Trump Got Climate Change Pretty Wrong in His Paris Speech (HBO)

— Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. — And with that, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the most comprehensive climate deal in the history of the planet— and the best hope of limiting continued global warming. Trump spent most of his 28-minute Rose Garden speech talking about economics: — The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost. — But when he did talk about the Paris Agreement, he was almost entirely wrong: — Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree— think of that. This much.

— Actually, the Paris Climate Agreement wasn’t going to reduce global temperatures at all. The goal was always to cap the rise in global warming at 2°C— and even that goal meant coming to terms with a future in which tidal areas disappear, climate refugees are a daily part of life, and food and water scarcity could lead to greater violence between people and countries. Paris was hardly optimistic. — India will be able to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it—India can double their coal production, we’re supposed to get rid of ours… — Actually, India has canceled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations. Claims of China getting a “better deal” are just as baseless, but that’s not even the point. Part of the reason 194 other parties signed on to the Paris Agreement is that it doesn’t actually require any of them to do anything specific. They each got to pick their own path to reaching their commitments.

So if the United States wanted to, for example, double coal output and quadruple solar, it could do that. It would break the pledge, but there are no consequences for breaking it. The entire agreement is a giant global pinky promise in which everybody tries to do the right thing for the planet. — As the Wall Street Journal wrote this morning, the reality is that withdrawing is in America’s economic interest and won’t matter much to the climate. — The numbers are pretty simple. If the U.S. doesn’t drastically reduce its current carbon output, it’ll be responsible for an additional 0.3°C of global warming by 2100. And it’s not like other countries could simply pull more weight. According to a study in Nature Climate Change, any delay from the United States makes the overall target of limiting warming to 2° unreachable. You can say it was a jobs speech.

You can say it was a brilliant tactical speech that will allow Trump to re-negotiate for terms that benefit Americans— and some Trump supporters will say that. What you can’t say is that Trump’s speech was fluent in the facts of the very agreement he’s pulling out of..

Storing the Sun’s Energy in Liquid Could Change Solar Forever

The sun puts out a lot of energy, more of it hits the earth in an hour than humankind could use in a year And we’re really not taking advantage of it, the US got less than 1% of its electricity from solar power in 2016. If we could get that number higher, we could run our homes, cars, toaster ovens, all with zero emissions. That’s the dream anyway, some perfect future with limitless free energy. So what’s in the near future for this future? Where does solar power go from here? One of the big problems is what do we do when there’s no sun? Like on cloudy days. Or at night time. If we’re going to go all solar, we need a way to store the sun’s energy.Usually, we’d combine solar panels with rechargeable batteries, but batteries are pricey and they kinda suck. So researchers in Sweden are working on how to catch the sun’s energy in a bottle, or at least in a little tube. Those crazy Swedes developed a liquid with an intriguing property. The molecules in the liquid react when exposed to light and become isomers; meaning they still have the same makeup, but in a different arrangement than normal.

This new arrangement stores energy, and when a catalyst is introduced, it shifts the molecules back to their usual structure and releases the stored energy as heat, which could be used to warm homes at night or generate electricity, provided enough heat is released. Recently the researchers switched from expensive ruthenium to the more common elements carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen to build their molecules; this makes the process cheaper and easier. On top of that, they’ve actually increased their storage capacity by a hundredfold! Ok so… they could only store 0.01% of the energy that hit it before… and a hundredfold increase means just 1.1%, but still, progress! Storage isn’t the only issue. The panels themselves are also expensive… If we could make the solar panels cheaper that would go a long way to creating a competitive source of energy compared to fossil fuels and other renewables.

90% of photovoltaic cells today use crystalline silicon, making them expensive to manufacture and the process creates toxic by-products. But an entirely different approach does exist: Using perovskites. Perovskites have a crystal structure of tetrahedral arrangements of atoms and molecules, and depending on which elements are used they have different properties. They could be superconductive, magnetoresistive, or photovoltaic. Solar cells that use them are cheap and easy to assemble and could now be on par with silicon cells in terms of energy efficiency. But you may have noticed every rooftop in sight isn’t covered in perovskites. That’s because they have a fatal flaw: the cells are unstable, and extreme light levels, temperature, and humidity cause them to decompose. Even normal weather can destroy them, which is bad because you typically see a lot of weather outside, the place where solar panels need to be. As a result perovskite cells only function for several months, compared to silicon cells which can last more than 25 years. But hey, a decade ago perovskite cells only lasted a few minutes.

Again, progress! Scientists are constantly coming up with new and ingenious ways to make the sun do our bidding, and these are just a couple of things currently in the works that show promise. Though we don’t use much of it now, breakthroughs and innovation could lead to a world powered cleanly and sustainably by sunlight. The future of solar power looks bright. There are crazier ideas for solar like putting panels in space and beaming electricity to Earth, but a massive project like that would be insanely expensive. They’re fun to ponder though, so Trace covers some far our geoengineering projects here. Do you have a favorite renewable energy technology that’s not quite ready yet? Let us know in the comments, so I can see how many of you say thorium reactors, subscribe for more, and thanks for watching Seeker.


Can We Rely on Wind and Solar Energy?

Are wind and solar power the answer to our energy needs? There’s a lot of sun and a lot of wind. They’re free. They’re clean. No CO2 emissions. So, what’s the problem? Why do solar and wind combined provide less than 2% of the world’s energy? To answer these questions, we need to understand what makes energy, or anything else for that matter, cheap and plentiful. For something to be cheap and plentiful, every part of the process to produce it, including every input that goes into it, must be cheap and plentiful. Yes, the sun is free. Yes, wind is free. But the process of turning sunlight and wind into useable energy on a mass scale is far from free. In fact, compared to the other sources of energy — fossil fuels, nuclear power, and hydroelectric power, solar and wind power are very expensive. The basic problem is that sunlight and wind as energy sources are both weak (the more technical term is dilute) and unreliable (the more technical term is intermittent).

It takes a lot of resources to collect and concentrate them, and even more resources to make them available on-demand. These are called the diluteness problem and the intermittency problem. The diluteness problem is that, unlike coal or oil, the sun and the wind don’t deliver concentrated energy — which means you need a lot of additional materials to produce a unit of energy. For solar power, such materials can include highly purified silicon, phosphorus, boron, and a dozen other complex compounds like titanium dioxide. All these materials have to be mined, refined and/or manufactured in order to make solar panels. Those industrial processes take a lot of energy. For wind, needed materials include high-performance compounds for turbine blades and the rare-earth metal neodymium for lightweight, specialty magnets, as well as the steel and concrete necessary to build structures — thousands of them — as tall as skyscrapers. And as big a problem as diluteness is, it’s nothing compared to the intermittency problem.

This isn’t exactly a news flash, but the sun doesn’t shine all the time. And the wind doesn’t blow all the time. The only way for solar and wind to be truly useful would be if we could store them so that they would be available when we needed them. You can store oil in a tank. Where do you store solar or wind energy? No such mass-storage system exists. Which is why, in the entire world, there is not one real or proposed independent, freestanding solar or wind power plant. All of them require backup. And guess what the go-to back-up is: fossil fuel. Here’s what solar and wind electricity look like in Germany, which is the world’s leader in “renewables”. The word erratic leaps to mind. Wind is constantly varying, sometimes disappearing completely. And solar produces little in the winter months when Germany most needs energy.

Therefore, some reliable source of energy is needed to do the heavy lifting. In Germany’s case that energy is coal. So, while Germany has spent tens of billions of dollars to subsidize solar panels and windmills, fossil fuel use in that nation has not decreased, it’s increased — and less than 10% of their total energy is generated by solar and wind. Furthermore, switching back and forth between solar and wind and coal to maintain a steady flow of energy is costly. Utility bills for the average German have gone up so dramatically that “energy poverty” has become a popular term to describe those who cannot pay — or who can barely pay — their electricity bills. If those bills one day go down, the reason will not be more solar and wind energy, but lower oil and coal prices. There’s no free lunch.

And there’s no free energy. And that very much includes the highly expensive energy from the sun and the wind. I’m Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress, for Prager University..

How Worried Should We Be About Climate Change?

The United Nations recently held their climate summit in New York City. A few days ahead of the event, more than 300,000 people joined a peaceful march in Manhattan to call attention to the issue of climate change. Secretary Of State John Kerry recently argued that the problem of climate change should be addressed with the same immediacy as Ebola or ISIS. So, putting politics aside, how serious is this issue? Well, there’s an incredible amount of statistical evidence that illustrates the severity of climate change. But instead of getting mired down in talk about ice caps and polar bear populations, let’s just discuss what the UN Climate Summit is really about: air pollution. The UN is meeting in hopes of signing a deal that could cut down on carbon emissions worldwide.

Just to be clear, we are talking about cars and our dependence on oil, but we’re also talking about things like coal power. Climate change is a pressing issue now because there are nations, chief among them China, that are actively pumping carbon into the environment on an enormous scale. According to the Global Carbon Project, China alone accounts for 28% of the world’s total carbon emissions. And they increased their emissions last year by 4.2%, which increased global emissions worldwide, by 2.3%. In other words, year over year – the situation is getting worse, not better. The ultimate goal of this meeting is to establish a plan to reduce these emissions. And one way to do that – is switching away from coal and fossil fuels, to cleaner forms of energy; a switch that some economists and ecologists now argue could also help developing countries, like China, save money in the long run.

They also argue that it would benefit not just the environment, but also the health of the people in those nations. The argument against committing to cleaner energy is that it requires an enormous initial investment and could potentially slow down economic progress. The problem is that the very nations that need economic progress most, are also the nations that emit the most carbon. It’s a catch-22, and a large part of why an agreement still hasn’t been reached. To find out more about what’s going on in China, check out our video on the conflict between China and the Tibetan Independence movement. Or watch our other video on How Powerful China really is. Remember we upload new videos five days a week, so please subscribe..

Thoughts About Some Mind-Bending Earth Images

So, now that we’ve been regularly photographing the Earth from space for decades, we can watch in like time-lapse format, as our planet changes – usually, as we change our planet. Huge scale stuff. And Google has just released a tool that makes this easier. Basically, you can scan around the entire world and watch the last 25 years of life on Earth. What the world was like when I was four versus what the world is like now. So I wanted to share some of the cool things that I found while doing that. First, here’s my hometown of Missoula And if you look carefully, you can see some new neighborhoods being built and all the boxstores going into the edge of town. Bit of a small town but it has changed in the last 25 years. More interesting probably is the amazing sprawl of Orlando, where John, you and I grew up. But really, the most fascinating bits are where humans have had their deepest influences. America’s insatiable appetite for cheap coal power, our wonderful lifestyles has lead to a practice called mountain top removal mining, in much of Appalachia.

I’ve seen these pictures, I’ve seen close-ups and I’ve seen it from satellites but as you scroll around and watch the last 20 years’ progress, it is astounding and terrifying and moving to see the amount of destruction. And of course, I know that I benefit personally from this destruction but it is destruction. Similarly, we all know that lots of the Amazon rainforests has been cut down but you really can’t understand the depth and the scale of it until you watch it happen and are able to move all around Brazil and Bolivia and see how much of those forests are gone now. And then there’s the story of water, which of course, more people consume more of. Las Vegas and Dubai spreading across deserts, Saudi Arabia, with massive irrigation projects making the deserts bloom. Inland seas drying up, either because of drought or because of irrigation but in addition to being terrifying occasionally, it can also be a story of recovery.

Watching the forests take back the land that had been destroyed when Mt. Saint Helens erupted was particularly inspiring, though the nearby clear cutting was not. We humans have a profound and largely negative effect on the rest of the lifeforms of the planet. Science has, for a long time offered us these truths up on a platter in the form of data and numbers and statistics. But we are people, we are not computers and we are not particularly good at understanding what all of those data and statistics really mean. And it might be a better world if all policy was based on science, but it’s not. It’s based on the individual decisions and the individual feelings of individual people, like ME and like YOU. For me, watching all of this change with a very limited span of my own life is intense and it’s moving and it’s terrifying. We have learned a lot but we haven’t really acted on that learning.

And maybe that’s because we don’t really understand it. We know the numbers but we can’t see it, or we couldn’t see it. Maybe taking a look around the Google Earth engine, which I should say, is based on the NASA LandSat program, which is FANTASTIC, good job, NASA. It might give us all a better understanding of the realities that we face and if we really understand those things better, then the decisions we make will be better. At least one can hope. So YAY for NASA, YAY for Google, YAY for Science, YAY for understanding and hopefully, also in the near future, YAY, for action.

The Paris Climate Agreement Won’t Change the Climate

Much has been made of the Paris Climate Agreement signed by the leaders of 178 countries in 2016. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, speaking for many, called it a “historic turning point.” The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, echoed the minister’s remark when she testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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