Melting land ice.
We all understand that Greenland is melting and the Arctic sea ice is also disappearing rapidly but some areas are so high and so cold that they do not normally melt. Satellites have now identified two new areas of melting that have been discovered because they are making lakes of meltwater that are visible from space and they are in new regions.
One region is in East Antarctica which had previously been thought to be too cold to melt. West Antarctica is melting and the sea ice is melting from underneath due to warmer sea water but this is a new area to be seen melting.
The second surprise was on the high plateau of Mongolia which is so cold that the region is called the third pole. This region, which in its entirety would include the Himalayas, has thousands of glaciers and the summer melt provides water for some of the biggest in the world and supplies water for about 1.2 billion people in Asia and India all the way from Pakistan to China. The danger is that the ice will melt away and in the end their will not be enough water to supply the rivers in the summer leaving millions of people and whole nations short of water.
When Tesla announced its model 3 and took orders for 400,000 cars it had a devastating effect on the traditional car manufacturers who can now see that they have been far too complacent. Their symbiotic relationship with the oil companies has gone on far too long and they now realise their mistake and are scrambling to catch up.
Up to now electric cars have been more expensive and considered by the traditional petrol head manufactures a bit of a joke but this is because nobody before Tesla had used a volume production line for manufacturing to get costs down. However, when you consider a few facts you can see the depth of their mistake.
A petrol car has 2000 parts a whereas an electric car has 10% of that. A petrol car already has two electric power units, a starter motor and an alternator, and there is an annual world production of around 150 million of each so electric car motors can be very cheap in volume production.
Batteries prices are on a steep downward curve and this is with existing technology. Many research laboratories around the world are announcing breakthroughs in new materials and performance so we can expect many more improvements with an increase in research investment.
There will be leapfrogging downward plunge in car and van prices which will eliminate oil powered cars in much the same way that mobile phones and digital cameras devastated the tradition manufacturers and it could all happen in ten years.
When you include driverless car technology and solar energy providing very cheap energy, the transport industry as we know it is due for some massive changes and nothing will be the same again.
We may reach our CO2 emission reduction targets with a market driven initiative that will cut our oil consumption and save us money at the same time and no government intervention.
Transition and Disruption.
So far we have only been partially successful in reducing the use of fossil fuels, because the resistance put up by oil and coal companies and backed by their national governments has been formidable, but this appears to be about to change and more rapidly that anyone could have foretold.
One of the problems has been the huge amount of expensive infrastructure that will have to be abandoned and the assets stranded by a transition to a clean electric economy and the companies involved and politicians who support them are not prepared to face that.
This may all be about to change and will be market driven so that car companies and electricity companies will have to move rapidly to the new technologies or fail. It took ten years between 1910 and 1920 for the horse powered transport to be replaced by cars and we are entering a similar but bigger period of transition and disruption. Watch this half hour video for an in depth appreciation.
There are a large number of technologies coming together in a perfect storm of change that will change our way of life more rapidly than we could have imagined only a few years ago.
In brief, the price of solar power and wind is coming down so fast that it is cheaper than coal or oil, batteries are getting cheaper and more efficient so that they can deliver stored energy when we need it and cheaply, an electric car only has 18 moving parts compared to a petrol one having 2000 which makes them cheaper to manufacture and operate and more reliable.
Computers are getting massively more powerful and lower in price and can undertake bigger tasks such as self-driving cars and trucks and there are a whole host of new technologies that are changing our lives beyond belief. This blog describes the full range of technologies.
We may have to re-engineer our society to accommodate the massive changes in employment but it will be better than burning fossil fuels until changes in the climate overwhelm us.
Occasional blog posts on topical news items concerning the climate. Please click the RSS feed to receive updates.
Bob Bingham Blog page.
A series of opinion pieces on, mostly climate change and related subjects to do with New Zealand.