Speaking as a part of a press release about power plant carbon emissions in NC.
As my students probably know by now, I think an important point when discussing or even thinking about how to deal with the combination of our hunger for energy and global warming is to remember the scales of the problem. There are two important scales to consider in every discussion of global warming: time and space. The adjectival forms would be “temporal” and “spatial”. The super-cool adjective, which I probably overuse, is “spatiotemporal”. Spatiotemporal analysis is critical to understanding global warming and what it means in any single location on Earth. The temporal scale is highlighted over and over again right now because of the global warming “pause”, which as any analysis or background research should reveal, is nothing more than a pause and that plenty of research is underway and done that helps to understand yet another small surprise in the complex Earth system. One part of the problem of climate change that is not surprising is what is the cause. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning are the main culprit, so the prescription is simple: Stop burning fossil fuels. Hah! This comes back to our hunger for the energy stored deep in the Earth, so the answer is definitely not as simple as the prescription.
Me talking about the state of climate science with Graham Givens of Environment NC, Ronald Ross, local resident and Vice President of Stewart Creek Environmental Association, and reporters!
I provided some scientific feedback to an effort by Environment North Carolina
a few weeks ago that I neglected to highlight on my research webpage (but I did on twitter
), and I will expand on this a little now. Environment NC released a report of carbon emissions from power plants across the USA. Power plants (coal, natural gas) are required to track and report these emissions, so sometimes groups just need to put forth the effort in assembling these numbers into a coherent piece of writing, which is what Environment NC did. They found that 3 of the top 50 most serious carbon emitters were in the state of NC – they are all coal plants of course. Coal is still being burned even though Natural Gas is used more and more. The key findings, as Environment NC stated on their written press release
The Marshall plant, near Lake Norman, emitted 10.1 million metric tons of pollution in 2011, the equivalent of 2.09 million cars.
Three of the most polluting power plants in the country are in North Carolina: Belews, Roxboro, and Marshall.
Belews Creek Power plant near Winston-Salem was the state’s biggest global warming polluter and 16th overall, emitting 13.8 million metric tons of carbon pollution, the equivalent of 2.9 million cars.
North Carolina’s power plants are the 12th most polluting in the country, producing as much carbon each year as 15 million cars.
North Carolina’s power plants are its single largest source of carbon pollution – responsible for 51% of the carbon pollution in the state.
The press release was at their news site, and they arranged a live release for media. I went to Frazier Park near the heart of the Queen City early in Septemeber to speak about the science, essentially relying on the discussion in IPCC AR4, which is what I discuss in my classes too. I spoke from the position of scientific evidence. The press release at Frazier Park made its way through state and city news outlets, and I thought the reporters did a great job with the write-ups. Here are some links:
Charlotte Business Journal
WSOC-TV in Charlotte
NC Public News Service
I think on the eve of the release of the first part of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, it’s important to remember that the solution to the problem of global warming, or at least the best way to mitigate the problems, begins at a local level. We have to remember that the carbon emissions in our backyard – which Environment NC highlighted – affect the entire world. CO2 lasts 100-1000 years in the atmosphere so CO2 from North Carolina will be absorbing infrared radiation for a long, long time. Maybe I’ll write an op-ed for the Observer.