Carbon Nation at 10: the future is not what it used to be
We made “Carbon Nation” – “a film about solutions to climate change that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change” – in response to Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth”. We saw Gore as Paul Revere in his film; we were looking for the George Washington to solve the problem.
About halfway through our documentary, we talked about electricity produced from waste heat from a steel plant. Our narrator, Bill Kurtis, intoned, “This electricity produced from wasted heat is one-third of the cost of ordinary steel mill electricity. And if we used every opportunity to recover energy from waste, global CO2 emissions would be reduced by 12 percent, maybe more. “
Do it because you’re a greedy bastard and just want cheap energy.
Then comes my favorite line from the movie, spoken by Sean Casten, now a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the 6th Congressional District of Illinois, who ran the company that produced this electricity: “I don’t know greater opportunity to earn more money by reducing more CO2 that this one. So if you don’t care about the environment, do it because you are a greedy bastard and just want cheap electricity. “
Here’s our movie in brief: Energy efficiency, clean energy and smart land use are just good business. It just takes leadership.
How many steelworks capture their waste heat and generate electricity? It is still terribly low. How many could? All.
When we started filming in 2007, Google released RE
Much has changed over the past 10 years: coal represented 42% of our energy mix in the United States; it is now 23 percent. Large-scale solar electricity was around 38 cents per kilowatt hour in 2011, it is now less than 7 cents. Onshore wind was between 8.2 cents and 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour, it is now between 2.6 cents and 5.7 cents.
In the movie, we focused on a wind farm in West Texas, hosted by a one-armed cotton farmer named Cliff Etheredge. Cliff asked 400 neighbors to form a company so that EON Energy could negotiate with a single entity. (“You could say I did it on my own, see?” He joked.) They built, at that time, the largest wind farm in the world. When the droughts of 2011 and 2012 hit, most of these cotton farmers had no crops, but with each turbine generating up to $ 15,000 in income per year, they were able to save their farms. An unintended advantage of renewable energies.
“Carbon Nation” was an 84-minute climate change documentary that contained 80 minutes of solutions and four minutes of problems, divided into four segments: mountain pine beetles in the Rockies; a dead anaerobic area off the coast of Oregon; winter rains flood the Cascades; and winter coastal erosion in Alaska.
It’s hard to believe, but in 2009, as we finished film production, scientists were loath to say that specific events were caused by climate change. We found these stories because courageous researchers were holding each other’s necks and claiming that climate change was not a future event, it was already happening. Of course, all of these issues are worse, and many more occur on a daily basis, such as sunny day flooding along the Atlantic coast, wildfire seasons in the West with no downtime and extreme rains. ruining cultures throughout the Midwest.
We had hoped this movie would be as useful in 2021 as a buggy whip was in 1921, when the Model T took over personal transport of the horse and buggy. But the solutions we covered at the time still haven’t materialized, like upgrading social housing with energy efficient insulation and appliances.
John Rowe, then CEO of Exelon, said: “The whole idea of taking (energy) and just blowing it through un-caulked windows is enough to make you cry. It’s a bad economy, it’s bad carbon and it’s worse for the poor. ” Van Jones, Obama’s future green jobs czar in the White House, added: “I see the United States almost has a full employment economy based on modernizing, restarting a nation.” I hear Biden’s infrastructure plan includes solving this huge opportunity; it will be money well spent.
Green roofs are beautiful, but energy efficiency pioneer Art Rosenfeld saw the power of the white roof to counter the loss of the albedo effect of the polar caps, in which glaciers reflect sunlight back into it. space; he saw it as a way to significantly reduce the energy costs of cooling buildings. In the movie, he said, “By the time you have all the white roofs, you would cool the earth equivalent to grabbing 24 billion tonnes of CO.”2 out of the air, which is tantamount to capping global warming for the next seven years. It’s enormous! It’s an incredibly inexpensive solution that still awaits leadership around the world.
Parts per million of CO2 in the air in 2011, when the film was released, was 387; today it is 416. It sounds disheartening, but the solutions are more encouraging than ever.
So how do you get more CO2 that we issue? In ‘Carbon Nation’ we focused on forests, farms and pastures: stop burning forests (20 percent of global emissions) and adopt regenerative agricultural techniques on farms.
Since the release of the film, I have focused my cinema on regenerative agriculture, in particular grazing. Here are 10 short films on adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing that we made between 2013 and 2019.
At Arizona State University, where I’m a professor in both the School of Sustainability and the Cronkite School of Journalism, I’m helping lead a new research project, looking to determine if AMP grazing can be a sink for greenhouse gas that can further reduce GHGs that livestock and the grazing system emit. Our science team compares AMP grazing with conventional grazing on five pairs of farms in the Southeastern United States.
We started the fieldwork in 2018, and our first article just published, on Soil Carbon and Nitrogen, shows that soils on the MPA side of the fence sequester 13 percent more carbon and 9 percent more nitrogen than the soils of the reference farms. Our team will be publishing articles over the next year, covering soil microbes, water infiltration, insect and bird biodiversity, fodder production, animal and farmer welfare, and the cycle. of GHGs.
And of course, there will be a new documentary on all the farmers and scientists involved.