A decade or so ago, Bjorn Lomborg, the famous “Skeptical Environmentalist”(title of his book) opined that it would be hopeless and a wrong allocation of trillions of dollars to get the world to transform its energy generation means and transportation equipment by switching away from coal and oil fast enough to avoid a global warming catastrophe.. He correctly assumed that politics, inertia, and lack of feasibility would not allow such a disruption of the world and its lifestyles. Therefore, a better use of at least some of this money would be (a) to spend it to eradicate major population ills (aids, malaria, plagues, etc) and (b) to finance the inevitable relocation of population and infrastructure to higher ground as ocean levels rise. (See my blog post dated July 13, 2013). Implicit in this approach would be to build structures or dykes to protect areas that cannot readily be moved. It is now becoming obvious that the second part of Lomborg’s recommendation is already underway.
While many communities along the coast are considering water level rises measured in inches (with even those already causing major problems in Miami Beach and elsewhere), Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has prepared a Master Plan detailing $ 50 billion in investments over five decades to deal with the huge amount of flooding expected that has already caused the state to lose 1800 square miles of land, equivalent to 80 Manhattans (Bloomberg Business Week, Jan 30- Feb 5,2017 – also the source of the graphic above). The so-called 100-year flood is expected to raise water levels by 3 to 14 feet(!). The report incidentally onsiders 14 feet to be the maximum practical height that a house can be raised(!).
But let’s revert to global warming, climate change and carbon. I believe that global warming deniers have largely lost credibility. Deniers of the role of Greenhouse gases are still un-persuaded by scientific evidence, but in many cases (e.g. Mid-West farmers) are actively dealing with climate change, not particularly interested or at least unable to fathom what’s causing it. You could say that Trump is in this camp. Then, there is a large group, probably the largest one, that believes it is good to reduce emission of Greenhouse gases even if that just slows down what may well be the inevitable. It may not be inevitable if the projection of GHG effects on climate and sea levels are near the low end and the pace of installation of renewable energy sources is at the high end. The Paris treaty plays into this scenario. Finally, there is the group that wants to eliminate fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but they will have little influence on policy and actions.
At this point we will have to watch and see what Trump plans to do in this area. When there are some specific actions to review, I certainly plan to comment. At this point, given Trump’s domiciles in Manhattan Mar el Lago, as well as ownership of golf courses on several coasts, I am guessing that he will be more concerned about water level rises than are the people in Colorado ad Utah.
Of course, the EPA’s effectively mandated shutdown of a number coal-fired power plants had broader goals than reduction of carbon dioxide emission: it was also intended to greatly reduce the emission of coal-based toxic chemicals in the flue gases. The EPA’s reliance on the Clean Air Act as legal justification for these shutdowns, agreed to by the Supreme Court, may make a reversal of these shutdowns difficult – particularly when some of these plants have or are switching to cheap natural gas. As for “Clean Coal” plants, a term used by Trump in campaign speeches in West Virginia and elsewhere, this will be an unlikely solution as my January 15th post has discussed. Today’s issue of the New York Times discussed a Chinese initiative to build a large number of coal gasification plants similar to Kemper and Sasketchewan in an area very abundant with coal. These will make “synthetic natural gas”, but without the benefit of capturing and using or storing the emitted byproduct CO2. Carbon pollution in this area of China will be immense. So, no “Clean Coal”. Mr Trump, are you reading this?