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OPINION | CORALIE KOONCE: Actions add up

Many ways to fight climate change by CORALIE KOONCE SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | December 27, 2021 at 2:41 a.m.


It's been said that this is the decade that will determine the rest of history. But will nations act fast enough?

Aside from exerting political pressure, how can ordinary people prevent disastrous levels of climate change? Start with planting trees. The object is to get carbon out of the atmosphere, where it traps the sun's heat, and into plants, where it stays in green storage.

On July 4, in one state of India, 1 million people planted 250 million trees. Africans are building the Great Green Wall across the Sahel. Bhutan's constitution mandates that 60 percent of land stays wooded. Arkansas is reforesting the Delta, 50,000 acres.

Every school needs a Tiny Forest.

Healthy soil holds more carbon. Regenerative agriculture (carbon farming) is more profitable, too. Arkansas family farmers organized the Arkansas Soil Health Alliance (www.facebook.com/Arsoilhealth).

Mowing America's manicured lawns takes 800 million gallons of gasoline each year. The No-Mow Movement promotes native landscaping or special blends of low-growing grasses. Make sure cities and homeowners associations are on board.

The sun doesn't shine at night, and the wind doesn't always blow--there are ways around that! Renewable energy is stored as pumped water, compressed air, flywheel (rotational) energy and several types of thermal storage. Batteries are improving rapidly, and prices fell 85 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology adds electricity to the system from your electric vehicle (EV) battery at night. The infrastructure bill upgrades America's aging electricity grids. Despite yesterday's truisms, energy storage and grid flexibility are solving the problem of intermittency.

Onshore wind contributed over 7 percent of U.S. electricity in 2019, with Texas leading. Offshore wind catches better winds while saving land. Floating wind arrays tap sites even farther from shore, with the steadiest, strongest winds.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) powers homes, businesses, and local governments. Arkansas counties with solar arrays include Chicot, Crittenden, Cross, Pulaski, Searcy, Washington, and White. (Google "Solar Power in Arkansas.") On Nov. 4, Rogers approved a $12.2 million PV project that will make it the first Arkansas municipality to be 100 percent solar-powered.

The price of solar electricity fell 89 percent from 2009 to 2019 because of scaling up.

Large solar power plants, often sited in deserts, come in two main types: CPV uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate the sun's light; CSP concentrates solar heat. The world's largest CSP plant, in Morocco, produces 580 megawatts.

Solar is more than electricity. Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of world CO2 emissions. Passive solar uses architectural techniques to heat and cool them. Surprising fact: Fayetteville had a passive solar home up on Mount Sequoyah back in the 1950s.

There's also thermal solar. Solar water heaters, commercially available for over a century, are popular in many countries, and required in Israel and Spain. Solar furnaces that power industrial processes can reach temperatures of 6,330 degrees Fahrenheit.

A new plan, agrivoltaics, combines solar collectors with agriculture, bringing jobs to rural areas. Grants and rebates are currently available in Arkansas. (Google "Arkansas Energy Grants.")

The EVs are coming. Northwest Arkansas is hosting Canoo, an electric vehicle maker. The infrastructure bill will add many public charging stations. Entergy gives its customers a cash incentive for home EV chargers.

However, Arkansas is one of only five states with the disincentive of high registration fees for hybrids and EVs--let's fix that.

Walkers and bicyclists enjoy exercise, recreation, and transportation without fuel costs. Northwest Arkansas has invested in hundreds of miles of shared-use bike trails. Might we see widespread bike commuting as in Europe and Japan?

A technical fix could make air conditioners five times more energy-efficient. Meanwhile, green infrastructure reduces the need for air conditioning. Little Rock, Fayetteville, and North Little Rock have roof gardens but as yet, urban Arkansas lacks living walls--a Walton-size project? (Google "Green Walls.")

To prepare for future disruptions--drought, wildfires, floods, rising seas, unpredictable storms such as the recent tornados--the Build Back Better bill sets up a Civilian Climate Corps (like the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps).

It always helps to plan ahead. Arkansas had a climate action plan in 2008, though it's hard to find now. The University of Arkansas aims for carbon neutrality by 2040. Fayetteville's City Council recently passed a climate resiliency plan, with $100,000 to implement it. Fayetteville's detailed plans and targets put it on a global A list of 95 cities leading climate preparedness.

And that's just a sample of the many ways we can combat climate change. Where will you plug in?


Coralie Koonce is a writer living in Fayetteville, and the author of "Twelve Dispositions: A Field Guide to Humans."


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