Ronald Mitchell: Reasons for climate optimism

Last week, University of Oregon’s Ronald Mitchell circulated a request:

I am teaching a course on the ‘science and politics of climate change’ this term. As the term comes to a close, I would like to leave them with some notes of optimism. If anyone was willing to send on articles, news items, or simply ‘blurbs’ of success stories in the realm of climate change, or reasons for optimism, that would be much appreciated.

Here are the responses, reprinted with permission:

Cool Electric Car gets 75 mpg
Tesla Model S named as Motor Trends 2013 Car of the Year – It’s electric and gets the equivalent of 75 mpg.
(link: MotorTrend)

Batteries May Make Solar and Wind Energy Viable
New battery technologies help overcome a major obstacle to renewable energy, by providing storage.
(link: Donald Sadoway TED talk)

Low Fuel Plane Design
An MIT-led team designed an airplane estimated to use 70% less fuel than current planes (and reduces noise and nitrogen oxide pollutants too).
(link: MIT)

International Cooperation is Succeeding at Fostering New Energy Technologies
• Research into generating electricity through fusion rather than fission is making steady, if slow, progress.
• Research supported through international cooperation of China, EU, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the US
• If successful, it is environmentally safe and offers a real alternative to fossil fuels.
(link: ITER — International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor)

California Prices Carbon
California adopts cap-and-trade system and first efforts at auctioning greenhouse gas permits goes smoothly and “prices” carbon.
(link: SF Gate)

Australia Taxes Carbon
• Australia legislated an economy wide carbon price. It started as a carbon tax in 2013 and will transition to an emissions trading scheme in 2015.
• Despite climate science skepticism, strong opposition from the conservative party and a powerful mining sector, the carbon tax has started with little harm to the economy and growing public acceptance
(link: The Conversation)

LEED Buildings Make Rapid Headway
• Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) idea launched by Green Building Council in 1998 by group of “industry mavericks
• US market for green building grew 50% during recession of 2008-2010
• Over 30,000 LEED projects cover 1.6 billion square feet of commercial building space
• All new US embassies must meet LEED standards
(Source: Paul Steinberg. 2013. Who Rules the Earth? How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives in preparation. Oxford UP.)

German City Creates Energy Technology Park
Gelsenkirchen Germany (an old coal, steel and glass industry city) set up energy technology park with help from European Union and set a voluntary carbon reduction target to go from “a city of a thousand furnaces to a city of a thousand suns.”
(link pdf: Peter Newell, Jon Phillips, and Dustin Mulvaney Pursuing Clean Energy Equitably. Human Development Research Paper 2011/03.)

Efforts to Address Climate and Social Justice
Just Energy: innovative collaboration of NGO, engineers, lawyers, academics, and consultants that is helping low-income communities in South Africa to provide “a fair return on renewable energy for local people and investors alike.”
(link: Just Energy)

Indonesian Islamic Leaders Preach Conservation
The Islamic Leader Forum for Environmental Care (FORDALING) argues that the Koran directly addresses the need to protect nature in Ayat-Ayat Konservasi (Islamic Verses for Conservation) and educated Islamic leaders to use sermons to promote nature conservation.

Portland, Oregon Example of Emissions Reductions
Per-capita emissions are 26% lower in 2010 than in 1990.
(link: Portland Online)

AND The Beauty of the World Still Inspires Us
Video: What color is a glacier? (link)

With contributions from:
• Jeff McGee, University of Newcastle, Australia
• Ian Fry, Australian National University
• Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith, UC-Davis
• Jonathan Rosenberg, University of Alaska
• Paul Steinberg, Harvey Mudd College
• Radoslav S. Dimitrov, University of Western Ontario
• Rasmus Karlsson, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
• Christopher Gore, Ryerson University
• Peter Newell, University of Sussex

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