The Best Trees To Plant For Global Warming Have Three Blades & Generate Electricity

 

 

Wind turbines among treesWind turbines among trees image courtesy US Department of the Interior (usgs.gov)

Recently, I was asked whether it was better to plant trees or build a wind farm to fight global warming. It’s an interesting question, given that reforestation has been in the headlines so much recently. The answer, calculated further down, is that if there’s an option to build wind energy, that’s better than planting trees.

A wind farm is about 8 times more effective at reducing CO2e annually than a forest, and the reduction is permanent, not temporary. Additionally, it eliminates a bunch of other air and water pollution, and reduces habitat destruction.

This isn’t to say “Don’t plant trees!” of course. That would be silly. But where there’s a good wind resource, if you can swing building a wind farm instead of spending the money on a forest, the world will be better off in the long run.

First though, the question raised an interesting false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is a dichotomy that is not jointly exhaustive (there are other alternatives), or that is not mutually exclusive (the alternatives overlap), or that is possibly neither.

Wind generation and trees (shorter ones, not California’s red giants) can co-exist easily and often do. One might think an actual dichotomy would be wind vs solar energy. But no, hybrid wind solar farms work just fine.

Imagine of wind turbines and solar panels courtesy Washington State Department of Commerce

A hybrid wind-solar farm. Image courtesy: Washington State Department of Commerce

And sometimes, there isn’t even an option to planting trees.

Offshore wind farm

Offshore wind farm. Image courtesy: US Department of Energy NREL

As Mark Z. Jacobson, the Stanford professor behind the 100% renewable plans for 139 countries by 2050, said when I asked him about this:

Wind turbines occupy the least footprint on the ground of any energy technology. The spacing area between them is always dual-purpose, so can be used for forestry, agricultural land, or solar panels.

That said, wind farms have one set of environmental advantages and trees have an overlapping set of advantages.

…Yeah, the wind farm would prevent the emission of about 8 times as much CO2e per year as the trees. And it would also prevent the sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, particulate, and hydrocarbon pollution emissions. And it would prevent the habitat destruction and water pollution related to the extraction, refinement and shipping of the fossil fuels. MORE

Nature is everywhere — we just need to learn to see it

 

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How do you define “nature?” If we define it as that which is untouched by humans, then we won’t have any left, says environmental writer Emma Marris. She urges us to consider a new definition of nature — one that includes not only pristine wilderness but also the untended patches of plants growing in urban spaces — and encourages us to bring our children out to touch and tinker with it, so that one day they might love and protect it. TRANSCRIPT

Canada’s Divisions Are Hardening

Two polls show we’re succumbing to populist emotions that drove Trump’s rise.

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According to a recent poll, only eight per cent of Conservative supporters think climate change is an important issue, in stark contrast with other parties. When we can’t even decide on what’s important, our version of democracy doesn’t work.Photo via Andrew Scheer Flickr.

The American political sickness has infected us. And it’s hard to see how our democracy can cope.

Start with an Angus Reid poll released last month. It asked people to set out the three most important issues facing the country.

Climate change and environment, said Canadians. For 40 per cent of us, the issue was among the three most important.

The poll found 65 per cent of Liberal supporters considered it among the three most critical issues; 58 per cent of NDP supporters; and 71 per cent of Green voters.

But only eight per cent of Conservative supporters cited climate change and the environment as an important issue.

Traditionally, political parties have competed for votes based on their proposed solutions to what most of us see as problems. Waits for surgery might be too long, for example. One party might argue the answer is higher taxes and more funding for health care; another might campaign on a promise to allow people to pay for private surgeries and skip the queue. Voters can decide.

But when we no longer even agree on problems, our version of democracy doesn’t work. We’re divided into camps, staring at each other with incomprehension, scorn or, occasionally, hatred.

And when the breakdown is centred on an issue that’s widely accepted as a grave threat to humanity, we’re moving away from useful political debate to destructive factionalism. MORE

RELATED:

When it comes to climate change, Canadians are part of the problem

Canada’s forgotten rainforest

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The Goat River valley west of Prince George. Much of the valley, including ancient cedars, is open for clear-cutting. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Less than one-third of the world’s primary forests are still intact. Deep in the interior of British Columbia, a temperate rainforest that holds vast stores of carbon and is home to endangered caribou is being clear-cut as fast as the Amazon

On a balmy day in mid-July, in the heart of British Columbia, Dominick DellaSala steps out of a rented truck to examine the remains of one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet.

DellaSala, a scientist studying global forests that hold vast stores of carbon, is silent for a moment as he surveys a logging road punched through an ancient red cedar and western hemlock grove only days earlier.

A spared cedar tree, at least 400 years old, stands uncloaked in the sun beside the road, an empty bear den hidden in its hollow trunk.

“I haven’t seen logging this bad since I flew over Borneo,” says DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, a partner in an international project to map the world’s most important unlogged forests.

“It was a rainforest. Now it’s a wasteland.”

Dr. Dominick DellaSala in front of a slash pileDominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute, in front of a slash pile waiting to be burned in the Anzac River Valley of British Columbia. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Vast majority of rare inland rainforest slated for clear-cutting

To encounter a rainforest more than 500 kilometres from B.C.’s coast, with oceanic lichens that sustain endangered caribou herds during winters, is something of a miracle.

By all accounts, a rainforest shouldn’t be scattered in moist valley bottoms stretching from the Cariboo Mountains east of Prince George to the Rocky Mountains close to the Alberta border. Other temperate rainforests, far from the sea, are only found in two other places in the world, in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia.

…Following decades of industrial logging, much of what remains of B.C.’s undisturbed and unprotected inland rainforest is now at risk of being clear-cut — including the few unlogged inland rainforest watersheds between Prince George and the U.S. border, 800 kilometres to the south.  MORE

RELATED:

Changing Climate, Vanishing Old Growth Bring Increased Fire Risk for Coastal Forests

10 things you need to know about the massive new oilsands mine that just got a green light

Alberta's oilsands North of Fort McMurray.

A review panel found the Frontier Mine would have ‘irreversible’ impacts on the environment and ‘significant’ adverse effects on Indigenous peoples, but recommended it be approved in the ‘public interest’ anyway

It recommended Teck’s Frontier Mine get the green light, despite finding it will have significant and permanent impacts on the environment.

The decision now moves to Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine Mckenna, who has until February to issue a decision.

Environmental concerns flagged by the panel include the removal of old-growth forests, the destruction or permanent alteration of fish habitat, the release of a large amount of carbon pollution and the loss of wetlands and areas of “high species diversity potential.”

But, overall, the panel found these impacts were outweighed by economic benefits, saying “the project is in the public interest.”

Here are 10 things you need to know about this proposed new mine.

1. It’s really, really big. 

The Frontier mine would be the furthest north in the oilsands, just 25 kilometres south of Wood Buffalo National Park. It would cover 24,000-hectares (roughly double the size of the City of Vancouver) and would produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen each day at its peak, making it one of the largest oilsands mines — if not the largest — to ever be built in Alberta. This would take up about half of the additional volume created by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Bison in Wood Buffalo National Park Louis Bockner

Bison in Wood Buffalo National Park. Photo: Louis Bockner / Sierra Club BC

The mine is expected to have a 41-year lifespan, taking us to 2081 by the time it’s completely shut down. By then, scientists have predicted that climate change will have already had far-reaching effects on Alberta — including dramatically shifting the average temperatures in Canadian cities. MORE

2. The Frontier mine will make it super difficult for Canada to meet its climate commitments.

At the Paris climate conference in 2015, Canada reaffirmed its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030 and by 80 per cent by 2050.

The new electricity boom: renewable energy makes staggering leap but can it last?

Australia now has enough projects committed to meet the national 2020 renewable energy target


A solar farm in Canberra. The clean electricity being sent into Australian homes and businesses could rise 36% this year. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Thriving doesn’t quite cover it. New data released quietly late last week underscores the staggering pace of growth of renewable energy across Australia.

Nearly 3.5 gigawatts of large-scale clean energy projects were built in 2018. In capacity terms, this is more than twice the scale of Hazelwood, the giant Victorian brown coal plant that shut abruptly a couple of years ago, and it more than tripled the previous record for renewable energy installed in one year, set in 2017.

In generation terms, the amount of clean electricity being sent into Australian homes and businesses is expected to increase 36% this year, and should grow another 25% next year.

The Clean Energy Regulator, which released the report, says this makes Australia the global leader in per capita renewable energy deployment.

He says the new renewable projects in NSW should comfortably fill the gap that will arise when the Liddell coal-fired plant shuts in 2022, a planned event deemed so potentially disastrous a year ago that the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull attempted to put pressure on the plant’s owner, AGL, into reversing its decision.

The surge in clean generation is creating conditions that would have been unimaginable not so long ago. For a brief period last weekend, so much energy was being captured from the wind and sun, and demand for electricity use dropped so low, that the spot price for wholesale electricity simultaneously fell to $0 in each of the five eastern states connected through the national grid. At that moment, 44% of the electricity being used across the market was from a renewable source, compared with 26% across the week. MORE

 

Top 5 Reasons the Green New Deal is Workable, Winnable and the Idea We Need Right Now.


This text is an edited excerpt from a speech given by Avi Lewis on the Leap’s “Green New Deal for All”  tour in June 2019.

1.The Green New Deal Will Be a Massive Job Creator, Swell the Ranks of Unions, and Increase Workers Rights For All, Especially The Most Vulnerable.

We know that investments in renewable energy and efficiency create many more jobs than investments in fossil fuels. 5 times more, per unit of electricity generated, according to one UK study.1 But that only scratches the surface of the transformation required to cut our emissions at least in half in a decade. When you start thinking about the rest of the low-carbon economy: health care, education, local agriculture, land and water defense, and other forms of care work, the job creation potential is far greater.

Imagine the job-creation from the range of programs in a real Green New Deal:

  • retrofitting every building in Canada in a decade,
  • building hundreds of thousands of new units of public and non-market housing
  • planting hundreds of millions of trees
  • building free electrified mass transit in every community
  • Universal daycare, rebuilding our education system with thousands of new teachers

These measures will create more than a million jobs – and even more when we include a federal jobs guarantee with at least a 15 dollar minimum wage, decent benefits, holidays and pensions.

And while we’re embarking on the greatest job creation program in our history, why would we not simply make it a goal to double the unionization rate in Canada, extending collective bargaining rights and protections to those millions of workers?

So, when people tell you that the GND will hurt workers, set them straight – tell them that the Green New Deal is a job program of epic proportions. A tool to fight for working people across this land that will leave no worker behind.

 2. Ignoring the Climate Crisis will Bankrupt us — But The Green New Deal is Our Chance to Create a Much Fairer Economy Than We Have Right Now

The economic damages of allowing global temperatures to rise by 2°C would hit $69 trillion globally.2 And we are currently headed for twice that level of warming, at least.

For too long, we have had climate policies that dumped the burden of paying for transition on working people while letting big polluters off the hook entirely. Moving forward, fairness in climate financing must be non-negotiable – and that means the polluters have to pay.

It’s not hard to figure out who we’re talking about here: the “Carbon Majors” – the 100 corporate and state fossil fuel giants responsible for  a whopping 71 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. Also, the richest 10 percent of the world’s population, who produce almost half of all global emissions today.

Any climate policies that are going to be backlash-proof have to reflect that reality.  We can increase royalties on extraction. We can slash absurd fossil fuel subsidies. And we can sue for climate damages.

But it’s not just fossil fuel companies that are failing in their obligations to the rest of society.

If Canada’s top 100 corporations just paid their damn taxes at the legislated rate, we’d have an extra 10 Billion dollars in public revenue – each and every year.3

And then there’s an even higher annual amount that Canadian corporations are stashing in tax havens. More than $1.6 trillion dollars left Canada for offshore financial centers last year. If only 10% of that sum was offshored in order to dodge taxes, cracking down would generate $25 Billion a year. That’s a helluva down payment on a Green New Deal, and would begin to tackle inequality head-on. The Green New Deal is our opportunity to address structural inequality and tackle the climate crisis at the same time.

We can afford a Green New Deal, as long as we have the courage to do what so many political parties in this country refuse to do, which is to go where the money is, and get it back.

3.This is our chance to defend life on earth and Indigenous land rights at the same time.

MORE