Great Letter to the Editor today in the Miami Herald about the savings and simplicity of having a solar power system on one’s home that I wanted to share with everyone. In my home our experience is exactly the same as the Letter’s writer, Simon Rose. Our home has solar power, a battery storage system for night time and is connected to the local utility by net solar metering. Our bill runs between $7.00 and $15.00 per month total and whether the utility is operating or not, say after a Hurricane, we always have power. It’s amazing or, as Mr. Rose says, “charging is on the house”.
MERITS OF SOLAR
For years, I’ve been asked what it is like to be a solar homeowner: Do you have to change your habits? Do you have power at night? Do you have power after a storm? The answers are simple: No. Yes. Yes.
In July 2015, we installed a solar system on the roof of our Miami home. Through net-metering, our FPL bill is a constant $9 and change per month, so our investment should be paid off after about six years. Realtors calculate an average $15,000 premium for the sale of a solar house. We recently installed a battery storage system, so when a storm hits, we’ll be able to power our house on sunshine during a grid outage. All from silent, non-toxic power.
Rooftop solar installation prices have plummeted in the last decade and now, thanks to Solar United Neighbors co-ops, the savings are greater and homeowners receive free, unbiased support throughout the entire process.
For my money, the two best investments a homeowner can make are solar panels and an electric vehicle. When you go solar and buy an electric vehicle, charging is on the house. Really!
My recent vlog/blog post “There Will Be Riots & Blood In The Streets”, garnered a great deal of response, comment and debate and I am grateful to each and every one who wrote and shared their thoughts with me. The Yellow Vest riots and protests in France are, I feel, indicative of the struggle many may face as we transition from the long comfortable fossil fuel based economy we live in to one based on sustainable energy. It is a transition that we must make if we are to ever solve this global crisis, but it will not be without some struggles. How we finance the transition, and how people throughout our entire society benefit from the transition, will be very important to its success.
To help us with that transition some very forward-thinking people here in the US have conceived and touted a Carbon Fee whereby carbon emissions would be subject to an additional fee and the money raised by the fee would be returned to everyone, to our citizens (not the government). You can learn more about the idea in a recent article by Jeff Dorian, Group Leader of the Broward Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, by clicking here.
Greg Hamra, a faculty member at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture and leader of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby Miami Chapter, has long been active in our climate change battle and is deeply invested in advocating for the Energy Innovation Act & Carbon Dividend Act (HR763). With his work in mind I am pleased to share a Letter to the Editor he wrote recently to the Miami Herald:
The Green New Deal, like the Paris Accord and elements of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, is the result of fantastic hard work at building political will for climate action. However, each is nonbinding and represents important, albeit aspirational, goals. These goals must be translated into specific policies that have years of political work ahead before they can be introduced. But they are road maps without a vehicle.
The Energy Innovation Act and Carbon Dividend Act (HR-763) is the vehicle; the critical policy mechanism needed to redirect market capital from dirty high-carbon fuels, toward clean energy and low-carbon solutions.
The Energy Innovation Act creates the conditions necessary to achieve significant greenhouse gas draw-down at the scale and speed required.
Winning slowly is the same as losing. We have to go big and fast.
HR-763 has 10 years of grassroots work behind it. It has the economic studies behind it. It has the support of diverse Economic Nobel Laureates. It is shovel ready. It’s the first bicameral, bipartisan climate legislation in U.S. history. It’s the policy for which we’ve been waiting.
– Gregory Hamra,
Dr. John Van Leer has been a central figure and long-time advocate for a Carbon Fee, as well as a vocal and passionate member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Dr. Van Leer also just so happens to be an esteemed professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences here at my school, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, as well as someone that I’ve been honored to share the stage with a time or two as we’ve spoken at various environmental meetings over the last few years. Dr. Van Leer wrote me following my recent vlog/blog and with his permission I wanted to share his note with you so as to help explain the difference between a “Carbon Tax” and “Carbon Fee”. So, thanks to Dr. Van Leer for his permission to use his recent email, as well as his passion to help find solutions to our climate crisis. Please enjoy this special guest blog:
I see a very different path forward, than the Orwellian one you described. What is the key difference between what France foolishly did and what we should do in the US?
There must be social equity in the policy we adopt, otherwise your video’s future will likely occur.
Both James Hansen and George Schultz see an increase in carbon emissions pricing by assessing a fee not a tax. It is a fee because the government does not keep the money it collects. It is refunded to all the citizens equally, so there is social equity. Poorer people receive greater dividends than the price increases they must pay in increased fuel cost. These dividends commence the month before the fees are imposed, so they are fairly treated and will not need to riot to be treated fairly.
I have been talking about Building Our Better Future Faster. I doubt we will ever make this needed change by a series of draconian regulations imposed from above like France has tried.
British Columbia has used a FEE and DIVIDEND approach successfully reducing emissions since 2008 with province wide buy-in by the vast majority of voters and unusually strong growth in the renewable energy sector as a result. So Canada has adopted a national carbon pricing on a provincial basis with some cap and trade in some provinces and fee and dividend in others.
The reduction of emissions is too important to be enacted by only one party. Recently, single party politics has triggering increased divisiveness with each election cycle, even before Russian amplification. Our founding fathers wanted their version of democracy to be difficult to change, rather than governed by royal whim, quickly and arbitrarily imposed by a king.
Instead, we must drive this kind of deep structural change right through the political center. Otherwise it will be reversed the next time a different political party becomes dominant. A recent example was the Clean Power Plan designed to curtain coal fired power generation, being carefully vetted under Obama and rescinded by Trump before it was ever implemented. Working together may seem maddeningly slow, messy and inefficient.
It has taken a decade of excruciatingly difficult negotiations, respectfully put forward, by thousands of CCL volunteers who have been seen as engaged in “Mission Impossible.” This exercise in democracy has happened in conjunction with many other cooperative groups, to find a narrow channel to navigate between the reefs and shoals of competing interest, and governing orthodoxies, of our principle parties, plus their many splintered factions.
Government may be distrusted by the “right” as imposing stifling bureaucratic regulations and taxes, which they say will kill the economy and destroy jobs. Government may be distrusted by the “left” as representing only the interests of large businesses, which are willing to sacrifice the poor and middle class and quite possibly the planet.
So, by giving equal refunds to all households, there is complete transparency, because all the people know where all their money went – into their bank accounts – every month. They can trust themselves to spend their money as they see fit.
Welcome to The Sink or Swim Project’s first “vlog” (video blog). You can watch the video below or you can read my old-school post like I’ve been publishing for years. Let me know what you think about the vlog or the post, or anything else.
The recent holidays reminded me how much I love my family traditions.
Whether it’s how we decorate our home for Halloween, traveling to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to have Thanksgiving dinner with 90 or so members of my mom’s side of our family, singing Silent Night during Candle Light Service at Church on Christmas Eve here in Miami or spending New Years’ Eve under a pitch black sky painted with millions of stars on the remote island of No Name Key. If given a choice, or a vote, I’d not change a single one of those traditions or many others that I treasure.
And I don’t think I am much different than most people. Most folks don’t seem to like change whether in their own holiday traditions or their day to day lives. I get it.
In order for us to fix our climate change crisis we will, however, need to conceive and embrace the word change on a massive, likely often uncomfortable scale, global scale and that starts right here in the USA. But it will be hard. Very hard is my guess. Perhaps approaching going to war hard in some ways in terms of the short term sacrifices, pain and change that’s needed to save our planet much less mitigate the economic and social impact on society.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell, 1984
As 2019 begins there are examples around us of just how difficult these changes will be, especially the early or voluntary pioneering ones that are popping up all over planet earth. To some people these changes and the resulting response will seem are straight out of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange but they will not be some view of dystopian fiction but our reality.
Autonomous electric cars?
Imagine what people in most of the last century would have thought about news of self-driving vehicles yet all of a sudden they are coming true all over our planet as I type these words. And while we are not (yet) at the point of the Jetson’s promise of flying cars it’s clear that industries and governments are embracing the promise of more efficient, less costly, and safer transportation. General Motors has announced that it is shifting its entire line-up towards electric cars. Ford has done just the same thing, announcing some layoffs and a shift to electric cars.
Insurers all over the planet know that 94% of all accidents are tied to human error and realize that the need for auto insurance in the future will greatly diminish as self-driving cars become prevalent and are, therefore, planning to focus their businesses in other areas of risk over the next five to ten years.
Wielding rocks and knives, Arizonans attack self-driving cars
And yet, people are fighting back against their fears that machines are taking over just as would be the case in a science fiction novel. The recent article entitled Wielding rocks and knives, Arizonans attack self-driving carssure caught my attention and is just one example of our near term future filled with change and transition. Waymo, a part of Google, makes self-driving cars and vans and since 2017 has been piloting them in places like Chandler Arizona.
Just a few months ago the New York Times ran a story about how there have been almost two dozen attacks on these vehiclesby people with concerns over the use of the artificial intelligence technology they use, their safety or the possibility that some people could lose jobs. Some have thrown rocks. Some have slashed their tires. Others have tried to run the vans off of the road.
Yellow Vests, Tear Gas, Water Cannons & Guns
On Christmas Eve the picture above caught my attention and is, I fear, a precursor to the decades ahead and what many will face in transitioning towards a sustainable future. A future that will not be achieved, it seems, without established industry and many good people all over the world fighting back. Along the way people will be jailed, beaten and perhaps killed. If people are already attacking cars, for gosh sake, when the stakes really start to increase I think we are in for some dark, warlike times.
This picture is of a policeman in Paris who had pulled his gun out on French citizens, protesters who had taken to the streets for the sixth weekend in a row to riot against a proposed carbon tax, a device designed to nudge consumers away from fossil fuels such as gasoline and towards sustainable solutions such as electric cars, public transit, walking and so forth. In November and December those riots evolved into protests over a wide range of frustrations including wage stagnation and the French government including President Macron but it started with news of the new carbon tax.
The good news is that the police officer in this picture did not fire his gun and understandably was responding to threat of the large crowd that approached him. That situation was diffused but others will not, I fear, be so lucky in the future as the need for such taxes and other changes in our ways of life increase as global temperatures rise. The so called Yellow Vest riots, led by people wearing yellow vests in solidarity over their concerns, have continued thus far in 2019 and what is happening should alarm all of us but also should serve notice of just how hard the changes we will need will be. Yellow Vest riots in France thus far in 2019 have seen:
A river boat that houses a restaurant on the Seine River set on fire.
Motorcycles and cars all over Paris burnt by protesters.
Smoke and tear gas covering the Orsay Museum and famous gold dome of the French Academy.
A government building, the Ministry for Parliamentary Relations, attacked and officials in that building evacuated.
Police and their equipment all over France attacked and destroyed.
Vandalism, looting and chaos filling French streets by as many as 50,000 protesters a night.
“In the scientific community the urgency has always been clear—if we want to substantially slow the warming of the climate, then dramatic reductions in CO2 are required.”
– Dr. Ben Kirtman, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
No, these revolts and riots are not out of some science fiction movie but real life. Real people faced with changes that they perceive will hurt their wallets and ways of life. And yet, without starting to truly solve our climate change crisis at this time the cost will only rise and rise until the time comes that it’s too late.
As 2019 begins all of us must consider how we can leave this place we live in, earth, in better shape by the ends of our lives than we found it when we were born. And that starts with eliminating carbon pollution from our atmosphere and oceans.
“It will take dramatic and immediate reductions in CO2 emissions, both for the U.S. and globally, to achieve that goal.”
– Dr. Brian Soden, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Consider a report just out by an independent economic research firm, the Rhodium Group, that uses data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and estimates that carbon emissions increased 3.4% in 2018, the largest increase in eight years. An increased fueled, pun intended, all over our economy from Buildings and Industry to Transportation and Electrical Power. The scientific data shows us that carbon dioxide levels are higher today than they have been in the past 800,000 years. And the science shows us that it will not be sufficient to stabilize our climate, it will require that in the decades ahead that we cool it. Experts estimate that to stop more warming, more damage, that 2020 (NEXT YEAR) needs to be the peak of man’s global greenhouse gas production and that over the 50 years that follows we will need to reduce emissions to zero and then beyond that produce negative emissions.
We can, of course, elect to not change our ways and allow the continued growth to warm our planet to catastrophic levels that leave us no time to make the dramatic changes that are needed to offset the worst possible outcomes, outcomes that threaten the very survival of places like Miami, the Everglades and the Florida Keys. Outcomes that will lead an estimated 2.5 Million people in South Florida to become climate refugees and the same thing to happen to hundreds of millions of people all over earth. The choice is ours.
And when I say ours I mean every single person’s on the planet. The climate change crisis is not strictly a problem caused by the United States, nor one that we will solve alone. That’s why what’s happening in places as different as Arizona and France are telling about just how hard all of this will be. China, for example, produces 27% of global carbon emissions and, thus, countries of every size, region and political persuasion on earth must come together for the good of humanity and this place we call home. Global diplomacy on an urgent scale is needed and the time has come to set politics aside, educate people, create a plan and begin to implement transformational solutions to the problem.
Of course, if we don’t take serious action, actions that will forever change how we travel, conduct commerce and live, then the science will only become more and more ominous. And as temperatures and seas rise the riots, revolts, violence and madness will exponentially grow. What we see happening all over the world including here in the US will, I fear, be looked back upon as the beginning of the real upheaval and chaos unless we change. And no, none of this is or will be science fiction but the lives we have chosen because of fossil fuels.
Speaking of the recent holidays, Happy New Year to you. Here’s a new year’s wish to hoping that late in my life I can still celebrate Christmas in Miami and New Years on No Name, that those places and countless others all over earth will be accessible to my family and all of the generations in the future.