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How To Avoid A Climate Disaster : Book Summary

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How To Avoid A Climate Disaster : Book Summary

  1. 1. Book Summary
  2. 2. There are two numbers you need to know about climate change. The first is 51 billion – that’s how many tons of green house gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere every year. This is where we are today. The other is zero. That’s what we need to aim for.
  3. 3. Fossil fuels are so pervasive that it can be hard to grasp all the ways in which they – and other sources of green house gases – touch our lives.
  4. 4. Why we need to hurry to get to ‘zero’ It’s not just the rich world. History is not on our side. Coal plants are not like computer chips. Technology in energy does not follow Moore’s law. Size of the industry is enormous – it’s the biggest business on the planet. This industry is heavily regulated. Society tolerates little risk in the energy business. Our Laws and regulation are outdated. There isn’t much of climate consensus.
  5. 5. How much green house gas is emitted by the things we do? Making things (cement steel, plastic etc.) 31% Plugging in (electricity) 27% Growing things (plants, animals) 19% Getting around (planes, trucks, cargo ships) 16% Keeping warm and cool (heating, cooling, refrigeration) 7%
  6. 6. Five questions to ask in every climate conversation? 1. How much of the 51 billion tons are we talking about? i.e. have a frame of reference for the solution being proposed. 2. What’s your plan for cement? i.e. a comprehensive plan needs to consider everything humans do to cause greenhouse gas emissions. 3. How much power are we talking about? i.e. have a frame of reference for the solution being proposed. 4. How much space do you need? 5. How much is this going to cost?
  7. 7. Frame of reference for power consumption. A watt is a bit of energy per second. If you were measuring the flow of water out of your kitchen faucet, you may count how many cups per second. Measuring power is similar, here you’re measuring the flow of energy instead of water. How much power does it take? The world 5,000 gigawatts The US 1,000 gigawatts Mid-size city 1 gigawatt Small town 1 megawatt Average American house 1 kilowatt
  8. 8. How much space do you need? Some energy sources take up more room than others. This matters as there is only so much land and water to go around. Power density measures how much power you can get from different sources for a given amount of land. Measured in watts per square meter. Energy Source Watts per square meter Fossil fuels 500-10,000 Nuclear 500-1,000 Solar 5-20 Hydropower (dams) 5-50 Wind 1-2 Wood and other biomass Less than 1
  9. 9. How much is this going to cost? Most zero-carbon solutions are more expensive than their fossil fuel counterparts. This additional cost is what’s called Green Premium.
  10. 10. Green Premiums are a fantastic lens to make decisions. They help us put our time, money and attention to their best use. They help us answer questions like which zero carbon options should we be deploying now? Where do we need to focus our R&D spending & investments? Green Premiums can also act as a measurement system that shows us the progress we’re making toward stopping climate change.
  11. 11. Getting all the world’s electricity from clean sources won’t be easy. Today fossil-fuels account for two-thirds of all electricity generated worldwide. Today electricity is cheap, because fossil fuels are cheap. They’re widely available & we’ve developed better and more efficient ways to extract them and turn them into electricity. Governments also go to considerable effort to keep the prices of fossil fuels low and encourage their production.
  12. 12. The main culprits of the electricity Green Premium are our demand for reliability and the curse of intermittency. The sun and the wind are intermittent sources and not available 24x7. Seasonal intermittency, the high cost of storage and locational requirements are other challenges to overcome.
  13. 13. Other sources of carbon-free electricity. Nuclear Fission. Nuclear power is most efficient, using much less material per unit of electricity generated than other sources do. Nuclear power generation kills far fewer people than any fossil fuel. But needs work. Nuclear Fusion. Promising technology, but still at least a decade away. Offshore wind. Off-shore winds generally blow more steadily. Holds promise but is 0.4% of the worlds capacity right now. Geothermal.
  14. 14. Storing electricity Batteries. Despite the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, it’s hard to improve on them. Newer technologies include liquid metal and flow batteries. Pumped hydro. Thermal storage. Hydrogen.
  15. 15. Making things is the largest contributor to greenhouse emissions. The process of manufacturing e.g. steel, concrete, plastics emits lots of greenhouse gases. And currently we don’t have alternate processes to make some of them e.g. cement.
  16. 16. To figure out the Green Premiums on materials, need to understand where emissions come from when we make things. 1. When we use fossil fuels to generate the electricity that factories need to run their operations. 2. When we use them to generate heat needed for different manufacturing processes e.g. melting iron ore to make steel. 3. When we actually make these materials, like in cement manufacturing carbon dioxide is a by-product. Very few manufacturers will be willing to bear the cost of Green Premiums in their input material.
  17. 17. While we have do something about deforestation and other uses of land. Farming, raising animals for food is also a main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. As people get richer, they eat more meat.
  18. 18. Right now, the twin concepts of energy delivered per unit of fuel and per dollar spent makes fossil fuels very attractive. Sources of emissions Cars, SUVs and motorcycles 47% Trucks, buses etc. 30% Cargo and cruise ships 10% Airplanes 10% Others 3%
  19. 19. The bigger the vehicle you want to move, and the further you want to drive it without recharging, the harder it’ll be to use electricity as your power source. Transportation needs breakthrough innovations. There are significant green premiums currently in transportation.
  20. 20. Your air conditioner is the biggest consumer of electricity in your home. As population grows and gets richer and as heat waves become more severe and frequent we will be adding more air conditioners. Its ironic that the very thing we’ll be doing to survive in a warmer climate – running air conditioners – could make climate change worse.
  21. 21. As people rise up the income ladder, they do more things that cause emissions. We need innovations so that the poor can improve their lives without making climate change even worse. The cruel injustice is that even though the world’s poor are doing essentially nothing to cause climate change; they’re going to suffer the most from it.
  22. 22. In addition to innovations to get to zero emissions, we need innovations to adapt to a warmer world.
  23. 23. Geoengineering is a cutting edge “break glass in case of emergency” in of tool. The basic idea is to make temporary changes in the earth’s oceans or atmosphere that lower the planet’s temperature. The approaches are unproven and raise thorny ethical issues.
  24. 24. Governments have a major role in getting to zero. Seven high-level goals they should be aiming for: 1. Mind the investment gap. Intervene with funding basic science and R&D – these tend to be high risk and have long lead times. 2. Level the playing field. Reduce Green Premiums by incorporating the cost of damage fossil fuels cause into the prices we pay for them. 3. Overcome nonmarket barriers. Policy intervention where Green Premiums are low. 4. Stay up to date. Sometimes the biggest barrier is not consumer awareness or markets, it’s government policies that make it hard to decarbonize. 5. Plan for a just transition. 6. Do the hard stuff too. A lot of work focuses on relatively easier ways to reduce emissions like driving electric cars and getting more power from sun and wind. 7. Work on technology, policy and markets at the same time.

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