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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Back in the saddle

Uploaded: Aug 15, 2021
Hey readers! I’m excited to let you know that this blog will be starting up again next Sunday after a summer hiatus. Since my last post, we’ve experienced several compelling months that have demonstrated what climate change can mean for us. How do you want to respond? Atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe recently wrote an op-ed for Time Magazine about how action inspires hope, and I strongly agree with that. So I’ll be featuring ways that you can take action along with discussions about relevant issues, ideally with a local slant.

My (very long) list of topics includes:
- Lawn alternatives
- What environmentally-conscious local teens are doing
- Geothermal energy for residential buildings
- How to save on residential water use
- Local price gouging on heat pump water heaters
- Yard design with native plants
- Smart meters
- Are we willing to make lifestyle tradeoffs for climate
- Building a career as an electrician or HVAC expert
- Renewable diesel
- Reliability of fast chargers

Please let me know if you would like to be featured in any of the above (or have someone to suggest), or if you have other topics you are eager to read more about.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to starting up the conversation next week!

Current Climate Data (July 2021)
I’m going to skip the usual links here this month because we are all unfortunately seeing first-hand the impact of climate change on the planet, with widespread fires, drought, and heat. If you are doubtful that these record-breaking events are a direct impact of climate change, as outlined in the recent IPCC report (some with “high confidence”, others with “medium confidence”), then take a look at this excellent Vox article on the quickly evolving science of attribution.

Okay, I lied, here is one of the “usual” links. July 2021 was Earth’s hottest month in the past 142 years of record-keeping.

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 +   11 people like this
Posted by Janice Selznick, a resident of another community,
on Aug 15, 2021 at 10:01 am

Janice Selznick is a registered user.

Welcome back! I'd like to see you tackle the topic of “Getting China to Reduce their Carbon Emissions." Not just talk and promises but real reductions. Most of the topics you listed are important, but in the big picture they are insignificant compared to China's continuing construction of coal-fired energy plants. [Portion removed]


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 15, 2021 at 10:09 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

To Janice and others:

Please read the comment guidelines above. I will be enforcing them, and for repeat offenders I will just remove comments entirely.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Ellen, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Aug 15, 2021 at 12:48 pm

Ellen is a registered user.

Hello Sherry I would like to suggest the topic of what we can do besides/in addition to modifying our own behavior or living conditions. Several years ago we looked for organizations to support and found EverybodySolar.org. This non-profit raises funds and provides logistical support to other non-profits to install solar energy at their facilities. By providing solar to others, we've reduced carbon emissions much more than we could with just our own activities; other peoples' carbon emissions to be sure, but carbon is carbon. I'm sure there are other organizations that deserve our support. We like Everybody Solar because you can support it at any level, it's a win/win in that you are reducing emissions and helping a non-profit organization, and - compared to planting trees- it's a very quick payback. I encourage you to check out their website, and to ask others for their suggestions on this topic. Ellen Macneale


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 15, 2021 at 2:00 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Ellen, thanks, I think that's a great idea. FWIW, another example of a similar organization, a local one, making small solar more affordable is SunWork. Besides donating money, you can also train and volunteer with them.

I recall this relevant article about effective climate philanthropy from Vox from a few years ago. I've been donating to the Clean Air Task Force for a while. This concept of donating to organizations that serve to reduce emissions is not like offsets, in that you don't calculate your amount or offset it against your own. But as you say it can have a similar effect.

Thanks for the great idea!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Carlos M., a resident of another community,
on Aug 17, 2021 at 7:55 am

Carlos M. is a registered user.

There is a town in Napa Valley that has recently banned gas stations from operating and I was wondering if this measure is to protect its vineyards from auto exhaust damages, and/or (2) to encourage the further use of e-powered vehicles by eliminating gasoline refueling sites. If such is the case, why can't other cities simply do the same? By creating city-wide ordinances banning gas stations, drivers will then be forced to travel elsewhere for refueling purposes and eventually go electric out of mere convenience This is the solution towards the gradual elimination of all gas-powered cars and SF midpeninsula cities should consider following suit.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 17, 2021 at 12:28 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Carlos, thanks for the interesting comment. I think you are talking about Petaluma (article here). With all the fires in and around Sonoma County, it's not surprising that people are taking action! Regarding expanding this to more cities, the article mentions two organizations if you want to get involved: ConGas and Coltura.

Thanks again for the interesting comment.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by KOhlson, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 18, 2021 at 12:08 pm

KOhlson is a registered user.

Hi Sherry - I am glad you're back! I really like reading your thoughtful and comprehensive posts. Are you tracking this? Web Link Also, there was mention in Krugman's NYT column this morning that England has reduced their per-capita CO2 emissions to an 1850s (yes, 1850s) level. Would be interested in how they've been able to do that. Again, welcome back!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Seer, a resident of Mayfield,
on Aug 18, 2021 at 5:54 pm

Seer is a registered user.

Wright's law, extensively observed, states that technologies that double in shipments, decrease in cost by a fixed percent. That means technologies that keep doubling in volume, decline in price exponentially. The rate of exponential decline varies. In solar, the cheapening seems to be somewhere nearer 30% than 20% per doubling. This means in early 2030s, it will be cheaper to build a new solar+battery plant from scratch than to just keep an existing natural gas or coal plant running. Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Stinky+Cheese+Man, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda,
on Aug 18, 2021 at 6:39 pm

Stinky+Cheese+Man is a registered user.

What can we do about emergency power generation? I'd like a tutorial on "power walls". Solar panels don't seem to have enough of a "view of the sun" on my property. I've looked at emergency power generators without success.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 18, 2021 at 8:41 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Hey everyone. Great comments/questions! A few thoughts...

@KOhlson, I'm definitely following along with the ad hoc committee process. I will let you know if anything exciting happens :)

Re the UK, could it be because their per-capita emissions were super high in 1850? That is only half in jest. The UK *has* done a good job with emissions -- very good -- but a big chunk of that was due to removing coal from its electricity. It was 67% of the mix in 1990 and now is < 5%. Another big chunk was people using less electricity (esp efficiency) and industry using less. Some of that was doing less manufacturing (outsourcing it), so emissions in imported goods counteracted that for a while, then those fell too. Better fuel standards also had an impact. So a lot of the things our state is doing: efficiency, fuel standards, clean power.

Here are two relevant graphs from this 2021 report to Parliament:



CarbonBrief also has a good writeup from 2019, but the graphics alas don't work.

Keep in mind that some people think per-capita is a cheating metric. We need absolute emissions to go down. The planet doesn't care about per-capita or per-GDP emissions (another metric some countries like to tout).

@Seer: We definitely need the prices of batteries and heat pumps to come down, so three cheers for Wright's. One thing I wonder about wrt solar is what will happen to land and transmission prices. I don't think Wright's applies there, because there is increasing scarcity and competition.

I do think Wright's will apply in spades to offshore wind, and especially floating offshore, which we badly need here and is finally gaining steam.

@Stinky: I think that's a great topic, so I'll add it to my list. Right now my take is that clean backup power is very expensive (power walls), so makes sense only if you have a lot of outages (e.g., if you are in power shutoff territory), or if you have money to burn (so to speak). My hope is that big EV batteries can be put to this use in the next few years, so your car gives you backup power. The new electric Ford F-150 is advertising this feature, actually (link). A house uses maybe 20 kWh/day and a sizable EV battery holds 60 kWh. An all-electric house would use more, so there are a few things to consider.

Anyway, fun/great comments, thanks!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by John+Sack, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 19, 2021 at 7:23 am

John+Sack is a registered user.

On backup batteries: there IS a standard for how an EV battery can feed back into (say) a house. Apparently Leaf applies this standard, but Tesla doesn't (because it competes with its powerwall business??). But you are right, Sherry, that it makes sense only for now in an area with a regular number of interruptions or risk for it. On water: I'd love to see a column on how to save water AFTER you've already taken out the lawn (years ago) and cut 20% the last time the water district asked us to cut. Covering the pool was years ago; dual flush low water toilets was years ago; HE washer was years ago. So what's left to take out? I think given the long term prospects for regular drought, we should focus on sustainable cuts (rather than things you can do for one season but not forever). And I just don't know what those are. The Water Genie program was a good help originally, but I wonder if they are ready for "round three" of improvements?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Gail+Sredanovic, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 19, 2021 at 10:21 am

Gail+Sredanovic is a registered user.

I highly recommend Silicon Valley Citizens Climate Lobby which has great ways to get involved. Right now they are focused on getting a Carbon Fee included in the measures being discussed right now in Congress. Bill Mckibben of 350.org deems this crucial. Gail Sredanovic


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