Category Archives: Climate Change

Lucid Energy turbines

Lucid Energy is running electricity turbines from the water flowing in the pipes of a city.

This provides baseload power with no emissions, and the technology can be retrofitted into any water pipe large enough.

Most drinking water pipes in most cities of the developed world can use this technology!


Pictures not words

The Aral Sea, before and after:

The cause? River in-flow to the inland sea diverted by the Soviets for irrigation.

https://youtu.be/FzvEW1FHc60

The US Dust Bowl

The cause? Drought + inappropriate farming practices. Ploughing destroyed the prairie grasses needed to hold the top soil down. One Black Blizzard [pictured above], blew all the way east and covered the Statue of Liberty.

https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/dust-bowl#section_2&gid=ci0230e63270252549&pid=a-dust-storm-roars-across-a-drought-stricken-field-2

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

One of five areas in the Earth’s oceans where plastic rubbish collects due to the action of ocean currents.

The cause? Our rubbish, flowing into rivers and from there into the ocean. Our fishing nets, lost or dumped overboard.

Chernobyl

Radiation causes mutation in plants, animals and humans. Wild animals around Chernobyl are still radioactive because they eat radioactive plants.

The cause? Our nuclear power plant[s]. Other notable nuclear accidents include Three Mile Island [US] and Fukushima [Japan].

France – The Red Zone

The Red Zone is a no-go zone that was created by ordnance and chemicals left behind by 2 world wars.

The cause? A war that happened more than 100 years ago.

https://www.messynessychic.com/2015/05/26/the-real-no-go-zone-of-france-a-forbidden-no-mans-land-poisoned-by-war/

Maralinga in South Australia

A few words for this one:

‘The plutonium contamination at Maralinga was caused by these minor trials, two of which involved burning plutonium and detonating fissile material using conventional high explosives.

As a result just over 22 kilograms of plutonium-239 was dispersed around the site.

Plutonium-239 has a radioactive half-life of more than 24,000 years. This dangerous carcinogen is hazardous to humans if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through breaks in the skin.’

Two clean-ups were necessary.

‘Between 1996 and 2000, all but around 120 square kilometres of around 3200 square kilometres of Maralinga country had been cleaned to a standard considered safe for unrestricted access.’

‘In the worst-contaminated areas, 350,000 cubic metres of soil and debris were removed from an area of more than 2 square kilometres, and buried in trenches. Eleven debris pits were also treated with in-situ vitrification*. Most of the site (approximately 3,200 square kilometres) is now safe for unrestricted access and approximately 120 square kilometres is considered safe for access but not permanent occupancy.’

*In-situ vitrification is a process that melts things, including soil, into something similar to glass. Apparently it’s good for radioactive waste.

The cause? British testing of atomic weapons on Australian soil.

https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/maralinga

These are not the only examples of man-made damage, but they are the ones that resonate with me. I’m sure people can think of, or find, many other examples.

We may not have been capable of changing the planet 300 years ago, but we are now. In fact, if you include nuclear weapons, we have the capacity to destroy all life on the planet, many times over.

Meeks

p.s. And as a small aside to Aussies only – let’s not forget the Cane Toad, the foxes, the rabbits, goats, pigs, horses, waterbuffalo and camels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


7 year retrospective

Good morning all. Apparently, it’s my anniversary. According to WordPress, I started blogging on this day, exactly seven years ago. 🙂

To be honest, all I remember about that day, and that first post, is that I didn’t expect anyone to read it. Nevertheless, I decided that if I really did need to have a blog [as all the pundits said], it would be about my passions rather than just ‘marketing’. So I dusted off my soapbox, hopped on and let rip about climate change.

Sadly, little has changed between then and now. In case you’re interested, this is my very first post, dated December 29, 2011:

# # #

When I first started writing science fiction, I was aware of climate change, but I blush to say I did not take it very seriously. I assumed that global warming would be ‘fixed’, like the hole in the ozone layer, before it could become a genuine cause for concern. Oops…

Fast forward ten years and climate change is one of the hottest topics in the media. Thanks to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, climate change has become a part of mainstream consciousness. Yet despite multiple summits – Durban being the latest – and enough talk to float a thousand zeppelins, we seem to be further from a genuine solution than ever before. Everyone knows that the world should move to a low carbon economy, but no-one wants to suffer in the process. Understandable, but just a tad short-sighted given how much suffering there is likely to be if we don’t.

So who are the protagonists in this tragic comedy? Well, in terms of sheer numbers, ordinary people like you and me are at the top of the list. We don’t understand the science – no surprise there – so we only know what the media choose to tell us, and the media are having a field day playing both sides against the middle.

On the one hand they are gleefully telling us about island nations like Tuvalu that are already beginning to disappear beneath rising sea levels, but on the other hand, they are also telling us that scientists are divided about whether climate change is real or not.

To keep the pot boiling, the media give equal air time [and validity] to crackpots  like Lord Monckton who know less about the science than I do. They also keep us guessing by all the things they don’t say. For example when they talk about dissent in the scientific ranks they fail to mention that most of the dissenting scientists are not in the climate change discipline.

However the strangest aspect of the media coverage, is their lack of interest in ferreting out who is paying whom to say what.  I have yet to see a single mainstream article that names climate change skeptics who are paid thousands of dollars per day to ‘consult’ with the very industries that have the most to gain from raising doubt about the science.

These industries  [petroleum and coal spring to mind but they are not the only ones] are using the exact same tactics that Big Tobacco used so successfully to drag the smoking ‘debate’ out for thirty years or more. They are funding genuine scientists, as well as those with no credentials whatsoever, to raise doubt in the minds of governments and ordinary citizens alike in order to delay action on climate change for as long as possible. These delaying tactics translate into profit for them, and helpless confusion for the rest of us.

And the media either can’t or won’t report it.

I am realistic enough to know that libel laws make this kind of reporting difficult, however I can’t help thinking that a certain amount of editorial gagging is also going on. After all, the media is now run by a few, very large, very powerful media barons who have connections to other equally powerful corporate players, and all of them have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo [business as usual].

Little wonder then that ordinary people are confused. But what of governments? Surely they should be better informed than we are?

The problem with governments all over the world is that they are run by politicians who have all the same failings as ordinary people. Some are stupid, some are greedy, some are self-centred and ambitious, and some are simply short-sighted. They know that climate change is real and they know that hard decisions will have to be taken if we are to avoid the worst of the consequences climate change will bring, but they are afraid of what will happen now if they try to do anything. Millions of people are already out of work, and the industries that used to employ them are tottering on the brink of collapse. Surely now is not the time to slap them with a carbon tax. Surely now is not the time to insist that they clean up their act. Surely now is not the time to rock the boat.

Or is it?

Perhaps I have spent too long playing with plot lines, but it seems to me that this is a perfect time for Darwin’s theory of natural selection to kick in. I say we should let the deadwood die instead of propping it up with financial assistance that simply ends up in the pockets of those who caused the mess in the first place.

And while the market is sorting out which companies are the fittest,  government support can be given to  all the new, emerging, low carbon industries that have been starved of funding for so long.

Let’s reward these new industries for being innovative and efficient. Let’s reward them for being lean and mean. Let’s allow them to move into the spaces left by the old dinosaurs. Let’s allow them to revive our flagging economies, and in the process give jobs to those people prepared to learn the relevant new skills.

Yes, there will be disruptions and yes, we may have to adjust our standard of living a little, but surely that is better than suddenly waking up to find that the global markets have collapsed completely because every nation on earth is threatened by rising sea levels, crop failures, famine, floods, fires, drought, disease and all the other lovely things nature can throw at us?

I love the good things in life as much as anyone, so I too I like things the way they are now. Nonetheless, if things must change then I’d rather get used to those changes gradually. And I’d rather have some choice in the matter.

– If  power production is part of the problem [as it is] then I’d rather pay a competitive price for solar panels than keep on  paying for dirty power.

– If petrol driven cars are part of the problem [as they are] then let me choose to buy a hybrid or electric car instead [which I can then charge from those lovely solar panels I put in].

– If shipping food from one end of the globe to the other is part of the problem then let me choose to eat only food that is in season and grown locally.

Adjusting to change does not have to be horrendous. Those who have money only have to change their priorities. Those who do not have money should get assistance, and most importantly re-training opportunities so they can take advantage of the new jobs the new industries will bring.

A smooth transition is possible, but only if we get our collective heads out of the sand, and only if we recognize that helping the most vulnerable amongst us is not charity but an investment in the future.

As a writer I can see the possibilities for a better, brighter future, but only time will tell whether we make the transition smoothly, or fall in a heap as a species.

As a human being I’m hoping we don’t go the way of the real dinosaurs, but as a writer I have to acknowledge that at the moment, an end-of-the-world scenario is more likely.

# # #

Thank you to all my online friends. You’ve made the last seven years fun. I hope the next seven are even better!

-hugs-

Meeks


Liquid water on #Mars

Okay, the liquid water is beneath 1.5 km of solid ice at the South Pole, but it is there!

A huge liquid water lake has been found on Mars, stretching 20 km (12.4 mi) and...

It’s also incredibly salty [one reason why it isn’t frozen], but its discovery opens up huge new areas of research because it means that Mars really was much wetter in the past. I’m no geologist or climatologist, but I can’t help wondering what happened to Mars to turn it into the barren rock it is now. If there’s any chance that our own Earth can go the same way, we need to know.

Please visit the New Atlas website to read the whole story.

And finally, from me, an apology. I’m racing a July 31 deadline so this blog, and social media in general, have taken a huge back seat. I’ll be more sociable again once I. Get.This. Job. Done!

cheers

Meeks


Coal vs solar? No contest in China

The world is quickly abandoning coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. But that’s not the end of the road for coal mines—in many countries they’re coming back to life as solar farms. Over the weekend, the world’s biggest floating solar project began operating in the eastern Chinese city of Huainan, which accounted for nearly 20%…

via Dead coal mines everywhere are being reincarnated as solar farms — Quartz


Elon Musk wins his bet in South Australia!

As a long time fan of renewable energy, the latest news about Elon Musk fills me with glee. He bet that he could install a megabattery in South Australia in 100 days, and he’s come in ahead of schedule!

The story began last year when South Australia suffered a massive storm that destroyed infrastructure meant to allow Australian states to ‘share’ energy on a huge network. Due to some market manipulation on pricing, and a toothless watchdog asleep at its post [yes, AEMO I’m looking at you] South Australia suffered crippling blackouts, off and on, for weeks.

As the South Australia government is Labor and had invested heavily in wind farms, the Liberals in the national government went on a renewable energy bashing spree without offering up one, single practical solution. And then Elon Musk spoke up and shamed them all. He said that he could create a mammoth battery capable of storing the energy from the wind farms until needed. Then he bet the cost of the battery – $50 million dollars – that he could make good on his promise in 100 days. If he lost, he would carry the cost of the project.

Well guess what? -big grin- South Australia has a $50 million dollar bill to pay!

More importantly, all the dinosaurs in our government advocating for dirty coal power stations have been silenced, at least for a while.

You can read the whole story here:

https://futurism.com/elon-musk-megabattery-australia/

Today really has been a good day. Thank you, Elon Musk. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


#Australia – new climate change predictions

Sitting here with the aircon turned on, and a hot north wind blowing outside, it’s hard not to be afraid, especially after seeing this graph:

climate-change-temperature-graph

The graph charts temperatures over the last 100 years – from 1910 to 2010. Not surprisingly, blue represents years of below average cold and red represents years of above average heat. And no, it wasn’t your imagination – summers really have been getting hotter.

My growing up years [1950s to 1970s] were mild. We did get the odd hot day in Melbourne. We even experienced the odd heatwave, but they were unusual events. I know, because we did not even own a fan back then! Now, I can’t imagine living without an air-conditioner.

Unfortunately, heat is not the only thing that’s changed. Nor will it be the only thing that gets worse. I highly recommend reading the complete report from the Climate Council:

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1b331044fb03fd0997c4a4946705606b.pdf

You can also read an abbreviated, ‘highlights of’ article about the report here:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/longer-hotter-summers-predicted-in-extreme-weather-report-by-climate-council/news-story/958f45a1141453664fcb5933921b4c14?utm_source=Daily+Carbon+Briefing&utm_campaign=4b550aee94-cb_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_876aab4fd7-4b550aee94-303473869

Now think about these facts – every year for the last three years has been the hottest on record. That means since we’ve been measuring and recording temperature.

According to the Climate Change deniers and skeptics, what we’re experiencing is just another ‘cycle’ in the earth’s climate history. We’ve had ice ages, now we’re having a period of heat. The one thing they’re not ‘having’ is that this period of heat might be caused by humans rather than natural fluctuations.

So let’s take that perspective to its natural conclusion: the world may be getting hotter and climate may be getting more extreme, but it’s not our fault so there’s nothing we can do about it except ‘suck it up’ [and hope we all survive].

To me, that is the most terrifying, defeatist outlook possible. Yes, it does allow for ‘business as usual’, but only because disaster is inevitable so we may as well make money while we can.

By contrast, almost all of the actual climate change scientists say that this distopian outlook is not inevitable. It will take a lot of work, and things will get worse before they get better, but there’s a good chance that we’ll survive…if we clean up the mess we’ve made.

As one of the canaries in the coal mine, I much prefer the optimistic outlook, don’t you?

But why do I imply that Australians are canaries in the coal mine? Isn’t that fate reserved for the island nations of the Pacific?

Um, no, actually. Australia has quite a delicate climate. Yes, I know, how can deserts and bushfires be delicate? What I mean is that we already experience extremes thanks to our geography which means that climate change will have less work to do to make extreme turn into unbearable.

But it is the Australia inhabited by this generation’s grandchildren, 2090, where the heat will really be on, if greenhouse gas emissions worldwide fail to meet current reduction targets.

By that year the report predicts Darwin will have a staggering 265 days each year above 35C.

That quote was taken from the news.com.au article, but the data comes from the Climate Council report [linked above].

Melbourne won’t fare so badly in terms of temperature, but we’ll have other worries – such as increased droughts and a great many more bushfires. If we continue with business as usual, life will be close to unbearable for our children and their children. This is not some dystopian, science fiction plot line I’ve come up with to give you all a good scare. This is real, my friends, and becoming harder to fix with every day we procrastinate.

Back in 2009, eight years ago now, Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership of the Liberal Party because he supported the Rudd, Labor government, in its attempts to get a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme up and running. Many Australians honoured Turnbull for that, seeing him as a politician of integrity. Many Australians supported his return to the leadship of the Liberal party for the same reason. I know I did. 😦

But where is Turnbull now? Shackled to the idiology of the ultra Right, that’s where. These Conservatives do not believe in human induced climate change. As a result, they fight tooth and nail to keep Australia from shifting to a low or neutral carbon economy [read renewables instead of coal]. If Turnbull wants to stay in power, he has to appease these deniers and skeptics.

Well guess what? Turnbull has been appeasing these deniers and skeptics. The latest ‘clean’ coal proposals are the greatest betrayal possible because Turnbull must know that the holy grail of clean coal will never be achieved. Even with the most stringest technologies currently available [which would make electricity from coal more expensive not less], coal fired power plants would still produce more emissions than gas fired power plants. Yes, gas. Not solar, not wind, not wave or geothermal, but gas.

I no longer believe that Malcolm Turnbull is a man of integrity. He has what he wanted all along – the Prime Ministership – and he’ll betray everything he believes in to keep it. Thanks, Malcolm. I hope your stay at Kirribilli House is short.

Meeks

 


Green energy and #wavepower

Baseload is a word that’s bandied around a lot when proponents of fossil fuel energy plants talk about green energy. Essentially, the argument states that modern, technological states require reliable energy to thrive. This, they say, cannot be provided by green energy sources such as solar and wind because neither is available all the time.

There is some truth to that argument, and until reliable green energy storage becomes available – e.g. massive batteries of some kind – we will need some form of regular energy production. But…that regular energy production need not be from coal or nuclear. Geothermal has been around for a while but while it’s reliable, it isn’t necessarily cheap. This is where wave power could provide the magic bullet that finally weans us away from fossil fuels.

Wave power technology harnesses the constant rise and fall of ocean waves to turn the generators that actually create the energy we need. The technology is not free, but once in place, the driving force behind it is. Better still, that driving force – ocean waves – is constant. Some days may see more energy generation than others, but the waves never completely stop. And that’s important because that minimum level of power generation can be calculated and used.

The new wavepower plant built in Gibraltar [read the Gizmag article for full details] may be small, but it’s cost effective now and can be added to in the future.

Wavepower in Gibraltar

Wavepower in Gibraltar

Congratulations to Gibraltar for taking a small step towards greening the planet. Hopefully one day, all countries with access to an ocean will harness wavepower for their own energy needs.


#climatechange, #refugees and business as usual

Photo courtesy www.wolaver.org

Photo courtesy http://www.wolaver.org

North Africa and the Middle East too hot for human life?

Yes, that is the upshot from this article from Quartz.

If you care about how your children will be living in 50 years time, I highly recommend reading the whole article.

If you don’t have the time to read the whole thing I’ll boil it down to this:

  • climate change will push the populations of North Africa and the Middle East out of North Africa and the Middle East,
  • those populations will become refugees
  • where will those refugees go?

The article ends with this:

The last couple years have shown that the world is pretty bad at managing large-scale migration, but that may turn out to be a mere trial-run for things to come.

As an Australian living half a world away from North Africa and the Middle East, I should be immune to the problems of that area, right?

Wrong.

If climate change makes North Africa and the Middle East unlivable, it will do the same in the Pacific area…in my own backyard.

There are island nations in the Pacific – e.g. Tuvalu – which are already close to being submerged. What happens to the populations of these island nations when their homes are finally covered by the sea?

I can tell you they will not wait around to go down with the ship. They will become refugees too.

Where will they go? I think Australia is a pretty safe bet.

Now multiply these two examples with the number of low-lying countries in the world, and you can see why we have to come up with some effective, efficient and equitable way of helping people move out of harm’s way.

Climate change is not going away. Refugees are not going away. This problem is not going away because, apart from the rhetoric, our governments have chosen to do nothing about climate change. It’s too hard. It’ll cost too much money. Voters won’t like it. So let’s do nothing and hope the problem goes away [see pic at the beginning of this post].

But in real life, you make a choice, even when you choose to do nothing. It’s called the default option. For us, that means ‘adaptation’.

Do you know what adaptation means? It means dealing with a disaster after it happens and living, or dying, with the consequences. It ain’t pretty and one of the inevitable consequences will be mass migrations, the likes of which we cannot even imagine.

I probably won’t be around to suffer too much, but what about the Offspring? Or your offspring?

And for those who do not believe that ‘we’ could possibly have an impact on the Earth’s climate, have a look at this:

Photo courtesy NASA

Photo courtesy NASA

This is the US of A, photographed at night, from space. See all those bright lights? Those are cities filled with people eating, sleeping, driving their cars, working. Those people are creating carbon dioxide [and other] pollutants just by living their lives. And the US is just one developed country.

As individuals, we are like individual sticks – easily broken. But put us all together and even a giant can’t break us. That is my version of the old Aesops fable.

But that story has a darker, more modern version as well, and it goes something like this – as individuals, we are powerless to destroy the Earth, but put all 8 billion of us together and the Earth doesn’t stand a chance.

Climate change >> refugees >> a problem we cannot ignore.

Meeks

 


Vertical Farming, now and into the future

The key concept in the following video is that cities can become food producers instead of just food consumers…via vertical farming. But what is vertical farming? Is it the kind of inner city, urban farming that happened in Havana [Cuba]? Or is it ‘just’ hydroponics farming? Or is it something more?

The examples of vertical farming begin at about 11 minutes into this 13 minute video. Well worth the investment in time.

My thanks to A.C. Stark for introducing me to both the video and the concept of vertical farming. A.C. Stark’s site is full of interesting posts that range from politics to climate change.

cheers

Meeks


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