We have a problem and the solution is quickly slipping away from us. If we continued to act the way we have in recent years, or “business-as-usual” (BAU) as McKinsey and Company calls it, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) will continue to increase. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this could lead directly to an increase in global average temperature (global warming) of over two degrees Celsius compared with pre-Industrial time. Although it is impossible to predict exact results, a change above two degrees Celsius is an increase in temperature that the IPCC expects will cause extremely negative planetary consequences. By altering the planet’s average temperature, we may cause irreversible damages to our biosphere and its ability to support life as we know it.
In order to prevent this potential future, we must reduce GHG emissions. But where do we start? And how much will it cost? To answer these questions, McKinsey and Company, working with multiple partners including the Swedish utility Vattenfall, developed a global greenhouse gas abatement cost curve. The development of the curve showed a listing of emission abatement options, along with time-sensitive costs, leading to a total reduction of 38 GtCO2e emissions by 2030. Adoption of these techniques, along with a small set of more expensive technical measures and behavioral changes, makes the case that it is possible to reduce green house gas emissions to 35% below 1990 levels by 2030. At this reduction rate, according to the IPCC, there is a good chance of preventing global warming from increasing two degrees Celsius or more.
Source: McKinsey & Company’s Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy
The cost curve above shows what McKinsey believes is an abatement potential of 38 global tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) emissions by the year 2030. It sets the different options along the horizontal line while displaying costs in Euro per tonne of CO2 equivalents along the vertical. The negative costs are due to savings incurred over the life of the abatement investment. McKinsey only used techniques remaining below 60 Euro per tonne that existed at the time of the report or were likely to exist within the time frame of the report (2005 – 2030).
McKinsey then displayed three separate pathways relative to different peaks of atmospheric concentrations of GHGs. In order to keep average global temperatures below two degrees Celsius, the optimal path with a peak at 480 ppm must be taken.
Source: McKinsey & Company’s Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy
To remain along this path, abatements of 38 GtCO2e must be met as described in the GHG abatement cost curve. Additionally, technical measures abatement and behavioral changes abatement must also be achieved to ensure CO2e emissions remain low enough to stay on the optimal path. These technical opportunities come at a cost of between 60 and 100 Euro per tonne of CO2 equivalent but were not a focus point of the McKinsey report. Behavioral changes, also not a focus of the study, include such items as personal travel or sustainable lifestyle changes. Adoption of these abatement techniques will depend on future incentives given to individuals by controlling parties to adopt these changes in behavior.
McKinsey’s Pathways to a Low-Carbon Economy provides a starting point to begin seriously looking at ways to reduce green house gas emissions and avoid dangerous global average temperature increases. This report can be used to assist governments, companies, and organizations in making decisions based on cost and appropriate techniques. This report will continue to improve as future measures are completed and pathways become more clear.
I have been thinking of getting some land and raising chickens, cattle for beef and building my own house on a large farm for a few years now. When I met Judith and Jonathan Smith at their Davidson County home near the Cheatham line, I saw just how to go about turning my dream into a reality. Their passion for living a sustainable lifestyle and supplying themselves with much of their own food was contagious.
Last year they raised 100 organic chickens for meat (avg. weight of 5.9 lbs.) in two batches on less than an acre. Jonathan built his own coop that he rotates daily across the field adjacent to his house. They also had 4 laying hens which Jonathan built a house for that includes a gravity water system.
The goal of raising and selling chickens has a few different values for the Smiths. They sell enough chickens to cover their costs, provide food for themselves and make a small profit – but it’s not just about the business.
According to Jonathan, it’s about “knowing your farmer and where your food comes from.” In today’s marketplace, the consumer should always question their food source. With the FDA not mandating labels to include GMO status, even places like Whole Foods cannot guarantee non-GMO foods.
This is important because by purchasing local food, you are supporting your local economy, using less energy in transport costs and establishing local relationships.
Some of the reasons I like the way Smith raises his chickens are:
- Uses diverse food sources with several varieties of grass
- Exposure to sunlight and fresh
- Organic feed (it comes from Kentucky, just 45 minutes away)
- Their love of animals and even the way he uses a relaxing technique to calm them before slaughter
- Jonathan’s respect for the land and treating the land and it’s creatures as they were created
His techniques are based upon Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms  in Virginia (Salatin gained notoriety in the documentary Food Inc.), and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma .
Smith planted clover in the fields to prepare them for the cattle but before that, he started a beehive to ensure the clover was pollinated and spread. Clover adds nitrogen to the soil without using chemical fertilizers. He also ensured that there was genetic diversity in the plants in case of famine or disease.
His cattle are moved daily within an electrical fence that is set up in a grid. The fence uses solar panels using parts found in a junk pile and from Harbor Freight and Amazon.com.
The cows are rotated in a 24-30 day cycle ensuring any parasites from their dung will be dried out before they return to a section in the grid.
Jonathan did study cattle before buying them but says: “anyone can do it, if you’ve cared for a dog, it’s the same thing, just caring for an animal- a bigger animal”. This attitude towards the animals he raises is very different from the assembly line actions taken by large beef distributors.
The idea is for the sale of chickens/beef to pay for the farm note and to eventually offer a community tool to provide an educational experience by seeing how the farm sustains itself and it’s inhabitants while showing consumers how their food is cared for and where it comes from.
Some cool sustainable ideas for their home include salvaged doors and fixtures, flooring and a tub, most of which were found very reasonably priced on craigslist.
They also participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) because their interests are not growing produce.
At its heart Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) connects local farmers with local consumers. These consumers help cover the farmer’s operating expenses in exchange for shares of produce grown or raised. These shares are usually purchased via varying types of memberships or subscriptions. This arrangement grants the farmer more time to focus on production rather than marketing and provides a fair return on their labor. In return, CSA members are able to build trusting relationships with their farmer and receive fresh / better tasting locally produced foods. Ultimately, participation in Community Supported Agriculture helps to build stable local farming operations as well as local economies.
To find out more about the Smith’s and how they operate their farm, please visit the Happily Ever After Farm.
Philippe and Thao Jeanty build their dream home in Fairview using Google Sketchup, a modeling program. The home is 2,700 square-foot and cost $350,000. It is powered by a rooftop 5-kilowatt solar array. The couple still uses some electricity from the gird at night, but Philippe says the bill is only pennies per day due to the fact they sell extra electricity back to the grid during the day!
Other environmentally friendly aspects of the home include:
- Windows along the south-facing roofline let in warm sunshine during the winter. During the summer, they are shaded
- Lighting is provided by LED bulbs, which use little electricity
- The water supply comes from ponds and year-round springs
- Heating and cooling are provided by a geothermal system although a wood stove, which burns fallen limbs they collect on the property, provides all the heat they need
- Exterior walls are extra thick and tightly sealed with corn-based foam insulation
- A drip irrigation system waters the garden
Philippe says, “People were complaining about the price of oil last year and are worried about nuclear energy now. This is the solution.”
Ready to go solar in your home? Check out our Sustainable Resources page for lists of solar power companies in Tennessee!