Ice on Fire – a reprise

Note, the following post was written two years ago, but still serves as a reminder of the progress we have made and need to make to address our climate change problem.

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 to 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.

11 thoughts on “Ice on Fire – a reprise

  1. Hasn’t President Biden (I love saying that) already taken steps to change a lot of the damage his predecessor did by getting rid of everything being used before his reign of terror? For every tree cut by loggers we need more trees planted. As a member of the Arbor Day group I never ask for the trees they offer for membership be sent to me. I ask that they be planted in a national forest. If we stopped throwing so much away and tried reusing a lot of products it would cut down on so much that is clogging waterways and producing methane gas in the landfills. My kids wore cloth diapers and it didn’t hurt them at all or make my life miserable. And they won’t be dug up in a hundred years by scientists looking for artifacts of this day in time. I know this adds little to the solution if only a few people do it, but think what would happen if everyone did it. Use reusable containers, cloth diapers, try riding a bicycle, all the simple things we did years ago just because we had to, stop the throw away economy we live in now. Baby steps now, but just think about how quickly baby steps turn into perpetual motion as they learn to run

    • Angie, we all need to do our part and more. One of the good outcomes of the pandemic is people are driving and traveling less, so exhaust fumes are fewer. Keith

      • But so many are champing at the bit to get out and go again. If this pandemic is ever over things will be back to usual as far as traffic is concerned and it will all be the one thing that will return to normal. It will then be up to each person to curtail the unnecessary trips we had always been accomstumed to take, like going out to pick up one item from the grocery rather than put it on the list for the next time we would go anyway. Like back in the 50’s when one trip would have to do because that’s what was done then. The economy was slow but people knew how to do without until they were making a scheduled trip for shopping. Doing without something rather than instant gratitude makes us appreciate what we have more and cuts down on the waste that clutters landfills and oceans. It takes patience and leading a quieter lifestyle.

  2. If folk actually bothered to read geological records they would soon realise that this world and its many climates is not something humans have any business tinkering with.
    ……Oh wait I forget the Evangelical Fundamentalists and the Seven-Day construction job…..
    …..Dial that back…
    If you read Genesis you will see that God was quite specific about Adam not fooling about the place with His Creation..

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