Climate change and the energy transition

Dr. Huidae Cho
Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis...University of North Georgia

1   Our generation is different!

Each generation has left the next a planet similar to the one it inherited.

We may be the first generation to abandon that tradition.

2   Global warming

Rising temperature ⇒ Sea level rise ⇒ Shrinking continents ⇒ Food scarcity

Since 1970, 1 degree Fahrenheit went up.

  • By the end of this century, it is projected to rise by 11 degrees Fahrenheit
  • By the end of this century, a sea-level rise of 3-6 feet is projected
  • On average, 7 inches per decade

Low-lying island countries will disappear.

  • Inundates low-lying cities and rice-growing river deltas
  • Generates hundreds of millions of refugees

2.1   Greenhouse gases and atmospheric brown clouds

Warming is caused by heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases and by pollutants in the atmosphere.

  • CO2: 63% of the recent warming trend
  • Methane: 18%
  • Nitrous Oxide: 6%

Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs) consist of soot particles from burning coal, diesel fuel, or wood.

  • Intercept sunlight and heat the upper atmosphere
  • Reflect sunlight and cause a dimming effect lowering the earth’s surface temperature
  • When deposited on snow and ice, they accelerate melting


2.2   Greenhouse effect


2.2.1   CO2-equivalent greenhouse gasses per grid cell


2.2.2   CO2-equivalent greenhouse gasses per capita


2.3   CO2 vs. soot particles

CO2 remains in the atmosphere for at least a century.

Soot particles dissipate in a few weeks.

Closing coal plants or converting to solar cookstoves rather than burning wood will have a nearly immediate positive effect on the atmosphere.

Soot particles have been found in Antarctica and may be causing the melting of Arctic sea ice.


3   Effects of rising temperatures

Diminish crop yields.

Melt mountain glaciers.

Generate more destructive storms and natural disasters.

Increase severity of flooding.

Intensify drought.

Cause more frequent and destructive wildfires.

Alter ecosystems.

3.1   Melting ice, rising seas

Earth’s largest ice sheets are Greenland and Antarctica.

According to Plan B 4.0 ,if

  • Greenland melted ⇒ 23 feet sea level rise
  • Antarctica melted ⇒ 16 feet sea level rise

Estimates of sea level rise vary depending on the source, but one thing that scientists agree on is that sea level will rise.

3.2   Melting glaciers, shrinking harvests

If all mountain glaciers melted, the sea level would only rise a few inches.

So the problem with melting glaciers is not rising sea levels, but in the loss of melted water in river systems used for irrigation during the dry season.

2/3 of China’s glaciers could be gone by 2050 – which would greatly alter China’s ability to grow food.

Continents affected include South America, Asia, Europe / Middle East, North America.

3.3   Rising temperatures, falling yields

Higher temperatures

  • Halt photosynthesis
  • Prevent pollination
  • Lead to crop dehydration


3.4   Projected impact of climate change on agricultural yields


4   The decline of oil and coal

Geological constraints are affecting production of oil.

US imports 60% of oil and 88% of the work force travels to work by car.

Easy access to oil is gone—Now we are looking at how to extract from tar sands and shale, which requires large quantities of water.

Coal is still available, but most damaging to human health with an estimated 3 million deaths each year attributed to the burning of coal for energy.

Can we quickly shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy?

4.1   Shale gas


4.2   Coal plants in China

To maintain its economic growth and provide for its massive population, China must reconcile two powerful, converging trends.

  • Energy demand
  • Resource scarcity

One prime example of this tension is the country’s coal use and water supply.

Reliance on coal is also a problem in the United States.


5   Climate change video

Climate Change: Simple, Serious, Solvable | James Rae | TEDxUniversityofStAndrews

6   Four goals of 21st century’s civilization

Stabilize climate

Stabilize population

Eradicate poverty

Restore the earth’s natural systems

6.1   No middle ground with Plan B

Mutual interdependence

Rising any of these goals would be taxing.

We have to effectively respond to each of these goals at the same time.

Food security depends on achieving all these goals.

7   Weakening international cooperation


7.1   Kyoto protocol

The UN passed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Sets the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2012.

How? Emission trading ⇒ Rights to pollute ⇒ Pollution as a commodity ⇒ Pollution market!

Save, sell, and buy pollution.

Ratified by 156 countries.

Later rejected by the world’s biggest polluters—the US and Australia.

7.2   Food prices vs. land acquisitions


8   Can we just solve one problem? Where to start?


9   Paul Hawken (environmentalist)

Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible.

Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.