Continuing the AGW discussion from yesterday’s blog post – progress happens. Humans make sure it happens. Each generation of people on this planet has always tried to improve things for the next generation. They have tried to leave the next generation with more comfort, peace, and material wealth. In the industrialized world, this has led to a situation where our continued progress has led to some ill side effects (let us set aside any social aspects). Air, soil, and water pollution sky-rocketed from the late 1800s through the 1960s. Almost all forms of pollution in most advanced nations has fallen dramatically since then, except the newly minted “pollutant” carbon dioxide. Progress up until this point has meant using more and more carbon-based fuels for energy, but it does not have to be that way and it is very unlikely to be that way in the future. When reading articles about AGW, you often come across quotes like “business as usual” and “if nothing changes”. Of course, assuming that nothing changes from now through the next 100 years will lead many to predict that the environment will be destroyed. I predict that progress will continue (I’ll help the best way I can), and human society will take care of any potential AGW problems along the way. I reject the notion that we all have to live like misers, shiver in the winter, sweat more in the Summer, become vegan, and walk to work.
There are many things large and small that we can do to help reduce our impact and maintain progress. It can be as simple as using brighter colored roofs and roads to reduce the urban heat island effect (especially in warmer sunny climates), or using roofing materials that change brightness with the seasons – changing to darker colors in the Winter and lighter colors in the Summer (a couple of companies are working on these). More countries are collaborating on the creation and implementation of cleaner energy sources and I see this as a much better option than new suffocating laws, taxes, and regulations.
The drive for cleaner energy is not only operating on the large scale but on the small as well. New innovations come along nearly every day. Researchers at Intel and Duke University are creating small useful sensors and circuits that power themselves from ambient electromagnetic radiation – such as signals from cell phone, wi-fi, and TV towers. No batteries required. Another company (Brother Industries) is attempting to replace batteries in small gadgets (like TV remotes) by using vibrational energy generation. If you have seen the “shaker” flashlights, you know what I am talking about. While it might seem odd to shake your TV remote a couple times to charge it up, it would save millions of batteries every year. Perhaps you could also use the motion of your body to power your personal devices. This is the focus of a recent article at Smithsonianmag.com. Just the act of walking around could charge your batteries.
Speaking of batteries, Planar Energy of Orlando, FL has developed a manufacturing process that uses roll-to-roll equipment to produce solid state lithium ion batteries. Solid state lithium batteries have been in existence for a while (and generally have better performance than there liquid counterparts) but have traditionally been very expensive to produce. Planar Energy might be able to bring this technology to market at a cost similar to other battery types. Their first product is expected on the market sometime next year. Better batteries well help make electric vehicles and alternatives such as solar power more feasible and cost competitive.
Speaking of solar energy, researchers at the University of Berkeley, California, have advanced the science of using “nanopillars” in solar panels so that thin film panels could use less semiconductor material and yet produce the same amount of electricity. With continued development, this could bring down the cost of solar panels even more.
I could go on and on. Look, I know that replacing fossil fuels is a mammoth effort and it will take many years, but progress is happening. Putting our heads together to invent a better future has always been better than imposing innumerable restrictions.
Coming tomorrow: New long range outlooks have been released by the CPC.
Have a good Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on July 20, 2010