Climate Letter #1104

China’s booming demand for milk is an impediment to decarbonization, and hard to control.  The end result is of the same type as that from burning fossil fuels, and the numbers are surprisingly large.  We hear more about the vital need to reduce meat consumption, but dairy is not much different.
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An update on global plans for construction of new coal-fired power plants (Washington Post).  As usual, the implications are frightening but there are enough uncertainties to leave reason for hope that most will not be built.  “If we don’t stop building coal plants now, we will have four unpalatable options…..We either (1) shut down coal plants early, (2) retrofit expensive carbon capture technologies, (3) suck even more CO2 out of the atmosphere, potentially at high cost, or (4) burn through the 2 degree C target.”
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The nitrogen pollution crisis also has to be fixed (Yale e360).  Fred Pearce tells us about a potential for environmental catastrophe in this century rivaling that of climate change.  Fertilizer application must be cut by at least half, but it just keeps growing in an uncontrolled way.  One big problem is that “nitrogen pollution is a largely ignored environmental story, with no international agreement or UN agency to galvanize action.”  That has been recognized and could change.
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What would life of a sustainable sort actually look like without the weight of current problems?  In CL#1102 I posted a review from the LA Times of a new study that sets some parameters.  Here is another review, from Anthropocene magazine, which has a link to the main study at the end—“A good life for all within planetary boundaries.”  The study has a paywall but the link does provide considerable information about 56 other studies used as references.  Reading through the titles, and authors, will give you an idea of the kind of high-level thought and effort being devoted to this subject.  Links to many of them are provided, and some can be found having open access, ready for reading.  (See below.)
–I pulled out one title from a study published just three months ago, about decoupling the human need for satisfaction from energy use, which luckily has no paywall.  A quick look tells me it has a profound tone and is worthy of more study.  Material like this does not easily find its way into our ordinary field of view!
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At the University of Maryland, engineers have found a practical way to turn wood into a substitute for steel, in many ways much better, and even cheaper.  The energy savings could be very large on several levels.
Carl
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