OT: Climate Change: An Action Plan for Solving our Climate Crisis Now

“Speed & Scale: An Action Plan for Solving our Climate Crisis Now,” by John Doerr, Penguin Random House, 2021. This 416-page hard back addresses climate change with a series of recommended solutions.

Doerr begins with a discussion of greenhouse gases. Since the industrial revolution green house gas emissions have increased exponentially. If no action is taken we can expect a devastating increase in temperatures by 4 deg C. If the goals of the Paris Agreement of 2015 are met, warming may be limited to 3 deg by 2100. The goal is to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and halfway there by 2030.

Sources of greenhouse gases are 41% energy, 20% industry, 15% agriculture, 14% transportation, and 10% nature. Major reductions are called for in energy, transportation, decarbonizing the grid, and carbon capture. Food, nature, and industry are mid range.

Electric vehicles–especially Tesla and Fisker–are cited as an important part of the green transportation plan. EV’s are to be price competitive with ICEs by 2024, 50% share by 2030, buses electric by 2025, 30% of medium and heavy trucks by 2030, 50% of all miles by 2040, 40% of planes burn green fuel by 2040, and new ships zero ready by 2030.

A chart looks at the green premium and finds electricity most economical with a 15% premium; followed closely by trucking (20%). Aviation is most costly at 227+% followed by ground beef (88%) and cement (79%). Better EV tax incentives would help as would a cash for clunkers program to encourage faster adoption. BYD is building electric buses in Lancaster, CA. Moore’s Law and Wright’s Law (in aircraft) predicts cost reduction as volume increases. The cost of batteries for Evs has fallen sharply from $60K to $8K.

In Germany, Hermann Scheer got a law passed that paid extra for electricity from solar panels. He hoped that would result in manufacturing jobs for the new technology. But China saw the opportunity and undercut domestic production (there and in the US) with low cost imports. China captured 70% of the market. Solar electricity undercut the most profitable hours for fossil fuel plants. Utilities were less profitable and had to cut back. In Germany, solar provided 56% of electricity.

To decarbonize the grid, Doerr’s plan calls for 50% of electricity from green sources by 2025; 90% by 2035. Solar and wind cheaper than fossil fuel plants by 2025. Low cost storage by 2025. No new coal or gas plants after 2021. Stop methane emissions by 2025. Reduce gas and oil in cooking and heating by half by 2040. Increase energy efficiency by 2035. A chart shows major reductions in cost of electricity with onshore wind cheapest at $53/mwhr, solar at $88, offshore wind $115, coal steady at $109 and nuclear rising sharply at $155. Wind turbine blade length has grown substantially from 35m in 1991 to 164m in 2017. Methane emissions are being tracked by satellite.

In 2018, the US ranked tenth in energy efficiency behind Germany, Italy, France, and UK. If the US matches California in efficiency we would cut our CO2 emissions by 24%.

Food emissions can be reduced 1) by increasing the carbon content of top soils, 2) stop the over use of nitrogen fertilizers and develop greener alternatives, 3) promote low emission proteins and cut consumption of beef and dairy 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2050, 4) reduce methane and nitrous oxide from rice farming by 50% by 2050 and 5) reduce food waste from 33% to 10%.

No till farming is part of this as is production of green ammonia from green hydrogen. Beef and dairy are a leading source of CO2 from agriculture. Increased consumption of plant proteins is indicated. Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods is one approach. After beef and lamb, cheese is the largest source of CO2. To reduce food waste France requires grocery stores to donate discarded food to charities.

The plan to protect nature includes eliminating deforestation by 2030; stop deep sea trawling and protect oceans, 30% by 2030, 50% by 2050; expand protected lands from 15% today to 50% by 2050. Kelp forests is a way to capture carbon by photosynthesis and store it in the ocean.

In industry, production of portland cement is a leading source of carbon. Reducing use of concrete is one way to reduce emissions. Heating with green electricity for both cement and steel is another. Doerr calls for major reductions in both but also in plastics, chemicals, paper, aluminum, glass and apparel. For plastics better recycling and use of biodegradable plastics is recommended. Coca-Cola’s use of ethylene glycol from fermentation ethanol in PET plastic is cited. Only 9% of plastic is recycled. Fleece and fiber can be made from recycled PET plastic. For industrial heat, green electricity can be used for two thirds of industrial uses. For very high temperatures for glass, steel, and cement, green hydrogen is most promising. Pipelines are needed to transport it. Use of hydrogen to melt scrap steel has been demonstrated.

Surprisingly the blast furnace problem is not discussed. Iron ore is reduced to pig iron in a blast furnace using coke as both a fuel and a reducing agent (ie to burn out the oxygen in iron oxide to make iron metal). This produces carbon oxides as a by-product. Some are looking into use of hydrogen as the reducing agent. This process is experimental. Doerr’s solution is to use scrap iron rather than iron ore for steel. But we know iron tends to rust. Some reduction capacity is required.

A chapter describes methods to remove carbon from the air. Reforestation, incorporating biochar into soils, carbon capture, and marine biomass are discussed. So far carbon capture is not economical. A carbon credits system could help foot the bill.

Four chapters describe methods to accelerate the transition. Require each nation to adopt the plan and set goals for each phase of the transition. Two thirds of greenhouse emissions come from five countries: China, 26%, US, 13%, EU 9%, India, 7%, Russia, 5%. Each should focus on control of its largest sources. In 2020, China announced plans to reach net zero by 2060. Biden committed the US to clean electricity by 2035 and net zero by 2050.

Doerr’s plan is ambitious and requires participation from all nations but especially developed nations. So far that has been less than enthusiastic implying that we would rather accept the cost in storm damage, fires, reduced food production, and higher insurance premiums. A resources section provides more detail and references. Charts. Index.