Ice on Fire

I encourage people to watch the excellent HBO documentary called “Ice on Fire” on concerns over climate change and remedial actions underway that should and can be leveraged. The documentary is produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, but the most impactful voices are the scientists, inventors and trendsetters who are seeing dividends from their actions and investments.

To sum up, we have two major problems facing us – too much carbon in the air along with a growing concern over methane as it is released from beneath melting ice caps and frozen tundra, on top of the venting from natural gas sites. The title comes from researchers lighting methane leaks on fire as it is released from melting ice covered waters. The scientists note with data that it is quite clear man is causing the hastened uptick in temperatures as we leave our carbon fingerprints in the atmosphere.

These are major concerns, but we are not sitting still. Significant efforts are underway. They can be categorized as putting less carbon in the air and capturing more carbon from the air. To avoid a novel, I will touch on some of the ideas, but please do deeper dives and watch the documentary airing now.

Stop putting carbon in the air

We must hasten the move to renewable energy. The costs are more on par and less, in some cases, than fossil fuel energy production. Wind and solar energy are growing at accelerated rates. One CEO noted, the technology is here to make this happen even more than it already is. Here in the US, California gets 25% of its electricity from solar and Texas gets 16% of its electricity from wind energy.

Yet, a very promising start-up off Scotland is tapping tidal energy. There is a company producing electricity today with an offshore platform with two turbines turned by the tides to generate electricity. I have written before about this group as they use existing technologies to harness the sea. Their success is gaining notoriety around the world, as it appears to be replicable.

Two other ideas also help with both recapture and restricting release. The first is reusing depleting biowaste (such as dying trees, plants and compost) in the soils to grow crops and future trees and foliage. The biowaste holds water better, maintains top soil and is straight out of nature’s guidebook.

The other is growing more kelp offshore as it captures carbon like sequoia trees and can also be used as a food source for livestock. Feeding cattle kelp is not a new approach. Feeding cattle is important as it greatly reduces the gases released by animals and preserves more carbon capturing grassland.

Capture more carbon from the air

The documentary spells out several natural ways to capture carbon and a few technological ways. On the former, here are a few ideas:

Maintain forests, especially those with large sequoias, which are huge carbon eaters. There are several places that are nurturing huge forests, but they note we need more of these efforts. We need to be mindful to replace what we cut, but keep some protected forests off limits to cutting.

Another example is to replenish mangroves that offer buffers to oceans. In addition to offering protection against storms, they also are natural born carbon eaters.

Another effort is to grow more urban farms. These farms are usually more organic, but in addition to absorbing carbon in urban areas, they perpetuate a farm to table concept that reduces transportation fumes. Reducing auto fumes is a huge concern of cities around the globe.

The next idea is more compex, but it requires the growing of more shells in the ocean. The dusts off the shells creates “ocean snow” that settles to the bottom and absorbs carbon. The idea is to spread a very small amount of iron in the ocean to cause more shells to grow.

The more technological solutions are designed to pull carbon out of the air. There are two approaches – one is to extract carbon and store it safely underground. The other is to pull it out and reuse it through artificial photosynthesis. Both of these options need more description than I am giving them. I prefer the more natural ways, but all of the above, is a necessary strategy at this late hour.

The scientists have concerns, but they do offer hope. The uncertainty of the ice-covered methane release gives them pause. They did note the methane release from accidental leaks from fossil fuel is visible from space and reduceable with some effort.

Another concern is the well-funded activity behind climate change deniers. A Wyoming rancher scientist standing in front of a visible, leaky methane cap said it plainly – they know this stuffs hurts kids more than adults. If someone came into my home to hurt my kids, it would be over my dead body. So, why is it OK too allow this?

Another scientist was less colorful, but equally plainspoken. He said fossil fuel executives perpetuating climate change denial should be tried in The Hague for crimes against humanity. Yet, as the costs have declined, the profit of creating carbon is becoming less palatable than the profit of reducing carbon in the air. People need to know these market forces exist today and not stand for future unhealthy energy creation.

Finally, if you cannot convince a climate change denier that we have a problem, ask them a simple question – if costs were not an issue, would you rather your children and grandchildren breathe methane from vented natural gas or drink coal ash polluted water or have carbon and methane neutral solar, wind or tidal energy? Guess what – costs are not much of an issue anymore and, in an increasing number of cases, less for renewables.

12 thoughts on “Ice on Fire

  1. It’s encouraging to know the things folks are doing to help clean up the mess we have ourselves made. Unfortunately, it tends to encourage those who ignore the problem since they are certain that whatever problems may arise humans can remedy them all. That is absurd. We must be careful what things get said because selective hearing is widespread. There are problems humans not only caused but will not be able to remedy no matter how clever we are. Thanks for this.

    • Hugh, many thanks. The documentary leaves you with three feelings – we need to act more, it is good that some are doing very good things, and the concern over the methane under the polar ice and tundra. Even they said we don’t know.

      As for the deniers, politicians need to be very pointedly asked what they plan to do about climate change. I heard Congressman Steve Scalise (R) offer up a trite argument when asked about his state, Louisiana losing land mass. When trite answers are given, then we should ask why is ExxonMobil being sued by its shareholders and three state AGs over misrepresenting the impact of climate change on their financials, which is securities fraud if proven. Why did Royal Dutch Shell pull out of a US petroleum lobby group because of their stance on climate change? I want to hear a politicians answer these questions.


  2. Note to Readers: I wrote this in a post about a month ago. I thought it was relevant:

    A science teacher teaching climate change is actively identifying (and teaching her students to do so) the approx. 30,000 internet sources of misinformation on climate change using dated, refuted and untruthful information saying variations that climate change is a hoax. Also, several petroleum companies have provided free teaching materials, which downplay climate change and sell the advantages of petroleum. In contrast, there are about 700 reputable, peer reviewed scientific sites that are worthwhile. That smaller number reveals where the money lies.

  3. Note to Readers II: The pope announced a global emergency on climate change and again requested more action. The pope is a former scientist, so he seems well read on the topic after publishing his Encyclical a couple of years ago.And, as I have written before, I have attended two panel discussions where Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu leaders spoke of their scriptures where the supreme being tells us to be a good steward of the earth.

    • Nice follow-up here -and I’m glad to know that the pope continues to address this issue.
      I think I’ve seen the trailer for this video//documentary, but not sure when I’d have the opportunity to see the entire documentary. Thank you for the summary!

      • Thanks Lisa. There was a scientist in the documentary kicking around your old stomping grounds in Costa Rica.

      • Shaking my head over that. It explains a lot of signs that I saw in the hinterlands when I was traveling around Oregon last month. Oregon tends to be more progressive (hah) than Idaho and Wyoming. But there is a lot of ag and timber. We are not reaching those people, somehow. They feel disenfranchised and all the science, logic, and reason means nothing to them. The Dems must wake up and find a way to communicate on their terms or we’re in big trouble…

      • Linda, there was a time when carbon cap and trade was a Republican idea. Now, these folks are walking out. Really? Keith

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