouths to feed has waned, an oppos­ing one has risen: too few peo­ple to work.

That’s an espe­cially obvi­ous worry in China, which infa­mously imple­mented a one-​​child pol­icy in 1980 to address expo­nen­tial pop­u­la­tion growth pro­jec­tions. Its cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of 1.4 bil­lion remains the world’s largest.

But real­iz­ing the aging tra­jec­tory of its soci­ety, in 2016 China elim­i­nated the pol­icy and has also lim­ited pen­sions and social pro­grams for the elderly, John­ston said.

Chinese children hold flags during a rehearsal prior to the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 Beijing Summit on Sept. 3, 2018 in Beijing, China.

Chi­nese chil­dren hold flags dur­ing a rehearsal prior to the open­ing of the Forum on China-​​Africa Coop­er­a­tion (FOCAC) 2018 Bei­jing Sum­mit on Sept. 3, 2018 in Bei­jing, China.

Many other nations are or soon will be fac­ing sim­i­lar challenges.

To main­tain a steady pop­u­la­tion with­out immi­gra­tion, a nation has to achieve a fer­til­ity rate of 2.1 chil­dren per woman, experts say. But the fer­til­ity rate is just 1.7 in China and Brazil, 1.5 across the Euro­pean Union, and 0.8 in South Korea, the low­est of any coun­try, accord­ing to the World Bank. The rate is 1.6 in the United States, where the pop­u­la­tion is still ris­ing only due to longer lifes­pans and immi­gra­tion, which is pro­jected to out­pace nat­ural births by 2030.

Glob­ally, it’s pri­mar­ily African nations like Nige­ria, where the fer­til­ity rate is 5.2, that are con­tribut­ing to pop­u­la­tion growth. But as those nations develop, some experts expect fer­til­ity rates to fall as well, con­tribut­ing to the pos­si­bil­ity of unprece­dented global pop­u­la­tion decline.

There’s never been any­thing close to a par­al­lel,” John­ston said.

Some experts are ring­ing alarm bells on what that could mean for societies.

In their book “Rever­sal: Age­ing Soci­eties, Wan­ing Inequal­ity, and an Infla­tion Revival,” econ­o­mists Charles Good­hart and Manoj Prad­han warn of mount­ing fis­cal crises, “as med­ical, care, and pen­sion expen­di­tures all increase in our age­ing societies.”

Nations could wind up burn­ing the can­dle at both ends: as a higher per­cent­age of peo­ple become retirees they require more pub­lic resources, while at the same time the tax­able work­ing pop­u­la­tion shrinks. Prob­lems could be exac­er­bated as rates of Alzheimer’s and other costly elder ill­nesses increase, while labor short­ages cre­ate infla­tion­ary pres­sures. As coun­tries face these chal­lenges, their soci­eties and pol­i­tics could destabilize.

Our view of the future is not encour­ag­ing, but it is coher­ent and plau­si­ble,” Good­hart and Prad­han write.

So Musk is right?

Not so fast, says Daniel Kam­men, a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley and for­mer Sci­ence Envoy to the U.S. State Department.

While aging soci­eties do pose pos­si­ble chal­lenges in the future, Kam­men says the world is fac­ing a cur­rent full-​​blown cri­sis right now: cli­mate change.

And adding more peo­ple to the Earth’s pop­u­la­tion will only fur­ther com­pli­cate humanity’s lag­ging efforts to fight global warm­ing, experts say.

There’s no ideal num­ber, but cer­tainly I would say there are too many peo­ple on our planet for our cur­rent lifestyle,” Kam­men said.

Kam­men believes the entire con­ver­sa­tion about pop­u­la­tion is a red her­ring, a view com­monly held among pop­u­la­tion experts.

Instead, he says the focus should be on whether or not coun­tries are wisely using resources. That’s when the wealth of nations like the U.S., and not their pop­u­la­tion, come into focus.

A study in the jour­nal Nature Sus­tain­abil­ity this year found that the world’s wealth­i­est 10% of peo­ple pro­duce 47% of its car­bon emis­sions, com­pared to just 10% of emis­sions for the entire bot­tom half of the eco­nomic ladder.

To put it another way, World Bank data shows the aver­age Nigerian’s car­bon foot­print is 0.6 met­ric tons each year. With the globe cur­rently emit­ting about 34 bil­lion met­ric tons of CO2 annu­ally, that means it could cur­rently sup­port 58 bil­lion peo­ple if they had a Niger­ian car­bon footprint.

On the other hand, the aver­age Amer­i­can uses 14.7 met­ric tons of CO2 each year, mean­ing the world could sup­port just 2.3 bil­lion peo­ple if every­one had an Amer­i­can footprint.

The same effect can be seen within coun­tries. While many Amer­i­cans believe that population-​​dense cities hold the most blame for car­bon emis­sions, work from Kam­men and his col­leagues show the car­bon foot­prints of urban Amer­i­cans are actu­ally sub­stan­tially less than rural res­i­dents, with sub­ur­ban res­i­dents sur­pass­ing both. That’s true both on a per capita basis and in total: about half of U.S. car­bon emis­sions come from sub­ur­ban set­tings, while less than a third come from urban.

Ulti­mately, Kam­men said, the ques­tion is how to reduce resource foot­prints, espe­cially in wealthy nations. The smaller they get, the more peo­ple the planet can support.

While it sure seems like there are a lot of peo­ple on our planet, our indi­vid­ual impact is much more mea­sured by the ways in which we amplify or min­i­mize our foot­print,” Kam­men said. “If you make it about pop­u­la­tion, you avoid how crit­i­cal our pat­terns of con­sump­tion are.”

Experts also say the chal­lenges of pop­u­la­tion decline are not insurmountable.

John­ston says it will come down to smart plan­ning and coop­er­a­tion. If pop­u­la­tions do peak and fall, gov­ern­ments can mit­i­gate the reper­cus­sions by shar­ing resources more equi­tably. That will likely include sac­ri­fices among the older gen­er­a­tions. Not with their lives as “Plan 75″ depicts, but through higher retire­ment ages and adjust­ments to pen­sions and benefits.

Other experts note that it may be pos­si­ble to main­tain pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els with fewer peo­ple, through increased edu­ca­tion or even pos­si­bly with the assis­tance of tech­nolo­gies like Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence and automa­tion. In the end, peo­ple of work­ing ages may also need to sac­ri­fice in the form of higher taxes.

But such a future will inevitably look dif­fer­ent than the world we live in now, and Good­hart and Prad­han warn a lot will be rid­ing on whether or not soci­eties accept such changes.

We doubt that politi­cians, fac­ing ris­ing health and pen­sion costs, will be pre­pared or able to raise taxes enough to equi­li­brate the econ­omy via fis­cal pol­icy,” they wrote.

Pop­u­la­tion ‘cures’ can be worse than pop­u­la­tion collapse

While pop­u­la­tion decline comes with chal­lenges, experts warn that attempts to reverse course are often at best inef­fec­tual, and at worst hate­ful and destructive.

After all, they note, the basis of pop­u­la­tion decline is per­sonal freedom.

Reiner Kling­holz, a pop­u­la­tion researcher and author based in Ger­many, notes that smaller fam­i­lies and a more devel­oped lifestyle often go hand-​​in-​​hand. As a soci­ety becomes wealth­ier and more edu­cated, its fer­til­ity rate invari­ably falls.

That’s par­tic­u­larly tied to women’s edu­ca­tion and empow­er­ment. When women become more edu­cated, both pro­fes­sion­ally and on sex­ual repro­duc­tion, they are pre­sented with life choices beyond home­maker and often choose to have less chil­dren, experts say. Devel­op­ment also brings increased wealth, which cre­ates soci­eties that are over­all health­ier and hap­pier, even if the fer­til­ity rate is lower.

Look at Swe­den and Den­mark,” where fer­til­ity rates stand at 1.7, Kling­holz said. “Peo­ple are very happy in these countries.”

Also trou­bling: Con­cerns about pop­u­la­tion decline often boost xenophobia.

In the United States, “Great Replace­ment The­ory” – an unfounded con­spir­acy that polit­i­cal lead­ers are inten­tion­ally replac­ing white Amer­i­cans with non-​​white immi­grants –   has moved from extreme right-​​wing cir­cles into main­stream discourse.

Per­haps nowhere is this ten­sion more appar­ent glob­ally than in Hun­gary, where the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban is now offer­ing about $30,000 and a raft of sub­si­dies on homes and cars for Hun­gar­ian fam­i­lies with at least four chil­dren, while oppos­ing new immigration.

Instead of just num­bers, we want Hun­gar­ian chil­dren. Migra­tion for us is sur­ren­der,” Orban said in 2020.

Such rhetoric stands in stark con­trast to most econ­o­mists, who accord­ing to Good­hart and Prad­han, value immi­gra­tion as a tool to off­set pop­u­la­tion decline and boost a country’s work­force and productivity.

Attempts to instead fix pop­u­la­tion decline through eco­nomic poli­cies like tax incen­tives often fail due to the ties between women’s empow­er­ment and lower fer­til­ity rates, said Per Espen Stok­nes, direc­tor of the BI Cen­tre for Sus­tain­abil­ity and Energy at the Nor­we­gian Busi­ness School.

Men can’t tell women how many chil­dren they should have,” Stok­nes said. “It’s not really about the issue of (resources). It’s really about what kind of life do women want for themselves?”

A hap­pier future?

John­ston says that in the end, pop­u­la­tion decline doesn’t have to be a cri­sis. Ulti­mately, as with cli­mate change, it comes down to wise resource allocation.

If human­ity can coop­er­ate and effi­ciently dis­trib­ute resources through immi­gra­tion and eco­nomic poli­cies, it could build a world with where peo­ple are fewer but more edu­cated, and in which pro­duc­tiv­ity and inge­nu­ity still flourish.

But that’s a big “if.”

It might be so much health­ier if there’s a smaller pop­u­la­tion over­all, but much more coop­er­a­tion,” John­ston said. “If China goes from 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple to 800 mil­lion, but peo­ple go from peas­ants to mid­dle class, how on Earth is that going to be a bad shift?”

Kyle Bagen­stose cov­ers cli­mate change, chem­i­cals, water and other envi­ron­men­tal top­ics for USA TODAY. He can be reached at kbagenstose@​gannett.​com or on Twit­ter @kylebagenstose.

KPCC (NPR, Southern California): “CA Sets New Record For Power Use As Brutal Heat Wave Continues”

KPCC “Air Talk: with Larry Man­tle (89.3 FM, South­ern California)

To lis­ten (25 min­utes, click here).

Direct link:

https://www.kpcc.org/show/airtalk/2022–09-07/ca-sets-new-record-for-power-use-as-brutal-heat-wave-continues-how-are-you-dealing

Screen Shot 2022-09-07 at 11.01.28 PM

CA Sets New Record For Power Use As Bru­tal Heat Wave Con­tin­ues. How Are You Dealing?

Despite calls to con­serve power, California’s energy demands were at an all-​​time high Tues­day. The extreme heat wave is cre­at­ing a big need for power, so much that we blew past a record set dur­ing a heat wave 16 years ago. Cal-​​ISO, which oper­ates the state’s power grid, first reported that energy use in the state sur­passed more than 50,300 megawatts as of 3:09 p.m. Tues­day. That was 68 megawatts above the 2006 record. Ulti­mately it hit 52,061 megawatts. Cal-​​ISO typ­i­cally calls an alert when tem­per­a­tures are hot. Energy con­sump­tion runs higher dur­ing these times, so peo­ple need to cut down. But heat isn’t the only fac­tor. All of these issues can put a strain on our state’s power grid. Mean­while, the Fairview Fire in Hemet exploded over Labor Day week­end killing two res­i­dents as they were try­ing to flee. Today on AirTalk, we’re joined by Eric Boldtmete­o­rol­o­gist with the National Weather Ser­vice in Oxnard, Daniel Kam­men, pro­fes­sor of energy at UC Berke­ley, and Jon Heg­gie, bat­tal­ion chief with Cal Fire, to dis­cuss the lat­est on SoCal’s heat wave, the fire rag­ing in Hemet, and the new power use record set last night by Californians.

The Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS could kick US climate policy back into action

For the orig­i­nal link, August 8, 2022, click here.

https://​www​.pop​sci​.com/​e​n​v​i​r​o​n​m​e​n​t​/​c​h​i​p​s​-​i​r​a​-​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​-​c​h​a​n​g​e​-​p​o​l​i​cy/

Bt Thor Ben­son, for Pop­u­lar Science

For the past few weeks, cli­mate action in the US appeared to have a bleak out­look. But things are look­ing to change with the pas­sage and intro­duc­tion of two new ground­break­ing bills.

Con­gress passed a bill called the CHIPS and Sci­ence Act on July 28th to boost domes­tic semi­con­duc­tor pro­duc­tion and fund sci­en­tific research. The Sen­ate also just passed an expan­sive bill called the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act (IRA).

Both bills would do quite a bit to help the US fight cli­mate change—much to the relief of many Democ­rats in Con­gress wor­ried about get­ting cli­mate leg­is­la­tion passed before the midterms. But with so much leg­is­la­tion float­ing around, keep­ing track of each bill’s actions can be tricky.

Here’s what you need to know about cli­mate change poli­cies in the IRA and CHIPS act.

Direct cli­mate action from the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act

Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 8.48.34 AM

The Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act includes roughly $369 bil­lion for cli­mate pro­grams, mean­ing, if passed, it could be the most sig­nif­i­cant cli­mate bill Con­gress has ever passed. The bill offers tax incen­tives to com­pa­nies to increase the pro­duc­tion of wind, solar, and bat­tery tech­nolo­gies. Addi­tion­ally, the bill lim­its the amount of methane a US com­pany can emit, which is cru­cial because methane is a potent green­house gas.

As for ordi­nary folks, the bill offers a $7,500 tax credit toward pur­chas­ing a new elec­tric vehi­cle and a $4,000 tax credit toward pur­chas­ing a used one and more. This is impor­tant because elec­tric cars are bet­ter for the cli­mate than gasoline-​​powered vehi­cles. But, it may have the bonus of con­vinc­ing car man­u­fac­tur­ers to keep build­ing more elec­tric vehi­cles and could increase the build­ing of charg­ing stations.

Whether you’re on the EV side, whether you’re on the sta­tion­ary green power side, see­ing them all in the same bill is crit­i­cally impor­tant,” Daniel Kam­men, a pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. “It mes­sages that $369 bil­lion is being spent in a holis­tic way.”

report from the Rhodium Group, an inde­pen­dent research firm, found the IRA would reduce green­house gas emis­sions by 31 to 44 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030. Green­house gas emis­sions peaked coun­try­wide in 2005, but since then, car­bon emis­sions have shrunk by 20 per­cent. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion has set a goal of reduc­ing emis­sions by 50 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030—so the IRA would pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant boost.

Cur­rent pro­jec­tions show the IRA wouldn’t get us to the Biden administration’s cli­mate goals by itself, but Kam­men feels that the effects of it pass­ing could “snow­ball.” He says that the ini­tial invest­ment could spur fur­ther invest­ments and break­throughs to help us reach or exceed planned emis­sion reductions.

The CHIPS bill ups fund­ing in sci­ence and technology

The CHIPS and Sci­ence Act mainly focuses on increas­ing the domes­tic pro­duc­tion of semi­con­duc­tors used in com­put­ers, phones, vehi­cles and more. That being said, the bill con­tains other impor­tant pro­vi­sions. It includes roughly $200 bil­lion of fund­ing for sci­en­tific research, which is a sig­nif­i­cant increase in fund­ing. That money could be crit­i­cal in devel­op­ing new technologies—from arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to nuclear fusion—and could help the US reach its cli­mate goals. Kam­men says the bill’s fund­ing could be ben­e­fi­cial as the US tries to build more renew­able energy.

The more we think about what has dri­ven the remark­able cost declines in solar, in bat­ter­ies and wind, it’s cer­tainly man­u­fac­tur­ing, but it’s also sys­tems inte­gra­tion,” Kam­men says. “That’s a place where the US is bet­ter poised than it may think it is to be a real leader. Clean energy sys­tems require as much smart inter­con­nec­tion as they do great pieces of indi­vid­ual hardware.”

The fund­ing in the CHIPS bill could help the US fur­ther inte­grate its energy sys­tems, mak­ing for more effec­tive and effi­cient energy use in towns and cities. “Assum­ing we get a ver­sion of the Schumer-​​Manchin IRA bill and [CHIPS], it actu­ally sets the US up pretty well,” Kam­men says, “because you get both upstream, smart inte­gra­tion devel­op­ments and $369 bil­lion of deploy­ment money from tax cred­its, so I think they do work together.”

Together, these two bills work to fund urgently needed change in cli­mate pol­icy, con­sid­er­ing there’s only so much time to do some­thing. The CHIPS bill’s invest­ments could also bring us the next gen­er­a­tion of climate-​​fighting tech­nolo­gies and bet­ter inte­grate our exist­ing and devel­op­ing energy sys­tems. The US looked poised to fail in its attempts to fight cli­mate change, but these bills are cre­at­ing some hope.

How data-​​driven research partnerships deepen energy access across supply chains

For the Green­Biz arti­cle, click here.

Offgrid Box in the field

An unpacked “Box” in the field, pro­vid­ing power for water fil­tra­tion and clinic elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. Photo by Sam Miles

 

 

Access to reli­able, afford­able and clean energy is increas­ingly rec­og­nized as the “golden thread” tying together and enabling many other Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs). Despite progress over the last decade in mak­ing solu­tions to energy poverty more acces­si­ble to the more than 800 mil­lion peo­ple cur­rently with­out elec­tric­ity (and the many more with inter­mit­tent or unaf­ford­able energy) many gaps remain. In par­tic­u­lar, the COVID-​​19 cri­sis has dis­rupted sup­ply and demand for energy, both of which are nec­es­sary to meet SDG 7.

At the same time, tran­si­tion­ing to more renew­able energy-​​based elec­tric­ity sys­tems requir­ing bat­tery stor­age, whether in emerg­ing mar­kets or devel­oped ones, will require mas­sive amounts of min­eral resources with sig­nif­i­cant human and envi­ron­men­tal foot­prints. A paper pub­lished by USAID in late 2021under­scores the urgency of address­ing min­ing in the con­text of the green energy transition:

Recent global stud­ies pre­dict demand increases of up to ten times cur­rent pro­duc­tion lev­els for min­er­als like cobalt, graphite, and lithium. No mat­ter the mix of alter­nate energy sources the world turns to, the min­ing sec­tor will be a key player in the years ahead.

To meet the ambi­tious goal of uni­ver­sal mod­ern energy by 2030 — while grap­pling with the con­se­quences of crit­i­cal min­er­als demand growth — har­mo­nized poli­cies, coor­di­nated invest­ment and inno­v­a­tive research are urgently needed. Equally or even more impor­tant, how­ever, are the under­stud­ied and under­sup­ported part­ner­ships that can cat­alyze and scale these efforts to make SDG7 both a life­line and a means of eco­nomic empow­er­ment and equity.

The Congo Power alliance rep­re­sents one such inno­v­a­tive coali­tion approach. Ini­tially launched by Google’s Sup­plier Respon­si­bil­ity team in 2017 to rein­force respon­si­ble min­er­als trade and expand eco­nomic oppor­tu­nity through clean energy, the ini­tia­tive sup­ports com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­ted to the respon­si­ble sourc­ing of min­er­als that are ubiq­ui­tous in elec­tron­ics and his­tor­i­cally tied to con­flict and human rights abuses. This min­eral trade focuses on tung­sten, tin, tan­ta­lum, gold and cobalt, mak­ing this issue par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal in the African Great Lakes Region, where much of the world’s sup­ply of these min­er­als’ stock lies underground.

A graphic of the Africa Great Lakes region

The African Great Lakes region includes Angola, Burundi, Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Repub­lic of the Congo, Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Repub­lic of South Sudan, Sudan, Tan­za­nia and Zam­bia. Image cour­tesy of Google, USAID

 

 

 

 

As part of its over­ar­ch­ing sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy, Google com­mit­ted to max­i­miz­ing our use of finite resources, which includes sup­port­ing in-​​region pro­grams that rein­force respon­si­ble sup­ply chains, and increas­ing the use of recy­cled mate­ri­als. These pro­gram com­mit­ments are also part of meet­ing the expec­ta­tions of Sec­tion 1502 of the Dodd-​​Frank Act, which man­date that all pub­licly traded com­pa­nies com­plete due dili­gence on their sup­ply chains, and report on those measures.

In line with these com­mit­ments, the Congo Power team has invested in 14 com­mu­nity projects since 2017 and has brought a broad group of stake­hold­ers along. On a Public-​​Private Alliance for Respon­si­ble Min­er­als Trade (PPA) del­e­ga­tion with the U.S. State Depart­ment in late 2019, for exam­ple, Google, Nokia, Intel, Apple, Global Advanced Met­als, USAID, U.S. Depart­ment of State, GiZ, the Respon­si­ble Busi­ness Alliance and RESOLVE vis­ited the Idjwi Island min­i­grid and spent time with the Panzi Foundation’s Denis Muk­wege dis­cussing the inter­sec­tion of human rights and respon­si­ble sourc­ing in the region.

As a result of that trip, the Congo Power team focused on build­ing a deeper rela­tion­ship with the Panzi Foun­da­tion and put com­mu­nity health clin­ics at the cen­ter of address­ing power, gen­der, energy equity along with rein­forc­ing respon­si­ble sup­ply chains. The team also con­tin­ues to expand col­lab­o­ra­tions with con­ser­va­tion areas such as Garamba National Park, which is deploy­ing clean power sys­tems to sup­port local eco­nomic activ­i­ties (both min­ing and non-​​mining) in ways that reduce threats to the park’s con­ser­va­tion and bio­di­ver­sity goals.

Four artisanal gold miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at a site visited by the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade delegation in 2019.

Four arti­sanal gold min­ers in the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo at a site vis­ited by the Public-​​Private Alliance for Respon­si­ble Min­er­als Trade del­e­ga­tion in 2019. Photo Credit: Alyssa Newman

 

 

 

 

The program’s launch high­lighted the impor­tance of deep rela­tion­ships between devel­op­ment part­ners, con­sumer brands and NGOs with deep in-​​country oper­at­ing exper­tise, such as Give­Power and Resolve. This multi-​​sector approach is crit­i­cal for draw­ing in fur­ther “down­stream” con­glom­er­ates whose cus­tomers increas­ingly demand end prod­ucts made with respon­si­bly sourced materials.

This strat­egy has suc­cess­fully brought on some of the world’s largest man­u­fac­tur­ers to the alliance’s com­mit­ment to respon­si­ble sourc­ing. Intel has funded two addi­tional phases, and other part­ners are in the process of mak­ing fund­ing com­mit­ments. The alliance col­lab­o­rates with plat­forms such as Cobalt for Devel­op­ment (BMW, Sam­sung, BASF, GIZ, Volk­swa­gen, Good Shep­herd Inter­na­tional Foun­da­tion and oth­ers) and the Fair Cobalt Alliance(Tesla, Fair­fone, The Impact Facil­ity and oth­ers) to rein­force mutual objec­tives in respon­si­ble sourc­ing, and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing on the ground.

Beyond pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners, acad­e­mia plays an impor­tant role within this con­sor­tium. Through a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab (RAEL) at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, the Congo Power ini­tia­tive explores how inno­v­a­tive energy solu­tions can improve liveli­hoods and resilience across com­mu­ni­ties in East and Cen­tral Africa. Pre­vi­ously funded research has explored the inter­sec­tion between energy poverty and con­flict, the evo­lu­tion of real-​​time mon­i­tor­ing of decen­tral­ized energy sys­tems, oper­at­ing mod­els for mini-​​grids in urban infor­mal set­tle­ments, the impact of solar-​​home-​​systems on energy, gen­der and social jus­tice, and frame­works for under­stand­ing com­mu­nity participation’s role in mini-​​grid projects.

This is just the begin­ning, how­ever. Many ques­tions remain for the RAEL/​Congo Power col­lab­o­ra­tion to uncover in improv­ing the deliv­ery of sus­tain­able and appro­pri­ate energy solu­tions across the var­i­ous sup­ply chains that con­sti­tute the lifeblood of vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties around the world.

Chief among the initiative’s research ambi­tions is devel­op­ing a deeper sense of how to make $1 of invest­ment in renew­able energy “go fur­ther.” Bench­mark impact met­rics for inno­v­a­tive energy projects are lack­ing in the empir­i­cal lit­er­a­ture, par­tic­u­larly for mini-​​grid tech­nolo­gies, increas­ingly rec­og­nized as the least-​​cost way to elec­trify hun­dreds of mil­lions of those with­out power. Devel­op­ing and doc­u­ment­ing enabling part­ner­ships also offers a key resource for nations, busi­nesses, multi­na­tional aid /​ devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tions and civil soci­ety to inter­ro­gate poten­tial solu­tions and scale up win­ning con­cepts that can help meet goals set in the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ments and other SDGs.

Fun­da­men­tally, such a private-​​public-​​academic part­ner­ship boils down to explor­ing what kinds of impact — described both quan­ti­ta­tively and qual­i­ta­tively — dif­fer­ent energy deliv­ery mod­els can achieve across insti­tu­tional and geo­graph­i­cal scales. And beyond the eval­u­a­tion of impact: Which nar­ra­tives can most effec­tively com­mu­ni­cate these insights into action­able sup­port for promis­ing solu­tions and their developers?

Guided by such aca­d­e­mic research ques­tions, these part­ner­ships are able to fund imple­men­ta­tion part­ners as well. Nuru, Equa­to­r­ial Power and Off­Grid­Box are three such part­ners in East and Cen­tral Africa, whose oper­a­tions are pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal insights into key techno-​​economic and oper­a­tional chal­lenges to scal­ing energy access.

These orga­ni­za­tions have a wide and diverse foot­print. Nuru builds and oper­ates mini-​​grids across remote, rural, and urban areas of the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC). Their prin­ci­pal instal­la­tion is one of the largest mini-​​grids in Africa, sup­ply­ing more than 1,800 cus­tomers through a 1.3 megawatt solar-​​hybrid instal­la­tion in peri-​​urban neigh­bor­hoods in Goma, DRC. Congo Power sup­ported Equa­to­r­ial Power’s very first instal­la­tion mini-​​grid, a 20 kilowatt-​​peak (kWp) instal­la­tion on Idjwi Island on Lake Kivu (sep­a­rat­ing the DRC and Rwanda) sup­ply­ing over 300 con­nec­tions, includ­ing sev­eral small-​​to-​​medium enter­prises. Off­Grid­Box has deployed one of its 3.4 kWp con­tainer­ized power and water instal­la­tions in Walikale (a min­ing cen­ter in east­ern DRC), with more than 80 iden­ti­cal such deploy­ments around the world.

OffGridBoxes (“Boxes”) ready for deployment at the Rwandan headquarters.

Off­Grid­Boxes (“Boxes”) ready for deploy­ment at the Rwan­dan head­quar­ters. Photo by Sam Miles

 

 

 

 

To gain deep yet broad insights into the chal­lenge of strength­en­ing the “golden thread,” RAEL researchers within the Congo Power alliance aim to be both method­i­cal yet prac­ti­cal in devel­op­ing research themes from these ini­tial project foci — par­tic­u­larly impor­tant given the chal­lenges of doing in-​​person research through a pandemic.

One theme that con­sis­tently emerges through and across such projects is the impor­tance of “pro­duc­tive” uses of elec­tric­ity — most sim­ply defined as the abil­ity of elec­tric­ity users to gen­er­ate addi­tional income on the basis of improved energy access. When, where and how are infor­mal arti­sans, entre­pre­neurs and labor­ers able to con­vert renew­able elec­tric­ity into improved eco­nomic out­comes for them­selves, their home­steads and their com­mu­ni­ties? These ques­tions have proven par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing to answer, despite over two decades of schol­ar­ship describ­ing pro­duc­tive uses of elec­tric­ity as a cor­ner­stone under­pin­ning the finan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity, and thus scal­a­bil­ity, of energy access solu­tions with high upfront invest­ment costs and low margins.

RAEL researchers have brought novel eval­u­a­tion approaches to tackle this prob­lem, includ­ing live-​​monitoring of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion of pro­duc­tive use pilots across the region, geospa­tial and remote sens­ing tech­niques lever­ag­ing satel­lite imagery and machine learn­ing, as well as pilot­ing new power qual­ity and reli­a­bil­ity mea­sure­ment method­olo­gies for eval­u­at­ing the state of elec­tric­ity for health ser­vices, includ­ing cold stor­age, through col­lab­o­ra­tions with infrastructure-​​monitoring startup nLine.

Many impor­tant ques­tions beyond how to cat­alyze income gen­er­at­ing uses of elec­tric­ity remain, how­ever. Does street light­ing reduce crime in remote vil­lages or rapidly urban­iz­ing envi­ron­ments? Can decen­tral­ized energy solu­tions bridge the gaps in Africa’s vac­cine cold chains? How can project fun­ders best col­lab­o­rate with pri­vate sec­tor imple­menters, NGOs, and pol­i­cy­mak­ers to opti­mize the impacts of a given energy project, tar­get­ing out­comes as dis­parate as sup­ply chain trace­abil­ity, pro­duc­tive end uses, con­ser­va­tion or women’s empowerment?

Public street lighting provided by Nuru in a community near Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pub­lic street light­ing pro­vided by Nuru in a com­mu­nity near Garamba National Park, Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of Congo. Photo by Esther Nsapu 

These and many other research ques­tions will guide RAEL researchers as the Congo Power ini­tia­tive con­tin­ues to gain momen­tum and part­ners. A much wider con­sor­tium of part­ners, how­ever, is still needed to con­front the mag­ni­tude of the chal­lenges ahead, and data-​​driven research is crit­i­cal to har­ness the dis­parate per­spec­tives, resources and objec­tives such a big tent approach entails.

For cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­ity pro­fes­sion­als, join­ing coali­tions such as Congo Power is one way to con­nect many dis­tinct pieces of the chal­lenges that lie ahead: con­fronting cli­mate change by sup­port­ing cleaner energy pro­duc­tion in com­mu­ni­ties at the very start of their sup­ply chains, tack­ling the human rights impli­ca­tions of expo­nen­tial demand growth for min­er­als required for elec­tron­ics infra­struc­ture includ­ing renew­able energy equip­ment and bat­tery stor­age tech­nolo­gies, and ensur­ing the equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of poten­tial ben­e­fits from the global energy tran­si­tion are dis­trib­uted equi­tably. No one com­pany or orga­ni­za­tion can move the nee­dle on their own, but it is increas­ingly clear that share­hold­ers, con­sumers, employ­ees and reg­u­la­tors are plac­ing greater respon­si­bil­ity on global brands to step up to the challenge.

Part­ner­ships such as Congo Power pro­vide a clear path­way for private-​​public part­ner­ships to explore and sup­port cutting-​​edge projects, tech­nolo­gies and infra­struc­tures, guided by the most recent empir­i­cal evi­dence of impact. With rig­or­ous, inter­sec­tional and action­able research guid­ing such a pow­er­ful coali­tion of com­mit­ted part­ners, a truly just energy tran­si­tion is possible.

Editor’s note: Ser­ena Patel (MIT), Hilary Yu, Joyce­line Mare­alle (both UC Berke­ley) and Alyssa New­man (Google and UC Berke­ley) also con­tributed to this article.

Author Biog­ra­phy Links:

 

California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045

Opin­ion piece in the Los Ange­les Times, May 17, 2022

To jump to the news­pa­per, click here.

 

      Cal­i­for­nia can do bet­ter than car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2045

DANIEL KAMMEN

Ten years ago, many Cal­i­for­ni­ans could not have imag­ined the cli­mate night­mare we are liv­ing today — dark orange skies dur­ing wild­fire sea­son, heat waves in the dead of win­ter, manda­tory water restric­tions amid crip­pling drought.

With­out urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest cli­mate chal­lenges — hot­ter sum­mers, a shorter rainy sea­son and more destruc­tive wild­fires — could dou­ble in intensity.

It’s against this back­drop that the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board (CARB) last week released a draft of our state’s scop­ing plan, a blue­print for com­bat­ing cli­mate change that will guide California’s pol­icy for years. Despite the stakes for Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and although my research indi­cates the state could actu­ally become car­bon neg­a­tive by 2030, the draft pro­posal would delay reach­ing car­bon neu­tral until 2045. The bar­ri­ers to a tar­get of 2030 are polit­i­cal, not technical.

The draft plan calls for invest­ment in new fos­sil fuel elec­tric­ity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that would lock in fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion. Adopt­ing this approach would be lazy, non­sen­si­cal and racially unjust. Dur­ing the cur­rent 45-​​day period for pub­lic review of the plan, Cal­i­for­nia has the chance to choose a smarter path.

An aerial view of wetlands next to a power station

The Hunt­ing­ton Beach Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion includes a nat­ural gas gen­er­a­tor that began oper­a­tion in 2020.

                                                                     (Allen J. Sch­aben /​ Los Ange­les Times)

Renew­able energy, even when cou­pled with energy stor­age, is cheaper than fos­sil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renew­able energy must be pri­or­i­tized before build­ing out expen­sive and pol­lut­ing gas power plants. Instead, Cal­i­for­nia must set ambi­tious tar­gets that imme­di­ately cut pol­lu­tion through no-​​regrets strategies.

If we fall short of the cli­mate action that sci­ence demands, Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and espe­cially lower-​​income Cal­i­for­ni­ans and com­mu­ni­ties of color, will pay the price. What’s more, we could see this failed model repli­cated across other states and nations. It’s not hyper­bole to say bil­lions of peo­ple could be worse off if Cal­i­for­nia fails to lead.

By the same token, if our state sets an ambi­tious but achiev­able goal — like car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2030 or 2035 — the ben­e­fits rip­ple widely. Other states and nations are look­ing to Cal­i­for­nia. If we set an ambi­tious tar­get and focus future pol­icy toward meet­ing it, oth­ers are more likely to adapt as well. Even when cli­mate goals are not reached, they keep poli­cies and invest­ments mov­ing in the right direction.

Last sum­mer, when he directed CARB to exam­ine accel­er­at­ing California’s cli­mate tar­gets to 2035 or sooner, Gov. Gavin New­som said “sci­ence demands we do more.” Hav­ing just announced a his­toric $32-​​billion invest­ment in cli­mate pro­grams over the next five years, he must now step in and ensure that reg­u­la­tors live up to his call to increase cli­mate ambi­tion across the board.

To get this plan­ning process back on track, reg­u­la­tors must start by cor­rect­ing the flawed method­ol­ogy that is the under­pin­ning of their cur­rent pro­posal. CARB’s eco­nomic and jobs mod­el­ing fails to incor­po­rate both the true cost of delay­ing emis­sions reduc­tions and the full health and soci­etal ben­e­fits from more ambi­tious emis­sions reduc­tions. Put sim­ply, Cal­i­for­nia can cre­ate more jobs and more pros­per­ity with renew­ables than we can with fos­sil fuels.

In devel­op­ing the scop­ing plan, CARB staff used a mea­sure called the social cost of car­bon, which puts a dol­lar value on the dam­ages cre­ated by addi­tional green­house gas emis­sions. The prob­lem is, these esti­mates vastly under­es­ti­mated the costs of delay­ing cli­mate action.

If we don’t begin to rapidly reduce fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion, the impacts on California’s health­care sys­tem, our econ­omy, our food sup­ply and our com­mu­ni­ties will be orders of mag­ni­tude greater than what CARB has accounted for. Reg­u­la­tors can cor­rect this by align­ing with experts’ lat­est analy­sis, which cal­cu­lates the true social cost of car­bon at $50 per ton of pol­lu­tion emit­ted.

As a next step, reg­u­la­tors need to acknowl­edge it is far too late in the game to gam­ble our state’s future on unproven car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that may never mate­ri­al­ize. CARB’s draft scop­ing plan projects that Cal­i­for­nia will use 100 mil­lion met­ric tons (MMT) of direct air cap­ture in 2045. Glob­ally, only 0.01 MMT of annual direct air cap­ture is hap­pen­ing today. It is unre­al­is­tic to assume we can scale up this tech­nol­ogy so much overnight, and fool­ish to direct invest­ment to unproven exper­i­ments when afford­able nat­ural car­bon removal solu­tions like com­post­ing and tree-​​planting are read­ily avail­able now.

We have afford­able renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies avail­able today that not only cut car­bon emis­sions but also tackle our state’s air pol­lu­tion cri­sis. California’s scop­ing plan should mobi­lize a vast expan­sion of renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies. Instead, the cur­rent pro­posal calls for 10 gigawatts of new nat­ural gas gen­er­at­ing capac­ity — the equiv­a­lent of 33 large new gas plants.

There is still time for CARB and New­som to deliver a bold cli­mate blue­print that cen­ters equity and pub­lic health and focuses on a no-​​regrets approach of renew­able energy invest­ment. It’s California’s legacy and lives around the world that are at stake. We can­not afford to fall short.

Daniel Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at UC Berke­ley. He is a for­mer coor­di­nat­ing author of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC),  Kam­men in cur­rently serv­ing in the Biden-​​Harris Admin­is­tra­tion as Senior Advi­sor for Energy & Inno­va­tion at the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (USAID) 

@dan_kammen

One way to combat Russia? Move faster on clean energy

Sammy Roth — Feb­ru­ary 26, 2022 - Los Ange­les Times

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The sun sets behind an off­shore wind farm in the Irish Sea off the coast of England.
(Paul Ellis /​ AFP/​Getty Images)

Direct link: https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022–02-26/one-way-to-combat-russia-move-faster-on-clean-energy

 

When a geopo­lit­i­cal cri­sis sent gaso­line prices sky­rock­et­ing four decades ago, Pres­i­dent Carter called on Amer­i­cans to achieve “energy inde­pen­dence” from Mid­dle East­ern oil exporters. He installed solar pan­els on the White House, donned a cardi­gan sweater to stay warm and took steps to boost domes­tic oil production.

Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine has again upended global energy sup­plies, threat­en­ing to raise gas prices that are already higher than ever in Cal­i­for­nia. The U.S. oil indus­try wants Pres­i­dent Biden to ease restric­tions on drilling, and Europe has already started import­ing more fos­sil fuel from the United States to reduce its depen­dence on Russ­ian supplies.

But dou­bling down on oil and nat­ural gas isn’t the answer, some secu­rity experts say — and nei­ther is energy independence.

The war in Europe adds to the urgency of tran­si­tion­ing to clean energy sources such as solar and wind power that are harder for bad actors such as Rus­sia to dis­rupt, those experts say. The con­flict also high­lights the impor­tance of the U.S., the Euro­pean Union and other allies work­ing together to con­front the cli­mate cri­sis while tak­ing global secu­rity into account.

There’s been a lot of con­cern about depen­dence on Russ­ian [nat­ural] gas, and whether that inhibits coun­tries’ abil­ity to stand up to Rus­sia,” said Erin Siko­rsky, direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based Cen­ter for Cli­mate and Secu­rity. “The more that coun­tries can wean them­selves off oil and gas and move toward renew­ables, the more inde­pen­dence they have in terms of action.”

It’s also impor­tant to remem­ber that cli­mate change poses a major national secu­rity threat, with the Defense Depart­ment and other fed­eral offi­cials warn­ing last year that wors­en­ing climate-​​fueled haz­ards are likely to drive a surge in global migra­tion, stok­ing polit­i­cal insta­bil­ity. That helps explain why the U.S. Army released its first-​​ever cli­mate strat­egy this month, set­ting a goal of slash­ing its planet-​​warming emis­sions in half and pow­er­ing all bases with climate-​​friendly elec­tric­ity by 2030.

Siko­rsky pointed out that Defense Sec­re­tary Lloyd J. Austin III has called China the “pac­ing threat” for the U.S., mean­ing it poses greater sys­temic chal­lenges than any other nation. The cli­mate emer­gency, Siko­rsky said, is America’s “shap­ing threat.”

It is shap­ing every­thing in the back­ground now that the United States is deal­ing with,” she said.

Even before Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine this week, Euro­pean nations were mak­ing plans to cut their reliance on energy exports from Rus­sia. The coun­try sup­plies more than one-​​quarter of Europe’s oil and nearly 40% of its nat­ural gas, a dif­fer­ent planet-​​warming fuel used for heat­ing and elec­tric­ity generation.

But Russ­ian aggres­sion has sped up the E.U.’s plans. Euro­pean offi­cials are expected to release a strat­egy next week for reduc­ing the continent’s use of fos­sil fuels by 40% over eight years, and ramp­ing up non-​​polluting energy sources.

It’s a plan designed to slow the cli­mate cri­sis, which is wreak­ing havoc around the world by exac­er­bat­ing wild­fires, floods, droughts and heat waves. But cut­ting back on fos­sil fuels would also help to limit Russia’s geopo­lit­i­cal influence.image

Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Decem­ber. (Alexei Nikol­sky /​ Asso­ci­ated Press)

UC Berke­ley energy pro­fes­sor Daniel Kam­men — who pre­vi­ously served as sci­ence envoy for then-​​Secretary of State John F. Kerry — lamented that Europe “has clearly needed higher moti­va­tions than cli­mate change to cut the Gor­dian gas knot with Rus­sia.” But if Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine pushes the E.U. to act, he said, it could be a sil­ver lin­ing to an oth­er­wise tragic situation.

For all we talk about how inex­pen­sive renew­ables are, and how quickly energy stor­age is com­ing down in price, that hasn’t been enough when it appears that ‘just’ the cli­mate is at stake,” Kam­men said. “Now Euro­pean sov­er­eignty is at stake.”

Still, there’s no guar­an­tee Europe will fol­low through on its lat­est cli­mate com­mit­ments. Even if the geopo­lit­i­cal cri­sis under­scores the ben­e­fits of shift­ing to renew­able energy, it could also dis­tract global lead­ers from the longer-​​term cli­mate crisis.

And in the mean­time, one of Europe’s strate­gies for deal­ing with con­strained Russ­ian gas sup­plies and ris­ing prices dur­ing the last few months has been import­ing more liq­ue­fied nat­ural gas from the United States. It’s an option made pos­si­ble by frack­ing, which opened up “shale plays” in regions such as west Texas and made Amer­ica the world’s largest oil and nat­ural gas producer.

Putin hates U.S. shale because of the influ­ence it gives the U.S. and the world, and the flex­i­bil­ity it gives us,” said Daniel Yer­gin, a Pulitzer Prize-​​winning oil his­to­rian and vice chair of research and con­sult­ing firm IHS Markit.

The Amer­i­can Petro­leum Insti­tute — a fos­sil fuel indus­try trade group known as API — has urged Biden to respond to the Ukraine cri­sis by allow­ing more oil and gas drilling on fed­eral lands and approv­ing new facil­i­ties to export liq­ue­fied nat­ural gas.

Twenty-​​seven Repub­li­can sen­a­tors made a sim­i­lar demand in a let­ter to Energy Sec­re­tary Jen­nifer Granholm last week, call­ing U.S gas exports “a depend­able source of energy and a reli­able alter­na­tive to strate­gic com­peti­tors like Russia.”

But those steps would carry long-​​term cli­mate con­se­quences,spew­ing more heat-​​trapping pol­lu­tion into that atmos­phere. They’re also unlikely to result in new energy sup­plies com­ing online quickly enough to make a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in Europe.

API’s answer for all of the world’s prob­lems is to remove con­straints on domes­tic oil and gas pro­duc­tion,” said David Vic­tor, an inter­na­tional rela­tions pro­fes­sor at UC San Diego. “It’s just a very well-​​rehearsed argument.”

Rendering of the proposed liquefied natural gas expansion at the Energia Costa Azul facility near Ensenada, Mexico. The plant is operated by IEnova, a Mexico-based energy company and a subsidiary of San Diego's Sempra Energy.

And if Europe fol­lows through on com­mit­ments to ratchet down fos­sil fuel com­bus­tion — per­haps by invest­ing in green hydro­gen or long-​​duration bat­ter­ies — the U.S. could also reap the ben­e­fits, Vic­tor said. That’s because Cal­i­for­nia and other states, like Europe, have a grow­ing need for clean power sources that can keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shin­ing and the wind isn’t blow­ing. Euro­pean invest­ments to scale up those early-​​stage tech­nolo­gies could help drive down costs for everyone.

The tech­nolo­gies that are going to be used — whether it’s elec­trolyz­ers for hydro­gen or fuel cells that use hydro­gen for heavy trucks — these are all global,” Vic­tor said. “Those economies [of scale] are just mas­sive. That’s how solar got cheap.”

Westlands Solar Park in California's San Joaquin Valley.

West­lands Solar Park in California’s San Joaquin Valley.(Carolyn Cole /​ Los Ange­les Times)

Calls for energy inde­pen­dence, Vic­tor added, “often end up back­fir­ing, because we ben­e­fit from a global tech­nol­ogy marketplace.”

At the same time, bulk­ing up domes­tic sup­ply chains could help the U.S. shield itself against price swings and geopo­lit­i­cal con­flict — par­tic­u­larly when it comes to lithium and other min­er­als needed for clean energy tech­nolo­gies such as batteries.

Just this week, Biden joined with Gov. Gavin New­som to announce a $35-​​million con­tract with a Las Vegas com­pany that oper­ates the nation’s only rare-​​earth mine in the Cal­i­for­nia desert. Biden and New­som also dis­cussed fed­eral sup­port for lithium pro­duc­tion at the Salton Sea, in South­ern California’s Impe­r­ial Val­ley, which has been described as the “Saudi Ara­bia of lithium.”

Boost­ing domes­tic pro­duc­tion of crit­i­cal min­er­als could help com­bat Russ­ian influ­ence, since Rus­sia is a lead­ing pro­ducer of met­als includ­ing cop­per and nickel — a reminder that even the clean-​​energy econ­omy isn’t immune from bad actors.

At the same time, the idea of energy inde­pen­dence is “some­what dan­ger­ous, because it offers you a false sense of secu­rity,” said Sarah Ladis­law, a man­ag­ing direc­tor at the think tank RMI. The real­ity, she said, is that the U.S. will need to find ways to work with Rus­sia and other nations to slash cli­mate pol­lu­tion, even as it strives to diver­sify its own clean energy supplies.

You have to be sen­si­tive to your energy vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and have con­tin­gency plans in place,” said Ladis­law, who pre­vi­ously led the energy secu­rity and cli­mate change pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tional Studies.

 

 

 

Berkeley Science Review profile

Screen Shot 2021-12-02 at 10.34.54 PM

Dr. Daniel Kam­men has had a long and illus­tri­ous career defined by his com­mit­ment to expand­ing clean energy world­wide. He orig­i­nally became inter­ested in clean energy as a post­doc work­ing on wind and solar projects in Nicaragua and El Sal­vador in the mid-​​1980s. His research led to a fac­ulty posi­tion at Prince­ton until 1999, when he joined UC Berke­ley. Here, he founded and leads the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL), whose work includes iden­ti­fy­ing novel mate­ri­als for solar pan­els and bat­ter­ies, build­ing com­pu­ta­tional mod­els of regional energy sys­tems to iden­tify oppor­tu­ni­ties for renew­able energy, and imple­ment­ing energy policy.

Although RAEL’s research has resulted in hun­dreds of aca­d­e­mic papers, Kam­men cares deeply about hav­ing a real-​​world impact. He is par­tic­u­larly proud of RAEL’s projects in Africa, as they not only address cli­mate change but also increase peo­ples’ access to energy. One project installs mini solar grids in war-​​torn areas like South Sudan and the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of Congo. These instal­la­tions pro­vide renew­able energy to power crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, like health clin­ics and women’s cen­ters. What started out as an aca­d­e­mic exer­cise in his lab is now a way for com­pa­nies to buy Peace Renew­able Energy Cred­its, an inter­na­tion­ally traded vir­tual com­mod­ity that pro­vides a rev­enue stream for devel­op­ers of renew­able energy projects and offers com­pa­nies a way to finance impact­ful projects in these coun­tries. Out­side of Africa, RAEL’s other projects include elec­tri­fy­ing 30 thou­sand taxis in China, defeat­ing a large coal project in Malaysian Bor­neo, and using Google data from 60 mil­lion rooftops to show the mas­sive amount of social inequal­ity in solar panel usage.

When Kam­men isn’t help­ing com­mu­ni­ties around the world tran­si­tion to clean energy, he’s star­ing out into space. He says, “I have some pretty cool tele­scopes. I do a lot of deep space pho­tog­ra­phy, look­ing at exo­plan­ets and plan­ets around other stars.” Clearly Kam­men cares about plan­ets, whether it’s dis­cov­er­ing new ones or sav­ing ours.

 

For the orig­i­nal: click here.

Or:

https://​berke​ley​sciencere​view​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​2​0​2​1​/​1​1​/​3​0​/​f​a​c​u​l​t​y​-​p​r​o​f​i​l​e​-​d​a​n​i​e​l​-​k​a​m​men

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