Tuesday, May 30, 2017

World Goes Left, While Trump Leads Right - On Climate - Why?

Is there some big piece of scientific data or compelling evidence that President Trump has in regards to climate change that the entire world does not?

The reason I ask this question is based on the news lately that President Trump's first overseas trip was partly plagued by difficult discussions regarding climate change and the commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.  Here is the tweet from NBC shown below:

In the article titled "Trump Declines Endorsing Paris Climate Change Deal at G7 Summit, Will Make Decision Next Week" the troubling excerpt appears regarding the participation of the United States:

"The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. "There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not."

This is an extremely disappointing message coming from a powerful European ally.   European nations along with large corporations have been sending messages to President Trump to encourage him to have the United States stay in the Paris Agreement set last year.  Below, I just want to clarify why it is important for the United States to stick with the agreement on climate measures (briefly) then follow up with more emerging encouragement which again points toward staying in the Paris Agreement.

Why Stay?

In my last post on the topic of the Paris Climate Agreement, I show two encouraging letters from a consortium of large corporations.  The total amount of money represented in these corporations and entities represent investments into the trillions of dollars.  The money which is at stake is being directed toward investing in clean renewable energy in the future.  Included in these signatories are large oil giants like "BP" and "Shell."  Just today, again, the news agency 'CNN' releases an article citing major corporations encouraging the U.S. to stay:

If Trump bails on the agreement, which has been signed by 195 countries, he will do so over the objections of hundreds of major U.S. businesses.
In recent months, big business has lobbied fiercely in favor of the deal, which aims to end the fossil fuel era. Even major oil firms like Chevron (CVX) and ExxonMobil (XOM) back it.
Exxon CEO Darren Woods wrote a personal letter to Trump earlier this month, urging him to stick to the deal. The U.S., he said, is "well positioned to compete" with the agreement in place and staying in means "a seat at the negotiating table to ensure a level playing field."
It might appear to be a strange move for energy firms, but many like the agreement because it favors natural gas (which they produce) over dirtier coal.
It's more than just energy firms, though: Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Starbucks (SBUX), Gap (GPS), Nike (NKE), Google (GOOGL, Tech30), Adidas (ADDYY) and L'Oreal (LRLCY) all support continued U.S. involvement.

The companies listed above are no small companies.  Furthermore, the two letters in my previous post, detail large amounts of investment and employment which President Trump has campaigned on bringing back to America.   More than 200 countries have signed.  What is wrong with the U.S.?

For starters, let me remind you what it means to stay in the agreement.  To set arbitrary limits on greenhouse gas reductions is the obvious first step.  Although, the major step is to get all the large players (global gas emitters) to the table.  The difficult concept to realize in understanding the process of bringing gas emitters to the table is to look at their respective technologies in place.

Take for instance, India.  Many regions in India still do not have access to electricity and water.  Yes, you read correctly.  No water and No electricity.  Now, can you imagine a diplomat from the United States arriving and telling an Indian diplomat to stop building a coal power plant.  Especially, since the electricity that will be provided will be to those who have never had electricity?

It is easy for the United States to realize a change is needed.  Given the investment in renewable energies, the transition is not far off in realization.  But to ask a nation which does not have consistent water and electricity to change is mind blowing.  Furthermore, to be the country that will not change is astoundingly disappointing to say the least.  President Trump should be super embarrassed along with his cabinet if the administration chooses to abandon the Paris Agreement.

Furthermore, in an article (or editorial) titled "On Climate, Look to China and India" from 'The New York Times,' the editorial board offers great news on China and India:

China and India are finding that doing right by the planet need not carry a big economic cost and can actually be beneficial. By investing heavily in solar and wind, they and others like Germany have helped drive down the cost of those technologies to a point where, in many places, renewable sources can generate electricity more cheaply than dirtier sources of energy like coal. In a recent auction in India, developers of solar farms offered to sell electricity to the grid for 2.44 rupees per kilowatt-hour (or 3.79 cents). That is about 50 percent less than what solar farms bid a year earlier and about 24 percent less than the average price for energy generated by coal-fired power plants.
 The shift from fossil fuels has thus been much faster and more pronounced than most experts expected. China has reduced coal use for three years in a row and recently scrapped plans to build more than 100 coal power plants. Indian officials have estimated that country might no longer need to build new coal plants beyond those that are already under construction. One other heartening fact: Electric vehicle sales in China jumped 70 percent last year, thanks in large part to generous government incentives. India is much further behind in this area, but the country’s minister of power said last month that all cars sold in the country should be electric by 2030.

The news of renewable energy investments by both China and India are very encouraging.  Which leaves one to wonder what is happening in the United States?  Why are we having such a difficulty transitioning as a democratic society toward renewable energy?  

For a certain percentage of the U.S. population, the answer lies in the countries decision of the last election cycle.  President Trump ran on the popular opinion that 'climate change' was a 'hoax' and that the U.S. would not waste valuable resources to invest in transitioning toward renewable energy sources.  If that were the case, then why does the statistical map below indicate that are large number of U.S. residents would like the President Trump to stick with the Paris Agreement?  The map is taken from the article titled "Majorities of Americans in Every State Support Participation in the Paris Agreement" out of the Yale program on Climate Change Communication:

Furthermore, the states are represented at the local level by Governors.  A letter was sent on May 8th by 12 Governors to President Trump encouraging him to stick with the Paris Agreement.  The letter is shown below:

Dear Mr. President,
We write as Governors of 12 states that are home to 107 million Americans and comprise approximately 38 percent of the nation’s GDP, to urge you to keep the United States in the Paris Climate Agreement. Given the progress our states have made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we are convinced that the United States’ goal of 26-28 percent below 2005 levels is readily achievable. Maintaining the U.S. commitment is essential to protect our residents, and indeed, all Americans from the potentially catastrophic impacts of a changing climate.
We see our climate changing today through rising sea levels, increasing flooding, drought, and decreasing snow cover. These changes are causing forest fires and water shortages, adding to air pollution levels, and accelerating the spread of disease-carrying pests and causing illness and death from extreme weather patterns, amongst other impacts. Our states stand to bear the brunt of these climate change impacts and the economic costs running in the tens of billions of dollars or more.
We stand ready as state leaders to continue to support the achievement of the existing U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement—and if possible to go further, faster. The policies we are implementing that support the U.S.’s achievement of its Paris commitment not only cut carbon pollution—they also create jobs, boost competitiveness, and bring clean energy and a cleaner environment to our citizens. These benefits can and should accrue to all Americans.
Collective action to limit emissions world-wide is critical; without collaboration, climate change will cost the world’s nations several trillion dollars in damages. Under the Paris Agreement, all the world’s major economies are taking action on climate change for the first time, including China and India, which have put forward their own commitments to cut their carbon pollution domestically. If the U.S. does not maintain global climate leadership through national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to clean energy, China and India will. This would be a huge lost opportunity, putting us at a competitive disadvantage and potentially locking us into technologies and economic pathways that are increasingly obsolete while China and India reap the benefits of low-carbon leadership.
In each of our states, the path forward is clear. Our citizens demand the low-cost, clean-air benefits that a clean energy transition can provide. Our leading U.S. companies recognize the need to address business risks and opportunities through the Paris Agreement, and are wisely investing in low-carbon fuels and technologies to stay on the cutting edge of the global economy. Our track record—reducing carbon pollution while growing jobs and our economies—provides proof that we need not sacrifice opportunity for action. Indeed, we can secure that opportunity only by continuing to lead.

12 governors signed this letter.  I realize that not all fifty governors signed the petition.  But look at the governors -- all from big states with large economies and employment opportunities.  The letter is worth considering to say the least.  Furthermore, the letter states the obvious which has been stated elsewhere in news stories -- stay in Paris Agreement.

If we look up higher in the government structure once again, another letter appears from 'Climate Solution Caucus' of Congress.  Here is their letter:

Dear Mr. President,

As members of the Climate Solution Caucus, we respectfully urge that the United States maintain its commitment to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The world's leading nations must work together to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change, which many of our communities are dealing with on a daily basis.  The UNFCCC brought nearly 200 nations to the table to make commitments addressing the global threat of climate change.  This monumental agreement signaled that the world's largest carbon polluters, including China and India, are ready to transition to a low-carbon economy.
It is imperative that we maintain our seat at the table in global discussions of how to address the threats posed by climate change.  The Paris Agreement gives us the chance to negotiate deals with other countries on greenhouse gas reductions and verify that everyone is keeping up with their pledges, without sacrificing our independence or self-interest.
At Paris, the United States pledged a 26 to 28 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and we are already well on the way.  These goals are achievable, but they will require hard work, and along the way will create massive opportunities for American companies and workers.  Reviewing and updating our contributions to the Paris Agreement are part of the process, but we know that our economic growth and dealing with this threat are not mutually exclusive.
Remaining in the UFCCC will strengthen American leadership on environmental stewardship and help transform today's low-carbon investments into trillions of dollars of clean energy prosperity.  Withdrawing would mean squandering a unique opportunity to promote research, ingenuity, and innovation.
It's our hope that your Administration will take a responsible approach and seek effective market-based solutions to address this serious issue.  Given the reductions we've already seen, our government and private sector are positioned to make the United States the leader in the fight against climate change.  We stand ready to work with you to maintain America's commitments under the UNFCCC and support well-paying American jobs, economic growth, and a cleaner and safer America for future generations.
The following congressional representatives signed the paper: Carlos Curbelo (Republican), Theodore E. Deutch (Democrat), Patrick Meehan (Republican), Donald S. Beyer Jr.(Democrat), Ryan A. Costello (Republican), Anna G. Eshoo (Democrat), Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican), Brendon F. Boyle (Democrat), Alan Lowenthal (Democrat), Charlie Crist (Republican), Suzanne Bonamici (Democrat), Daniel W. Lipinski (Democrat), Earl Blumenauer (Democrat), Seth Moulton (Democrat), Scott Peters (Democrat), Salud Carbajal (Democrat), Peter Welch (Democrat), John K. Delaney (Democrat), Jerry McNerney (Democrat), Thomas Suozzi (Democrat), Ann McLane Kuster (Democrat)

The committee is made up of 5 republicans and 15 democrats.  Click on the highlighted links on each members name to access their official webpage.

This represents a small number of republicans who are worried about climate change.  Actually, supposedly there are more who will not commit publicly for fear of removal from office.  Which I do not really understand why?  The discussion needs to start now.


The discussion is already under way.  In the last post, the letters indicate that large corporations have started to divest their investments into renewable energy.  And why would they not do this for divestment purposes?  Especially, since in an earlier blog, I point out the both Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson have independently started initiatives toward moving massive amounts of investment toward renewables.   The science community has written him letters throughout the last few months.  Republicans have written him letters about his movement away from funding the Environmental Protection Agency.  Additionally, his directive toward removing research data that is tax payer funded is ridiculous and makes the world a less informed place.  As citizens, we need to stand up to this assault on science -- in the form of a march and writing our elected representatives.

Obviously, President Trump has previously decided to head the opposite way of science which is astounding to say the least.  His behavior is bizarre and unprecedented toward foreign leaders.  Climate change is only one variable which is being defunded.  Take a look at the follow pictures in the post - here.  Here is where we are headed.  The possibility does exist that our oil demand is to great to replace the renewable energy transition completely.  Although, if that was the case, then big oil would definitely not be signing onto letters above.  Think about it.  Why do big oil corporations care whether we stay in a climate agreement?

Here is another picture of where we are headed with little-to-no regulation.  The next time that you turn on your faucet to wash your hands, just think about the water coming out for you.  Yes you pay, but do not totally pay for all of it.  The solution going forward is complicated.  There is no simple answer.  Although, at the very least, members in congress could be more straightforward (honest) about the methods used to evaluate scientific data - which is critical to human health.

I would encourage each of you to read the highlighted text (which leads to a previous blog post) and tell me your opinion.  Am I completely off base?  Lets return to his campaign promises toward science -- located here.  Then while considering the emphasis lets adapt to changing situations such as the North Dakota Access Pipeline -- which offers a great deal of employment -- as long as new technology is implemented to prevent oil spills of recent magnitude.   Put workers back to work inspecting the 2.5 million miles of existing pipeline running through our nation.  This work will allow them to work on their 'mobility' -- to exercise -- and boost their confidence with returning to work.  Into the future, we as a nation (and as a world) need to think outside of the box.  The exact methodology in doing so while moving forward is a complex issue.  With a discussion ongoing, we are more likely to find a solution.

Until next time, have a great day!!!!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!! Here Are A Few Statistics To Consider...

Traditionally, on Memorial Day, a variety of activities occur around this great nation (the U.S.A) ranging from converging on shopping malls seeking great deals to sitting around the pool with friends with beers while occasionally watching food burn on the BBQ.  Regardless, the real purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those military service personnel who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

With that being said, here are a few statistics to think about:

1) U.S. Casualties from Afghanistan = 2,216

2) U.S. Casualties from Iraq = 4,411

3) 20 Veterans per day commit suicide

4) 18% of all U.S. suicides are veterans

5) Veterans make up 9% of total U.S. population

6) In 2016, 265 active duty service members took their lives

Additionally, thank you to those who are still offering up their lives:

1) Total Active Duty Military today: 2.1 million

2) Total Reserve Military today: 1.3 million

3) Total National Guard today: 800,000

And last but not least, a thought from the Associated Press:

"Veteran groups say a growing military-civilian disconnect contributes to a feeling that Memorial Day has been overshadowed.  More than 12% of the U.S. population served in the armed forces during World War II.  That's down to less than ONE HALF OF A PERCENT TODAY, guaranteeing more Americans aren't personally acquainted with a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine."

Have a great celebration!!!!!!!

Note Source: Axios.com

Friday, May 26, 2017

How Much Water Is Under A "Dry Lake"?

In a recent article titled "The ludicrous plan to pump Mojave water to L.A." the following paragraph appeared regarding pumping water out of the Cadiz Valley 'dry lake' bed:

After decades of court battles, mixed environmental reviews and bleak investor reports, the Cadiz project has recently taken a few steps forward. In a decision issued last May, an appellate court certified that Cadiz Inc. has the legal right to 50,000 acre-feet of the Mojave groundwater per year for the next 50 years. Then, early last month, the White House removed a restriction on a federal railroad right of way, effectively allowing Cadiz to build a new pipeline for moving the water to the existing aqueduct without undergoing a federal environmental review. And now a Cadiz lobbyist and shareholder, David Bernhardt, is under consideration for the No. 2 position at the Department of Interior, where, if confirmed by the Senate, he would help decide the future of the project.

There were two immediate thoughts running through my head after reading the above excerpt:

1) How much water is 50,000 acre-feet?

2) How does that compare to the need of a large city like Los Angeles?

Below, I carry out a couple of calculations which answer the above two questions.  Enjoy!

50,000 Acre-Feet Of Water?

As I just mentioned, when I first read the excerpt above I was amazed that any water could be drawn from a dry lake bed.  This just goes to prove that "dry dirt" is not dirt without water.  If the water regulators of the Southern California region plan to withdraw a total of 50,000 acre-feet worth of water on an annual basis, then understanding the quantity reported would be nice.

In order to start, I decided to type into the search engine 'Google.com' the following: How many gallons are in an acre-foot?  The following image appeared before a few links to sources shown below:

With the conversion factor from units of 'acre-feet' to  units of 'gallons' now in hand, the straightforward unit conversion can be carried out as shown below:

Alright?  WOW!  Before I evaluate the answer above, I should clarify the number on the left hand side of the equation above.  The value 50,000 acre-feet is expressed in scientific notation shown below:

Now that the representation of the value has been clarified, there is one other clarification.  The unit "acre-foot" is confusing at first sight.  Therefore, a search using 'Google.com' by entering the question: What are the dimensions of an acre? -- will yield the answer shown below:

Which fits into the unit - "acre-foot" visually as follows:

In the diagram above, the unit of an 'acre-foot' is represented visually.  Shown above is a rectangle.  The surface area of the top of the rectangle are the dimensions of an acre.  To make a volume, the third dimension is the height which is equal to 1 foot.   In the diagram above, the unit 'acre-foot' is the total amount of water that is contained in the volume of an acre which is 1 foot deep.

The answer from the unit conversion of 'acre-feet' to 'gallons' yielded the answer of 16 billion gallons of water.  From the excerpt above taken from the article, this volume represents the annual amount of water which is extracted from the Cadiz Valley dry lake bed to direct toward Southern California cities for consumption.

How does a person visualize the volume of 16 billion gallons of water?

In order to understand the volume of 16 billion gallons which is extracted annually from the Cadiz Valley dry lake bed, a metric is needed.  Since the amount is reported in terms of water usage.  To start the comparison, the annual water consumption of Los Angeles needs to be known.  Again, type into a search engine the following question: What is the annual water consumption for the city of Los Angeles?  The answer to the search is shown below:

If you click on the first entry, the following image appears shown below:

If the last year -- 2017 annual water consumption is used to cast the large volume of water reported above, the following calculation is carried out by dividing the two numbers as shown below:

The answer states that using the annual consumption value of 11,774 million gallons per year -- the city of Los Angeles would be sustained for 1.38 years.  Now, I imagine that you might have difficulty interpreting 1.38 years.  Therefore, if the value of 0.38 is subtracted and multiplied by 12 months -- i.e. one year, the answer is 4 months.

Result: The annual water extraction from the Cadiz Valley dry lake bed is enough to supply the city of Los Angeles (population of 3.9 million residents) for a total of 16 months!!!


As the results indicate the amount of water that is annually extracted from Cadiz Valley is a tremendous amount of water.  Enough to supply the city of Los Angeles for 16 months -- which is impressive given that the Cadiz Valley is a dry lake.  16 billion gallons is easily determined through dimensional analysis of unit conversion given the tools available on the world wide web.  These calculations are accessible to each of us.  Give a calculation a try!!!

Until next time, have a great day!!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Is This Behavior Presidential - President Trump?

President Trump is overseas representing the United States of America at the new NATO headquarters.  Any American would expect the President to act Presidential which is to say - be diplomatic and respectful of other nations.  Recently, I joined the board of the local neighborhood council as a board member.

In Los Angeles County as in other counties state wide, each person who wishes to aspire to fill a political position must enroll in a 2 hour course titled "AB 1234 Local Ethics Training".  A part of this training is concerned with the ethical and respectful treatment of other people -- constituents, other board member along with any other person.

The reason why I bring this up is the situation which occurred between President Trump and the Prime Minister Duško Markovic.  Here is a short video of the encounter shown below:

President Trump shoves Prime Minister Duško Markovic out of the way to make his way over to  Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.  At least, that is what the New York Post is reporting.  All of this happens in the first 10 seconds in the above video -- hence you may need to watch the beginning of the video again.

After viewing the video above, words had escaped me to say the least.  I am without words regarding our President's action.  Regardless of the status of the people in the video above, we learn in grade school (kindergarten) that such behavior between human being is UNACCEPTABLE.

President Trump: There is no excuse for that behavior!

Furthermore, as my wife has stated over and over that the current political climate and increase in violence is due to the "Trump Effect".  Anyone can act in any disrespectful manner since our President has encouraged such behavior.  Please do not follow or engage in such behavior.  This behavior is disrespectful and unacceptable.

Later today, we hear of reports of a republican candidate for house seat -- Greg Gianforte -- decided that the best course of action when questioned by a reporter was to 'body slam' the reporter.  Further, the candidate broke the reporter's glasses -- which is reported here.

I am appalled by such behavior.  I am without words.  How am I supposed to be ethical at the local level when the highest elected position in our country is represented by someone who disregards decent behavior.  Maybe you can offer an example to me in the comments below.

In closing, such behavior is unacceptable.  I am starting to wonder if Donald Trump raised his children to do the same behavior -- to get ahead?

Furthermore, is this the method which the President aspires to use to make America great again?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Paris Climate Agreement Is A Start Toward The Renewable Energy Future

The news has been occupied by many stories regarding the changes that are being carried out by the current Trump Administration under Executive Order by the President himself.  In the beginning, clearly the executive orders have been aimed at reversing any environmental regulation that his predecessor put into motion.  One might think that these actions are fueled by partisan momentum with a Republican congress in place.  If this were true, then our status in the Paris Climate Agreement would have already been reversed.  Recently, large corporations have signed onto the idea of staying committed to that agreement.

Below is a letter written to President Trump which represents more than just sticking with an agreement.  The letter also represents a shift to investments in a renewable energy based future -- a sustainable future.  Additionally, international corporations and private entities also encourage the United States to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement for obvious reasons which will be briefly discussed below.  Furthermore, in the paragraphs below, the argument will be introduced that staying in the Paris Climate Agreement is in line with future investments into a renewable (sustainable) energy future -- not just as a nation -- but as a world.

Big Oil Says "Stay In Paris?"

With congress passing the legislature for coal companies to resume blowing up (with explosives) the tops off mountains for search of coal without the fear of contamination of the water ways (rivers, streams, lakes, etc.), we find ourselves under an environmental assault from congress.  You might be wondering the following right about now:

How do normal citizens let these decisions occur?

On a national level, an election just occurred in which a significant amount of Americans decided at the ballot box that Mr. Donald Trump (a candidate then) would be a good President.  As a President, he has tried to undo any progress forward that his predecessor (President Obama) had made over the earlier 8 years.  This is truly disappointing, but not expected given the rhetoric that he displayed during his campaign.

Congress has followed his lead by passing a couple of important pieces of legislation early on to undue environmental progress accomplished under the Obama administration.  The first was to repeal the Clean Power Plan while the second was to reverse the Clean Water Act.  Both of these pieces of legislation will have real world consequences (unfortunate consequences).

Additionally, I have written recently about a new piece of legislation that Congress has passed called the "HONEST ACT".  At first sight, this appears to provide more transparency.  But if you read my blog post on the subject, you will quickly realize that the opposite is true of the act.  In fact, the HONEST Act will limit the amount of information (evidence) which is under consideration for future policy decisions.

After each passage of legislation, scientists started to worry about the reverse of climate change policy under this administration.  I shared in a recent post a letter from a couple of hundred scientists which was sent to the president to persuade him to think critically about climate change decisions.  Additionally, in a follow up post, the scientists share there thoughts about the importance of climate change policy at the university level in the form of quotes.

Based on the news coverage of the developments in the Trump Administration over the last couple of months, the validity of science (especially climate science) is not held high.  In fact, after receiving these letters along with others, threats of removing our status (as a nation) from the Paris Climate Agreement is still being entertained.  Even if President Trump wants to ignore the voices of science (e.g., letters, science march, etc.), it is surprising to see him disregard letters from other sectors with opposing interests.  What letters do I speak of?  For one, I was surprised that 'big oil' companies still want the United States to stick to the Paris Climate Accord.  On April 26th (of 2017), a few HUGE companies sent President Trump a letter regarding the Paris Climate Change Agreement.  Below is the letter:

Dear Mr. President,

We write to express our support for continued participation by the United States in the Paris climate change agreement.
Climate change presents U.S. companies with both business risks and business opportunities.  U.S. business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced global response. We believe the Paris Agreement provides such a framework. 
Companies based or operating in the United States benefit from U.S. participation in the agreement in many ways:
Strengthening competitiveness – By requiring action by all parties, developed and developing countries alike, the agreement ensures a more balanced global effort, reducing the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies.
Supporting sound investment – By setting clearer long-term objectives, and by improving transparency, the agreement provides greater clarity on policy direction, enabling better long-term planning and investment.
Creating jobs, markets and growth – By committing all countries to action, the agreement expands markets for innovative clean technologies, generating jobs and economic growth. U.S. companies are well positioned to lead, and lack of U.S. participation could put their access to these growing markets at risk.
Minimizing costs – By encouraging market-based implementation, the agreement helps companies innovate to achieve environmental objectives at the lowest possible cost.
Reducing business risks – By strengthening global action over time, the agreement will reduce future climate damages, including physical harm to business facilities and operations, declining agricultural productivity and water supplies, and disruption of global supply chains.
As businesses concerned with the well-being of our customers, our investors, our communities, and our suppliers, we are strengthening our climate resilience, and we are investing in renewables, efficiency, nuclear, biofuels, carbon capture, sequestration, and other innovative technologies that can help achieve a clean energy transition. For this transition to succeed, however, governments must lead as well. We urge that the United States remain a party to the Paris Agreement, work constructively with other nations to implement the agreement, and work to strengthen international support for a broad range of innovative technologies.
We believe that as other countries invest in advanced technologies and move forward with the Paris Agreement, the United States can best exercise global leadership and advance U.S. interests by remaining a full partner in this vital global effort.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our views and would welcome the opportunity to provide further input as the Administration continues to shape its climate policies.
BHP Billiton
General Mills
National Grid
Novartis Corporation
Rio Tinto
Schneider Electric

The companies listed above are big time players in the United States economy.  Their monetary investment/profits in the United States annually combined alone is staggering.  Not to mention the combined amount of employees that are employed throughout the world.  This indicates a shift in the type of employee that is going to be hired in the future and present through a clean energy transition.  No where in the letter above does there indicate that support exists to leave the Paris Climate Agreement to invest in coal.  Wonder why?

Upon inspecting a few of the names, you should notice that a few of them are big oil corporations who are heavily invested into fossil fuels.  You should ask yourself the following question:

What motivation do these oil corporations have in signing an agreement which would eventually put greater restrictions on their fossil fuel business interests?

The question is valid considering the letter above. To help explain (in an easy manner) the Paris Climate Agreement, I inserted a short (less than 2 minutes) video by the Council of the European Government shown below:

As you can see after viewing the explanation surrounding the agreement, the terms are quite broad.  Furthermore, the terms are dependent (subjective) to each government.  The ability to gather 195 nations into one building and agree on making changes (sustainable decisions) toward a more healthier environment is of paramount importance.  The summary of the Paris Climate Agreement is as follows:

1) Each nation defines own objectives to work towards.

2) Every 5 years, a review of the goals and actions to meet goals will occur.

3) Global investment will help even (level) out the playing field for developing nations in need of support.

4) The agreement is a massive move toward a broad economic movement toward a more sustainable environment.

For a more in depth explanation of the emergence and importance of the Paris Climate Agreement, see the video below.  The video is a 15 minute presentation of a TED talk by Christiana Figueres -- whose introduction from her "Wikipedia" page is shown below:

 Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen (born 7 August 1956) is a Costa Rican diplomat with 35 years of experience in high level national and international policy and multilateral negotiations. She was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in July 2010,[1] six months after the failed COP15 in Copenhagen.[2] During the next six years she dedicated herself[3] to rebuilding the global climate change negotiating process based on fairness, transparency and collaboration, leading to the 2015 Paris Agreement, widely recognized as a historical achievement.[4] Over the years she has worked in the fields of climate change, sustainable development, energy, land use, technical and financial cooperation.

Without further ado, here is her TED talk below:

One cannot help wonder why any nation would not want to be part of such a global and exciting agreement.  Getting 195 nations in one room is a task that is difficult in of itself.  Now, getting each of them to work toward change by implementing sustainable measures is huge (unheard of).

In her talk shown above, she mentions that other nations are willing to invest in each others development or transition toward renewable energy sources.  Meaning that measures which promote more sustainable measures will be received well and invested in.  Further, economic opportunity exists from big players.  The players I mention are not just those who sent the president a letter above, but global players -- from other nations.  Below is a letter from those investors - 409 of them with $20 trillion dollars in assets.  WOW!

Global Investor Statement On Climate Change

As if the businesses (in the U.S.) above do not carry enough weight to encourage President Trump to stay in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, investment companies from around the world released a statement on climate change.  The statement is titled: Global Investor Statement on Climate Change is shown below:

Developed by the following groups Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change
This statement is signed by 409 investors representing more than US $24 trillion in assets.
We, the institutional investors that are signatories to this Statement, are acutely aware of the risks climate change presents to our investments. In addition, we recognize that significant capital will be needed to finance the transition to a low carbon economy and to enable society to adapt to the physical impacts of climate change.
We are particularly concerned that gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In turn, this could jeopardize the investments and retirement savings of millions of citizens.
There is a significant gap between the amount of capital that will be required to finance the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy and the amount currently being invested. For example, while current investments in clean energy alone are approximately $250 billion per year, the International Energy Agency has estimated that limiting the increase in global temperature to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels requires average additional investments in clean energy of at least $1 trillion per year between now and 2050.
This Statement sets out the contribution that we as investors can make to increasing low carbon and climate resilient investments. It offers practical proposals on how our contribution may be accelerated and increased through appropriate government action.
Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments. We believe that well designed and implemented policies would encourage us to invest significantly more in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable land use and climate resilient development, thereby benefitting our clients and beneficiaries, and society as a whole.
As institutional investors and consistent with our fiduciary duty to our beneficiaries, we will:
■ Work with policy makers to support and inform their efforts to develop and implement policy measures that encourage capital deployment at scale to finance the transition to a low carbon economy and encourage investment in climate change adaptation.
■ Identify and evaluate low carbon investment opportunities that meet our investment criteria and consider investment vehicles that invest in low carbon assets subject to our risk and return objectives.
■ Develop our capacity to assess the risks and opportunities presented by climate change and climate policy to our investment portfolios, and integrate, where appropriate, this information into our investment decisions.
■ Work with the companies in which we invest to ensure that they are minimizing and disclosing the risks and maximizing the opportunities presented by climate change and climate policy.
■ Continue to report on the actions we have taken and the progress we have made in addressing climate risk and investing in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change adaptation.
We call on governments to develop an ambitious global agreement on climate change by the end of 2015. This would give investors the confidence to support and accelerate the investments in low carbon technologies, in energy efficiency and in climate change adaptation.
Ultimately, in order to deliver real changes in investment flows, international policy commitments need to be implemented into national laws and regulations. These policies must provide appropriate incentives to invest, be of adequate duration to improve certainty to investors in long-term infrastructure investments and avoid retroactive impact on existing investments. We, therefore, call on governments to:
■ Provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge.
■ Strengthen regulatory support for energy efficiency and renewable energy, where this is needed to facilitate deployment.
■ Support innovation in and deployment of low carbon technologies, including financing clean energy research and development.
■ Develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.
■ Ensure that national adaptation strategies are structured to deliver investment.
■ Consider the effect of unintended constraints from financial regulations on investments in low carbon technologies and in climate resilience. 

The signatories of the letter above can be found at the end of the attachment hyperlinked - here.  The investor statement on global climate change came out of an organization -- investors on climate change.  The names mentioned on the letter above represent a wide range of government agencies to private sector agencies spanning the globe (the world).  Switching to a clean energy based future is occurring now, not in 50 years.  Therefore, the investment and policy making decisions need to reflect this change in the present workings of various governments.  Change will take a long time -- seeing the size of the problem.  Therefore, jumping on the wagon sooner rather than later will ensure that the transition runs smoothly.

Otherwise, the adverse environmental effects of not recognizing that climate change is real and there is a need to transition toward clean energy -- renewable energy, sustainable energy -- will drive up the cost dramatically in the future.  Possibly to the point where the cost to change will exceed the money available and the time allotted.  The mindset of relying on 'coal' is going out the door.

As an example, a recent document titled "CAN COAL MAKE A COMEBACK?"  illustrates with statistics the current state of 'coal' in the current energy climate.  Furthermore, there are explanations (reasonable ones) which highlight the decline of coal in the future decades to come.  Here is an executive summary on the current state of coal in the energy consideration in the future:

Six years ago, the US coal industry was thriving, with demand recovering from the Great Recession, and global coal prices at record highs along with the stock prices of US coal companies. By the end of 2015, however, the industry had collapsed, with three of the four largest US miners filing for bankruptcy along with many other smaller companies. While coal mining employment has been on the decline for decades – from a peak of more than 800,000 in the 1920s to 130,000 in 2011 – the pace of job loss over the past six years has been particularly dramatic. After campaigning on a promise to end what he called his predecessor’s “War on Coal,” President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in March 2017 ordering agencies to review or rescind a raft of Obama-era environmental regulations, telling coal miners they would be “going back to work.”
This paper offers an empirical diagnosis of what caused the coal collapse, and then examines the prospects for a recovery of US coal production and employment by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order and assessing the global coal market outlook. In short, the paper finds:
• US electricity demand contracted in the wake of the Great Recession, and has yet to recover due to energy efficiency improvements in buildings, lighting and appliances. A surge in US natural gas production due to the shale revolution has driven down prices and made coal increasingly uncompetitive in US electricity markets. Coal has also faced growing competition from renewable energy, with solar costs falling 85 percent between 2008 and 2016 and wind costs falling 36 percent.
• Increased competition from cheap natural gas is responsible for 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption. Lower-than-expected demand is responsible for 26 percent, and the growth in renewable energy is responsible for 18 percent. Environmental regulations have played a role in the switch from coal to natural gas and renewables in US electricity supply by accelerating coal plant retirements, but were a significantly smaller factor than recent natural gas and renewable energy cost reductions.
• Changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the collapse of the US coal industry than is generally understood. A slow-down in Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for US exports. More than half of the decline in US coal company revenue between 2011 and 2015 was due to international factors.
• Implementing all the actions in President Trump’s executive order to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations could stem the recent decline in US coal consumption, but only if natural gas prices increase going forward. If natural gas prices remain at or near current levels or renewable costs fall more quickly than expected, US coal consumption will continue its decline despite Trump’s aggressive rollback of Obama-era regulations.
•While global coal markets have recovered slightly over the past few months due to supply restrictions in China and flooding in Australia, we expect this rally to be short-lived. Slower economic growth and structural adjustment in China will continue to put downward pressure on global coal prices and limit the market opportunities for US exports. Indian coal demand will likely grow in the years ahead, but not enough to make up for the slow-down in China. The same is true for other emerging economies, many of whom are negatively impacted by decelerating Chinese commodities demand themselves.
• Under the best case scenario for US coal producers, our modeling projects a modest recovery to 2013 levels of just under 1 billion tons a year. Under the worst case scenario, output falls to 600 million tons a year. A plausible range of US coal mining employment in these scenarios ranges from 70,000 to 90,000 in 2020, and 64,000 to 94,000 in 2025 and 2030 -- lower than anything the US experienced before 2015.
These findings indicate that President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities. As such, the paper concludes with recommendations for steps that the federal government can take to safeguard the pension and health security of current and retired miners and dependents and support economic diversification. Attracting new sources of economic activity and job creation will not be easy, and even at its most successful will not return coal country to peak levels of past prosperity. But responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the US coal sector—including the causes of coal’s decline and unlikeliness of its resurgence—rather than offer false hope that the glory days can be revived. And then support those in America’s coal communities working hard to build a new economic future.

The executive summary above highlights the reality that as more companies transition toward using renewable energy, the coal industry will see a reduced increase.  Furthermore, the two letters drive home the point that investments are not being directed toward the fossil fuel industry.  Natural gas is taking over the coal industry.  Renewable energy is being developed in tandem which will off-set the use of natural gas as the percentages start to shift in the decades to come.  President Trump should welcome the Paris Climate Agreement and send the coal miners to work in other sectors of the gas and oil industry.


Over the last year, two large pipelines have been in production and vision in the United States.  One which is running through North Dakota and has been the subject of controversy by the Trump Administration.  I wrote an article about the absurdity about the project from the potential for accident (i.e. oil spill potential).  Further, the project needs to use the most current technology to ensure that spills do not occur.  This is of course taking into account the assumption that our demand for fossil fuels requires us to keep pumping them from the ground.  That was the subject of another blog post.

Instead of having to write a blog post asking why there is another oil spill in our beautiful nation, we should be investing in renewable energy and profiting (building our economy) -- an idea promoted and implemented during the administration of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's time in office.  Transitioning toward natural gas as a major source of energy is better than relying on fossil fuels.  The second major pipeline being built involves the movement of large amounts of natural gas across the Eastern part of the United States and could provide a wealth of jobs for American fossil fuel workers.  In a previous post, I suggested that part of the process of encouraging job growth could be accomplished by putting to work existing gas and oil workers to inspect/repair the millions of miles of pipeline which exist in the United States.

Our reliance on oil (94 million barrels a day) globally is astounding to say the least.  Moving toward renewable energy sources will take a massive shift in mindset.  Just read the dimensional analysis of 94 million barrels -- which will blow your mind.   The investments mentioned above by the international community indicate a shift away from regions built on top of oil (like Los Angeles = 5,000 wells in region) to regions built around sustainability and promote renewable energy are presently being entertained.  The beautiful shores of California have seen a dramatic (adverse - ill affects) shift in health as a result of the 'off-shore' drilling by big oil companies.  Last year, I visited a beach and found a 'tar ball' which I was unaware of to be quite common to the residents of Santa Monica and Venice beach.  This blew my mind.  Furthermore, the realization drove home the point of needed action by the community and region through politics.  The process is slow.  Although, when the populations speak, policy decisions follow.

The time to change is now.  The call to action is forming.  Ask yourself, what are you doing to help the environment?  If the answer is 'nothing', then read some of the links to my previous blog posts and revisit the question above.  Additionally, read Republican Senator Susan Collins decision to vote "no" on President Trump's nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency sent a few months ago.  The more education which is disseminated on the reasons why the Paris Climate Agreement is important, the more likely our government is to hear from the majority of the people their decision to stay in the important international agreement.  More is at stake than just the United States.  The world is shared by everyone on the planet.  Until next time, have a great weekend.

Monday, May 8, 2017

New Chemistry Could Reduce Plastic Waste In Landfills

The amount of plastic waste that enters a landfill each year is mind blowing.  Take for instance, a blog post that I wrote recently on the amount of plastic bottles which are not recycled each year -- around 3.6 million tons.  That number was cited out from the website "Daily Mail UK" in an article titled "Full scale of the plastic menace: Two MILLION tonnes of soft drink bottles are sold a year, and only 6.6% are recycled".  The author of the article finally arrives at the conclusion that the number of tons of recycled plastic is larger than previously thought -- which suggests that more plastic is ending up in either landfills or the ocean.  What if 'nature' offered a solution to the growing problem?  Recent research suggests that this might be the case with the discovery of a worm - the 'wax worm'.  Don't worry, landfills will not be occupied with millions of 'wax worms' anytime soon.  The post below is an exercise in 'dimensional analysis' to determine how many worms would be needed to eat up 3.6 million tons of plastic each year!

Wax Worms Eat Plastic?

A commonly held myth is that most discoveries are made by accident in science.  Science research is a repetitive process of collecting data, interpreting data, and then repeating the process to validate the initial findings.  Although, in a few instances, there are discoveries made by accident.  In a recent on the website "Research Gate" titled "This plastic-eating caterpillar can help us get rid of our trash" an accidental discovery was made by a scientist tending to her bees:

The initial discovery was made not in a lab, but at the home of Federica Bertocchini, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council. An amateur beekeeper, Bertocchini found a wax worm infestation in some of her beehives. “In cleaning the beehives, I put the worms in a plastic bag,” she explained. “After a short while, they had escaped, and the plastic bag was full of holes.”

After discovering the escaping worms, researchers went onto to discover that the worms digestive systems were breaking down polyethylene into ethylene glycol by breaking bonds.  This led the researchers to further quantify the amount possible for a given wax worm to break down over a given time:

Other methods for breaking down polyethelene, which use corrosives like nitric acid or certain bacteria, take months to work. By contrast, 100 wax worms can biodegrade 92 milligrams of polyethylene in a mere 12 hours. “We do not know how wax worms developed this ability, but it might be that they evolved such a mechanism because they eat wax,” explains Bertocchini. “Wax and polyethylene have a similar chemical structure.”

The researchers have no plans to inject enormous quantities of wax worms into landfills anytime soon.  Although, they are intensely interested in the chemistry behind the wax worms ability to break down plastic so easily.  As is the case with a large part of science, nature holds the most efficient pathway for a given process.  If any research could shed light on improving our ability to break down plastics by creating a better biodegradable plastic -- that would be great.

I was intrigued by the discovery and quantification of plastic which wax worms could process over a 12 hour period of time.  92 milligrams seems like a large amount for a wax worm.  This led me to the following question -- the subject of the blog:

How many wax worms would be needed to break down 3.6 million tons of plastic each year?

Wax Worms Go To Work

In the question above, the amount of plastic is given which needs to be broken down in a year.  To answer the question, we need to know the rate at which a single wax worm can process plastic.  The article above gives a value of 92 milligrams/hour.  There are two ways we can tackle the problem:

1) Figure out the amount of plastic each wax worm (at a rate of 92 milligrams per 12 hours) can eat in a year and follow that with multiplying that number to reach 3.6 million tons.

2) Start with rate of 3.6 million tons/year to figure out how many worms would be needed through a conversion process.

In this blog post, we will tackle the problem by method 2.  To determine the number of worms needed to process (breakdown) 3.6 million tons of plastic in a given year, a unit conversion is necessary.  The number cited (3.6 million ton) is expressed in units of 'ton'.  The rate of plastic degradation of plastic by the wax worm per hour can be expressed as follows:

The researchers determined that within a period of 12 hours, each worm could process (breakdown) 92 milligrams of plastic.  By dividing 92 milligrams/12 hours, the rate is now expressed as 7.7 milligrams/hour per worm.  That is, each worm can process 7.7 milligrams of plastic within one hour.  Next, the conversion of units of tons to milligrams needs to be carried out as shown below:

In the first line, the number of tons -- 3.6 million is expressed in scientific notation.  The second line is the conversion of units from 'ton' to 'milligram' per year.  After multiplying through the values above, the answer indicates that 3.6 million tons/year is equivalent to 3,300,000 - billion milligram/year -- WOW!

The rate of a single wax worm was given in units of 'milligram/hour'.  Therefore, in order to use the two values, a second unit conversion is needed from 'mg/year' to 'mg/hour' as shown below:

Now, we can compare the rate in units of 'mg/(hour)(worm)' with units of 'mg/hour' to yield the number of worms.  Understand?  By dividing the total number of milligrams of plastic needed to be broken down by the rate at which each worm can eat will yield the total number of worms needed in a given year.

The results suggest that in order to process (breakdown) 3.6 million tons of plastic in a single year by using wax worms exclusively, a worm breeder would have to provide us with 4.1-billion wax worms.


In the spaces above, I have shown how to calculate the number of wax worms needed to accomplish the job.  I would be fascinated to see the other method displayed by a reader.  Care to work that out and show me?  Regardless, the number of wax worms needed is huge.  I do wonder how many worms a breeder can breed at a single time?  Furthermore, how much space would be needed to occupy 4.1 billion wax worms?  These are questions which could be answered in the future.  For now, each of us can rest assured that a calculation is accessible for determining the number of worms needed to eat 3.6 million tons worth of plastic.

Monday, May 1, 2017

How Many Trees Have Been Cut Down Since 1990?

With Earth Day just passing, the question in the post is relevant to bring up.  Especially, when the environment is under attack from the consumers of the world (us).  I was perusing Twitter last week, when I stumbled upon the following tweet from the Los Angeles Time newspaper's twitter feed shown below:

The rate of deforestation of 1,000 football fields an hour caught my eye -- which led me to read the statistic in context.  In the article from the 'Los Angeles Times' titled "Status of forests is 'dire' as world marks 2017 Earth Day" I found the rate (as mentioned above in the tweet) in the following context:

Since 1990 the world has lost the equivalent of 1,000 football fields of forests every hour, according to World Bank development indicators from last year. That’s 1.3 million square kilometers of forest, an area larger than South Africa, according to the international financial institution.

First of all, I really had trouble envisioning the area of 1,000 football fields at a rate of every hour for the last 26 years.  The remainder of the article is insightful into the damage that consumerism had wreaked upon the world over time.  Rarely do we get a chance to consider the large destruction of forests over a large period of time.

Over the last week, the statistic has been brewing in my mind.  I had the urge to perform some dimensional analysis to confirm the reported statistic -- which is stated in question form shown below:

How many square kilometers of trees would be deforested at a rate of 1,000 football fields an hour?

In the paragraphs below, I show how to answer the question by using dimensional analysis.  Enjoy!

How Large Is A Football Field?

In order to tackle the question at hand (stated above), the first value that must be obtained is the dimension of a conventional football field.  To start,  I typed into a search engine the following statement: How many square meters are in a football field?  Which yielded the following answer shown below:

There are 5,351 square meters in a football field.  Now we can rewrite the dimensions of a football field in 'square meters' as shown below:

From this determination, the rate of deforestation can now be written in a different form -- in units of 'square meters' instead of units of '1,000 football fields per hour:

Now, the total amount of deforestation per hour is expressed in units of square meters/hour rather than 10,000 football fields/hour.  The purpose of converting units to square meters from football fields is important since the original question that we set out to answer is in units of 'square kilometers'.

There are two more major steps to get to a final answer of total number of square kilometers of trees deforested in the last 26 years.  The above rate was for one hour of cutting trees down.  In the excerpt taken from the article, the statistic was for 26 years worth of tree cutting at a rate of 10,000 football fields per hour.  Taking the rate above and converting the denominator from 'units' of 'hours' to units of 'years' will get us to the multiplication factor.

In the conversion below, I show that the rate is converted to square meters per year -- which is then multiplied by 26 years to arrive at a total number of 'square meters' of trees removed from the Earth:

In a time period of 26 years, there were 12,000-billion square meters worth of trees deforested.  Since the answer in the article is expressed in 'units' of 'square kilometers' the last step is the final conversion to 'units' of 'square kilometers' as shown below:

The final answer is 1.2 million square kilometers.


In the post above, the statistic of 1.3 million square kilometers worth of trees was calculated from the time interval given along with the rate of 10,000 football fields per hour.  Now, at this moment you might be thinking the following question:

The article cites 1.3 million square kilometers where as the result of the calculation above gave 1.2 million square kilometers -- why the difference?

I will leave that up to you.  Hint: how big does a football field have to be to yield the final answer of 1.3 million square kilometers?  Or stated differently, in order to gain 100,000 square kilometers, how much larger would the football field be?

I will probably go back and read the report to find out the assumption (the size of the report's authors assumed football field size) used by the authors.  Regardless, now, you are equipped to answer equivalent questions using dimensional analysis.

Until next time, have a great day.