The answer could be blowing in the wind

December 10, 2009


Well into the first week of the U.N. Conference on Climate Change, the haves and have nots of the world are still divided over who should pay for the cleanup of the planet. Poor countries want rich countries to cough up more ambitious goals for emissions cuts and developing technologies.

From emerging wind and solar industries to geothermal advances, the technologies being tested for adaptability in the fight against climate change are still quite new and in some cases revolutionary.

To kick off today’s discussion, we posed the question to our panel of climate experts:  What technology could be the most successful solution to global warming?



Dr. David Suzuki, geneticist and journalist:

There is no silver bullet when it comes to solving global warming. Global warming pollution is created any time we produce or burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Industries that use energy, most sources of electricity, and forms of transportation other than walking or biking are all complicit. So we will rely upon many technological solutions to attain a sustainable world.

Nonetheless, there are a handful of technologies that will likely contribute more. Energy efficiency will have to play a big role, since we waste so much of the energy we use. The cleanest form of energy is the energy we don’t use. More efficient building designs, more efficient vehicles – including electric cars (that should be powered with clean electricity) – and more efficient industrial processes will all be necessary.

Clean, renewable electricity sources such as wind will be key. More efficient electricity storage technologies will allow us to rely more on clean but intermittent energy options like wind. Green heat options—such as solar hot-water heaters and geothermal systems—could heat our homes, offices, and water.

Many of these technologies are viable and cost-effective right now, especially if we stop allowing polluters to emit global warming pollution into the atmosphere for free. Public policies that make polluters pay will give them an incentive to reduce energy use and shift to clean, renewable energy. Those policies will also drive the research and development of the next generation of sustainable energy technologies.



Dr. Gidon Eshel, physics professor at Bard College:

I don’t know. I doubt anybody does.

Tax carbon, and we will all see what really stands the test of time and economic reality.

I know what will not work and should never be embarked on: geo-engineering.

For the uninitiated, let me explain that there are people, very distinguished scientists among them, who believe that we should go right ahead and employ mechanisms we currently have, at least in principle, to reduce downward solar radiation and thus global mean temperatures.

It is true that some physically plausible ideas exist, like spraying the stratosphere (the layer of the atmosphere immediately above where weather as we know it in daily life exists) with sulphur aerosols, thus emulating what happens for about a year or two after a major explosive volcanic eruption. There are also ideas that put Jules Verne to shame.

In either case, our record as stewards of the planetary system is clear. Epic incompetence comes to mind, as does Rumsfeld-class recklessness. Against the backdrop of this long and never failing record of failure, the idea that we should influence the climate system more, instead of less, is, to my mind, a blatant absurdity.



Karen Alderman Harbert, president and CEO, Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

When it comes to clean energy technologies, it’s been said that there’s not a silver bullet, but a lot of silver buckshot.

No agreement and no government should be in the business of picking winners and losers because success is borne out of diverse options not narrow options.

How rapidly-advanced energy technologies are developed and adopted commercially will be the most important factor in determining how quickly and at what cost greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced.

Existing technologies can make an important contribution, but they alone are not capable of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale and at an acceptable cost.

New and in some cases revolutionary energy technologies, many still years if not decades over the horizon, will have to be developed and adopted commercially along with the infrastructure to support them.

But there is a great deal of uncertainty about how fast, or even if, these technologies will progress.

An accelerated program to improve the performance and lower the costs of advanced alternative energy technologies can, if successful, broaden the range of economically and politically viable policy options available to decision makers.

Nevertheless, while we’ll need a broad suite of technologies, it’s also true that as a practical matter, some clean energy technologies are likely to be of greater importance than others.

But ultimately, the mix and the match should be up to the market, which will support the most cost-effective and efficient solutions.

Instead of picking winners and losers, I think it’s important for a new agreement to be technology neutral. The Kyoto Protocol is flawed in many ways, but perhaps not more so than in its discrimination against specific technologies without which no ambitious target can be met, namely carbon capture and storage and especially nuclear power.

If we’re really serious about reducing global carbon dioxide emissions, we shouldn’t be taking off the table the one emissions-free source of reliable base load power we have available today —nuclear energy.

For nuclear power to achieve its potential, we have to redouble our efforts at home to accelerate permitting and licensing timelines and forthrightly address nuclear waste.

It’s time to discuss the scale and scope of the technology challenge—which often gets overlooked in the public discussion—and recognize the need for investment in all viable technologies to meet the world’s energy and climate challenges.  Simply put, point and shoot climate policy doesn’t work.



Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist:

So far, there has been little commitment to solving the technological challenge of ensuring that there is an affordable replacement for fossil fuels.

If governments try to cut carbon through taxes and trading schemes without effective replacements, we will make virtually no difference to climate change in the future, while in the shorter term there will be significant damage to economic growth, leaving more people in poverty.

Nations need to commit to a dramatic increase in public funds on research and development. As the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate advocated, research and development investments to the order of at least $100 billion a year will be needed.

That is fifty-fold more than is spent by governments now, but remains a fraction of the cost of proposed costly, ineffective carbon cuts.

We cannot rely on private enterprise. As with medical research, many of the required early, innovative breakthroughs will not reap significant financial rewards, so there is no strong incentive for private investment today.

Dramatically increasing public funding into research would resolve many of the political challenges with the Kyoto approach. Developing nations like India and China would be much more likely to embrace a cheaper, smarter and more beneficial path of innovation.

Carbon taxes could play an important role in funding research and development. But it is vital that new funding goes into genuine research and development – to achieve the breakthroughs that are needed – rather than into subsidizing existing, inefficient technology. These subsidies are often lauded, but do not withstand scrutiny.

Consider two European examples: Denmark has subsidized wind, while Germany has subsidized solar energy.

An oft-repeated claim is that Denmark receives a fifth of its power from wind, making it by far the highest share in the world, and has easily generated green jobs and cheap energy. The reality, shown by a recent study by the Danish Center for Political Studies, is that less than 10 percent of the nation’s electricity demand is met by wind, because much of the power is produced when there is no demand, selling it at very low cost to other countries.

This also means much less CO2 reductions in Denmark, where a ton of CO2 is reduced at a cost more than six times the current EU costs.

Danes pay the highest electricity rates of any industrialized nation, on average about US$.38 per kWh compared to US$.08 in the United States.

The Danish wind industry is nearly completely dependent on taxpayer subsidies to support a modest workforce. Each new wind power job costs the Danish taxpayer at least $119,000 per year.

The government subsidy has shifted employment to less productive employment in the wind industry, meaning that Danish GDP is approximately $270 million lower than it would have been if the wind sector work force was employed elsewhere.

Germany pays a huge amount to cut tiny amounts of carbon through supporting solar power. This support costs €0.43 per kWh, which is equivalent to spending €716 to cut every ton of CO2. Yet the expected climate damage of each ton is about €4.

The price-tag is phenomenal – estimated at €53bn for the solar panels installed between 2000-2010 – yet the maximum effect will be to postpone global warming by just one hour, at the end of this century.

Actually, such an estimate is even optimistic. Because Germany is part of the ETS, when a solar panel reduces emissions, it simply means that other countries can burn fossil fuels cheaper – the net effect is actually very close to nil.

The massive technological hurdle to solving global warming is too often ignored. If we are to respond effectively to climate change, this is a hurdle that we need to recognize and confront.


What do you think? Do our experts have it right?

(Photo shows a worker at the top of a power-generating windmill turbine in a wind farm in Fruges, near Saint Omer, northern France, Jan. 9, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)



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Maybe we can start out small while waiting for technology to improve.
Since people go to gym to exercise, we can start to “harvest” electricity from treadmill and stationary bike.
Putting solar panel on roof to generate electricity for home use is a practical idea.

Posted by scheng1 | Report as abusive

Had the U.S. and the FED not given so much money away to the banks or spent so on this war we could have produced solar panels for everyone and for free. After all our taxes could have paid for it.

Posted by eddieblack | Report as abusive

1 natural gas fired turbines with cogeneration. 2 solar panels on every roof.3 a wind turbine in every yard.4 geothermal heat for every home or building.5 electric or hydrogen cars,trucks and locomotives.6 nuclear power plants for base load power.All of these tecnologies are available right now,they will not stop our use of fossil fuels but will sure put a dent in our use carbon footprint.The real goal will be fusion witch is not that far off.When fusion is available combined with all these other sources of energy it will be like STAR TREK,people will live to work and not have to work to live.Oh and i forgot about rececling our waste streams and convert them to heat or power.This may seem like a dream but it is possible….the alternative is a world that nobody can live in,we must change our ways now the clock is ticking……..

Posted by therealist555 | Report as abusive

sorry oil and coal your time is almost done.

Posted by therealist555 | Report as abusive

Markets, cost and inventors will determine the preferred power source, not governments. Each nation is better off planning for change by building further from the beach, better water storage solutions and other ways to cope with the coming changes. I do not believe climate change is all man’s doing, the world has constantly change and we will always have to adapt. Why is the U.S. wasting money on trying to forge an agreement with 100 + countries for something that will never be honored by any of them. Best to remember that government screws up more than it ever fixes.

Posted by A4Change | Report as abusive

We are in this state of affairs because of what our ancestors did and achieved through the ‘ Wood & Coal Ages ‘ ~ Then came the Steam Ages where we dug deeper and wider to find our coal ! Finally we arrived at the Oil age 150 years ago ~ In the last 110 years we have just about clawed into every thing that we have in reserve with the help of Oil and Coal Power !

Getting over our ” Hangovers & Addiction ” overnight is not simple or possible either ! It is time we get over our addictions to ” Speed & Luxury ” first by refining our attitudes to the ways we burn Oil sparingly and efficiently till ” Human Ingenuity ” comes up with viable solutions and sources to earn our energy from ” Wind, Light and Gravity ” !

” Time Being ” cost effective proven solutions to nail the situation by improving thermal efficiencies out of existing Petrol & Diesel engines is the only solution left to us till such time new alternatives sprout up !

For more info on one such solution ~ Please do a google search for ~ Somender Singh ~ and read up ~ Design to improve turbulence in combustion chambers ~ 1000’s of enthusiasts across Continents are seeing the changes in ~ Fuel savings with better drivability in urban conditions ! Less CO2 is sure to earn us Carbon Credit till new technologies are affordable & available freely !

Lets do some thing before we run out of Fresh Air for our survival on Mother Earth !

Some call it the Dimming Sun !?

sing !!!

Posted by sing | Report as abusive

The word from Ray Allen CEO, Emerald Energy
I have to smile every time I read articles concerning the loss of jobs if we try to go renewable energy, Question, where do they get this information. From where we stand here in California, a renewable energy project we are starting in the spring will create 140 new green energy jobs. It is not enough to worry about the emission reduction of the future. What are we doing about the greenhouse gasses already in the atmosphere? We are trying to look at one answer where many are already shovel ready to attack this problem. We at Emerald Energy are using a sustainable hybrid tree that takes in greenhouse gasses and returns oxygen that grows back when you cut it down. Wood chips have a much higher carbon percentage, creating higher BTU factors.
It grew 14 feet in 4 months. We have captured other companies attention and under the Emerald Umbrella we have energy production equipment that far exceeds anthing on the open market. No one can say that planting trees is a bad thing and still be a true environmentalist. Our projects are global, Our trees have gone through extensive testing in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Simple equation, 1 ton of wood chips equals 1 megawatt. 1 ton equals 100 gal. of liquid fuel. 100 tons of dry weight of biomass per acre every third year. Any Competition???

Posted by treeman498 | Report as abusive

Does anyone yet know if there is any achievable reduction in CO2 emissions that will have enough of an impact on warming to actually prevent any of the doomsday scenarios of “An Inconvenient Truth”? According to everything I have been able to find, the planned reductions in emissions “might” reduce the increase by a few tenths of a degree; which will not prevent anything. We may be spending trillions on NOTHING!

Posted by Concerned76210 | Report as abusive

I’m ready to use green technology just like the next guy but it has to be affordable. Geo-thermal furnace’s cost between $15k-$20k to install. Your average Joe can’t afford something like that. What’s he going to do instead? Use whats available including burning wood in a wood stove.. That’s all most people have to keep warm with. Also, all this b.s. about cap and trade and the rich countries paying for it, the last time I checked, America was the poorest country on the planet with $13 trillion in debt and climbing. Who said we’re rich? The economy will collapse in America if cap and trade comes to town.. it’s hanging on by a thread now..

Posted by ghendric | Report as abusive

Concerned76210, the best we might be able to do is limit temperature rise. Less warming might be more survivable than more warming. And that would not be possible without greater reductions than currently planned.

One thing is certain. All mass extinctions are accompanied by increased CO2 levels and climate change. The large creatures are the first to go. Where do you think humans fit in that picture?

Posted by eddieblack | Report as abusive

Cutting emissions will only slow climate change. It will not prevent the changes to occur in the next few decades, and will not reverse any changes that do occur.

The doomsday scenarios are pie in the sky. Climate scientists have yet to prove causation, let alone any model capable of predicting climate change. So any belief in an oncoming human extinction is simple speculation. We have no idea of if it is possible, or the conditions which may lead to it.

Not to mention the variables such as:
-The fact that any reduction in emissions capable of stopping climate change will destroy or stagnate our economy when inflation and population growth kick in.
-Green energy has no indication that it can overcome the increased generation costs which prevent it becoming anything more then a minor power contributor.
-Oil shortages and food prices are soon going to become more real and present issues for human society to deal with then something which may or may not happen.
-Several electric cars charging at the same time require a base load of a modest power station just to travel an even more modest distance.
-Even if we reach an agreement, and stick to it, it is unlikely the developed world will willingly cut their economic growth to the required levels.

I myself doubt that human extinction will result from global warming. But I do expect that living conditions and increased food prices will have a scaling effect, until population in third world nations reach a more realistic number.

Global warming will simply be an answer to the problem created in the last few decades by international aid and human prosperity: Population.

From here, we have three options:

Option one is to continue as we are going, and suffer the full effects of climate change. Not likely to be a pleasant future for anyone.

Option two is to try and stop global warming. Very difficult considering our situation. Some would say that thinking we can stop global warming is just as stupid as pretending it doesn’t exist. And it is likely that any action sufficient to stop global warming will lead to global economic collapse and all the exciting consequences that follow.

Option three is to change our society to be ready for a post climate change world. And this future is likely to involve nuclear power, recycling, strict border controls and lower international aid. But the sheer mountains of grief which we will see in the third world cannot be overstated.

So pick your poison. Denialists will go for 1, idealists will go for 2, and realists will go for 3.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

The debate about if human activities are or not respnsible of climate change is not useful.The global warming is an evidence, wether is it deriving from GHG emission from burning fossil fuels or is it a natural cycle does not matter. It is a Pascalian bet.Human community has to do its duty to ensure sustainable development and preserve environment.If this could restore normal climate conditions,we win. If despite our efforts, the climate change is Act Of God,we would have done our utmost. As far as the possible is not done, the duty is not achieved.

Posted by MOUNIR | Report as abusive

In all our efforts to ensure a cleaner and greener earth,one obvious measure is to switch to renewable sources of energy.Equally important is to ensure that environmentally friendly technologies are cheaply available so that we can actually use them to reduce our carbon footprint.There must be collective responsibility if we are to save our planet. All our leaders at the Copenhagen summit are trying to work towards an agreement in their own different ways.We must do as much as we can every step of the way for a cleaner and greener earth for all.

Posted by jjohorey | Report as abusive

posted on from Chris McVay regarding Ray Allen & Emerald Energy

Chris McVay- Ray Allen Lived with my Mother until she lost her house after putting all of her resources time money and life into helping him develop this plant for the last 10 years. I moved my family to San Diego, so did my sister on the promise of a job working to develop this tree. Ray was always making promises of this backer is sending X amount of money on this day then the next day finally three months later we all left San Diego and moved back to our respective cities of origin to rebuild our lives. In the process my marriage fell apart my sisters marriage fell apart along with others whom I am not at liberty to name. He and my mother lived with my sister in Las Vegas, working on the business, always talking about millions if not billion dollar contracts. This man after 10 hard years of leeching off of our family, found a new love somewhere else(bigger pocketbook not yet depleted). The tragedy lies in the fact that he blindsided my mother. Made her 51 percent owner of his previous company and then left her holding the ball with nothing to show for 10 years of selfless dedication to this “tree”. Ray Allen is a con-man. He is a Liar and a thief. He got his degree online, and has claimed to have a doctorate. Phony. I don’t believe he developed this tree. He is a fraud and a liar. I was suppose to be working on this Fresno Project, but these were just words used to manipulate my mother into believing that he still had our interests in mind but he never returned my calls once about the job. He is using his unlimited backers to destroy my mother with litigation after having depleted everything from my family and now his tree is going to save the world? This tree requires tons of nutrients to grow that fast, it can decimate the land it grows on.

Posted by megafloratrees | Report as abusive

Investors Beware! Upon due diligence of this company we have found no investor to ever be satisfied in any manner. Most are simply afraid to come forward and admit they were defrauded. Google King Vs. Emerald Energy. Furthermore, there is no trademark owned by this company, nor any proprietary technology whatsoever. Contact for more information. They seemed helpful, honest, and we feel we were saved a great loss by not investing.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The MegaFlora Tree is the trademarked name for a fast-growing tree created by Emerald Energy. It was designed to grow much faster than a normal tree. According to their website, it can harvested within 2 years and is designed to grow back after being harvested. They can be grown on marginal land and are claimed to produce exceptional biomass energy density per acre. Today, The megaflora is grown around the world.

****************************Emerald Energy (a Nevada Entity) has no such patent or trademark. ***************** The copyright to the name megaflora is owned by companies from Dallas area of Texas where the term was first used commercially with trees and in their company names. These Texas entities still exist legally today and own the copyrighted commercial use of the term megaflora as related to trees. An application was made by Emerald Energy (a Nevada Corporation or LLC) for a Trademark in the US patent office. The US Patent Office denied the application due to existing commercial use and other reasons. (See laws claiming Patent/trademark where none exists in US patent office website)

Emerald Energy (a Nevada Corporation or LLC) that is claiming this megaflora trademark is not related to the Emerald Energy Company in England. The Nevada Company “Emerald Energy” has seemingly attempted to “overlap” its existence by advertising and other means with the Emerald Energy name of the major stock corporation in England.

US Patent office can verify the non-existence of any such patent or trademark. US Patent office also has information on how to file against companies for claiming a non-existent Patent, Copyright and or Trademark.

Description above from the Wikipedia article MegaFlora tree, licensed under CC-BY-SA, full list of contributors here. Community Pages are not affiliated with, or endorsed by, anyone associated with the topic.

Posted by megafloratrees | Report as abusive