Sunday, July 7, 2013

Action Plan

Analysis of a Diagram

At the top half of the above diagram, the threat of extinction is pictured, i.e. global warming escalating into runaway global warming, to finally lead to wide-scale extinction.

The diagram also pictures a proposed three-part climate action plan with the necessary lines of action in green and the recommended policies to combat this threat in the yellow field at the bottom.

These components are further discussed below.

Diagram of Doom

The above version of the Diagram of Doom pictures three kinds of warming. While Earth as a whole is experiencing global warming, the Arctic is accelerating at a much higher rate. Accelerated warming in the Arctic threatens to destabilize methane stored in the form of hydrates and free gas in sediments underneath the Arctic Ocean, in a vicious spiral triggering further methane releases and escalating into a third kind of warming: runaway global warming. More feedbacks, in addition to the three feedbacks pictured in above image in yellow, are described in the post Diagram of Doom.

The threat that this constitutes for food supply is further described in this post, which also points at the need for a comprehensive action plan. Without such action, the above three kinds of warming are threatening to lead to a fourth development, i.e. mass extinction, as above image shows.

Climate Action Plan

Several lines of action are needed to combat this threat, for parallel implementation, as pictured in the diagram below.

Any nation can start moving toward a more sustainable economy without need for prior international agreements. In nations with both federal and state governments, such as the United States of America, the President (or Head of State or Cabinet, basically where executive powers are held) can direct:
  • federal departments and agencies to reduce their emissions for each type of pollutant annually by a set percentage, say, CO2 and CH4 by 10%, and HFCs, N2O and soot by higher percentages.
  • the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make states each achieve those same reductions.
  • the EPA to monitor progress by states and to step in with more effective action in case a state looks set to miss one or more targets; more effective action in such a case would impose (federal) fees on applicable polluting products sold in the respective state, with revenues used for federal benefits.
Such federal benefits could include building interstate High-Speed Rail tracks, adaptation and conservation measures, management of national parks, R&D into batteries, ways to vegetate deserts and other land use measurements, all at the discretion of the EPA. The fees can be roughly calculated as the average of fees that other states impose in successful efforts to meet their targets.

Similar targets could be adopted elsewhere in the world, and each nation could similarly delegate responsibilities to states, provinces and further down to local communities.

Apart from action to move to a more sustainable economy, additional lines of action are necessary to reduce the danger of runaway global warming. Extra fees on international commercial aviation could provide funding for ways to cool the Arctic. Because of their impact across borders, these additional lines of action will need ongoing research, international agreement and cooperation.

A comprehensive and effective climate action plan will outline the necessary lines of action and will also describe how these lines of action can best be implemented.

A Climate Action Plan is needed that has three parts that are executed in parallel.  
  • Sustainable Economy, i.e. moving toward a more sustainable economy, with dramatic reductions of pollutants on land, in oceans and in the atmosphere
  • Heat management
  • Methane management and further measures

Each of these three parts comes with multiple lines of action to be executed in parallel. As above diagram shows, some of these lines of action jointly lead to additional care for ecosystems, such as land, wetlands, lakes and rivers.

This Climate Action Plan contains many lines of action. As said, the decision how to implement the necessary action (e.g. efforts to reduce pollution levels) is largely delegated to state level, while states can similarly delegate decisions to local communities.

States can thus implement the policies they feel fit their circumstances best, provided they do each achieve their targets. Such targets are set by federal government in line with international agreements, and assisted by ongoing monitoring and research as to ways to make safe progress and ways to achieve targets most effectively.

Local implementation encourages that revenues from fees on polluting products is used to fund the necessary shift to clean products locally. This will help achieve the shift where it’s needed most.

Recommended policy

Feebates, preferably implemented locally, are thus recommended as the most effective way to reach targets, each state and even each local community can largely decide how to implement things, provided that each of the targets are reached.

Feebates may not always seem the best policy instrument. It makes sense to reroute commercial flights over the Arctic. At first glance, outright prohibition of commercial flights over the Arctic may seem the way to go. Similarly, some highly polluting gases have been phased out thanks to the Montreal Protocol. And similarly, standards have managed to lead to higher efficiencies in lighting, appliances and vehicles.

Nonetheless, high fees could make such flights prohibitively expensive, so feebates could still be applicable. Feebates are especially effective due to the fact that they raise revenues that can be used to help the better alternatives locally. Furthermore, standards often benefit the products that just meet the requirements under the respective standard, but not the cleanest products. In such cases, the shift achieved by standards can actually come at the expense of development of the cleanest products, which would benefit more from feebates. This is further discussed at Feebates.

Two types of feebates can best achieve the necessary shifts toward a sustainable economy, in addition to their benefits on further lines of action:
  • energy feebates
  • agriculture, land use and construction feebates

Energy feebates

Many carbon dioxide removal methods are energy-intensive. As long as the energy used is expensive and polluting, not much can be achieved. A rapid shift to clean energy is necessary, which is best facilitated through energy feebates.

As the number of solar and wind facilities grows, large amounts of clean electricity will become available at off-peak hours, when there's little demand for electricity. This will make such electricity cheap, bringing down the cost of methods such as enhanced weathering, which can take place at off-peak hours. Such energy will also make carbon dioxide removal more effective, since the energy is clean to start with.
Agriculture, land use and construction feebates

Energy feebates can best clean up energy, while other feebates (such as pictured in the above diagram) can best raise revenue for carbon dioxide removal. Energy feebates can phase themselves out, completing the necessary shift to clean energy within a decade. Carbon dioxide removal will need to continue for much longer, so funding will need to be raised from other sources, such as sales of livestock products, nitrogen fertilizers and Portland cement.

A range of methods to remove carbon dioxide would be eligible for funding under such feebates. To be eligible for rebates, methods merely need to be safe and remove carbon dioxide.

There are methods to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and/or from the oceans. Rebates favor methods that also have commercial viability. In case of enhanced weathering, this will favor production of building materials, road pavement, etc. Such methods could include water desalination and pumping of water into deserts, in efforts to achieve more vegetation growth. Selling a forest where once was a desert could similarly attract rebates.

Some methods will be immediately viable, such as afforestation and biochar. It may take some time for methods such as enhanced weathering to become economically viable, but when they do, they can take over where afforestation has exhausted its potential to get carbon dioxide back to 280ppm.

Toward a Sustainable Economy

In the diagram below, from the post Towards a Sustainable Economy, the most recommended feebates show up as yellow arrows.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan set out below could be implemented immediately in any country, without the need for an international agreement to be reached first. This avoids complicated negotiations and verifying implementation and progress in other nations.

In nations with both federal and state governments, such as the United States of America, the Climate Action Plan could be implemented as follows:
  1. The President directs federal departments and agencies to reduce their emissions for each type of pollutant annually by a set percentage, say, CO2 and CH4 by 10%, and HFCs, N2O and soot by higher percentages.
  2. The President demands states to each make the same cuts.  
  3. The President directs the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor implementation of states and to act step in where a state looks set to fail to miss one or more targets, by imposing (federal) fees on applicable polluting products sold in the respective state, with revenues used for federal benefits.
Federal benefits (under 3 above)  could include building interstate High-Speed Rail tracks, adaptation and conservation measures, management of national parks, R&D into batteries, ways to vegetate deserts and other land use measurements, all at the discretion of the EPA. The fees can be roughly calculated as the average of fees that other states impose in successful efforts to meet their targets.

This way, the decision how to reduce targets is largely delegated to state level, while states can similarly delegate decisions to local communities. While feebates, preferably implemented locally, are recommended as the most effective way to reach targets, each state and even each local community can largely decide how to implement things, provided that each of the targets are reached.

Similar targets could be adopted elsewhere in the world, and each nation could similarly delegate responsibilities to local communities. Additionally, it makes sense to agree internationally to impose extra fees on international commercial aviation, with revenues used to develop ways to cool the Arctic.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Action Plan to deal with global warming and climate change

See updates of this post at:

1. Adapt and deal with symptoms
(preparation, preservation, plantation, energy saving, etc)
2. Combat causes of global warming 
2.1. Long-term impact (cut CO2 emissions and remove CO2 from atmosphere and oceans) (C,D)
2.2. Short-term impact
2.2.1. Reflect more sunlight back into space (D)
2.2.2. Reduce pollutants other than CO2 Reduce emissions of chemical gases such as HFC, PFC, SF6,, halon, CFC and HCFC (A) Reduce emissions of CH4, N2O, BC, CO, NOx and VOC (B,C,E) Produce extra OH (D)

This can be best achieved through:
Protocols (Kyoto, Montreal, etc), standards and deposits (refunded at collection) on products containing inorganic pollutants

Fees on nitrogen fertilizers and livestock products (where farmed) to fund local application of biochar
Fees on burning fuel (where burned) to fund clean local alternatives (incl. EVs, solar cookers, WWS energy)

Geoengineering (adding lime to seawater and aerosols to the atmosphere, carbon air capture, using UV light to stimulate methane oxidation, cloud brightening, etc; for more see the geoengineering group)

Organic waste handling standards (e.g. the UNEP-proposed ban of open field burning of agricultural waste)

Color Use:
Inorganic waste policies (cycle A)
Land use and organic waste policies (cycles B & E)
Geoengineering & energy-related policies (cycles C & D)
Feebate policies

Feebates (yellow lines)
Acronyms and Abbreviations
BC black carbon (or soot)
CFC chlorofluorocarbon
CH4 methane (or natural gas)
CO carbon monoxide
CO2 carbon dioxide
EV electric vehicle
HFC hydrofluorocarbon also known as freon, with the subclass HCFC
HCFC hydrochlorofluorocarbon
H2O2 HOOH or hydrogen peroxide
NO nitrogen monoxide (commonly known as nitric oxide)
NO2 nitrogen dioxide
NOX nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2, which cause O3, smog and acid rain)
N2O nitrous oxide
O3 ozone
OH hydroxyl
PFC perfluorocarbon
SF6 sulphur hexafluoride
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
VOC volatile organic compound include CFCs, styrene, limonene and formaldehyde
WWS WWS energy or Wind, Water and Solar Energy (water includes hydro, wave, tidal and geothermal)

Related Posts

Ten Dangers of Global Warming
America can win the clean energy race

A. Protocols, standards and deposit programs
A national bottle recycling bill
Green Refrigerators and Air Conditioners

B. Fees on nitrogen fertilizers and livestock products, funding biochar
Afforestation - bringing life into the deserts
Save the Rainforest
Fees on Livestock to fund Biochar

C. Fees on burning fuel, funding clean local energy programs
Electric Vehicles - Frequently Asked Questions
SuperB Grid

D. Geoengineering
The Threat of Methane Release from Permafrost and Clathrates
Funding of Carbon Air Capture
Open letter on Arctic sea ice loss

E. Organic waste handling standards
Algae Bags

Feebate policies

Further reading
Posts at Gather

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Global Warming Action Plan

All nations should commit to effective action to deal with climate change. Nations should each be able to decide for themselves how to do this, provided they each meet agreed targets independently and genuinely (i.e. without buying or fabricating offsets or credits, domestically or abroad). Where necessary, border adjustments can help ensure that commitments are indeed met.

Some policies may aim to reduce emissions in one area, while causing emissions elsewhere. As an example, biofuel may reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in transport, while increasing agricultural emissions, reducing forests and diverting crop, water and energy from better use.

It is important for nations to each achieve results on each of the following points, without achievements in one area being counterproductive elsewhere. It is therefore recommended to take an approach that seeks results on each of the following points

Part 1. Reduce oceanic and atmospheric CO2

Target: Ensure that atmospheric CO2 levels do not exceed 400 ppm over the next few decades, while aiming for a longer term target of 350 ppm.

James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist, says in Target CO2 : Where Should Humanity Aim? that atmospheric CO2 should be reduced to 350 ppm. To achieve this target, several policies will need to work in parallel with each other.

1.1. Dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions

Most emissions are energy-related. In many cases, dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions can be achieved merely by electrifying transport and shifting to generation of energy by clean facilities such as solar panels and wind turbines. Each nation should aim to reduce their CO2 emissions by a minimum of 8% per year over the next ten years, based on their 2009 emissions, and by 80% by 2020.

1.2. Carbon must also be actively removed from the atmosphere and the oceans

A study at the University of Calgary concludes that, even if we completely stopped using fossil fuels and put no more CO2 in the atmosphere, the West Antarctic ice sheet will still eventually collapse (by the year 3000), causing a global sea level rise of at least four meters. This means that - apart from reducing emissions - there should be additional efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and the oceans, in order to get CO2 down to levels as pictured on the above graph.

Carbon is naturally removed from the atmosphere and the oceans by vegetation, so it makes sense to protect forests and encourage their growth. There are ways to reduce ocean acidification, such as by adding lime to seawater, as discussed at this geoengineering blog and group. Carbon capture from ambient air and pyrolysis of surplus biomass with biochar burial are some of the most promising methods to further remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Biochar can also help with afforestation and prevent deforestation and land degradation. Funding of carbon air capture could be raised through fees on jet fuel.

All nations should commit to such initiatives — care should be taken that emission reductions are not substituted by carbon removal or vice versa.

Part 2. Short-term action

The Arctic sea ice acts as a giant mirror, reflecting sunlight back into space and thus keeping Earth relatively cool, as discussed in this open letter. If this sunlight instead gets absorbed at higher latitudes, then feedback effects will take place that result in much higher temperatures, in a process sometimes referred to as Arctic amplification of global warming.

The IPCC didn't take such feedback into account in AR4. A study that used 2007/2008 data as starting point predicts a nearly sea ice free Arctic in September by the year 2037, some predict an even quicker demise. A study by by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jeffrey Kiehl found that carbon dioxide may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models of global climate. Melting of ice sheets, for example, leads to additional heating because exposed dark surfaces of land or water absorb more heat than ice sheets.

Albedo change is only one of a number of feedback processes. A rapid rise of Arctic temperatures could lead to wildfires and the release of huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane that are now stored in peat, permafrost and clathrates, which constitutes further feedback that could cause a runaway greenhouse effect. Heat produced by decomposition of organic matter is yet another feedback that leads to even deeper melting.

2.1. Reduce methane and nitrogen oxide emissions

Reductions in the emissions of methane and nitrogen oxide can be achieved by a change in diet, improved waste handling and better land use.

Effective policies such as feebates can impose fees on nitrogen fertilizers and livestock products, while using the revenues to fund pyrolysis of organic waste.

2.2. Emissions of other pollutants than conventional greenhouse gases should also be reduced

Both the Kyoto Protocol and the IPCC have focused much on reducing CO2 emissions, as well as other conventional greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrogen oxide. Melting in the Arctic carries the risk of huge additional emissions from peat, permafrost and clathrates, which calls for more immediate mitigation action.

All nations should therefore commit to short-term mitigation — long-term mitigation efforts should not be substituted by short-term mitigation or vice versa.

As this NASA study points out, for more effective short-term impact, drastic cuts should also be made in other pollutants, such ozone, soot and carbon monoxide. This is further illustrated by the image on the right that shows what causes most radiative forcing (W/m2) when taking into account all pollutants over a 20-year period, from a study published in Science. Reducing short-lived pollutants could significantly reduce warming above the Arctic Circle, finds a study published in Journal of Geophysical Research.

A relatively cheap way to achieve such cuts is by encouraging the use of solar cookers and rechargeable batteries to power LED lights. Many types of equipment and appliances can also be powered this way, even when batteries are recharged by hand cranking or pedaling. Electrification of road transport is a crucial part of short-term mitigation, as illustrated by the image, while generation of energy from clean facilities such as solar panels and wind turbines (as also discussed under part 1.1.) will further contribute to reductions in short-lived pollutants.

Furthermore, reductions in short-lived pollutants can be achieved by preservation of forests, which justifies financial assistance by rich countries. As said, such assistance should not be used by rich nations as a substitute for domestic action — action is also required domestically by each nation, on all points.

The desired shifts can often best be accomplished locally by budget-neutral feebates, i.e. fees on local sales of fuel, engines and ovens, each time funding the better local products, as illustrated by the image below.

2.3. Furthermore, consider ways to reflect more solar radiation back into space

Discussions of ways to reflect solar radiation can be found at this geoengineering blog and group.

Part 3. Adaptation

Look at policies that can help people, flora and fauna adapt to climate change. Rich nations are urged to give financial assistance to poorer nations, as well as to facilitate technology transfer, including by preventing that intellectual property protection acts as a barrier to such transfer.

3.1. Prepare for extreme weather events

Look at safety issues from the perspective of a changed world. It makes sense to prepare for hailstorms, heavy flooding, severe droughts, wildfires, etc., and to grow food that fits such weather patterns best.

3.2. Preserve biodiversity

Protection of rain forests is well covered in the media. Biodiversity can be further preserved by means of seed banks, parks and wildlife corridors.

3.3. Vegetate

Fresh water supply and food security require extensive planning, such as selection of best crop. Build facilities for desalination both for fresh water in cities and to irrigate and vegetate deserts and other areas with little vegetation.

More on Global Warming:

More on Geoengineering:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Global Warming Action Plan

Global warming requires a comprehensive response, consisting of at least four parts:
- Emissions reduction
- Carbon stock management
- Heat transfer and radiation management
- Adaptation

Each of these parts requires a separate and appropriate policy framework - details should be worked out as soon as possible in an international agreement, say, at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference end 2009.

To achieve the reduction in emissions that we need to have, emissions need to be reduced for each country.

There should be separate policy frameworks for emission reduction and for radiation management. This will avoid that a country can seek a cheap way out, e.g. by causing some albedo change somewhere on Earth, in efforts to "trade" itself out of its emission reduction obligations.

Many types of radiation management require political agreement at international level, which can require delicate diplomatic negotiations. On the other hand, no international agreement will be breached if a country decided to build more solar or wind farms, in its efforts to reduce the emissions from its coal-fired power plants that could then be decommissioned as a result.

Having separate policy frameworks allows countries to largely decide individually how to achieve emission reductions, without requiring the international approval that would be necessary in many cases of radiation management.

Countries can each decide how to achieve their emissions reduction targets, provided they each do indeed reach their target. This should be backed up by the threat of sanctions against countries that fail to reach their reduction targets. A check on a, say, annual basis, should verify whether each country did reach its target.

Similarly, carbon stock management deserves a separate policy framework, which should include the oceans and preservation of rainforests and associated biodiversity.

Finally, adaptation to climate change also requires a separate policy framework, as one country's actions may damage another country. Issues like fresh water supply, refugees and preservation of biodiversity need to be worked out at international level.

In conclusion, there should be separate policy frameworks for each of these parts. This will ensure that each country will make sufficient efforts to reach the targets in each of these parts. What should be done, though, when a country fails to reach its carbon emission reduction target and proposes to make up for that shortfall by means of carbon capture and storage (CCS)? In that case, the amount of CCS should be punitive. The offset ratio should be punitive, to avoid that countries will start using CCS as a routine way to escape their obligations to reduce their emissions.

This paradox is worked out in proposals such as cap and capture, that acknowledge that we need to aim to do both, i.e. reduce emissions in addition to capture carbon. Carbon capture can be used to offset emissions, though, but in that case the offset ratio should be punitive, to avoid that countries will stop making an effort to reduce emissions.

As an example, a country could be allowed to offset a shortfall in its emission reduction target, if it demonstrated successful capture and safe storage of, say, twice the amount of the shortfall. Failing to do so, the country would face sanctions, as arbitrated by the WTO, and tariffs could be imposed up to the cost of such CCS (by international tender) with the proceeds of such tariffs used to ensure that such CCS does indeed take place.