GHG ~ The young people have the most to lose!

The Climate Change Challenge is the Biggest Game in the Country

Professor Naomi Oreskes Interviewed by Steve Curwood, Recorded with Transcript

The Earth is hurtling toward climate disaster as evidenced by many scientific studies, including the latest results from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Yet the world continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels and drag its heels on transitioning to clean energy. Harvard University Professor of the History of Science Naomi Oreskes joins Host Steve Curwood to note climate change science is unequivocal and why the paths to solving the climate crisis are political and social. Here is the Transcript.

CURWOOD: There is now a steady drumbeat of increasing climate peril. Researchers at the UK’s Met Office have just reported there’s a 50-50 chance that sometime in the next four years there will be a year when the average mean global near-surface temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. A brief blip at that level does not spell immediate disaster, scientists say, but if it becomes a long-term trend we will be in deep trouble, which is why staying below a 1.5 degree increase is the target of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Met Office report comes on the heels of dire warnings last month from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC says we must act before it is too late to avert a horribly overheated climate, yet emissions keep rising, especially from huge amounts of methane linked to the natural gas industry. We face an existential threat of historic proportions, so we thought we’d call up a historian for some guidance. Naomi Oreskes is a Harvard Professor of the History of Science. Naomi, welcome to Living on Earth.
ORESKES: Thanks, Steve. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

CURWOOD: So we thought we’d call you up to ask what’s going on? What should we do? Why is it that we are marching in such lockstep towards climate disaster at this point?
ORESKES: Well, in terms of what’s going on, I’d say this is a classic good news and bad news story. And most unequivocal statement of the scientific evidence that we have seen to date. My colleagues and I have tracked this for a long time. And one of the things we’ve noticed is that the IPCC has been very conservative, they’ve been very cautious. They’ve tended to understate the threat. The reports were more or less correct. But on the low side, on the conservative side of predicting what would actually happen. This is the first time where I think the scientific community has stated very clearly very accurately, you know, calling the climate spade a spade. So that’s the good news. The bad news is how bad the news is, live really wasted 30 years, you know, the IPCC was first gathered in 1988. We have lived through now more than, you know, 30 years of inaction, of disinformation of disingenuous promises. And so now we are at a point of crisis, a lot of climate deniers, the fossil fuel industry, even ordinary people accuse scientists of being alarmist. Well, we have seen that they did not exaggerate the threat, they really called it pretty much correctly, but because we have ignored it now, it really is something to be alarmed at. Now, we are truly facing a climate crisis.

CURWOOD: At what point are we going to act? We’ve seen this last year, there was the climate summit in Scotland. But about the only thing that was agreed upon there was the ability for Wall Street to trade in carbon emissions, in terms of direct action to help less fortunate countries mobilize in terms of actually getting emissions down, not much has happened.
ORESKES: Well, of course, and we are in a very bad place. To me, the message that we need to get across now is that this is no longer a scientific question. At this point, there’s really no science to argue, the IPCC should declare victory, they should close working group one, they should say, we did the job we were asked to do, we were asked to tell you what level of carbon pollution represents, quote, dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system, we’ve given you that answer. And now the onus is on you, the world society, political, business leaders to do something about it. And I think that’s really the message that should be front and center now. So we need to shift our attention away from the science, but really focus on the political, social, and economic aspects of this problem. The reason we haven’t acted is because of powerful political, economic, and social forces standing in the way deliberately trying to block action. And then just also all the inertia, the normal inertia and status quo bias that we face any time we want to make change.

CURWOOD: We saw President come into office making a lot of noise about doing something on climate. And yet with the war in Ukraine, the same president is saying to the fossil fuel industry drill, baby drill.
ORESKES: I know and this is really astonishing, because the war should be a reminder to us of how many good reasons there are to act on climate besides just the climate system itself, if we had started the process of transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, if we’d started that process back in 88, when the IPCC was first gathered, or in 1990, when they first issued their report, or 1992, when the world’s nations signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, we could have made that transition by now, all the technologies that we know are available to fix this problem, have been around already for quite a while they’ve become much cheaper in the last 10 years or so it’s kind of a tragedy of historic proportions. I do think historians will be writing about this for years to come.

CURWOOD: And in fact, the president of the United States is looking at midterm elections where the price of gasoline is seen as an indicator of his possible success, the more expensive gasoline is, the lower his odds of keeping control of one or both houses of Congress.
ORESKES: Well, that’s right. And this is where I think the messaging of the fossil fuel industry has been far more effective than the messaging of the people who would like to see action on climate. Some of this, I think, is a legacy of effect of having to find this problem as a scientific problem. Scientists are really not the right people to articulate a new political and cultural vision of what it would look like for us to actually be freed from the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry. But the Democratic Party and scientists and people involved in the climate issue by and large, have not been good at articulating that positive vision of what this looks like how in the long run, we save money by switching to renewables, how in the long run, we save lives, we improve our health, we generate jobs that can’t be outsourced. Our political leaders and the people involved in this issue have not done a good job of articulating it. And so the fear mongers can say, oh my god, the price of gas is going up. You know, we have to drill for more oil and gas even though it commits us to a dangerous future and will cost us billions, if not trillions of dollars in damages, which, of course, the American people, the taxpayer, will be picking up the bill for that.

CURWOOD: This year, we have a forecast of 19 named hurricanes and the United States in 3,4,5, serious ones, and only a handful of people driving electric cars who don’t care about the price of gasoline going up at the pump.

ORESKES: Right. So I mean, it seems to me, one thing the President should be doing is announcing a massive incentive program to switch us all to electric cars, but a really front and center program, tax credits for anyone buying electric car. So first of all, to give incentives for people to get electric cars, which are now really great. I mean, electric cars are good to drive, the forces of darkness, want to cast this as a story of sacrifice. But this is really not about sacrifice. It’s about transition. But the alternative is actually better. Electric cars aren’t just more efficient and cleaner, they drive better, they’re faster, they accelerate faster. And again, that’s not a message that’s getting out in the way that it needs to I mean, Elon Musk has tried, but he’s got his own issues.

CURWOOD: Interestingly enough, Musk did this as something cool for the elite to do not something for the masses to save money on maintenance and fuel expenses, and to not have these fumes in the air that kill 300,000 of us early every year in this country from burning fossil fuels.
ORESKES: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, according to the World Health Organization, 7 million people die every year from air pollution, most of which is driven by fossil fuel combustion, 7 million people. I mean, so this is essentially a global pandemic of death caused by air pollution, mostly caused by fossil fuels. But getting back to the elite versus the everyday again, this is why I think the Ford F 150 truck and the whole Ford fleet, right, Ford has announced there’s going to be an electric Mustang, you know, electric trucks, electric sedans. I mean, this is fantastic, right. So I would like to see the President, do a giant press conference with the CEO of Ford Motors to announce this initiative and to say, this is an initiative for all Americans, and we will all benefit. And I just think that could be a really powerful message. And honestly, I don’t, I don’t know why that’s not happening.

CURWOOD: Really. You don’t know why? … ORESKES: Well, okay. I guess I do know why. Yeah.

CURWOOD: Yeah. Can you say a little? … ORESKES: The fossil fuel industry has a stranglehold on Washington, DC. And it’s not just the Republicans. I mean, we saw that this year with Joe Manchin’s, refusal to play ball. And if you think about it, why are we even in a place where it comes down to one vote, right? There are a lot of people in the Democratic Party who are too close to the fossil fuel industry who are afraid of the fossil fuel industry, the fossil fuel industry does, in fact, target people who stand up against them. But if we don’t stand up, then we’ve given up the fight without a fight. And this is a fight. And it may be dirty, and it may be messy but you know, we have to confront it. Because if we don’t, well, then we’re looking at 2,3,4 degrees of climate change and massive damage, massive losses.

CURWOOD: Hopefully, the urgency around the use of fossil fuels, because of what’s going on in the war in Eastern Europe will abate and people will be able to see that if we weren’t so dependent on them that we would have better health and better security. You know, the chief executive of Blackrock, Larry Fink, I don’t know, they manage what seven $8 trillion in assets for various people. He said that the war is going to really speed up the greening of, of our economy. But you say that the private side folks may be very helpful. They may be, in fact necessary, but they’re not sufficient really to get it done.
ORESKES: Yeah, that is what I think. If we look at history, what we see is that government playing an active role has been essential in all of the major technological transitions of the last century or even more, if we look at the rise of radio or television, or commercial aviation, or rural electrification, what we find is that not one of these was done by the private sector working alone. All of them were done, either by the US government, like rural electrification, or the development of the Internet, or they were done through private public partnership. And so that’s why I think that seeing active leadership from the US federal government and state governments, I think that’s going to be really important. And I think it’s really important for business leaders to reach out to political leaders and vice versa, to figure out what that kind of partnership could look like, in the 21st century.

CURWOOD: How sufficient Do you think democracy is to this challenge? You and a partner have written a novel a couple of centuries in the future, showing that it was China under a fairly authoritarian regime that best dealt with the climate emergency.
ORESKES: The world’s democracies have not been very effective in dealing with this problem. I wouldn’t say China has been exactly effective either, but they’ve taken stronger steps particularly in supporting a powerful solar energy industry. Democracy relies upon the assumption that we have access to good information, and that we can have a free and full exchange of ideas because people are operating in good faith. But if people are lying, and if we’re saturated by a sea of disinformation, propaganda, lies, half truths, it makes it incredibly difficult for us as citizens to do our job in a democracy. So I guess another part of this story, a bigger part has to do with disinformation and social media and what steps we need to take to address the spread of disinformation on social media. The myth that many people have the idea that many Americans have that problems are best solved by letting the market do its magic. History refutes it. And so then the question is, why do so many people believe this idea, which is so clearly refuted by experience? And the answer is propaganda. And so we’ve tracked a 100 year propaganda campaign by American business leaders to promote this free market ideology and to teach us to distrust government. If we don’t trust government, then I think we will not actually be able to solve this problem, we really have to address the root causes of people’s distrust in government. And some of that, or at least one of the major root causes is propaganda.

CURWOOD: How do we get from here to there?
ORESKES: Well, that’s a great question. And again, if you look at history, I think history tells us that bottom up social movements are really important. And especially if you think about civil rights in America, I like to think a lot about Rosa Parks, partly because she was an ordinary person, but also because Rosa Parks didn’t actually work alone. But she was actually part of a social movement that had planned that moment. It wasn’t spontaneous. But it’s really important for us to understand, social change doesn’t actually mostly come from individuals working alone, it comes from individuals working together. And bottom up social movements can be very, very powerful, especially then, if they can be linked with articulate and charismatic leaders like Martin Luther King, there’s a role for all of us to play, we all need to get involved. And we shouldn’t just be sitting in our seats waiting for the Martin Luther King of climate change to emerge, we should all be getting involved to create that bottom up social movement, and to put pressure on our political leaders, because we know they’re getting the pressure from the fossil fuel industry, but they’re not getting the same kind of counter pressure from ordinary citizens who care about this issue.

CURWOOD: So Professor Oreskes is what gives you hope in this situation?
ORESKES: What gives me hope is the fact that this thing can be solved. There are the technologies, the innovations, the policies that we need all exist, we know what they are, we don’t have to invent some new miracle technology. We don’t have to invent some new miracle policy. We have the tools at our disposal. We just have to use them.

CURWOOD: Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. Thanks for taking the time with us today.

{ 1 comment }

Some 14 sites identified for “CLEAN H2” development

Gov. Wolf says Pennsylvania Well-Positioned to be Leader in National Clean Energy Transition

Press Release from Penna. Governor, Harrisburg, PA, May 16, 2022

Governor Tom Wolf today joined industry leaders and stakeholders at the Pittsburgh Manufacturing Summit to highlight his legacy of support for manufacturing in Pennsylvania and how this support plus Pennsylvania’s bounty of natural resources poises Pennsylvania to be a leader in the United States​’ transition to clean energy.

“Pennsylvania’s smoke​ and steel have helped to build many of our nation’s most iconic and ambitious projects – the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and Hoover Dam among them,” said Gov. Wolf. “And now our industrial strength, abundant natural resources, and powerful workforce has the opportunity to lead the nation in a transition to a clean energy ecosystem including more reliance on clean hydrogen and carbon capture sequestration and storage.”

In Pennsylvania, manufacturing is big business. It employs nearly 10% of Pennsylvania’s workforce and accounts for 11.42% of economic output. Since Gov. Wolf took office in 2015 and immediately prioritized his support for an even stronger industry, the economic output of manufacturing in Pennsylvania rose from $85 billion in 2016 to more than $92 billion in 2021.

In order to ensure this key sector remains strong into the future, the Governor is working with a diverse coalition of energy, organized labor, and state and local leaders to develop the public private partnerships needed to address the challenges of decarbonization and ensure our manufacturers and industry will continue to compete in a carbon constrained 21st century economy.

Through President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), $8 billion is available to support four Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs to expand the use of clean hydrogen in the industrial sector. The Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs initiative is part of the Biden Administration’s broad work to create jobs by expanding the use of clean hydrogen to accelerate the decarbonization of the industrial sector.

Gov. Wolf confirmed his intention to ensure Pennsylvania is competitive in pursuing DOE investment in a Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub earlier today. This effort will ensure the creation of clean energy jobs in Pennsylvania, while supporting the Biden Administration’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85​% by 2050.

At the Pittsburgh Manufacturing Summit today, Gov. Wolf acknowledge​d significant industry and stakeholder support and partnerships received to make Pennsylvania a leader in the development of clean hydrogen and competitive for energy related federal funding authorized under the BIL.

“The support and excitement we’ve received from the industry has been overwhelming, and it’s critical to our ability to have a seat at the table and compete for these upcoming opportunities,” said Gov. Wolf. “Bringing a Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub to the commonwealth will also bring new jobs and economic growth, it will help t​o reduce emissions, protect us from the growing dangers of climate change, and improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.”

The Department of Energy anticipates that applications for funding will open later this summer. Over the next several months, Pennsylvania will work with stakeholders to create a path to industrial sector decarbonization with an emphasis on the deployment of clean hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies and collaborate to ensure that the Department of Energy invests in Pennsylvania.


Fitzgerald Statement on Region’s Pursuit of a Clean Hydrogen Hub

PITTSBURGH – County Executive Rich Fitzgerald today joined Governor Tom Wolf; Hilary Mercer, Shell’s Senior Vice President of Pennsylvania Chemicals; Darrin Kelly, President of the Allegheny Fayette Labor Council; and Matt Smith, President of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, to highlight the region’s pursuit of the opportunity to be designated as one of four Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs in the United States. The initiative is part of President Biden’s work to create jobs by expanding the use of clean hydrogen to accelerate the decarbonization of the industrial sector.

“This is an important initiative for our region that can allow us to reach our goals for energy sustainability more quickly. Western Pennsylvania already has a significant number of stakeholders who call this region home who are also invested in making improvements that create jobs, encourage manufacturing, address our supply chain, and have a better environment.

“We have been fortunate to have the federal leadership of Senator Casey, Congressman Doyle and Congressman Lamb who have all championed this effort and continued to encourage the exploration of this possibility for our region. Governor Wolf’s confirmation of his intent to ensure that we are competitive in pursuing this U.S. Department of Energy investments adds to the political will to get this done. Along with the investments by our universities in this research and commitments from labor, philanthropy, and the private sector, we are well on our way to capitalizing on this potential.

“There is a significant amount of work that will need done with all partners collaborating to outline what this region’s proposal will look like, but that’s what we do best here. We roll up our sleeves; we get to work; and we work together to solve this region’s biggest challenges.”

# # #

See Also: Large-Scale Storage of Hydrogen, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 44, Issue 23, 3 May 2019, Pages 11901-11919.

ABSTRACT ~ The large-scale storage of hydrogen plays a fundamental role in a potential future hydrogen economy. Although the storage of gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns already is used on a full industrial scale, the approach is not applicable in all regions due to varying geological conditions. Therefore, other storage methods are necessary. In this Article, options for the large-scale storage of hydrogen are reviewed and compared based on fundamental thermodynamic and engineering aspects. The application of certain storage technologies, such as liquid hydrogen, methanol, ammonia, and dibenzyltoluene, is found to be advantageous in terms of storage density, cost of storage, and safety. The variable costs for these high-density storage technologies are largely associated with a high electricity demand for the storage process or with a high heat demand for the hydrogen release process. If hydrogen is produced via electrolysis and stored during times of low electricity prices in an industrial setting, these variable costs may be tolerable.

DISCUSSION ~ As seen in this Article, there currently exists no hydrogen storage technology without shortcomings, i.e., there is presently no “perfect” hydrogen storage technology. There exist relatively few purely technical barriers for several of the considered technologies; nevertheless, the added cost of the storage technologies is a concern. The cost of hydrogen storage is made up of three main parts: the costs of constructing the storage facility, the costs of the utilities needed to operate the facility, and the costs to maintain the facility.


“NO COAL, NO GAS” Campaign Activists Jailed & Fined in New Hampshire

May 16, 2022

Sentenced for Coal Blockade, Climate Activists Vow to ‘Continue to Do What Must Be Done’ From an Article by Julia Conley, Common Dreams, May 16, 2022 After being sentenced to four to six months in a county jail and thousands of dollars in fines for participating in a coal train blockade in New Hampshire more [...]

Read the full article →

Perspective on WV vs. EPA Case at U.S. Supreme Court ~ “Major Questions”

May 15, 2022

CURIOUS ACTIVITIES ~ Climate Change in the Supreme Court Essay by Lisa Heinzerling, J.D., New England Journal of Medicine, May 11, 2022 In West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Supreme Court is expected to decide how far the EPA may go in regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired and gas-fired power plants under the [...]

Read the full article →

Senior Faculty at Cornell University Recruited to Address Climate Issues

May 14, 2022

The 2030 Project is a New Program at Cornell University to Address the Climate Crisis From an Article by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Chronicle, Ithaca, NY, May 12, 2022 Breakthrough science can be adapted into real-world solutions to address the climate challenge during our most critical decade. Fueled by the collaborative spirit of Cornell’s faculty, The [...]

Read the full article →

“UTILITY-SCALE SOLAR ~ Webinar — a Revolution in Progress”

May 13, 2022

Announcement of the upcoming hybrid webinar: “Utility-Scale Solar – a Revolution in Progress” — with a live audience in Morgantown, West Virginia, and online via Zoom — on Monday, May 16, from 7-8:00 PM USET. The main speaker will be David Feldman, Senior Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. David Feldman will be joined [...]

Read the full article →

Solar Energy Gaining Foothold in WEST VIRGINIA

May 12, 2022

WV Wesleyan College unveils state’s largest solar array From an Article by Joe Lint, WBOY News 12, Clarksburg, WV, May 11, 2022 BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – West Virginia Wesleyan College and Pickering Energy Solutions dedicated a new solar array located on campus Wednesday. The completed solar panel system uses more than 1,328 bi-facial panels, which provides [...]

Read the full article →

PSR ~ “Health Harms from Gas Stoves” Webinars on May 13th, 16th & 18th

May 11, 2022

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in Pennsylvania, Texas & Arizona to Provide Webinar Training on “Cooking With Natural Gas” Gas appliances generate dangerous air pollutants that deteriorate your and your family’s health. It’s important for you to know the signs & symptoms of gas appliance pollution exposure and how to properly address them. PSR is [...]

Read the full article →

DIVERSIFIED Has Created A Terrible Methane Problem for WV-DEP ~ Part 2

May 10, 2022

Gas Well Numbers Don’t Add Up for DIVERSIFIED at the WV-DEP From an Article by Mike Tony, Charleston Gazette Mail, April 30, 2022 The WV well inspection staff dwindling from 18 to nine in the past two years on the Legislature’s watch has concerned not just environmentalists but royalty owners who see a corrosive connection [...]

Read the full article →

DIVERSIFIED Has Created A Terrible Methane Problem for WV-DEP ~ Part 1

May 9, 2022

Gas Well Numbers Don’t Add Up for DIVERSIFIED at the WV-DEP From an Article by Mike Tony, Charleston Gazette Mail, April 30, 2022 All is often not well when gas wells end. In 2020, Carbon Tracker, a London-based think tank researching climate change impacts on financial markets, estimated the costs of plugging gas and oil [...]

Read the full article →