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NPR and Climate Change

By:
Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jun 18, 2019  at  at 6:00 AM
Category
Climate Change

NPR recently broadcast and published a piece entitled: “It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change”. The approach they describe has 3 major elements.

  • Mass Electrification
  • Urbanization of Everything
  • Reduced Emissions from Farming

The piece assumes that the technology required to achieve these 3 elements is available today; and, that the challenge is implementation and the societal changes which must occur in the process. There is no discussion of the steps required to achieve mass electrification, merely the statement that it would take lots more solar, wind and batteries. There is no discussion of how people come to choose to live in urban environments, which would grow enormously in size and population, with attendant increases in ambient temperatures as the result of urban heat island effects. There is no discussion of how farm emissions from the growing of food crops would be reduced, while increasing food production.

Electric vehicles are discussed as a transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to pedestrianized cities with mass transit providing virtually all transportation requirements. Electric over-the-road trucks are recognized as a problem, because of their weight and the limitations of battery technology; and, electrified highways similar to electrified railways and light rail systems are mentioned as a possible solution. There is no discussion of the transition from diesel/electric freight railroad propulsion to electric propulsion. Planes are assumed to continue to be fossil fueled, with their emissions offset by carbon capture and storage.

Heavy industries, such as steelmaking and cement production are assumed either to be equipped with carbon capture systems, or to be relegated to operating elsewhere. The piece leaves the reader to assume that elsewhere means some other nation, rather than off-planet. However, relocating heavy industry to different nations with less stringent emissions requirements is inconsistent with stopping climate change, except on a national level. Unfortunately, emissions of “greenhouse gases” know no national boundaries, so they affect climate as long as they persist anywhere on earth.

Of course, the entire premise of stopping climate change is fanciful. Climate changes. Climate has always changed, as far as we have been able to determine. The natural causes of climate change are not well understood, if at all. The anthropogenic causes of climate change are thought to be better understood; and, it is these causes that the NPR piece addresses.

Stopping climate change resulting from natural causes would require a thorough understanding of the full range of those natural causes, their periodicity, the magnitude of the changes they cause individually and collectively and methods to regulate or offset their effects. The current state of climate science is insufficient to deal with active climate management to avoid natural climate change, even if all of the assumed contributors to anthropogenic climate change were eliminated or offset.

The intent of the NPR piece was to suggest that the path ahead is clear and the endpoint achievable; and, that we should get on with the process without further delay.