Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Per Capita Davis: The end of the year as we know it

JohnMott-SmithW

By
From page A7 | December 19, 2013 | Leave Comment

Paraphrasing R.E.M.’s 1987 song, and poking a bit of fun at my own proclivity toward doomsday scenarios, “it’s the end of the year as we know it (and I feel fine).”

Each year, dating back to 2007, my last column of the calendar year has been an opportunity to reflect back and to peer forward, and this one will be no different.

First, the most important number: the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The following is the exact same text from a column a year ago, but with the numbers updated.

The Scripps Institute, keeper of records back to 1958 (see www.co2now.org), reports both on average annual levels of CO2 in the atmosphere as well as comparing months and weeks on a current-year-to-previous-years basis. As you can imagine (it being only Dec. 17 as I write this), the annual average level for 2013 is not yet available. There is, however, data comparing November 2013 (395.10 parts per million) to past Novembers: 2012 (392.92 ppm), 2011 (390.31) and 2010 (388.62 ppm).

We barreled (as in oil/fossil fuel) through 350 ppm, the level many scientists consider the maximum to avoid dramatic adverse effects of climate heating, back in the late 1980s. And, on May 11 of this year, CO2 in the atmosphere was over 400 ppm (atmospheric levels of CO2 vary according to the season).

Most (90-plus percent) of greenhouse gas emissions continue to come from burning coal, oil and natural gas, with China and India leading the way. Which brings up several questions I’ll be asking myself in the coming year:

* One, I’m still struggling with the nuclear issue: Should we be building nuclear power plants for electricity? On the one hand, this could be a carbon-free source of electricity. On the other hand, its safety record, the inability to figure out how to dispose of its waste, and the fact that this fuel is connected to the proliferation of nuclear bombs make this a dangerous option.

But, and this is my question — and I suppose I’ll get hammered for it by some for even asking — what about large-scale hydroelectric? Electricity from dams is not currently included in the definition of “renewable” energy, mostly because a policy decision has been made to not encourage building dams. It’s a conundrum similar to the nuclear issue: Is it worth sacrificing rivers and habitat in order to avoid global warming?

* Two, this leads right into another sacred cow, and another chance for me to absorb hammer blows. Current policy is basically that land suitable for agriculture should be used to grow food, not to produce electricity. This is another tough one for me. I deeply respect farmers and farms, but the No. 1 cause of loss of productive farmland is building houses.

Somehow, building homes on ag land is, if not OK, at least more OK than erecting photovoltaic arrays to provide electricity to those houses. It really shouldn’t be an either/or question: There are thousands of parking lots and rooftops where solar could produce electricity without infringing on agricultural properties, but to do so requires changing lots of laws and regulations that thus far have been very resistant to change.

So, how serious is our problem with greenhouse gas emissions? Is it serious enough that we need to at least look at marginal lands, or lands used to “grow” methane-belching cattle, or the food to feed these greenhouse gas emitters?

* Three, I was at a meeting the other day where several jurisdictions identified one of the major barriers to their efforts to install photovoltaic systems on government buildings as the objections of the neighbors. People don’t want to look at solar panels. This is bizarre to me. We have antennas and air-conditioners and other stuff all over our rooftops, but solar panels in the school parking lot across the street are an eyesore.

Even though we have all these parking lots and rooftops as potential sites for solar systems, there are a sizable number of vocal people who consider the equipment that produces electricity for their homes and businesses to be unsightly. I could include a rant about how many jurisdictions prohibit clotheslines on the same basis, but I’m running out of room in this column.

Fourth, if we don’t fully commit to rooftop solar, and any land that can grow food is off limits, then should we consider remote sites, say, way out in the desert where the sun shines all the time and no one has to look at the power plants? This seems to make sense, and could be done with environmental sensitivity, but how does the electricity get from the desert to Davis? It has thus far proved to be a difficult task to identify areas through which transmission lines could be constructed without generating public opposition.

So, the question I’m posing to myself for the next year is, ”Given the urgency of our greenhouse gas problem, the continuing increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere despite actions taken to date, how serious are we, and what types of otherwise disagreeable alternatives am I willing to accept to deal with this problem in a significant manner?”

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis; this column is published on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Send comments to johnmottsmith@comcast.net

John Mott-Smith

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Hub of activity: DHS newspaper keeps evolving

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    A springtime ritual

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Tom Adams seeks Davis school board seat

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

     
     
    Holy fire ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Tour renovated YCCC facility Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Tour Davis Waldorf School on Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    The fifth annual Tour de Cluck is soon to be hatched

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Ortiz lawn signs available

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sign up soon for spring cooking classes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Robb Davis team to rally on Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Steadfast in their support

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4, 11 Comments | Gallery

     
    Yolo Hospice offers free grief workshops

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sign up for Camp Kesem caterpillar crawl

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Quilters gear up for annual show

    By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A4

    League hosts a series of candidate forums

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    KDVS launches fund drive on Monday

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

    Calling all Scrabble fans

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

     
    Hub webpage is seeing traffic increasing

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

    Learn Chinese crafts at I-House

    By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A16

     
    Preschool open house set at Davis Waldorf

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

    Birch Lane celebrates its 50th anniversary

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

     
    Hotel/conference center info meeting set

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

    Lescroart welcomes all to book-launch party

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A16 | Gallery

     
    DEVO set to serve up 14th annual Winkler Dinner

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    Take ownership of your health

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Not thrilled with lack of symmetry

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Reliving the agony and ecstasy of spring

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

     
    Keep your baby safe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Road diet? No, city diet!

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 5 Comments

    We’re reveling in our equality

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

     
    Vote no; it’s fiscally responsible

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 3 Comments

    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

     
    Core values on campus

    By Our View | From Page: A12, 3 Comments

     
    Bill is an affront to UC Davis ag biotech and local farmers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 3 Comments

    Don’t want to sit in Fix 50 traffic? Consider alternatives

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

     
    .

    Sports

    UCD softball shut out by Santa Barbara

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggie men shoot 9-under, lead own tourney

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Stars shine in Woody Wilson Classic

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

     
    Devils burn up the track

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    UCD roundup: Aggie baseball swept away by Highlanders

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    A’s score 3 in ninth, rally past Astros 4-3

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    PG&E pays taxes, fees to county, cities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

     
    Will Davis get an Old Soul?

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A9

    Pediatricians, nurse practitioner hired at Woodland Healthcare

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Asian stocks mostly higher after mixed U.S. earnings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

    Yolo Federal Credit Union gets WISH funds

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Davis Roots will showcase its graduating startups

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14

    University Honda wins another President’s Award

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

     
    Dutch Bros. raises $19,000 for girl with leukemia

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, April 20, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8