The Environment and Climate Change

I may need to move this category into politics but for now I’d like to put it on this category and encourage us to keep politics out of it.

Lots of interesting things have been happening on this front in the ocean, from ridding it of garbage and plastics and now a possible tool to fight CO2 emissions.

This one is particularly interesting because it seems to contain what I call “farmer’s genius” in that it’s a simple, elegant, practical and affordable way to achieve a great task.

Interesting, very interesting in fact. I’d like to see it tested, yes I know they’re doing a test run this year, over a several year time scale to see if their concept works well.

In the meantime I read an article recently about Porsche attempting to create an “e-fuel”, basically zero carbon emission fuel that can run in regular vehicles too. That’s another one that probably needs more proof of concept over time. Here’s a link to one of the stories: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/02/porsche-investing-24-million-in-e-fuels-for-traditional-sports-cars.html

Just to play devil’s advocate. We know that the sun is currently in a solar minimum. The last solar minimum was approx 400 years ago. In it the Thames River froze over. In other solar minimums coincided with the collapse of Rome, increase of plagues, and famines (most described in Medieval texts) which brought on more illnesses and deaths. As we know, world wide (Northern Hemisphere in Eurasia) approx 1/3 of the population died. With it came tech to make up for the loss of life, increasing productivity. What I’m getting at, is what if the world is actually cooling due to solar activity, and with it the climate changes that come with that? I’m just playing devil’s advocate, and just grabbing the history that I can recall off the top of my head as examples of what happened. More research would be needed to show more of what happened. I do think my overall info is good though. Oh yeah, and supposedly the Gulf Stream is at it coolest and weakest in 1000 years, per an article I read the other day. (Gulf Stream current is now at its weakest in over 1,000 years)

Regardless, back to the kelp article. This one is a cool idea. I hope to see more about it in the coming years.

I’ve mentioned this before, but regardless of how you feel about this entire subject, I always expect anyone who lives in a valley in Utah to be an advocate for reducing emissions and cleaning up the air.

Last year was a pretty decent year for inversion just because we had an active weather pattern for most of the winter clearing out the valley regularly. This year has been pretty mild inversion-wise as well, but now traditionally things are pretty rough here making life pretty intolerable for guys with asthma like me.

I’d love for the day when an inversion only means it is warmer at the ski resorts than it is in the valley. We should all be hopeful and invested in zero emissions options.

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I could not agree with this more and will do my best to comment from a human nature perspective rather than a political one.

From the late 80’s, through about 2010, I worked for a variety of small technology companies in Park City, typically working at home part of the time and commuting 3 or 4 days per week. During the Winter. I was always thrilled to have the regular opportunity to drive up out of the muck, and into the clean air and sunshine.

I became acutely aware of the level of air pollution during the inversion months and over my lifetime have also noticed the degree to which we are effected by an increased level of air pollution in the valley more recently, even during the other seasons.

I’m stunned, at the number of people I know and interact with who continue to oppose any sort of cleaner air actions, purely as a reaction to their intense disbelief in global warming.

I’m not sure why one’s belief or disbelief in global warming should have any effect on wanting to clean up the air in the Salt Lake Valley. A simple look around, and the annual effects on respiratory health even for people without any other conditions, should be enough to motivate people to want to do what is necessary to improve out air quality.

On a related note. one of the positive things from the pandemic has been the reduction in commuter traffic and along with it the reduction in pollution and in noise. It will be interesting to see how much work-at-home continues after the pandemic.

(Oh, and, I get the irony here, that a regular 50 mile commute per day was burning a lot of fossil fuel and adding to the pollution, but we all have to do what we have to do, and I did regularly commute via bicycle once or twice a week during the nice weather months.)

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Exactly. IMO, Utah, collectively speaking, just couldn’t care less about the environment unless it hits them personally in the pocket. Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and many others, are all in similar situation. I’m trying to do my part, albeit needing to try harder. I do not have children – to those of you who do, best of luck.

On a related note, in case anyone thinks the Salt Lake Valley (or any Northern Utah Valley) is experiencing pollution in some sort of new manner, I’ll relate a conversation I had with my grandmother in the 1970’s:

At the time I lived on the Avenues in Salt Lake, and my grandmother lived a few houses away. I was in my middle teens and recall a lot of discussion for the first time in my life, by local television weather people, about “temperature inversions” and the resulting air pollution during the winter.

I recall looking out over the valley and having to look at the vista I was accustomed to through a dirty gray/brown layer of fog.

I mentioned the terrible air to my grandmother and she relayed the following:

She had moved to the Avenues in SLC from a rural area where she grew up, in the early 1920’s, to live and work at the nursing school at the LDS Hospital on Ninth Avenue and C Street. At that time, Ninth Avenue was essentially the highest developed point in the valley, and as such, and since there were very few trees old and large enough to disrupt the view, you could see then entire valley clearly during most of the year.

During the winter however, nearly every day, the black smoke from coal furnaces, which was the predominant heating source, would fill the air in the lower valley, up to about Sixth Avenue to the point that you literally could not see a thing below it. She described looking out at the mountains, upper planes to the east, southeast, and southwest, and seeing a lot of open space with occasion orchards and farms, but the entire downtown area and developed housing areas of Salt Lake were completely obscured by a thick black cloud.

She married my grandfather in 1924, and they purchased a home on Ninth Avenue. The black smoke in the valley continued every winter until sometime in the 40’s when they, (and much of the rest of the valley) converted their coal burning furnaces to be gas fired. After that, she said, the valley was much clearer, but still had a gray haze most days in the winter.

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I’ve heard that - and basically coal ash coated everything in the winter in SLC.

I know the pollution isn’t new but I believe it has gotten worse in recent years. It has to, the SL Valley is millions of people now.

I grew up in a place just above Wasatch Blvd with a view of the valley. Inversions would fill the valley with smog in the winters, but when I was a kid we were still above it. The valley would look like pea soup. My parents continued to live there until a little while ago, the inversion pollution had creeped up the hills to envelop them.

Like you I commuted to Park City for a lot of years and the pollution was actually quite far up the canyon - you could feel it in your lungs as you’d descend into it. Terrible.

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First, if we want everyone on board, we need to talk about clean air, clean water, and clean land. 99% I think can agree on that. Guessing about what changes climate or worse, vote for me to change the climate, only divides people.

Next, the science of climate change is complex with most of the science still to learn. CO2 is currently a villain but is also a key input into one of life’s most important processes. I like creating something to improve this balance but we could also quit doing some things like destroying forests to do the same thing. I like doing R & D like that in the article.

Now to focus on human impact to climate (one of many). Scientist agree the equation, I = P * A * T. Impact = Population times Affluency times Technology. Affluency is a modifier on population noting what percent of the population uses motorized transportation and heats or cools a domicile. Technology is a collection of everything we can possibly do to make our impact more or less. All the math people agree that population is by far the most dominant term in this equation. In other words, population increases drive more impact that anything else to be talked about. That fact is completely too awkward for us to talk about. Our population is 3x what it was when I was born. Peak population is estimated to be approx. 9.1B. If we don’t do something, nature will do something about our impact. Before you think the human condition is hopeless, consider that those that study population feel we would slowly reduce our population if globally we could educate women on sex, give all women the ability to say no, and eliminate rape. So one of the best things you could do for humanity would also likely be the best thing you could do to reduce human impact on the climate.

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Back in 1933 when my grandma’s older brother Clifford was doing his Master’s in Engineering he wrote his thesis on a new method to burn coal cleaner by pulverizing it and a few other things. It was an interesting read and certainly illustrated that air quality in the SL valley has been an issue for a long time.

So it frustrates me when it seems like almost any attempt to clean up the air or water in Utah is met with a dismissive attitude that these measures are part of some lefty, eco warrior, conspiracy to deprive people of freedom. I just want people to be responsible and do what we need to do to have clean air and water and land.

While climate change is a serious issue that needs to be addressed it is often couched in political terms and sadly pollution gets swept up into that realm as well. It surprises me when people seem to lack concern when things like coal ash, industrial waste, and agricultural effluent get dumped in our waterways. It bothers me when people seem oblivious to the fact that we in Utah live in a desert and then waste water with no second thought. Most of all, for those who profess to belong to the predominant religion in the state, there seems to be a complete lack of understanding as to what it means to be a good and faithful steward over the things the Creator has created for us to use.

I would really like to see folks in the West reach back to our roots and regain the mantle of conservation of our precious land, water, and air resources.

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I can’t think of a single person who wants dirty air, water, or earth. That being said, I’m always amazed by the amount of litter on the sides of roads. As for the possible population peak, I’m not as sure we need to worry about that as much, since much of the world had negative birth rates. That is especially true in the “West”, but Russia as well. That appears to be a function of affluence and maybe tech, in that as the West has improved technologically the birth rates have decreased.

Anyway, as you said climate science still has much growing to do. We can’t possibly know every variable. It is possible that CO2 is being blamed when it may be other things, such as solar activity.

True, but I can think of a lot of people that don’t want to change their behavior or wouldn’t whine about various policy decisions that would ensure clean air, water, and earth. We are very consumption driven and what we consume is what people produce and what industry produces requires resources, sometimes which are a mismatch to environmental or conservation ideals.

Check out ‘A Life on Our Planet’ on Netflix (David Attenborough). It’s a thought provoking piece on the importance of wilderness conservation, biodiversity, and he provides solid solutions. But, we’ve seen that people don’t want to be told what to do nor policies that restrict anything (takes a lot of individual action as well as policy). Tragedy of the commons.

Healthcare, especially women’s healthcare (including family planning, a big push of Melinda Gates) has been the perhaps the largest factor in improving economic prosperity as well as decrease population growth, especially for non-1st world countries (who are affected more by affluence). The world can likely produce enough food for this and larger populations (technologies have improved, we let some land not be productive to stabilize prices, etc.), but not if we are just using land to grow food for animals to eat that take up even more land and water resources. I’m not saying we all need to go vegetarian, but with some moderation, we could be more sustainable for the future as well as likely see positive health outcomes (I subscribe to theories that most of our ailments are driven by poor diets/SAD [standard American diet]).

As far as climate science, no matter the cause (natural or anthropogenic or mix): CO2 is rising (measurement, not opinion); ice caps are melting (cycles yielding less ice same time of year); permafrost is thawing (and as it it does, releases CH4 - methane, MUCH worse greenhouse gas); oceans are becoming more acidic; ocean currents are changing. Science is just a tool to test hypotheses and a path to discovery. Interpretation and coming up with policies, well, that’s where politics comes in (and usually bungles it). I’ve encountered many that would just say it’s natural or not real so therefore we can’t really make a difference so why try (usually more from a political POV) or it doesn’t matter because it’ll all get bad until it gets better (usually more from a religious POV).

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Individual human behavior is weird. Humans in a group become even more odd. So much of what you say is applicable.

Interesting that you mentioned the American Diet. Over the last year or so we’ve made, well really I have since I do most of the cooking here, to have a more plant based diet. We’re not going full vegetarian, let alone vegan. Since we’ve made the adjustment, we have both lost weight, and kept it off, and we’ve both felt better. Are we making an impact on the climate? Perhaps, but it’d be a small amount since we’re just 2 individuals making a dietary change. I think you’re correct, that if more people made even small changes in diet, things would improve. In a way I’d like to see even more of a change, since as people lose weight and feel better, they’re more active. If they’re more active perhaps they’ll buy my products. Since I sell and make bikes there may even be even less “bad stuff” around with fewer auto miles being used, ideally speaking that is.

I enjoy thought provoking shows and things. I’ll try and dig up Sir Attenborough’s piece.

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If for anything, the accent we all love from nature shows :slight_smile:. My son really enjoyed it and chose the topic for his ‘persuasive piece’ for his 4th grade class.

I had a minor scare several years ago (my dad asked me how much I weighed and then told me at my age that’s when he started to see much more weight gain). I went mostly plant based (meat was a condiment if at all) and lost 25 pounds in about 4 months without doing anything else (as an experiment, as I wasn’t exercising much, I didn’t). I’ve found that for me, it was about removing processed sugars and grains, increasing macronutrients found in plants, and getting rid of snacking did it for me. In the several years since, these are the factors (not always following them) that have increased my weight. I’ve also found travel, where food is a big part of the experience, I’ll gain a couple pounds and then not lose them, bumping my weight up a little each trip. Diet is basically my weight control. I’m trying to figure out my ‘equilibrium’ and have actually held within a 5 pound range during the pandemic. For me, exercise is all about cardiovascular and skeletal health - some slight effects of keeping the metabolism going.

Multiply your and my small impacts by millions or billions, and that’s where the difference is made. Or maybe not even the individuals, but then the buying power which changes industry practices or energy generation …

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My point was there is so much that has so little disagreement. There is little resistance to cleaning air, water and land. There is endless debate about our ability to make changes to the climate. So much can be gained by acting on what we agree on rather than fighting about what divides us. Simple focus on clean air has done more to reduce CO2 emissions in the US has done more than all the global politics that do nothing to improve the big sources of pollution (China, India, Russia).

I don’t believe we can produce enough food and energy for our current population. With out question, if the entire population was as affluent as us today, we simply can’t. Our current population level requires a third or more of us to live in terrible conditions. We should not have a population that we can not support as 100% affluent and be satisfied. It is odd to me that we worry about how much each of us impact the environment with no thought about how many of us there are. Imagine how much less concern we would have about any aspect of impact on the environment if we just had half the population, the population we had back in the 70s. At some point, we will be forced to manage our own population, we can choose to do so before a crisis, or to do so when forced. It becomes an easy adjustment if you listen to Melinda Gates and others.

That being said, the more affluent a population the more likely it is that their birth rates will drop. The US and much of the west and even in much of China and Asia the birth rates are well below replacement level.

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Ok, Thanos :wink: .

This was my point and appears @ironman1315’s as well - with better health care comes better economics (affluency) as well as lower population growth. In essence, we are flattening the curve through that rather than active population control (like 1-child limits, etc.). We do need to lift much of the world out of poverty. But everyone shouldn’t need to be affluent but at least have basic needs met (what level is that really? likely food security, shelter, running water, electricity, livable wages, …)

But can we feed the current and future populations with today’s technology? Think about this - it’s estimated 25% of food calories and 50% of all food is lost or wasted before it can be consumed. We can eat the plants instead of feeding it to animals (12# of grain, 2,500 gallons of water, 35# of topsoil, and energy of 1 gallon of gas for every pound of beef for a lot, 40% of all world grain is fed to livestock). Farmers are paid to NOT grow crops in some years to stabilize prices. And tech is increasing (e.g. more resilient/productive crops, automated harvesting, AI helping with efficient field use/watering, nitrogen fertilizer production, use, [and over-use causing other issues]).

A lot of this is being more efficient about resource use. We are so wasteful. And we must shift how we do it. Lots of pieces to the puzzle.

Also, cloning. In particular cloning meat will be a thing in the future that could change the world for the better.

Star Trek replicator. It’s not as far away from possible as you may think (assuming you think it’s impossible). Except creating matter…

Affluence in the equation I = PAT, when it increases has a negative impact on the environment. If only half the population is affluent (in the equation), it is as if the population is half it’s size. If affluency increases to 100% the impact on the environment doubles even without the population changing. Increases in affluency is great for humanity but at a cost to the environment. I suppose if you have transportation and heat your home we can assume you will have fewer kids? To keep our impact on the environment level, if we increase affluency we need to reduce population or more difficult, make it up in Technology. It is not an economic affluency but does correlate.

The US organic growth is a slight decrease but with net migration in, we are increasing. The world, especially, Asia and Africa is increasing quite rapidly.