Climate Change: Sucking the sun dry


Iceland 046sWe have a global agreement for dealing with Climate Change, and as I’m sure you are already aware, that agreement was (perhaps as expected) reached in Paris. As described in Mother Jones …

officials from more than 190 countries swept aside monumental differences and agreed to an unprecedented global deal to tackle climate change.

The historic accord, known as the Paris Agreement, includes emissions-slashing commitments from individual countries and promises to help poorer nations adapt to the damaging effects of a warming world. Negotiators also agreed on measures to revise, strengthen, and scrutinize countries’ contributions going forward.

This of course is just an agreement and lays out the roadmap for the next decade. The truly hard part now comes, and if you thought that getting this agreement was difficult, er no, actually implementing it is the true challenge.

The Agreement Itself

The agreement itself can be found here (PDF in English) and runs to 32 pages.

The core of it is this …

  • To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century
  • To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C
  • To review progress every five years
  • $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

Why will Implementing this be hard?

To answer that, let’s turn to a story from a small town, Woodland in North Carolina. There we find that the local town council was presented with a proposal to allow Strata Solar Company to build a solar farm off US Highway 258. Now that sounds fabulous and a very good initiative, but unfortunately it did not work out so well. The response of the council was to vote 3-1 against rezoning the land as a solar farm and then later voted for a prohibition on future solar farms.

Why?

Well basically because the local people petitioned them to do this, and as the elected representatives they fulfilled the prevailing desire.

The arguments presented against the local solar farm included …

.. concerned that photosynthesis, which depends upon sunlight, would not happen and would keep the plants from growing. She said she has observed areas near solar panels where the plants are brown and dead because they did not get enough sunlight….

… the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer …

… solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland …

Another argument presented against the Solar Farm was the claim that Woodland was “…slowly becoming a ghost town with no job opportunities for young people.“. In this case I suspect that the real reason the young people are leaving is not down to solar panels, but because the locals appear to be missing a few chromosomes.

I’m not really sure which is the more absurd … these weird arguments, or that the council actually took these arguments seriously.

This all illustrates the barriers we now face as we start walking down the path to implement what has been agreed, basically misinformation, unwarranted unjustified fear of change, and pure unadulterated human stupidity. Now that is the real challenge on the road ahead.

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