Well over 100 people attended a lecture on climate change by Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen in Friday Harbor October 23. The event was sponsored by the San Juan Islands Conservation District, Islands Energy, and OPALCO, and was an opportunity to hear from a scientist who is at the heart of current climate change policy and on the cutting edge of alternative technologies and approaches.
Professor Kammen’s presentation, “Decarbonizing Energy Systems: Addressing Climate Change Cooperatively,” outlined current global climate conditions and the likely consequences if nothing is done soon to severely curtail the amount of carbon we are emitting into our atmosphere. He also offered some hopeful signs, like Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and commitments made at climate meetings between China and the US, in preparation for Climate Talks (COP21) in Paris at the end of November.
According to Kammen, about half of the carbon emitted comes from the transportation sector, with the remainder divided equally among residential, commercial and industrial fuel burning. The International Governmental Panel on Climate Change projects a 4-degree C. rise in average global temperature by 2100, which will result in a 20 ft. rise in sea level.
The largest and most immediate effect in reducing emissions would be felt by eliminating carbon from the fuel used for cars and trucks (conversion to electric vehicles.) We also need to get the carbon out of our generation of electricity by converting to renewable sources like solar and wind power. These things can be done, and are happening more rapidly in European countries and even some of the developing nations. Many creative solutions are being pursued in east Africa. More locally, California’s Cap-and-Trade program and British Columbia’s Carbon Tax program have made a start and helped establish a price on carbon emissions. Washington State’s proposed carbon tax, Initiative 732, would also be a positive step if enacted.
Professor Kammen also outlined some promising new technologies on the horizon, including pumped hydro and the flywheel for cheap storage, and the fuel cell for large applications.
Earlier in the afternoon, Dr. Kammen met with local energy folks and other members of the community for a question and answer session. He traveled on to Orcas Island October 25th to deliver a presentation as part of Orcas Currents, the new speaker series on science, technology and culture.