General query - impact of location on energy demand - climate science

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Yes. (Consider energy use as a function of climate for city planning purposes.) Joel, Justin and Yi make good points below. I have never built a city before, but Planetary Overlord Bishop would also consider climate change impacts on agriculture, freshwater resources, extreme weather events, and (as Justin mentioned) availability of renewable resources (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, ocean etc.). Then there?s things like access to transportation, walkability, ?sense of place?. Hopefully one of my minions would speak up before I did something like this.

Yes, climate change is happening, it is not natural, and we are causing it primarily by burning our once-in-a-civilization supply of fossil fuels as fast as we possibly can. The fundamentals of the greenhouse effect have been known since the 19th century, and temperatures have been rising just as we?d expect them to based on our emissions and other impacts. Following a sharp temperature spike to the hottest year on record in 1998 (caused by the strongest El Nino event ever recorded), global temperatures have remained high and have even continued to increase. We just had the highest May, June and August average temperatures, and 2014 is on track to set another record high for global temperature (breaking the 2010 record). It has been nearly 30 years since we had a month that was below the 20th century average temperature for that month.

There is nothing political about the science. But our ideological biases get in the way when we consider solutions. We have to reduce fossil fuel use (not energy in general) and the only way to accomplish that is by government legislation. There are those that oppose the size and scope of governments, especially interference with the free market, and also those that sincerely believe that humans cannot possibly impact the planet (for religious reasons mostly). And plenty of people make their livelihoods and a lot of money off of fossil fuels. So these biases understandably make it hard to find common ground with those whose biases include wanting to accelerate the transition to renewables, wanting to address wealth disparity, and general opposition to fossil fuels due to their other harmful impacts. Because of the implications of ?What do we do??, the science gets muddied by a combination of deliberate distortions and willful ignorance, happily perpetuated by ?think tanks?, news organizations and powerful individuals that attempt to spin the science to match their preferred narrative. Add countless blogs by non-scientists, a 24-hr news cycle that only pays lip-service to climate change, always maintaining false balance by presenting ?the other side?, and editorials that masquerade as science presented without accountability, and it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a quagmire of analysis paralysis.

Only when we recognize our own biases and acknowledge the reality of climate change as documented by the wealth of scientific evidence, does it make sense to discuss solutions. How do we rapidly reduce fossil fuel use, promote energy efficiency and renewables, decrease the energy use intensities of manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and (yes) the building stock, while reducing the impact of rising prices? And how do we do this in a way that gets all countries to follow suit, while minimizing the role of governments, respecting personal choice and freedoms, and letting market forces determine the most economically efficient paths toward a low-carbon future? The simple, elegant solution is a revenue-neutral carbon tax in the form of Carbon-Fee-&-Dividend. You tax fossil fuels at the source, and distribute all collected fees to everyone equally, to spend as they please. We can avoid the worst effects of climate change without destroying the economy.

Guess I embellished my one-word answer a little bit.


William Bishop, PE, POIT (Planetary Overlord in Training) | Pathfinder Engineers & Architects LLP
Senior Energy Engineer

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[]Carbon Fee and Dividend - simple, effective, and market-based.

Bill Bishop's picture
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Mr. Bishop has been thinking about this for a while! That is the attitude we need for problem solving! (indifference never solves anything)

We?re slightly off-topic for Jeetendra, as Joel points out. Continuing, though, I think I?ll take a different tack on the discussion and ask that you consider an example of human flourishing?s impact on another issue of a few decades ago.
Remember when it was a ?certainty? that the globe could not sustain a population exceeding around 6 billion because we would never be able to provide enough food for them? At the time this was stated, it was true. The (naively) unaccounted-for resource was human creativity and ingenuity in food-growing processes. We now can grow enough for the world in a small portion of the world! The next problem is how to distribute it to those who need it, and that appears to be more an issue of willingness than technology.
In my own life, I know that when challenged by someone saying ?It can?t be done? or ?It can?t be done economically?, my response has been to try and prove them wrong ? and I have succeeded on a number of occasions! ? and I am just one among many other talented and motivated people.
For the issue of climate change, I?m much more inclined to assume that motivated and creative people can develop novel ways to thrive than that solutions will come as a result of a government-initiated program led by people with different and perhaps less-strong motivations. Bill has it right, in my opinion, when saying ?And how do we do this ?, while minimizing the role of governments, respecting personal choice and freedoms, and letting market forces determine the most economically efficient paths toward a low-carbon future?? It?s complex, but we can do it. A journey of a thousand miles begins with?

p.s., I was unfamiliar with the Carbon Fee & Dividend initiative until Bill provided the link, but at first glance it appears to encourage and incentivize GREATER fuel use ? the more we use, the more we receive from the fund?. On second thought, individuals may get back only pennies for each energy dollar spent, so it may not be a strong incentive.

James V Dirkes II, PE, BEMP, LEED AP
Energy Analysis, Commissioning & Training Services
1631 Acacia Drive, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 USA
616 450 8653

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Thanks for the comments Jim!

Humans are indeed ingenious. But it takes more than creativity to grow food for 6 billion. It takes a lot of fertilizer and machinery. Increased food production has come with a huge fossil fuel cost. And we?re shooting past 7 billion on our way to 10 billion people over the next several decades. Oh, and water. We?ll need a lot more of that (but not too much at once), at a time when climate change is changing the rain patterns that we?ve been used to since the dawn of agriculture. So much of our prosperity depends on resources that have no replacement, that are not going to be available in the quantities we need them. You can?t just invent replacements for oil and water.

Revenue-neutral carbon taxes are assessed at the source ? the gas/oil well or coal mine, when they are removed from the ground. The total fees collected are divided into equal shares to be distributed to everybody. The guy driving his RV 60 miles to the drag races each weekend will get the same check as the farmer that lives and works at his house. You can use it to pay for gas or to buy chicken feed. I will buy the less energy-intensive chicken feed because it will cost less. The idea is no more complicated than that. No bureaucrat picking the next Solyndra. No cap-and-trade schemes. No ?carbon offsets? purchased like indulgences. And a lot of money circulating to put people to work building a genuine, consumer-driven, green economy.


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