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The Cost of Climate Change

9/28/2011 12:17:00 PM

Tags: Cost of Extreme Weather Events, Wind, Solar and Geothermal Energy Sources, Richard Hilderman

Solar And Wind PowerThis year the United States had unprecedented triple-digit heat, devastating droughts, deadly tornadoes, massive river flooding and a billion dollar blizzard. Then last month an unusual hurricane caused flooding in Vermont and other areas of the Northeast. So far this year total weather losses are more than 35 billion dollars, and this figure does not include the losses from Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee. 

As our planet continues to warm through our use of fossil fuel, we will see an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events along with the increasing loss of lives and cost to repair the damage.  Do we want to continue paying for these spiraling weather related losses? This spiraling cost alone should be sufficient justification for us to convert to a non-carbon basis renewable energy infrastructure.  Some people argue that converting to a non-carbon base energy source will hurt the economy. This simply isn’t true because a new workforce will be necessary to develop and maintain the solar panels, wind turbines, etc that are required for the new energy sources. An example of a successful conversion to a renewable energy source is Iceland, which has a wealth of geothermal power. According to Jared Diamond in his book Collapse, Iceland was once the poorest country in Europe. Today Iceland is one of the world’s richest countries on per-capita basis partially due to its conversion from fossil fuel to a geothermal energy source. In Iceland today about 90 percent of the homes are heated with thermal energy and the country has essentially eliminated the use of coal for home heating.

The United States has sufficient wind, solar and geothermal energy to allow a conversion from a fossil fuel to a non-carbon base energy infrastructure. As Lester Brown points out in his book Plan B 4.0, the National Renewable Energy Lab has shown the United States has enough land based wind energy to satisfy our national electricity needs several times over. Furthermore, there is enough offshore wind capacity along the East Coast to supply sufficient power for all the major metropolitans on the East Coast. Wind turbines can be mass-produced on assembly lines similar to the assembly lines used by the automobile industry. This would be a good way to utilized idle automobile plants and put the skilled auto workers back to work.

Energy from the sun can be harnessed with solar photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal collectors. Solar PV cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. Solar thermal collectors can be used to concentrate sunlight on water to produce steam and generate electricity. Solar energy could supply the planet’s entire energy requirement!

The potential of geothermal energy to provide electricity to heat homes and supply heat for industry is vast. An interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers assembled in 2006 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to assess the United States geothermal electrical generating potential. The development of geothermal energy will use the latest technology including the techology developed by oil companies for drilling and oil recovery. This technology involves drilling down to the hot rock layer, fracturing the rock and pumping water into the cracked rock and then removing the heated water to drive steam turbines.  The MIT team estimates that with this technology the United States has enough geothermal energy to meet its energy needs 2,000 times over! To fully utilize this energy source the MIT team estimates the government and industry must invest about 1 billion dollars in geothermal research and development which is about the cost of one coal-fired electrical plant [The Future of Geothermal Energy: Impact of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) on the United States in the 21st Century]!  Should new electrical generating plants be coal-fired or renewable energy plants?  Since this technology is similar to what the oil industry is currently using, it would be very easy for oil industry workers to make the transition to geothermal energy jobs.

Clearly the United States has more than sufficient natural resources to convert to a non-carbon base renewable energy. Many people believe that the cost of developing a non-carbon based renewable energy infrastructure outweigh the benefits of making these changes. If we agree with this assessment then we need to accept the fact that continued use of fossil fuel will increase the frequency of extreme weather events and thus increase the cost of repairing the damage.

Photo Credit: Fotolia/Vantage Point 

 



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Post a comment below.

 

Carl Silvernail
12/29/2012 12:04:26 PM
500 years ago 98% of scientiest belived the earth was the center of the univerese. Warming is a fact, can't get around that, but is it man made? This current warming period started about 25000 years ago when the current ice age ended. It may seem long ago to us, but geologicly it was just a couple of seconds ago. The earthquake in Washington DC a couple years ago was called a rebound quake. It was caused by the sudden loss of ice mass in North America. Sudden to the earth, but long to us. We look at the entire history of the earth not just the couple hundred years of data we have collected.

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/30/2011 8:52:03 AM
All the scientific institutions, national academies and 98 % of climate scientists agree. It is not just Mann. So it is not necessary to focus on Mann so much.

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/30/2011 8:48:25 AM
Your point about people retiring in warmer areas is just silly. If you look at the slide show you will see a map of Flordia. (under water)

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/30/2011 8:44:31 AM
In past warmings the intiial warming was caused by solar activity. Then the warmer ocean released CO2 which accelerated the warming. Its true that CO2 has not iniated a natural warming in the past. But it did cause warming in the past. But now man is putting CO2 into the atmosphere without the help of the sun or the ocean. And that CO2 is causing an un-natural warming.

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/30/2011 8:38:07 AM
here are some graphs from a climate scientist. http://temagami.tosm.ttu.edu/khayhoe/climate_slides/index.htm They show the temperature to be increasing and no correlation between solar activity and temperature.

T BRANDT
11/30/2011 12:43:37 AM
Please explain why co2 levels have increased steadily since 1850, but temperatures have gone up AND down periodically since then (r value for correlation of co2 to temp essentially zero). Please explain why there is very close correlation ( r value nearly 1) between solar sunspot acitivity and temps during that time. Please explain why the current warming trend started around 1800, but the industrial revolution (and increasing co2) didn't start until 1850. Please explain why the Central Anglican temp record, kept continuously since 1670, shows that no yearly average temp recorded since that time is more than 2 st dev from the mean for the period (ie- temps have remained statistically unchanged for the last 340 yrs.) Please explain why ice core data over the past hundred thousand yrs or so show that co2 levels follow the temp changes, not preceede them. Please explain why people retire and move south if warming temps are so bad for us. Please explain why biodiversity is very hiigh in warm climates and very low in cold climates if warming is so bad for the environment. Please explain why violent storms and droughts are more common in colder yrs than in warmer yrs.(contrary to what the author contends in this article. The data simply doesn't support his view-- that's why my original post was so hard on him.) Please explain why ice is accummulating & temps falling at the South Pole if warming is "global." I could go on & on. Practically every contention of the Warmers is wrong, and we can't really even trust the data given their obvious attemps at prevarication and fraud. Why have they changed the motto from Global Warming to Climate Change to Climate Disruption? Could it be because most of us aren't as dumb as they think and we can see thru their poorly hidden attempts to use false propaganda to redistribute wealth and power from industrial nations to third world nations? PS/ did you know that when random numbers are fed into Michael Piltdown Mann's computer program, it always prints out a "hockey stick" graph? And we're suppose to alter our energy policy, costing us trillions of dollars, on his "science"?

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/29/2011 1:38:11 PM
a site attended by "actual scientists", http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/ there should be enough denier de-bunking material there to answer any questions.

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/29/2011 12:58:08 PM
Here is a climate scientist: http://www.katharinehayhoe.com/ also one who happens to be very conservative politically, that may be more applicable to some MEN readers.

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/29/2011 12:22:36 PM
a television meteorologist is a scientist ? furthermore he has gone against his professional organization the American Meteorological Society, I agree we should try a site attended by actual scientists. I suggest you take your own advice.

T BRANDT
11/28/2011 11:48:31 AM
http://wattsupwiththat.com/ Try a site attended by actual scientists. The hot item here lately is analysis of more leaked e-mails showing how unbelievably corrupt the Warmers really are.

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/28/2011 1:09:47 AM
more perpective: http://www.grist.org/article/series/skeptics

ROBERT JOHNSON
11/24/2011 11:20:08 PM
Here is perspective: http://www.skepticalscience.com/

Denise Atkinson
11/23/2011 11:22:43 PM
My husband does inspections for new non carbon based energy systems. It has been know for decades about our resources being more than enough. We don't need coal based power plants. They pollute. Truthfully I don't like driving a gasoline car right now but will get a hybrid on my next purchase. I don't purchase anything new but used. People need to learn that that we don't live in a plastic world anymore. The weather events will continue and will get worse. My husband is making adjustments to make sure we will be fine in the future. The tax incentives are there to put in off grid power system.

T BRANDT
11/23/2011 6:16:20 PM
Everybody knows about the "urban heat island effect," right? Did you know that NOAA "adjusts" (why adjust at all?) rural temps UP for their averages, rather than adjusting urban temps down? It's not quite so obvious that world temps are rising at all, given the amount of fudging of the records that have been going on. Is it a coincidence that global average temps (whatever that really is) started to rise just when the Soviet Union fell apart and 1800 Siberian reporting stations were closed? You are right that natural weather patterns distribute the heat unevenly around the world-- but keep in mind that air temps have to equilibrate with ocean temps, also in a dynamic state, and that the oceans hold 10,000x (!) more heat than the atmosphere. Air temps lag behind and the ocean has been cooling for the last decade or so. Even with all the cheating in the data, the 1930s were just as warm as the 2000s, and neither were as warm as the Medieval Warm Period, itself cooler than the Roman Warm Period. So much for "unprecedented warming." BTW- Michael" Piltdown" Mann used the data from one lousy tree in California to determine that there was no Medieval Warm Period, thus giving us the "hockey stick graph." His e-mails made public last year in the Climategate Scandal show that he was consciously conspiring to fool everybody. He's being sued by the state of VA and still refuses to release his data. Is it science or religion?

Robert Johnson
11/22/2011 12:27:04 AM
As for NOAA, here is what they say: http://climate.noaa.gov/index.jsp?pg=/education/edu_index.jsp&edu=literacy

Robert Johnson
11/22/2011 12:19:06 AM
Natural weather patterns redistribute heat around the planet. They do not raise the global temperature. We are seeing a rise in global temperatures. Natural weather patterns can't do that. Also the National Academy of Sciences has endorsed the Mann hockey stick.

T BRANDT
11/19/2011 12:45:49 PM
While I can't present a critique of all the last 30 yr's research on the matter in this short space, perhaps this article will provide a little scientific, as opposed to blind religious information to give you perspective of where exactly "Global Warming" fits inti the big picture: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/09/hockey-stick-observed-in-noaa-ice-core-data/#more-13939

Penny Parrish
11/19/2011 6:39:49 AM
It's people like you that are contributing to mass extinction of humans with your rhetoric. We cannot afford Red Herrings, right now! Who do you work for some large oil company...get your facts straight, yes La Nina does produce weather pattern changes, but GLOBAL WARMING is caused by US, JUST THAT SIMPLE!

Penny Parrish
11/19/2011 6:34:00 AM
are you for real, T Brandt? what rock are you under?

T BRANDT
9/29/2011 5:07:14 PM
Ph.D. = Piled higher & Deeper. Your first paragraph implies tjhis yrs's weather was "caused by GW." Not true. You know it, but are trying to win converts to your religion. This yr's weather pattern is typical when La Nina condition dominate in the Pacific Ocean. The impact of co2 on weather is indiscernable from the "noise" in the data. It's just not important. Fossil fuel is much cheaper and more efficient than alternative energy sources. Someday when the fossil fuel is depleted, we'll be forced to use the alternates, but to do so prematurely is just stupid becasue it's so expensive. If you were snowed in for the winter in your northwoods cabin, and had a one-month's supply of old firewood already cut, would it be smart to let it sit and use newly chopped wood instead? Smarter to use up the available stuff first. Just that simple.










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