Saturday, July 29, 2023

Summer Thoughts

We're recently returned from our big summer vacation - it was a bit of a friends and family tour in that we saw friends or family at every stop. But it was also a really great vacation to wonderful places (Rarotonga and Australia) so I'll try to write something about it over on Adjusted Latitudes soon. We came back to some busy weeks at work and with Petunia's summer activities, and since we once again took our summer vacation to places where it is winter (albeit some of the places have pretty mild winters!) I want to take advantage of the San Diego summer now that we're home.

Which is a long-winded way of saying Petunia and I made our first real beach trip of the season today and it was awesome. Beach trips are so much easier now that we don't need to haul a bunch of toys along and everyone can happily walk 20 mins from the parking spot I found to the beach.

San Diego has been spared the worst of the heat dome, but summers here definitely have more warm days than I remember from my grad school days (more than 20 years ago). This summer, it seems like the connection between the hot summer and climate change is really making it into the mainstream news stories, which is good. We need people to realize climate change is real and it is here. But so many people seem to have a resigned "this is the coldest summer of the rest of our lives" attitude that I don't think is helping. It doesn't have to be if we decide we don't want to just accept a future in which the climate situation just gets worse and worse. 

One of the things I do on long flights is listen to podcasts on repeat - listening lets me dose off and get some sleep, but by putting the podcast on repeat I end up hearing most of the podcast, anyway. This was particularly true on our flight home from Australia, since it left at 10 a.m. and my body wasn't having any of my brain's attempts to convince it to get some sleep.

The podcast that was on repeat the longest on that flight was the recent Volts episode about enhanced geothermal energy. It is such an optimistic episode! Geothermal can provide a source of firm clean energy, meaning that it doesn't not depend on the sun shining or the wind blowing. It has been limited to specific areas with geothermal activity, but now, using the same technology developed for natural gas extraction, it can be deployed in many more locations. The first commercial-scale enhanced geothermal energy plant is now online. To quote from the podcast:

"Last week, the geothermal developer Fervo Energy announced that its first full-scale power plant passed its production test phase with flying colors. With that, Fervo has, at long last, made it through all the various tests and certifications needed to prove out its technology. It now has a working, fully licensed power plant, selling electricity on the wholesale market, and enough power purchase agreements (PPAs) with eager customers to build many more.

EGS is now a real thing — the first new entrant into the power production game in many decades."

This is a big deal. It is just the latest reminder that we have the technology we need to change our climate future. We "just" need the political will to make the change a reality. 

But juxtaposed against that optimistic podcast, on the same flight out of Australia there was a large contingent of Australian firefighters flying to help fight the wildfires in Canada. And as soon as I switched out of vacation mode and checked the news sites, I saw news of heat waves in the US and Europe. 

But I still think we can change our trajectory. There are a lot of fights to win, and there is a lot of work to do. But if we resign ourselves to a future in which every year is warmer than the last we won't even try to win the fights and complete the work. We need to try.

With those thoughts in mind, when I came back from vacation I thought I should do something to offset the carbon spewed by our flights. Since general carbon offsets are hard to assess, I decided I would go all in and pay for carbon removal - i.e., direct air capture of carbon. As far as I can tell, there is one option for that: Climeworks. Before I decided to send them money, I wanted to do a little more research on carbon capture. Luckily, another one of my favorite climate change podcasts had an episode on carbon capture that I found very helpful, and when the expert being interviewed said she buys carbon capture credits I decided we'd do it, too. We're just working out how much per month to commit to and how much to send to a climate change charity (and which one to choose - I'm looking at the options described in this Vox article right now.) We donate to a charity every month and decided that this month we'd pick a climate charity, so now I just have to figure out which one to choose. 

I'll be making my choices tomorrow, since this was meant to be our July charity.  

Anyway, that's my summer so far. How has your summer been?


  1. Alexicographer5:46 PM

    I didn't see until just now that you'd updated but enjoyed reading this. I dropped by because the impending hurricane made me think of you, hope you and yours are safe.

    1. Thanks for dropping by! We had steady rain all day, but the wind hasn't been bad near me and I don't live near any of the areas that are prone to flooding, so it hasn't been much of an event for me. I think it has been much worse east of me and also possibly north of me.

  2. Alexicographer6:38 PM

    Glad to know you are OK!

  3. I'm really optimistic about enhanced geothermal, too


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