Archive for July, 2013

What if “Climate Change” is the next “Y2K”? [My Linked:Energy (Energy industry expertise) comment]

What follows below is a comment I offered up on the thread to the Post Subject Title: What if “Climate Change” is the next “Y2K”?

I want to formally call out two concepts I think would better serve this discussion:

Climate Instability — As much as I disagree with the operatives ‘climate change’, I think it would be better served to educate the dummied down masses with the usage of the more accurate operatives, ‘climate instability’, rather than ‘climate change’–for the very reason Larry aptly offered up. I think there is so much distrust by the general public because we scientists/engineers try to find a way to explain challenging concepts without speaking over their heads, and in doing so to make it more palatable, the actuality sometimes gets skewed. The current understanding of the many facets of climate ‘change’ science is pervasive and profound, with many unknowns, and unknown unknowns, that cannot be characterized in terms of a conventional probability distribution. Perhaps if there were not so much ambiguity in the science, ambiguity aversion by the masses could be averted. But alas, most can only handle absolutes, expect science to be exact, and so it goes…

Precautionary Principle – I believe worst-case scenarios should always be considered and planned for. We should NEVER wait until disaster happens to act. In this case, even if climate instability turns out to not be as deleterious as originally thought, the precautions put in place will be to our advantage no matter what the scenario. Is moving towards sustainable energy a bad thing? No. Is changing our consumptive, polluting behavior a bad thing? No.

A tactical suggestion: So I now try break out the precautionary principle, the argument stops and agreement begins.

Say, I think it’s past time to dispense the human hubris that we should expect Mother Nature to acquiesce to our human quality of life expectations to which we have become accustomed, eschew futile dichotomies (economics and environment), and instead focus on implementing measures to PREPARE. RESPOND. ADAPT. For quite a long time now, I have thought we should be instead looking at application of developments in the economic theory of ambiguity to climate instability policy that includes both mitigation policy (the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation policy (coping with the consequences of climate instability).

Ancillary note. During the Y2K ‘unevent’, I was charged with ensuring that the web server farm/systems to which I was entrusted managing, what was at the time the 3rd biggest e-commerce web site in the world,, did not suffer an outage on 01/01/2000. And yes, all the time and effort invested in shoring-up our uninterruptible power requirements infrastructure ended up being most advantageous afterward. This experience also catalyzed my ‘reinvention’ into the renewable energy world.


How far can we push the planet?

Several years ago, I was privileged to work for a company that was instrumental in optimizing the way the Carnegie Global Ecology Center, which is located on the campus of Stanford University, managed its day-to-day energy resources. Because of the nature of the research being performed by the scientists at this institution, they were keen to practice what they preach to minimize their carbon footprint in their work environment.

The other day, I heard one of the Carnegie Global Ecology Center climate scientists, Ken Caldera, interviewed on the local radio station, KPFA Full Circle program. The main question in this interview was should humans be able to control the weather? This only begs the question, in general, is this our role as human beings to manipulate and control Mother Nature?

What would happen if we do not curtail CO2 emissions and burn all of the fossil fuels available? The future would look a lot like how it did 100 million years ago, the age of the dinosaurs, which means high CO2 levels and a very warm planet. Ken Caldera, Climate Scientist, Chemical Oceanographer

Last year, he also offered his insights to Scientific America in his article titled The Great Climate Experiment. How far can we push the planet? 

The planet will be transformed by unabated CO2 mitigation–a 5 deg C temperature rise could raise sea level by 70 meters. A myriad of ideas are floating around that includes actions to withdraw CO2 from the atmosphere and/or reduce the amount of climate change, including:

  • Planting trees, burning the trees as biomass fuel and capturing and storing the carbon emitted
  • Fertilizing the ocean
  • Reflecting the sunlight into space
  • Make clouds wider or paint rooftops white
  • Giant reflecting satellites in space

What is wise, doable and morally responsible? And again, is this even our job as human beings to intentionally manipulate our climate? Personally, I agree with Ken, I think we are already overstepping our bounds. So now, what is the best way to act?


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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

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