Climate resources

I’ve recently seen a few great free resources for learning about the climate crisis:

A couple of the regular RealClimate contributors teach a class at the University of Chicago, which they’ve just turned into a free online series: Open Climate 101. I’m thinking of signing up myself – although I know most of the background I still keep learning new things about the whole system works and I bet there are gaps I’m unaware of in my knowledge.

David MacKay, author of Sustainable Energy – without the hot air (which is itself an excellent free book) recently announced an update to the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change‘s 2050 Pathways Calculator. This is a great tool which lets you pick a menu of policy options and see how close they’d come to meeting the UK’s stated goal of bringing greenhouse gas emissions down to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Obviously the absolute numbers are UK-specific, but unless you are or aspire to be a policy maker yourself it’s most interesting as a way of getting a handle on the relative usefulness of the different approaches. I certainly learned a lot from playing with it yesterday:

  • The goal is achievable!
  • …but not through supply-side reforms alone – there has to be a reduction in energy demand.
  • No one option on its own solves the problem, and there are very few that even look significant alone – this is something that needs many co-ordinated steps to solve.
  • A large rollout of nuclear power is one of the few options that gets a large fraction of the way in one stroke, but it’s also not necessary. The target can be met without any nuclear power at all, so the nuclear question is really about what other corners we’d like to cut.

And finally, it’s a much narrower resource, on one question alone, but I really like this visualisation of the difference between climate and weather:

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