Climate change and land use are inextricably bound together. The collision between the two creates tension. We are experiencing that tension in multiple ways — not least of which is the drive to create more renewable energy through use of solar and wind-power generation on central New York farmland.
There currently are proposals — some approved and some being considered — to develop large solar and wind “farms” throughout upstate New York, including Schoharie, Delaware, and Schenectady counties.
In some cases, these projects will reduce or eliminate crop production from previously fertile farmland and reduce or eliminate grazing capacity for livestock. The result of this will be a reduction in agricultural productivity
in central New York and removal of these lands from agricultural production for at least a generation.
Otsego 2000 was instrumental in the elimination of hydrofracking for natural gas in New York and has advocated for responsible development of solar and wind energy production for local use. Large-scale production of solar and wind energy, however, can be quite a different proposition if it involves taking potentially productive farmland out of service or fragmenting the ecological integrity of natural systems.
Mr. Mellor’s recent opinion piece suggested we are well on our way to meeting state energy goals with wind and solar. Mellor looks at cost and feasibility, but the issues are more complex than he suggests.
When solar panels are in full sun — and if the electricity they produce is consumed during that time — the cost of solar is relatively cheap. That’s true. However, solar power is intermittent. Over the course of a year, a solar farm in the northeast generates just 14% of the energy that it could if the sun shone 24X7X365. That means we must build six or seven times more solar capacity to produce the same amount of energy as a baseload gas or nuclear power plant. But that’s not all. The intermittency of solar generation challenges the health of our electric grid. Getting useful energy when it’s needed with solar requires battery storage—lots of it. Wind has a somewhat better capacity factor (29% onshore), but it requires storage, too. Furthermore, the relatively random nature of intermittent generation means that anything less than an infinite-sized battery — big enough to carry months of summer sunshine through a New York winter — may not be enough. Consequently, even with storage in the mix, intermittent renewables require ‘firm’ generators of electricity as back-up to ensure reliability. To move electricity around from wind and solar installations distributed across the state will require lots more transmission infrastructure, too.
The widely acclaimed TED talks are coming back to Oneonta with the theme of “Changing World.”
The event will be at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24 .
Rebecca Ahmed speaking about the need to eliminate bias in zoom office culture.
Rachel Kornhauser will be giving a talk called “Climate Change and Sustainability in the Age of COVID.”
Gohar Petrossian will be speaking on “Why Justice for Wildlife Affects You.”
The final speaker will be Rosalia Rivera giving a talk on ending rape culture.
“We are thrilled to have TEDx back in Oneonta in 2021. We had to postpone our event for 2020, but we are back with four wonderful speakers ready to inspire us with new ideas,” Dan Butterman, co-founder and executive producer of TEDxOneonta, said in a media release. “We have amazing community support, and can’t wait to share these speakers and ideas with everyone.”
Tickets are $25 until Aug. 27 and $30 afterwards. Go to www.tedxoneonta.com for more information.
Something remarkable happened last week, Wednesday July 21, in Otsego County. It happened in other places, too — New York City, Philadelphia, Albany, Ontario, Boston — in fact in the entire northeastern part of the country.
Most people thought it was a heavy fog, typical of all the other heavy fogs that are apt to enshroud us in the mornings this time of year, only to disappear before noon when the sun burns through the atmosphere.
But it wasn’t that familiar heavy fog. It was smoke, and it came from the abundant, heavy, uncontrolled wildfires currently blazing far out west. And with it the National Weather Service sent out air quality warnings.
To date this year, more than 75 wildfires have scorched more than one million acres in 13 western states. The Bootleg fire in Oregon is the largest in the state’s history. It’s half the size of Rhode Island and so massive it has created its own weather. Of the fires in California, all but one exist by natural causes — extremely high temperatures — and they total more than 2,000 square miles of inconceivable heat, flame and threat.
And we are still in July, not August, when historically most wildfires spring up.
New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019. The law will propel New York towards a climate change friendly economy that will rely much less on burning fossil fuels for energy by 2050.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan is ambitious. It calls for an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, and 70% renewable energy by 2030.
In 2020, New York derived approximately 0.1% of its electricity from petroleum, 1% from coal, 36% from natural gas, 30% from nuclear, 26% hydroelectric, 5% wind and solar and 2% biomass.
The shut down of the Indian Point nuclear plant on the Hudson River, completed in April 2021, decreases carbon-free nuclear power to 20% of the state total and increases greenhouse gas emitting natural gas to 46%, with two new natural gas plants in Orange and Dutchess Counties now operating.
This doesn’t make sense if carbon-free electricity is the goal.
Cooperstown – John Gale Goddard, former resident of Cooperstown passed away May 6, 2021, in Nyack, NY. He was 79.
John was born in Cooperstown to Arthur John Goddard and Ramona Gale Goddard and graduate from Cooperstown Central School in 1960. He earned a B.A. in chemistry from Harpur College (now SUNY Binghamton) in 1965 and a M.S. in Geology from CUNY Queens College in 1969.
John was an expert in the measurement of carbon dioxide in sea water. He joined the staff at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory in Palisades, NY in August 1965 and supported that research enterprise until 2019; he also taught oceanography at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the 1980s. He sailed on more than 20 oceanographic expeditions in the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans and traveled to all seven continents. His efforts contributed to better understanding of global climate change, biogeochemical cycling, ocean circulation, ocean-atmosphere interaction, and earthquake prediction. The quality and importance of his contribution to the collective scientific accomplishments of LDEO is recognized.
COMMUNITY CONCERT – 3 p.m. Oneonta Community Band presents live streamed performance of works looking back on the pandemic year. Includes spirituals, ‘Sea Songs’, Amazing Grace, and the performers favorite Souza Marches. Performance is free, open to public. Performed from the stage of The Foothills Performing Arts Center. 607-432-7085 or visit the facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/169533834979
How can a warming climate lead to a “frozen Texas”?
Media coverage of freezing conditions, power outages and millions of desperate Texans summarizes the life-threatening conditions brought on by freezing temperatures and snow that are foreign to that part of the country.
It may seem contrary to “climate change,” but in fact that’s exactly what is causing this and other extreme weather; but how can that be? A warming atmosphere should bring warmer weather, not polar conditions!
The explanation is actually pretty straightforward from the perspective of meteorologists and those who study conditions responsible for climate to change, and it’s all related to the “jet stream.”
The science gets complicated, but can be expressed in a simple four-step explanation that summarizes scientific publications of the past decade. None of this involves seasonal summer/winter changes.
Here’s the explanation:
STEP 1 – Atmospheric circulation is generated as the earth rotates during normal daily changes that bring day and night.
STEP 2 – This circulation causes regions of the atmosphere to constantly shift in a meandering pattern (the jet stream), which accounts for daily weather changes.
STEP 3 – During climate warming (as has been measured and reported for decades) layers of the atmosphere expand, which pushes meanders further south and slows their movement.
STEP 4 – This in turn brings polar weather into non-polar regions, like Texas and other southern states where polar conditions linger.
Likewise, exaggerated meandering of the jet stream causes drought conditions and heat waves during summer months when air masses from equatorial regions move northward.
As with all complicated issues, an overly simplified summary does not explain why all changes occur. Hopefully, this letter condenses a complex scientific issue for non-science readers.
Oneonta Sculptors ‘Terrible Beauty’ Opens At Munson-Williams-Proctor
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
As 2010 arrived, Richard Friedberg was feeling “dispirited, unhappy that we did not have a great chance of solving our environmental problems, our climate problems.”
“I needed a change,” said Friedberg, who has a studio in a Harpersfield barn, halfway from Oneonta to Stamford.
Then, on April 20, change arrived: BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded; 11 workers died, 17 more were injured. After two days of billowing flames, the rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico, and oil – 60,000 barrels a day at the peak – began to pour through a ruptured riser.
What resulted was the largest oil spill in history.
The artist had found his muse.
Friedberg had watched “the incredible fire.” He was “compelled by the awesomeness of the catastrophe.”
In the Atrium of Utica’s Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute the other day, where his show, “Terrible Beauty,” will run from Saturday, Feb. 27, through May 30, he searched for the right word to describe the disaster.
SUNDAY PROGRAM – 3 p.m. Presenting ‘2020: Science, Policy, & Capital Converge on Climate Change – What Will Happen?’ talk with Paula DiPerna. Cooperstown Village Library. 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/
Some of you may have heard our Adirondack neighbor Bill McKibben’s NPR interview a year or two ago.
Unless all buildings in the U.S. are made energy-efficient by 2030, the war against Global Warming will be lost, he said.
The interviewer asked, is that possible? No, said McKibben, who is among the nation’s foremost
advocates of stemming greenhouse gases. In different words, McKibben is saying, we’re lost.
Too much of the discussion of the future of the earth is fear-filled and hope-less.
In reality, much research is underway not just toward creating a sustainable future, but into cleanly burning fossil fuels.
If that’s possible, we would preserve a huge investment in infrastructure that today provides 81 percent of the nation’s energy needs, and it’s portable and convenient.
Living here in Otsego County, we forget the scale of the energy challenge. But visit New York, Chicago or Miami – it’s a big, energy-guzzling world out there, friends.
Still, with fracking, the U.S. has achieved energy independence in the past decade for the first time since the end of World War II. This is desirable, but, of course, not if it destroys us.
Perhaps it doesn’t have to. So today, at the bottom of this page, we begin an occasional series, “Can Fossil Fuels Save Us?”, with a report from Stanford University of what its scientists are doing to emeliorate greenhouse effects.
Many similarly credible reports are available from research universities across the country, and the series will tap into them. And this newspaper has many credible readers that assess these inputs independently, and provide a counterbalance if necessary.
All but a tiny fringe of our fellow citizens accepts that Climate Change is real. That debate’s over. The focus is shifting to how much, how soon, and amelioration.
With Governor Cuomo proposing a $33 billion five-year green energy plan (despite the $6 billion budget), with the Otsego County Energy Task Force planning our local energy future, and with four-mile-square solar farm proposed at West Laurens (and many more to come), is it likely that renewables alone don’t need to be the whole solution?
Travel with us. Let’s not succumb to McKibben’s despair.
CLIMATE TALK – 6:30 – 8 p.m. Learn about global warming, species loss at talk ‘Climate Crisis: Heading for Extinction (And What To Do About It)’ by Dr. Art Weaver. Templeton Hall, 63 Pioneer St., Cooperstown.
Science reveals the truth about many things and can be trusted. It explains things we take for granted, such as why the seasons change, why flowers blossom in the spring and leaves fall at the end of summer, and even why water runs downhill. Indeed, science explains much of what we see in our daily surroundings – it can be trusted.
We tend to take it for granted because they are within our normal daily realm. All of these are obvious parts of the “balance of nature.” Within the science community this is what is known as “systems in equilibrium,” where everything depends on everything else to stay balanced. When the balance is upset, the system reacts and adjusts to the change. That’s how science works and a balance is maintained.
The same can be said of polluting the atmosphere.
Because our global society pumps pollutants into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the atmosphere adjusts, which is what contributes to the documented trend of rapid climate warming currently in progress. These changes involve forces of energy that we are just beginning to understand and are difficult to accurately gauge, such as how a warming climate influences ocean temperatures and the well documented currents that move through the oceans like a conveyor belt.
To complicate matters, the non-scientist may hear different opinions from different science sources.
What is the lay-person to do – who to believe? One obvious tipoff is that scientists who accepted funding from energy companies are much more likely to offer an opinion less objective than others. This is certainly the case for scientists who deny any anthropomorphic influence on climate change. Once again, money talks.
I think we are beyond our ability to completely stop what has already been initiated, but it can be altered. To change the energy momentum of the atmosphere and oceans will require centuries, not decades.
That’s how long it will take to stop or reverse the warming in progress.
However, if we don’t try to reduce the warming the outcome will apply even greater stress on the global society. We must try even if our efforts appear ineffective to start. We all recognize areas impacted by extended draughts, excessive heat waves, more intense storms and the incessant upward creep of sea level.
All of which are examples of the “system” adjusting to climate change. The system is the environment we live in and experience every day.
All of this is within the realm of science. So, why then are elected officials, including the White House ignoring science? If they would acknowledge science and dwell less on satisfying big money donors, our local and global society would benefit. Without responsible leadership there is little hope to reduce the devastating effects within the foreseeable future.
Let’s face it. There will never be a time when fossil fuels won’t be an essential energy source. After all, airplanes will never be powered by “green energy.” No serious scientist thinks our global society will ever stop using some fossil fuels. But, that’s not the point. We should be working toward reducing our dependence on fossil fuels by vigorously developing alternate energy sources now. I doubt if anyone seriously thinks Green Energy will replace all other resources.
Climate change, along with all of its ramifications (and there are many) is causing serious stress within our global society. We can trust science to reduce the impact of these stresses and help find solutions to protect and preserve the quality of our living environment. This is the time of year to be thankful for our blessings, including reliable science.
P. JAY FLEISHER
A concerned scientist
Town of Milford
CLIMATE DISCUSSION – 10 a.m. Presenting ‘How to Solve Climate by 2030: We CAN change the FUTURE’ with Eban Goodstein, Ph.D. who will lead discussion on energy technologies, engagement in climate solutions. Red Dragon Theater, SUNY Oneonta.
On this week’s “Morning Headlines” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/ publisher of www.AllOTSEGO.com (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), reports on Cooperstown’s Paula DiPerna returning to the Vatican for a conference preparing reports for the United Nation’s Sept. 23 Climate Change conference at U.N. Plaza in New York City, “Climate Summit 2019: A Race We Can Win.”