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  1. Neven’s Sea Ice Blog continues to impress. There’s analysis of an Arctic Cyclone here.

    My take on it is that there’s a significant chance of wiping out last years record low extent/area records.

    (Time for a June open thread?)

    Comment by David Miller — 1 Jun 2013 @ 11:53 AM

  2. Regarding the frequent discussions of “sustainability”, the new State Of The World 2013 from Worldwatch Institute may be of interest:

    Every day, we are presented with a range of “sustainable” products and activities—from “green” cleaning supplies to carbon offsets — but with so much labeled as “sustainable,” the term has become essentially sustainababble, at best indicating a practice or product slightly less damaging than the conventional alternative. Is it time to abandon the concept altogether, or can we find an accurate way to measure sustainability? If so, how can we achieve it? And if not, how can we best prepare for the coming ecological decline?

    In the latest edition of Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World series, scientists, policy experts, and thought leaders tackle these questions, attempting to restore meaning to sustainability as more than just a marketing tool. In State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?, experts define clear sustainability metrics and examine various policies and perspectives, including geoengineering, corporate transformation, and changes in agricultural policy, that could put us on the path to prosperity without diminishing the well-being of future generations.

    If these approaches fall short, the final chapters explore ways to prepare for drastic environmental change and resource depletion, such as strengthening democracy and societal resilience, protecting cultural heritage, and dealing with increased conflict and migration flows.

    State of the World 2013 cuts through the rhetoric surrounding sustainability, offering a broad and realistic look at how close we are to fulfilling it today and which practices and policies will steer us in the right direction.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Jun 2013 @ 12:04 PM

  3. 544 Walter P said, “ perhaps here is at least a partial solution?”

    The ultimate way would be to ban flush toilets and require composting toilets. Makes for increased disease (those deaths from eating lettuce et al were the result of using human manure) and will only recover perhaps 75% of the nutrients as much food rots or is “stolen” by animals.

    But I agree that that’s the way to go. Composting toilets were the only type I put in my eco-houses. Not sustainable, but far less wasteful.

    Then again there’s semi-vegetarian diets. Meat doesn’t compost well and is bad in large quantities and takes far more resources than veggies.

    SecularA, did you read the book? It sounds interesting, but not sure it’s $22 interesting.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 1 Jun 2013 @ 1:41 PM

  4. Hello RC community: I’m an environmental economist and stand-up comic who’s coauthored a couple of well-regarded cartoon books about economics for high school and college classes and the general public… and now my coauthor (Grady Klein) and I are working on a Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change.

    We have posted an early draft of the first third of the book (six chapters on climate science, with impacts and policy coming later) and are inviting feedback from one and all! Details and downloads at

    Feedback is welcome on that wiki site, or via email to me at yoram at standupeconomist dot com. (Also send me an email if you want to get updates on future drafts &c. And if you’re interested in the econ books or my comedy videos, there’s more at BTW the book is due out in spring 2014 and will be published by Island Press.

    yoram bauman phd
    “the world’s first and only stand-up economist”

    Comment by Yoram Bauman — 1 Jun 2013 @ 2:22 PM

  5. As a vegetarian, I would retain flush toilets and ban meat!

    Comment by Arun — 1 Jun 2013 @ 2:40 PM

  6. I have been wonder about and searching for information regarding a sustainable life style. I’ve heard estimates that the world can only sustain about between around three million and a half million humans. I don’t know what the truth is, but can it sustain 7 million?
    Part two: if I wanted to adopt a sustainable life style, for the sake of personal responsibility, what would it look like? I live in a metropolitan area of over 5 million people. Is that sustainable?

    Comment by Steve — 1 Jun 2013 @ 3:00 PM

  7. That should be, can the earth sustain 7 Billion people. Moderator is invited to correct. Thanks.

    Comment by Steve — 1 Jun 2013 @ 3:03 PM

  8. Peter Ferrara of Heartland Institute did some type of “blah” “No warming in 15 years” type of thing over at Forbes. I just don’t have the energy to really write out a response to all of it.

    That should be, can the earth sustain 7 Billion people. Moderator is invited to correct. Thanks.

    I think so, albeit under denser, more efficient conditions. If you look at per capita use of energy, water, emissions, etc in denser cities like New York City, it’s a lot lower than what you get in much less dense areas. If most of the population was living in that type of density, we’d easily be able to support 7 billion people and more.

    Comment by Brett — 1 Jun 2013 @ 4:01 PM

  9. Re- Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Jun 2013 @ 12:04 PM

    Thanks for the link. I have ordered the book. It will be good to have some current, authoritative, and documented material on sustainability.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 1 Jun 2013 @ 4:02 PM

  10. On the Fermi Paradox conversation from last month’s open thread, I suspect one explanation is that civilizations go largely radio-silent after a relatively brief period of high-power broadcasting. We are largely following this path with cable TV and internet radio. Thus, if we aren’t observing during the small high-power broadcast window, we’ll hear nothing. Add the inverse-square law (which buries far-away or low-power transmissions in the noise), and the paradox seems less pointed, if not nonexistent.

    Comment by Meow — 1 Jun 2013 @ 4:05 PM

  11. SecularAnimist @2

    “Is it time to abandon the concept altogether, or can we find an accurate way to measure sustainability? If so, how can we achieve it? And if not, how can we best prepare for the coming ecological decline?”

    Here’s another group that takes a serious approch to answering this question:

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 1 Jun 2013 @ 4:11 PM

  12. Meow, isn’t CO2 concentration an agent of potential life forms? Why only look for radio signals?

    Comment by prokaryotes — 1 Jun 2013 @ 4:37 PM

  13. @1 I was looking at that (Neven) and at John Mason’s article which Neven links, saying: “I will have to read John Mason’s excellent rough guide to the jet stream again.” It’s at Skeptical Science: A Rough Guide to the Jet Stream: how it works and how it is responding to enhanced global warming, 22 May:

    With accompanying graphics, it says:

    “…one consequence of Arctic Amplification is to reduce the temperature-gradient between the Arctic and the warmer latitudes. Given that the strength of the jet stream is influenced by the magnitude of the temperature-gradient, it follows that warming of the Arctic could lead to a weakening of the jet stream and a greater tendency to meander as it slows down.”

    Mason cites Dr. Jennifer Francis. She’s interviewed in this video that is running on Climate State (Video Streaming and Magazine) about “Climate Warming & the Jet Stream” re: extreme weather, made by the Yale Forum on Climate Change:

    There are good graphics (long-term/short-term ice) in this video (with Dr.Francis and others): A New Climate State: Arctic Sea Ice 2012:

    Comment by patrick — 1 Jun 2013 @ 4:55 PM

  14. Answering from last Open thread:

    542 Jim Larsen said Killian, I’ve built several eco-houses, designed but didn’t build an ~100mpg mid-size car, and have generally studied the issues since I was a child. Others here have similar backgrounds.

    This means nothing in and of itself other than you have some awareness. I would say the vast majority of “green” or “sustainability” thinkers and activists get the basics very wrong. The post I responded to screamed for a response that you choose to characterize as “talking down to.” If your knowledge and analysis were as strong as you imply, you wouldn’t have asked me the questions or made the comments you did, and in the style you did. And your responses to me over time have been less than accepting and cordial. If you want to claim there was no sense of pique in your post, I say straight out that is false. If you don’t want pique, don’t engage in it yourself.

    Your tendency to talk down to people who probably know more about the issues than you is off-putting.

    So is yours. See how that works? Don’t want to feel talked down to, don’t do it to others. Now, I have just re-read my own post and there is nothing patronizing in it. Some tongue-in-cheek, but no patronizing. That is your own defensiveness. Some experienced, self-described “expert” people often feel slighted when their ideas are challenged even if there is no intent to slight them. This seems to be the case here. I experienced the same thing in Detroit when I suggested what our reality is wrt climate and rapidity of change. I also pointed out that the conditions never having existed before, the responses would also have to be different. That is, that activism could not and would not succeed based on the same models of the last 60 years.

    I was told I was being disrespectful – for speaking of my now-proven analysis. You need to understand that the differences in our outlooks are directly tied to what we have each educated ourselves about, and from your statements, suggested solutions and extent to which you think change can or cannot happen or should or should not happen, your analysis is deficient. It’s not an insult, it is an honest analysis.

    The key difference is that you do not seem to have apprised yourself of some of the knowledge bases that I have (permaculture design, particularly), so your analysis is, from my perspective, incorrect. And, obviously so.

    It seems our disagreement is about what we need to give up. I think we’ll need to give up very little, though some things will be expensive or otherwise limited.

    And the key to this can only lie in the failure to properly apply the exponential function to an equalized lifestyle for 9 billion people combined with a still-inadequate acceptance of the degree to which resources are limited, and/or failing to extrapolate on long enough time lines. And that is usually girded with, “Someone will come up with something.” This is a proxy for tech will save us.

    Air travel comes to mind. Other than that, efficiency can make renewables work.

    Nothing works that is not literally sustainable, and that means literally able to keep being done till the sun swallows us. That is your metric, not sustainable “enough” or sustainable for a while, but literally sustainable till the Earth is uninhabitable.

    Does this preclude the continued advancement of science, tech and innovation? Of course not! But good risk assessment is not based on non-existent solutions. It is based solely on what can be done now. The exception is when solutions for a problem literally do not exist. That is not the case here. Solutions for consumption and climate changes exist right now, and are all simple, doable, and can be made, implemented and successful in short enough time frames to not only adapt to our Perfect Storm, but mitigate it and return the planet to very close not only pre-industrial, but pre-agricultural health and balance. Less local tipping points and extinctions, of course. And assuming systemic, irreversible tipping points have not been crossed.

    The true differences between us is I have studied sustainable – actually regenerative – design, specifically, and I accept the absolute nature of the limits we face. I do not attempt to negotiate with them or brush them off or minimize them because one of the principles of regenerative design is to let the space – in this case the planetary ecosystem – show you what *can* be done rather than mistakenly attempting to impose solutions on it. Imposed solutions inherently ignore the design limitations of the space.

    Your 10-20% is probably a bit low; I’d say more like 30%.

    Until the numbers are literally run, we won’t know. How much GHGs are we going to cause to happen just by being 9 billion people, let alone semi-industrial? I just don’t see it. The saving grace is what we can sequester with natural methods. But that doesn’t get us past sustainability issues…

    I see no reason we can’t drop our homes’ and cars’ energy use by 75%. The USA is at 31% non-carbon electricity

    You are still negotiating. (Which stage of grief is that? I should know… former Psych major…) We have virtually no non-carbon electricity, we have only low-carbon electricity. You absolutely must accept that “renewables” and dams are in no way sustainable at present. Do you have any idea of the embedded energy in building dams? Surely you must, and this energy must be included in the analysis because the dames will need to be maintained and rebuilt at some point. The massive generators alone! And concrete is massively GHG unfriendly, though new concretes have been/are being developed.

    so we’ve already got nearly all the electricity we’ll need, even if substantial numbers of cars go electric (as opposed to bio-diesel or ethanol).

    The resources in cars is unsustainable, and certainly cannot be supported forever for 9 billion. Forget cars. It’s localization and mass transit or bust. Bicycles?

    And then there’s our Phosphorus Problem. Wiki says Peak Phosphorus is expected to happen in 2030. Won’t farming be fun?

    Regenerative farming/gardening solves this problem and leaves the phosphorus for other problems that will/may need solving in some distant future.

    Comment by Killian — 1 Jun 2013 @ 5:18 PM

  15. @8 On the blah take James Hansen’s approach–as in his talk at the Ames Research Center, seen at minute 19:35 and at minute 30:32 in this video:

    Comment by patrick — 1 Jun 2013 @ 5:20 PM

  16. Mal Adapted @ May 551 — Thank you.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 1 Jun 2013 @ 5:30 PM

  17. 2 nice papers at cryosphere discuss

    Haberman et al. on bed of Jacoshawn

    Legchenko at al on MRI for a glacier. Loops of wire, proton Larmor frequency in Earth field, nice pics of the evolution of water filled cavity, check it out


    Comment by sidd — 1 Jun 2013 @ 7:15 PM

  18. Re: Fermi Paradox, not sure, but would O2 and Ozone be any good on detecting life? I guess ozone is too little in amount to be detected, but can there be free oxygen in atmosphere without life, wouldn’t it react to rock and carbonaceous meteors over time and produce granites and CO2?

    Comment by jyyh — 1 Jun 2013 @ 10:25 PM

  19. Re #8 Brett: I think you have to look at how sustainable food production is given water use and soil depletion, especially given the impact of climate change on agriculture. New York City definitely doesn’t produce much if any of its own food, but there is some potential for increased urban agriculture.

    Comment by Bill Woolverton — 2 Jun 2013 @ 3:45 AM

  20. Jim Larsen@3: According to the link I posted earlier, the vast majority of nitrogen and phosphorous is in urine. The site claims one persone produces enough phosphorous to produce a year’s worth of food for that person. (Also, 8 pounds of nitrogen annually.) Seems like a relatively simple way to drastically cut fossil fuel-based fertilizers.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 2 Jun 2013 @ 7:35 AM

  21. MARodger,
    thanks to the detailed answer to my question about the current state of climate forcings on the other thread.

    thank you too for answering.

    Comment by walter crain — 2 Jun 2013 @ 10:38 AM

  22. 5 Arun says: As a vegetarian, I would retain flush toilets and ban meat!

    How nice of you to impose your will on the rest of us!


    Fact is, most people aren’t vegetarians. Also, sustainable ecosystems need animals for a billion different things they do. Getting rid of them and/or using them mostly for compost – which takes quite a while and is pretty messy – and clothes really makes no sense when they are such an integral part of natural processes.

    This is why we do not impose design and follow Nature’s lead: WE *always* muck it up when we don’t. If you use animals properly, they will build great resilience into your systems, provide food directly and indirectly, provide labor, clothing, shelter, tools, etc., and actually help sequester carbon by helping to balance ecosystems.

    Comment by Killian — 2 Jun 2013 @ 11:59 AM

  23. 6 Steve says: I have been wonder about and searching for information regarding a sustainable life style. I’ve heard estimates that the world can only sustain about between around three million and a half million humans. I don’t know what the truth is, but can it sustain 7 million?

    Too broad a question. First, we are currently headed for between 9 and 10 billion, so that’s the range to consider. Food-wise, using regenerative methods, yes, and pretty easily. There are no FF inputs needed and there is plenty of space. However, what we eat and in what seasons will change. Who grows it will change because regenerative food production is most effectively achieved at small scales as it allows for 1. local control of the food supply; 2. closely coordinated growing plans; 3. localized production which avoids long-distance transport; 4. inputs to local economy; 5. symbiotic community relationships via trade and sharing; 5. regeneration of local ecology; 6. food safety and on and on.

    Part two: if I wanted to adopt a sustainable life style, for the sake of personal responsibility, what would it look like? I live in a metropolitan area of over 5 million people. Is that sustainable?

    Do cities, themselves, have raw materials? Supply their own food? Nope. Sustainable? Nope. Cities must be thought of as part of the greater bio-region they are part of. Because much of what happens in cities is abstract behaviors done to support abstract structures, cities won’t have nearly as much to do in a sustainable, simplified future. They will, therefore, depopulate to some degree or other. There will always be some need for larger scale manufacture, most likely, and trade hubs, etc., so cities will always exist, but not to the extent they do today.

    Detroit is the only city I know of that could potential provide all its own food. Perhaps after city populations have dropped significantly as people move to locations where they can be part of creating a small, local economy in a community that is largely self-reliant, there will be enough space for cities to produce significant amounts of food. But we do not need everyone to be a farmer, though I think almost every household should greow atleast some food for a variety of reasons.

    One person can grow enough for fruits, veggies, eggs, maybe some milk on an acre or two fairly easily. A family can live on 5 acres handily, complete with hooved animals, some agro-forestry, etc., and produce more than they need and provide for quite a few others.

    What your resilient city would look like very much depends on that city, it’s location, it’s bio-region, how big it is, how much open space there is, the water supply, surrounding food production potential, what the bio-region might need from a city and vice-versa…

    Sustainability is ultimately local.

    Comment by Killian — 2 Jun 2013 @ 12:20 PM

  24. Bill Woolverton wrote: “New York City definitely doesn’t produce much if any of its own food, but there is some potential for increased urban agriculture.”

    There is huge potential for increased urban agriculture.

    The Urban Design Lab at Columbia University’s Earth Institute published a 2012 report entitled “The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City: Growing Capacity, Food Security & Green Infrastructure” (PDF).

    Key findings include:

    There is a substantial amount of land potentially available for urban agriculture in NYC

    Intensive growing methods adapted to urban spaces can result in yields per acre which greatly exceed those of conventional production techniques

    While urban agriculture cannot supply the entire city with all of its food needs, in certain neighborhoods it can significantly contribute to food security

    NYC’s rooftops are a vast, underused resource that could be transformed for food production

    Urban farmers are establishing viable businesses by taking advantage of multiple revenue streams

    Urban agriculture functions as a catalyst for larger food system transformations

    I would add that there is even greater potential for suburban agriculture. Not long ago, most American cities were surrounded by “green belts” that produced much of that city’s food supply. Of course, those highly productive agricultural belts have been overrun with suburban sprawl.

    However, there is still a vast amount of land within most American suburbs that could grow lots of food, with less expense, effort and material inputs than suburbanites now devote to purely decorative lawns and shrubberies. During WWII, Victory Gardens provided as much as two thirds of all the produce consumed in America. We could easily do that again, with great benefits to both the environment and to human health.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 2 Jun 2013 @ 12:22 PM

  25. For lovers of charts & graphs & Greenland:

    Comment by BillS — 2 Jun 2013 @ 1:09 PM

  26. Meow, isn’t CO2 concentration an agent of potential life forms? Why only look for radio signals?

    I assume you’re asking whether the presence of CO2 in an exoplanet’s atmosphere indicates the presence of life. The answer is “only weakly”. CO2 is produced by geological as well as biological processes. Heck, Venus’s atmosphere has > 90 bar of CO2. Other gases (e.g., O2) are better (but still imperfect) indicators of biological processes, but some aren’t as easy to detect as CO2 because they’re less radiatively active (again e.g. O2). There was a paper on detecting biogenic gases on exoplanets in the last few issues of Science.

    But I’m pretty sure we’ll always be able to detect radio transmissions (if any) from exocivilizations much more readily than to determine the presence of biogenic gases (if any) in exoplanets’ atmospheres. For one thing, we can detect radio signals without respect to the plane of the planet’s orbit about its star, without respect to the planet’s orbital period, and even without knowing with precision where the planet is. These factors can make observation of an exoplanet’s atmosphere difficult (long orbital period), really really difficult (plane of exoplanet orbit perpendicular to line from earth to exostar), or impossible (we don’t know where the planet is or it’s hidden behind something that’s opaque to IR and/or visible light).

    Comment by Meow — 2 Jun 2013 @ 1:54 PM

  27. @18:

    Re: Fermi Paradox, not sure, but would O2 and Ozone be any good on detecting life? I guess ozone is too little in amount to be detected, but can there be free oxygen in atmosphere without life, wouldn’t it react to rock and carbonaceous meteors over time and produce granites and CO2?

    I understand that a dead planet that originally had lots of water, but limited oxygen sinks, could show lots of O2/O3 at an advanced age due to photodissociation of H20 and consequent H2 loss to space. A planet might have limited oxygen sinks due to limited or nonexistent tectonics or volcanism: if there’s no new reducing surface being made, there’s nothing for the oxygen to react with.

    I’m sure Raypierre would have lots to say about this topic (and much more likely to be correct than what I’m saying).

    Comment by Meow — 2 Jun 2013 @ 2:03 PM

  28. Tamino is conspicuous by his absence. Is all well at Tamino house?

    Comment by Martin Smith — 2 Jun 2013 @ 2:12 PM

  29. Politicians on both sides of the aisle seem anxious to bury the money quote from Hansen’s marvelously ornery Rindenhour prize speech .

    Comment by Russell — 2 Jun 2013 @ 2:37 PM

  30. Oxygen and Ozone collectively would be a very good biosignature. CO2 isn’t a very good signature on its own. Sara Seager at MIT has some of the better literature on this subject, including some stuff in google books if you look hard enough. If you looked at Earth as an exoplanet from afar, oxygen would be our most robust biosignature. Both are spectrally detectable, and at least for oxygen, would not be present in our atmosphere at any appreciable amount without biology. There are some false positive cases, such as if you happen to monitor a planet during a runaway greenhouse phase, when hydrogen and oxygen are separating, but this would apply primarily to planets within the inner edge of the habitable zone.

    So far, however, there’s only a few spectra taken from exoplanets and those are from big hot Jupiter planets.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 2 Jun 2013 @ 3:54 PM

  31. Why not discuss climate science more than extraterrestrial life this month?

    Like, for example, “When will the summer Arctic be nearly sea ice free?” by Overland and Wang in GRL 2013:

    “Three recent approaches to predictions in the scientific literature are as follows: (1) extrapolation of sea ice volume data, (2) assuming several more rapid loss events such as 2007 and 2012, and (3) climate model projections. Time horizons for a nearly sea ice-free summer for these three approaches are roughly 2020 or earlier, 2030 ± 10 years, and 2040 or later. ”

    I am interested in hearing thoughts on the implications of a drastic reduced Arctic ice-extent.

    For example, are the climate models up to the task of modelling the feedbacks and potential tipping points in the Arctic (Lenton 2012 “Arctic Climate Tipping Points” in Ambio)?

    Or the recently observed effects on the jet stream? (Francis & Vavarus 2012 “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes” GRL)

    Comment by perwis — 2 Jun 2013 @ 4:11 PM

  32. Martin Smith @28 — I gather he is completely busy defending his rural township from the possibility of a road and dilbit pipeline.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 Jun 2013 @ 4:41 PM

  33. @29 Your double link to a complete distraction is a complete distraction.

    Comment by patrick — 2 Jun 2013 @ 4:59 PM

  34. 14 Killian said, “But good risk assessment is not based on non-existent solutions. It is based solely on what can be done now.”

    You’ve said some outrageous things, but that one is just plain wrong. Risk assessment MUST include technology’s trajectory. Tech improves while resources decline. All we have to do is find a soft landing point in 100 years or so.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 2 Jun 2013 @ 6:03 PM

  35. It seems to me that the central problem we face is how to produce clean energy at a low cost. In general, I do not think renewable sources are sustainable at the global scale, and they are not competitive with the cost and convenience of fossil fuels. Yet, we must imagine a situation where we can take care of 10 billion people by 2050, or else face sliding into one of those cynical ideologies that highlight tragedy in history.

    If it were feasible to build a low cost clean energy machine, I would think those aware of the seriousness of the situation would advocate sufficient R&D for such endeavors. In fact, I would think that it would be widely acknowledged to be a matter of national security.

    There really is no question whether molten salt reactors will scale, will be smaller for an equivalent capacity, or will be safer than current approaches. What prevents this technology from moving forward is a lack of focus on lowering the cost of clean energy, and political confusion. Completely understandable considering the complexity of the problem we face.

    Comment by Corey Barcus — 2 Jun 2013 @ 7:27 PM

  36. Useful article by Eric Alterman, “Blame News for Public’s Ignorance About Climate” Most of us here knew Fox is a problem but it’s nice to have numbers and pointers to studies –

    Comment by MalcolmT — 2 Jun 2013 @ 9:44 PM

  37. What do the climate scientists think of Lu’s theory that it’s CFCs, not CO2 that has caused warming and is why the earth is now cooling (apparently) due to reduction in CFCs?

    An article about it has Lu claiming that there is zero correlation between warming and CO2, which immediately dumps his theory into the trash can, as far as I’m concerned (irrespective of the other problems with it) but it would be interesting to read the climate science take on it.

    Comment by Tony Weddle — 2 Jun 2013 @ 9:58 PM

  38. Like it or not, re: lots of things.

    “…researchers here cook up their own dirty air in a greenhouse…

    “…if you cook it in the sun for a day, it becomes anything from five to 12 times more toxic…

    “Unfortunately, health officials don’t take that sort of synergy into account. …they assume a particle is a particle is a particle.

    “If you don’t do this kind of chemistry, you miss what’s really going on in the atmosphere…”

    “…this research is challenging the conventional wisdom about particles and health. It’s not simply how much of the stuff
    you breathe in that counts. …

    “The effects depend on what happened to that particle while it was circulating in the sunny air. …

    “The advantage of using a biological sensor is it says ‘I’m being harmed…’ …it makes you do the work and do a better job of figuring out what’s going on.”

    Comment by patrick — 2 Jun 2013 @ 11:17 PM

  39. 34 Jim Larsen says: 14 Killian said, “But good risk assessment is not based on non-existent solutions. It is based solely on what can be done now.”

    You’ve said some outrageous things, but that one is just plain wrong. Risk assessment MUST include technology’s trajectory.

    Design doesn’t, and risk assessment might note it, but does not *depend* on it – and anyone that does is not understanding the process of designing future resilience. I don’t bother with risk assessment for future scenarios outside of design. When the tech exists, THEN it gets included. Anything else is just foolish and blatantly illogical. Risk assessment is anything but magical thinking, and assuming tech is going to come that will not add to complexity, will create new and dangerous problems, can overcome its own diminishing returns and will save you, and designing accordingly, is a behavior I would call, no hyperbole, insanity.

    Tech improves while resources decline.

    Says who? Then where are the Maya, the Anasazi? The Greenland Norse? The Roman Empire? Angkor Wat? And even when it does it fails to keep up with diminishing returns. Have you seriously not read Limits to Growth, Catton, Diamond and Tainter?

    All we have to do is find a soft landing point in 100 years or so.

    Incorrect: we have to create one by designing it, and resource analysis does *not* include what does not exist.

    **Please** take a permaculture course. I’m currently available.

    Comment by Killian — 3 Jun 2013 @ 1:08 AM

  40. Tony Weddle, here is a recent post —

    A (new) paper by Qing-Bin Lu in the International Journal of Modern Physics B is gaining attention for asserting that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), not CO2, is causing global warming. This sensationalist headline is typically repeated with little mention that Lu’s claims are not new, and they have not held up to scientific scrutiny in the past.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 3 Jun 2013 @ 2:52 AM

  41. Thanks to prokaryotes for that link regarding the Lu paper. It kind of says what I thought but it (and the newspaper article it links to) doesn’t have much depth. It confirms my thoughts but I’m hoping for a more thorough debunking, rather than having a climate scientist “doubt it will stand up to scrutiny”.

    Is the journal which published the work reputable? Does it have a robust peer review mechanism (not that that guarantees anything, of course)?

    Comment by Tony Weddle — 3 Jun 2013 @ 3:44 AM

  42. I just read similar headlines re the Lu paper in The Australian newspaper and so came here looking for the reaction. Guess I have to wait a little while. (and I’ve no idea why this comments box is all in French (I think!)??? Not at all surprised the Australian would jump at the chance for these sorts of headlines though.

    Comment by pete — 3 Jun 2013 @ 5:45 AM

  43. Tony Weddle. It would be hard to attribute global cooling to CFCs since global cooling is not happening.

    Comment by Brennan — 3 Jun 2013 @ 6:15 AM

  44. Re: Lu

    From Gavin’s response to a bore holed comment:

    “… you could read the responses the last two times Lu has proposed the same exact thing. – gavin]”

    Lather rinse repeat

    Comment by Radge Havers — 3 Jun 2013 @ 8:05 AM

  45. Corey Barcus wrote: “I do not think renewable sources are sustainable at the global scale, and they are not competitive with the cost and convenience of fossil fuels.”

    Fortunately, both of those assertions are false.

    The world’s harvestable solar and wind energy resources vastly exceed all of humanity’s energy use. In the USA, for example, solar power stations on just five percent of the USA’s deserts could generate more electricity than the entire country uses; the same is true of the wind energy resources of just four midwestern states. And those represent just a fraction of the USA’s enormous solar and wind energy resources.

    And electricity from solar and wind is already competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity in many places, and the costs of solar and wind continue to plummet while the cost of fossil fueled electricity continues to rise. Even without subsidies and without a price on carbon pollution, solar and wind generated electricity will soon be cheaper than fossil fueled electricity pretty much everywhere.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Jun 2013 @ 10:33 AM

  46. “The world’s harvestable solar and wind energy resources vastly exceed all of humanity’s energy use. In the USA, for example, solar power stations on just five percent of the USA’s deserts could generate more electricity than the entire country uses; the same is true of the wind energy resources of just four midwestern states. And those represent just a fraction of the USA’s enormous solar and wind energy resources.”

    This does not describe sustainability, it describes efficiency and availability of the primary source.

    “And electricity from solar and wind is already competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity in many places, and the costs of solar and wind continue to plummet while the cost of fossil fueled electricity continues to rise. Even without subsidies and without a price on carbon pollution, solar and wind generated electricity will soon be cheaper than fossil fueled electricity pretty much everywhere.”

    Particularly if we account the negative impacts. Properly priced for the degradation, cots of climate change, etc., FF’s would be prohibitively expensive, I should think.

    Comment by Killian — 3 Jun 2013 @ 12:41 PM

  47. Killian wrote: “This does not describe sustainability …”

    Of course not. As I have noted in previous posts, some day the wind will stop blowing and the sun will stop shining. And eventually, the entire universe will expire into entropic heat death. Nothing is sustainable.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Jun 2013 @ 1:50 PM

  48. Re: From Gavin’s response to a bore holed comment:

    “… you could read the responses the last two times Lu has proposed the same exact thing. – gavin]”

    It seems that Lu’s prediction of a maximum 2008 Antarctic ozone loss (averaged over the hole period) was proven [Q-B Lu, Physical Review Letters 102, 118501(2009; Phys. Rep. (2010); IJMPB (2013)], and Muller and Grooss have agreed that the data in their PRL (2009) and Atmos. Environ. (2011) papers had problems [Grooss and Muller, AE 68, 350(2013)]: “The months for which the data were shown were not correctly indicated… The data do not cover this complete latitude range especially they do not extend to the South Pole”. Lu did discuss this in his IJMPB paper (p6-7).

    What is Gavin’s unbiased response? This would be interesting.

    [Response: Why? Grooß and Muller corrected the labeling of one figure, but nothing that affects their demonstration that Lu is wrong. The point they show is that if there was CR mediated destruction of CFCs in the polar vortex you would see changes in the ratio of CFCs to other long-lived gases. And you don’t. Combine that with the pretzel like logic that Lu uses in his post hoc fit of the temperature, an apparently complete absence of any mechanism that makes CFCs super greenhouse molecules while zeroing out the effect of CO2 – a result arrived at without actually doing any radiative transfer modelling at all – and you really don’t have anything much to talk about. Let’s turn it around, why of all the papers you have read do you think this is credible? – gavin]

    Comment by Peter — 3 Jun 2013 @ 3:21 PM

  49. “Nothing is sustainable.”

    Particularly the population of the species in question. This nattering about ‘sustainability’ is getting tiresome, the only pressing sustainability problem humans face is over-population, and Killian is experiencing first hand the results of the ‘population collapse’ that eventually will occur in every major metropolis. Maybe when he fixes Detroit we can consider his theories further, meanwhile please stop feeding the troll.

    Comment by flxible — 3 Jun 2013 @ 5:20 PM

  50. “NOAA has done their weekly update, the week off May 26 is officially over 400 ppm. 400.03 to be precise.

    (Thanks to Tanada at POForums for catching this.)

    Comment by wili — 3 Jun 2013 @ 11:43 PM

  51. For obscure reasons related to my shameful interests in taxonomy, I came across this

    From the abstract:
    “We suggest that climate determines the equator-to-pole and continent-to-land thermal gradients that provide energy for the wind-driven turbulent mixing in the upper ocean. This mixing, in turn, controls the nutrient fluxes that determine cell size and taxa-level distributions.”

    And from the body:

    ” … throughout most of the open ocean, the increase in stratification will probably result in a decrease in the average nutrient availability and, therefore, a reduction in the abundance of large cells and a low export production. The ‘winners’ in such a situation would potentially be the coccolithophorids, small eukaryotic phytoplankton and the ubiquitous cyanobacteria. Indeed, these outcomes can be predicted with some certainty by analyses of the relevant taxa-level parameters shown in Equation 3.”

    I am in pursuit of a fascinating chain of citations both ways in time, but not being a professional marine biologist, I ask: Is the prediction of smaller cell size and increased predominance of the indicated taxa with climate change robust and well accepted in the community ?


    Comment by sidd — 4 Jun 2013 @ 12:31 AM

  52. The dismantling of pure science in Canada and the muzzling of scientists is cause for concern. The notion–put forward by some officials–that it’s about intellectual property or managing proprietary information seems to me a flagrant pretense.

    I wondered if I might be crazy until I heard Margaret Atwood:

    “This issue gets less attention than most…perhaps due to the fact that people don’t understand how research science works, and how it is related to our own health and well-being,” she said. “But it is a crucial issue and the way our scientists are being treated, and the way our basic research facilities are being torched, especially those that monitor such things as air and water quality, go to the heart of what we are still pleased to call a democracy.”

    “…Real science is relentlessly self-critical…and self-criticism can only operate where there is freedom of expression. We must allow our scientists to speak freely. And very importantly in a democracy, it is our right to hear what our scientists have discovered. Taxpayers paid for this knowledge. Give us what we paid for.

    Comment by patrick — 4 Jun 2013 @ 4:29 AM

  53. One thing that confuses me about ocean acidification is why, for example, there are clearly corals and and other shells in the Ordovician limestone near my location when the carbon dioxide levels were extremely high–an order of magnitude greater than today.

    What mechanism was at work to deal with the acidification?

    Comment by jgnfld — 4 Jun 2013 @ 7:10 AM

  54. @46

    The potential of upward convection is often left out of the renewable energy resources/flows equation.

    “The average upward convective heat flux at the bottom atmosphere is 150 W/m2, one sixth of this heat could be converted to work while it is carried upward by convection. The heat to work conversion efficiency of the process is approximately 15% because the heat is received at an average temperature of 15 C and given up at an average temperature of -15 C. The average work that could be produced in the atmosphere is therefore 25 W/m2. The total mechanical energy produced in the atmosphere is 12000 TW (25 W/m2 x 510 x 1012 m2) whereas the total work produced by humans is 2 TW. The quantity of mechanical energy which could be produced in the atmosphere is 6000 times greater than the mechanical energy produced by humans.”

    Ways in which the deployment of the above technology in a UHI environment, such as Phoenix, AZ is discussed here:

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 4 Jun 2013 @ 10:26 AM

  55. The renewable energy potential of upward convection is often left out of the discussion of renewable energy resources/flows. See

    “The average upward convective heat flux at the bottom atmosphere is 150 W/m2, one sixth of this heat could be converted to work while it is carried upward by convection. The heat to work conversion efficiency of the process is approximately 15% because the heat is received at an average temperature of 15 C and given up at an average temperature of -15 C. The average work that could be produced in the atmosphere is therefore 25 W/m2. The total mechanical energy produced in the atmosphere is 12000 TW (25 W/m2 x 510 x 1012 m2) whereas the total work produced by humans is 2 TW. The quantity of mechanical energy which could be produced in the atmosphere is 6000 times greater than the mechanical energy produced by humans.”

    For discussion on how it can mitigate adverse health effects when widely deployed in urban heat islands, such as Phoenix, AZ, see

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 4 Jun 2013 @ 10:33 AM

  56. The potential of upward convection is almost never included in the discussion of renewable energy resources/flows:

    “The average upward convective heat flux at the bottom atmosphere is 150 W/m2, one sixth of this heat could be converted to work while it is carried upward by convection. The heat to work conversion efficiency of the process is approximately 15% because the heat is received at an average temperature of 15 C and given up at an average temperature of -15 C. The average work that could be produced in the atmosphere is therefore 25 W/m2. The total mechanical energy produced in the atmosphere is 12000 TW (25 W/m2 x 510 x 1012 m2) whereas the total work produced by humans is 2 TW. The quantity of mechanical energy which could be produced in the atmosphere is 6000 times greater than the mechanical energy produced by humans.”

    The potential of the AVE technology to mitigate adverse health effects in a severe UHI environment is discussed in:

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 4 Jun 2013 @ 10:54 AM

  57. This just appeared on a list I take:

    PNW Climate Science Conference

    We are pleased to announce that the 4th annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference will be held in Portland 5-6 September 2013. The conference provides a forum for researchers and practitioners to convene and exchange scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. The conference attracts a wide range of participants including policy- and decision-makers, resource managers, and scientists, from public agencies, sovereign tribal nations, non-governmental organizations, and more. As such, the conference emphasizes oral presentations that are comprehensible to a wide audience and on topics of broad interest. This conference is an opportunity to stimulate and showcase decision-relevant climate science in the Pacific Northwest.

    Previous conferences were held in Portland in 2010, Seattle in 2011, and Boise in 2012. This conference will feature a keynote address by US Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and invited plenary talks by several other distinguished speakers.

    The conference will transcend the typical, discipline-based science conference to stimulate and develop a place-based understanding of the connections between climate and decisions that affect the people and resources in the region. We seek presentations, either oral or poster, that describe the region’s climate variability and change over time; connections between climate and forest, water, fish, and wildlife resources; climate-related natural hazards such as wildfire, drought, flooding, invasive species and shoreline change; and the emerging science of ocean acidification.

    We also seek case studies of efforts to incorporate science into planning, policy, and resource management programs and decisions; new approaches to data mining or data development; decision support tools and services related to climate adaptation; and fresh approaches or new understanding of the challenges of communicating climate science. We invite you to suggest or organize a cluster of abstracts around a theme that might be used to design a special session.

    Abstract submission is now open. Registration and lodging information will be available soon. See

    On behalf of the organizing committee,

    Philip Mote
    Director, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute Professor, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Oregon State University Corvallis, OR 97331-2209 t (541) 737-5694 f (541) 737-2540 c (541) twitter @pwmote

    University Director, DoI Northwest Climate Science Center Director, NOAA Climate Impacts Research Consortium Adjunct Professor, OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences Affiliate Professor, UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences

    Heh – ReCAPTCHA: “increase chumtst”. Let’s get a feeding frenzy going.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 4 Jun 2013 @ 11:24 AM

  58. Re- Comment by jgnfld — 4 Jun 2013 @ 7:10 AM

    I believe that you are asking an evolutionary question. Currently many marine animals are adapted to the current ocean pH and if acidification (pH reduction) were to occur over thousands of years the animals could adapt to the change. The current very rapid rate of change will affect a variety of factors such as metabolic, behavioral, and immune responses as well as biogenic calcium carbonate formation too quickly for the critters to adapt.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 4 Jun 2013 @ 5:01 PM

  59. @53

    Evolution, (and different temperature, reef ecology [sponges] perhaps?)…

    But this looked interesting :

    “…Present conditions differ from the past largely because the rate of change of atmospheric CO2 does not match the rate of mitigating geological processes. If CO2 is added slowly over hundreds of thousands of years, as it was during the Ordovician by volcanic and plate tectonic activity, the CO2 that enters the ocean has time to mix throughout the ocean from top to bottom. As a result, even though the amount of CO2 that is taken up by the ocean is large, it is spread out over a very great volume of water and the resulting decrease in pH is small. At the same time, as the CO2 level in deep oceans increases over millennia, carbonate sediments lying on the seafloor begin to dissolve and release carbonate ions that neutralize some of the acidity, further minimizing the decrease in pH. Past oceans also contained higher calcium and magnesium ion concentrations, which helped stabilize calcium carbonate minerals in marine animals’ skeletons. Today, the CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing much faster than the ocean mixes. …”

    Comment by Radge Havers — 4 Jun 2013 @ 5:41 PM

  60. Life-Producing Phosphorus Carried to Earth by Meteorites
    Climate was very different 3.5 bya. Claims of fossilized life forms from earlier than that are highly suspect.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Jun 2013 @ 6:59 PM

  61. @48- I have downloaded and read Lu’s latest. He makes the unsupported claim that water vapor and CO2 have no signficance as green house gases because they are saturated. This misunderstanding goes back to Arrhenius vs Angstrom and is covered in reasonable depth by Spencer Weart. You can’t treat the atmosphere as a solid block, you need to work in slabs.

    This is such a basic error that it raises concerns about overall scholastic competence.

    Comment by Dave123 — 4 Jun 2013 @ 8:13 PM

  62. A new study from the University of Waterloo claims that Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and not carbon dioxide have been driving global warming since the 1970s.

    According to Quing-Bin Lu, professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry, at Waterloo’s Faculty of Science, in a paper titled: “Cosmic-ray-driven reaction and greenhouse effect of halogenated molecules: Culprits for atmospheric ozone depletion and global climate change,” published this week in the International Journal of Modern Physics B, CFCs, already known to deplete ozone, have been found after an in-depth analysis of statistical data from 1850 to the present time, to be the primary cause of global climate change phenomenon.
    Quing-Bin Lu said: “Conventional thinking says that the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide has mainly contributed to global warming. But we have observed data going back to the Industrial Revolution that convincingly shows that conventional understanding is wrong. In fact, the data shows that CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays caused both the polar ozone hole and global warming.”

    Read more:

    May 30, 2013 — Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are to blame for global warming since the 1970s and not carbon dioxide, according to a researcher from the University of Waterloo in a controversial new study published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B this week.

    Anyone have some good science perspectives, context, or knowledge on this latest “study” hitting the media now?

    Comment by Sean — 4 Jun 2013 @ 10:54 PM

  63. @ 54, 55, 56 There are a few tower technologies. Here’s one that is active/passive, continually cycling. The downdraft cycle is activated by the injection of water at the top:

    The water adds an active step, but it adds predictability too.

    I like those global calculations that say: the energy is all around you, it’s more than enough. Now just figure out how to connect with it.

    Comment by patrick — 5 Jun 2013 @ 12:29 AM

  64. Now SkepticalScience covered the latest Lu, too.

    Lu Blames Global Warming on CFCs (Curve Fitting Correlations)

    Comment by prokaryotes — 5 Jun 2013 @ 4:34 AM

  65. flxible nattered: This nattering about ‘sustainability’ is getting tiresome

    the only pressing sustainability problem humans face is over-population

    False, prima facie. While over-population potentially makes even truly naturally sustainable resources such as water and soil unsustainable by exceeding limits to rates of use, even a small population will eventually run through all non-renewable resources over time if a decision is not made to design nested, regenerative environments.

    Killian is experiencing first hand the results of the ‘population collapse’ that eventually will occur in every major metropolis. Maybe when he fixes Detroit we can consider his theories further

    Logical fallacy much, or did you make me King of Detroit when I wasn’t looking and thus able to tell every resident what to do every minute and every day of their lives?

    meanwhile please stop feeding the troll.

    Now there is some irony for ya.

    Comment by Killian — 5 Jun 2013 @ 7:36 AM

  66. In case anyone has access to HBO on demand:

    There was pretty good story on GW featuring Venice and the Maldives on the new telejournalism show VICE (episode #8), be also sure to check the xtra clip…

    CAPTCHA: Benedictine tilater (is that an omen?)

    Comment by Flakmeister — 5 Jun 2013 @ 8:26 AM

  67. @63-patrick

    The Atmospheric Vortex Engine is not a *tower technology*. These involves large structures subject to wind damage. IMO, that’s one reason, among others, why none, including the much ballyhooed Enviromission project, have ever been built–no one is willing to insure them against wind damage.

    The only prototype for this, a 200 m *stack* in Manzanares, Spain was blown down in a windstorm. It could only produce 50 kw.

    The Atmospheric Vortex Engine involves a much more compact, low-profile structure, and mimics a waterspout in its *wet version*. The buoyancy of the rising column is preserved from the advection of surrounding air (as occurs in a thunderstorm), by rotation. This allows the “density-difference” to exist for up to five miles of altitude–10 times that of Enviromission, and 20 times the altitude of the structure which you have referenced.

    Comments as to the potential of upward convection as a renewable energy source continue to be invited.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 5 Jun 2013 @ 9:37 AM

  68. Sean quoted:

    Quing-Bin Lu said: “ … CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays caused both the polar ozone hole and global warming.”

    Now there’s a conspiracy theory for you. Although he forgot to mention Al Gore and the United Nations.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jun 2013 @ 10:15 AM

  69. I recently read a comment by James Annan basically saying “I told you so” in regards to the increase in deep ocean heat uptake and subsequent slow down in atmospheric temperature increase. Caused, as I understand it, but increased wind speed in the tropics (prevalence of La Nina phase in Pacific). Annan has argued for a 2C climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling and I guess he’s found a negative feedback mechanism to explain how it would work (increased wind speed resulting in greater ocean mixing).

    But I’ve read that AGW could increase the likelihood of El Ninos, and that the trade winds around Hawaii have decreased, and you’d think a lower temp gradient between the equator and poles would decrease wind speed, but again some models predict greater wind shear in the region of tropical cyclone formation.

    The ocean has the capacity to either greatly increase or decrease climate sensitivity and past ice age climates may not be a good guide due to the potential for ocean mixing rates not observed during the Pleistocene.
    Positive and negative ocean mixing feedback mechanisms would be interesting to me if anyone wants to pontificate.

    Comment by Andy — 5 Jun 2013 @ 3:30 PM

  70. #69

    James Annan said…
    Yeah, I should probably have had a tl;dr version, which is that sensitivity is still about 3C.

    The discerning reader will already have noted that my previous posts on the matter actually point to a value more likely on the low side of this rather than higher, and were I pressed for a more precise value, 2.5 might have been a better choice even then. But I’d rather be a little conservative than risk being too Pollyanna-ish about it.

    Comment by john byatt — 5 Jun 2013 @ 7:54 PM

  71. Irish Cold Spells Linked to Volcanic Eruptions, Via Old Writings
    There is a claim that these records are good enough to start tweaking climate models.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Jun 2013 @ 8:36 PM

  72. Where Trash Accumulates in the Deep Sea
    The distribution is a bit of a surprise.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Jun 2013 @ 8:43 PM

  73. Glaciers Cracking in the Presence of Carbon Dioxide
    A small but nonetheless interesting effect.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Jun 2013 @ 8:52 PM

  74. Ancient Trapped Water Explains Earth’s First Ice Age
    Expected but it is good to have actual evidence.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Jun 2013 @ 8:55 PM

  75. jgnfld, also check this:
    “Secular oscillations in the carbonate mineralogy of reef-building and sediment-producing organisms driven by tectonically forced shifts in seawater chemistry”

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 5 Jun 2013 @ 9:34 PM

  76. For those who’ve paid the basic AGU dues, this article in a recent EOS is worth a look:

    The Future of Marine Biogeochemistry, Ecosystems, and Societies
    IMBER IMBIZO III, Goa, India; 28–31 January 2013
    Alida Bundy1,
    Kon-Kee Liu2,
    Helmuth Thomas3
    Article first published online: 14 MAY 2013

    Short version: ocean microbes determine the carbon pump, and relatively small changes in the ocean can have large effects on the ocean food chain based on those microbes.

    In other words, the part of the carbon biogeochemical cycling that nobody seems to talk much about — the part that has conveniently stayed on average zeroed out, huge amount of carbon in motion but no trend, year after year — could go cattywampus.

    If you think humans are smart enough not to screw the oceans up beyond belief, any worse than we already have, you haven’t been watching.

    Try this, from the same issue of EOS, but it happens to be free to the public:
    and read down to this bit:
    “… Steve Carmel, senior vice president for
    Maersk Line, Limited, a maritime company,
    outlined two definitions of sustainability. The
    first, which he labeled the weak form and
    which he tends to favor, “says there is some
    aggregate stock of capital, both natural and
    manmade, that must be maintained to
    advance humanity’s march forward. That
    recognizes that there are trade-offs that can
    be made.” Carmel noted that the “strong”
    form of sustainability says that there are
    certain ecological principles that cannot be
    violated under any circumstances. “That
    obviously leads to a very different set of
    decision criteria and obviously conflict in the
    way we view sustainability,” he said. “The
    question is, How do we come to agreement
    outside of that?”
    — end quote—


    Ocean Sustainability Issues Are Focus of Industry Gathering (pages 182–183)
    Article first published online: 14 MAY 2013 | DOI: 10.1002/2013EO200002

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jun 2013 @ 1:51 AM

  77. Here is a video of a person, Guy McPherson, presented as a “climate scientist” (although I have never heard of him), giving a presentation in which he claims humanity is going to “go extinct by 2030”, because of runaway climate change. I am no expert myself, but I’d like to hear the opinions of some people who are more informed on the science than I am, although I am quite sceptical of his claims.

    [Response: I think you are right to be wary. He is over-interpreting and exaggerating many of the climate claims he makes, and on his blog references complete nonsense (on sea level, arctic methane, 9/11 etc.) as if it were unquestionable fact. I too have never heard of him until now. – gavin]

    Comment by PatrickF — 6 Jun 2013 @ 2:17 AM

  78. It appears to be the same talk he gave last November (better sound quality)…

    Guy McPherson: The Twin Sides of the Fossil Fuel Coin

    Comment by prokaryotes — 6 Jun 2013 @ 6:24 AM

  79. re. Guy Mcpherson. Apparently professor emeritus, University of Arizona.

    Comment by jgnfld — 6 Jun 2013 @ 8:18 AM

  80. @31 perwis had questions about Arctic Sea Ice.

    I’ve just been looking into this and find the PIOMASS ice volume plots and extrapolations so consistent and inexorable that it’s hard to believe we won’t see zero ice in September in 2015, or at the latest, 2016.
    Another version of this plot has 95% confidence boundaries that are slightly over 1 year.

    In addition, I plotted a 0 extent in 2015 on a plot of minimum Arctic Sea Ice Extent versus time and it made for a believable plot.

    I made a crude estimate from this ice extent extrapolation to the zero point giving 2.7 million square kilometers for minimum this year and 1.2 for next year. I really should plot the data points and get more accurate estimates but probably not worth the effort.

    Also, note the ice volume plots show ice free in Oct, Aug, etc., following quickly.

    Comment by Brooks Bridges — 6 Jun 2013 @ 8:29 AM

  81. I recognize Dr. McPherson’s name from some range/grassland/wildfire management reading some years ago; he’s emeritus at U. Arizona. His more recent publications are essays, I think:

    McPherson, G.R. 2011. Going back to the land in the Age of Entitlement. Conservation Biology 25:855-857.

    McPherson, G.R. 2012. Choosing an alternative path. Conservation Biology 26:383-384.

    His journal publications, work on range management and invasive species and fire, looks to be mainstream ecology by now (it may well have been ahead of its time when he published it). He coauthored a good book on fire management recently (tho’ not a revolutionary one, despite the cover blurb on it)

    His blog, regrettably, is chock full of, well, you likely already know them. The ozone lady, the cold fusion PR machine, the economic collapse crowd, and lots of links to all sorts of billions-will-die articles.

    Well, yeah, DUH! billions -are- going to die, seven billion people or so will definitely die in the current century. That’s happening regardless, unless you were planning to live forever.

    Climate change is not all about us. The commenters he’s attracted are all about themselves. They, at best, are a lot of people just catching on to what Aldo Leopold tried to explain decades ago — but interpreting everything in terms of their own personal “environment” (which is what distinguishes “environmentalists” from ecologists, often enough).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jun 2013 @ 9:35 AM

  82. Hank Roberts quotes Steve Carmel, senior vice president for Maersk Line, Limited, a maritime company, on two definitions of sustainability: “The first, which he labeled the weak form and which he tends to favor”:

    there is some aggregate stock of capital, both natural and manmade, that must be maintained to advance humanity’s march forward.

    That’s what we call the Whig view of history. Whereas AFAICT, “humanity” doesn’t march in a particular direction any more than Evolution does. Is that equivalent to Carmel’s “strong” definition of sustainability?

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 6 Jun 2013 @ 10:04 AM

  83. Ah, Stoat and commenters had some of that nonsense nailed for a while back, e.g. this on the Beckwith video claiming “six degrees C” change in a decade:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jun 2013 @ 11:22 AM

  84. Re Guy McPherson, I have met him and have known of him for years. He’s actually quite knowledgeable in terms of facts, but definitely has his own interpretation. I would caution against dismissing the possibility of extreme climate shifts. We all know they happen. There were papers not long ago that stated changes of as much as 7- 10 degree changes on decade time scales – though that may have been localized, or at least local within a larger context of change. Something to do with the time around the Dryas events and such, iirc.

    What is maddening for me about Guy is his misuse of some data even after being corrected. I do have to mention it’s not so much a misuse as a rejection of the possibility of any meaningful action. That is, regarding the paper on CO2 residence times and the finding elevated temps will persist at least 1,500 years or so, he treats this as an absolute finding. While it seems a valid finding, that paper includes pretty much nothing about artificially drawing down carbon. (I include such human plans as reforestation here.) So, yes, if we don’t do anything at all, temps and CO2 will be elevated long enough to pretty much melt civilization away.

    But what kind of idiot would just sit and boil? (I realize that sounds rhetorical, but it really wasn’t! At least, not as I was writing it.) Guy’s great caveat is, “We won’t do it! It’s not politically feasible!”

    Well, heck, that may be true, but ain’t none of us got a crystal ball, and it sure as pancakes ain’t gonna get done by not trying. Guy sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy: We can’t , so we won’t because we won’t so we can’t.

    Nice work if you can get it.

    Irrationally, Guy thinks we *can* get our butts in gear for a global bit of demolition derby. I’ve not quite figured out if this is figurative or literal or both, but he goes on and on about dismantling industrial civilization.

    I do, too, but I call it simplification and localization. There’s no way we have a globally violent or semi-violent ending to industrialization and leave ourselves with the organization and resources we need to create an entirely different pattern of living on this planet. The time lost anarchic conditions alone would likely deprive us of the means to avoid any in-process or just beginning irreversible tipping points.

    But, Guy is definitely having fun. He’s extremely personable and likeable and has an excellent sense of humor.

    He’s still wrong, but, hey, nobody is perfect!


    Comment by Killian — 6 Jun 2013 @ 1:14 PM

  85. Because design–even though these kinds of things are often flawed.

    GHG Emission Flow Chart

    Comment by Radge Havers — 6 Jun 2013 @ 2:27 PM

  86. I questioned one story/link in a climate summary thread at McPherson’s blog; backscrolling in comments, I see one of his readers has questioned most of them. As noted, they’re not to the science, they’re to other blogs.

    My guess is he’s trying to educate people who don’t know and don’t want to know about the problems and won’t listen to any qualified and careful explanation.

    But he fell into linking and quoting blog-and-newspaper claims that need debunking, the kind of scary stuff that sells newspapers.

    Reality is plenty scary.

    Knowing what’s really known, and explaining what’s really known — to become a trusted source for people who aren’t going to understand the science first hand — is terribly hard.

    “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
    ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jun 2013 @ 4:52 PM

  87. PS, McPherson’s been citing the journal article by Tim Garrett, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah, that was published in Climatic Change, mentioned here a few years back; it’s Catton’s “Overshoot” but with equations:
    DOI 10.1007/s10584-009-9717-9

    Hey, maybe it’s true and people are like the mushroom wasp.

    But ‘work as if you live in the early days of a better world’.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jun 2013 @ 5:07 PM

  88. It would be helpful if people would directly address claims, instead of generalization and vague pointers. I feature his talk because his overall sentiment and strong rhetoric seems helpful.

    Re Hank Roberts: “But he fell into linking and quoting blog-and-newspaper claims that need debunking, the kind of scary stuff that sells newspapers.”

    Which are? Link please, thanks.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 6 Jun 2013 @ 7:49 PM

  89. for prokaryotes, see his summary, what Gavin remarked on earlier.

    If you think “strong rhetoric seems helpful” you’ll like his stuff. I find it terribly tempting, but not smart PR nor good science.
    Stuff like
    —- quote—-
    “… atmospheric oxygen levels are dropping to levels considered dangerous for humans.
    An increasing number of scientists agree that warming of 4 to 6 C causes a dead planet.”
    —end quote—
    (links at his page) — those are scary claims not cited to good science. Check out his links. Look for the scientific basis, not what he claims the source says, but what’s actually written at the sources he gives.

    Then see John N-G’s piece for what seems to me a wiser approach: scientific-meta-literacy:
    He writes there: “… what it comes down to is this: climate science is enormously complex. Whatever the American public’s climate literacy level, it will always be possible to make a believable but incorrect scientific statement….
    “… Those of us who are trained scientists but who do not have enough personal literacy to independently evaluate a particular statement do not throw up our hands in despair. Instead, we evaluate the source and the context….
    “… enable the public to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of scientific information.”

    That’s the best hope. Help people distinguish good science from unreliable claims, don’t echo the unreliable stuff without giving it a good thorough assessment. Don’t exaggerate.

    Reality is terrifying, as it is now.

    You can’t make rhetoric, tempting as it is, move people to action. Rhetoric won’t save us. The exploiters and idiots have much more rhetoric.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jun 2013 @ 12:49 AM

  90. @59 The questions-and-answers on ocean acidification which you have linked are invaluable, and so is the website:

    Produced by EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification), the Q&A is one of the best things I have seen on any topic.

    I especially like the 8th section: Ocean Acidification in Geological History.

    The Q&A helps with particular questions, as in your comment.

    Plus: these pages are a manual on what’s deficient, defective, and oblivious in the think-not tank notion that global CO2 levels don’t matter now because they’ve “been higher in the past.”

    Comment by patrick — 7 Jun 2013 @ 4:40 AM

  91. For the sake of punctilious correctness, the original reads,

    And best of all is finding a place to be
    in the early days of a better civilization.

    The thing to remember is, history is going to be written by the
    offspring of the survivors, who will, as people do, see all the past
    as mere prologue to their glorious present, no matter who died back then.

    We’re back then right now.

    If we, all seven billion of us in the 2100s, can manage to die with some grace and generosity, life will continue to be more or less livable on Earth and — we can hope — around and off Earth — despite the last few centuries of utterly stupid stripmining, bottom-trolling, polluting, waste.

    If instead we take that Maersk guy’s approach, what MalAdapted identifies above as the Whig view, what I’d call Business As Usual — that would be abysmally stupid and the next generations will remember us as a dead end.

    Yes, there will be next generations, to some extent. We’re not headed for a “dead planet” — that’s rhetoric, and not helpful.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jun 2013 @ 9:19 AM

  92. Hank Roberts said Yes, there will be next generations, to some extent. We’re not headed for a “dead planet” — that’s rhetoric, and not helpful.

    It’s hard to be certain of what you mean here. Fungi? Ferns? If people, and being punctiliously accurate, it is not helpful to dismiss one end of the spectrum of possibilities. A dead planet to humans and many other species is entirely possible. It is not rhetoric. We have had 95% die-offs before and are pushing the planet harder than it has ever been. Lopping off the long tail of the distribution is not wise. Unlikely and impossible are not synonyms.

    Intimating we should design without consideration of the long tail event makes little sense to me. Doing so is more understandable when you are talking about, say, a 10.5 earthquake in LA, but not for an existential threat to global biota.

    reCAPTCHA now advocating for exercise of religion? confensi even

    Comment by Killian — 7 Jun 2013 @ 12:59 PM

  93. Of course, we are eventually headed for a dead planet, since in the normal course of stellar evolution, the Sun will burn the Earth to a cinder in a billion years or so.

    In the long run, nothing is sustainable.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Jun 2013 @ 3:21 PM

  94. RE: the Political Confusion Surrounding Global Warming

    Within the political sphere, it would seem that a particular outlook with regard to climate is synonymous with a policy to increase the cost of energy. As I have indicated before, this confusion has led to a popular questioning of the legitimacy of climate science. Within the scientific community, this questioning looks totally absurd, especially when there is no coherent scientific opposition to well-established understanding. Still, this confusion could be somewhat addressed if the climate community would respond to concerns over the rising cost energy by saying,

    “It has been suggested within the scientific community that a new generation of nuclear technology based on molten salts should have sufficient capability to address issues related to both climate and the economy. And while it is not generally the case that authorities within climate science would comment on possible responses to this dilemma as economic and political questions fall far outside the field, other disciplines have been working out the details between physics, technology, energy production, and the economy. Producing a globally relevant and broadly accepted response to our predicament will likely require an unprecedented level of political cooperation.”

    The basic facts of the situation:

    – current global energy consumption is on the order of 17 TW
    – our global population is expected to grow to between 9 and 10 billion by 2050
    – energy use will likely grow with population growth, and rising expectations for increasing the quality of life (energy-per-capita) will ensure that affordable energy gets used, regardless of source
    – it is not assured that billions of humans can survive without an industry fueled by cheap energy
    – while “renewable fuel” is free, the overall system costs are very high (even while being heavily subsidized), leading to a much lower return on investment
    – renewable systems do not necessarily get cheaper with scaling: high material demands, copious land use, very low power density for larger wind farms (to less than 1 watt/square meter suggested by meso-scale simulation), material limitations for conventional PVs; the dependency upon high levels of redundancy, storage, long distance transmission, etc.
    – some nations (like China) are pursuing a nuclear solution (we have given them molten salt technology which has already been demonstrated to work to a high degree of reliability), so nations that implement a comparatively poor energy policy should be particularly disadvantaged and dependent
    – not having adequate technology to address both climate and the economy puts civilization in a very precarious position

    In the United States we have a special opportunity to participate in the development of this promising technology. We have a competent home-grown technical community devoted to the promotion of this energy source. We have the resources and cheap energy to make rapid progress and the manufacturing experience to realize the large scale production of reactors (tens of thousands). It would seem a matter of national security to push for the development of viable sources of cheap clean energy. What hinders us now is political confusion over energy, technology, and its relationship with the economy.

    Others have seen this challenge and have already given up, instead trying to paint a pleasing picture of certain tragedy (the “soft landing”). If the strongest voices on climate were to even mention a viable technology for this situation, it should go some ways towards raising real hope. Once people come to understand what is at stake and what the technical possibilities are, they should be out in the street, not demonstrating directly over an issue of social justice, but trying to usher in a new industrial era of cheap and clean energy. If consciousness and scientific understanding move you, then it is imperative that you support the economic conditions that allow this evolutionary adaptation to thrive. Many of the things we value in civilization, whether scientific understanding, the arts, leisure time, etc., become jeopardized as proportionally more of our resources must be orientated towards securing adequate energy for mere survival. This is the “energy trap” that threatens us, and it is why we should fight so hard for the ability to alter our future.

    Comment by Corey Barcus — 7 Jun 2013 @ 4:26 PM

  95. Corey Barcus, how do you want to account for SLR (i guess molton plants need to be near water too) and more seismic activity is one response from ice melt (crust rebound).

    And then you have long build time and during this nuclear plant construction is a major source for CO2 (mainly cement).

    Nuclear plants will probably rendered useless in the mid term – become a heavy burden, because of cooling issues (as we can observe since a decade).

    Comment by prokaryotes — 7 Jun 2013 @ 5:52 PM

  96. #94–Corey, some of your ‘basic facts’ seem not to be.

    – while “renewable fuel” is free, the overall system costs are very high (even while being heavily subsidized), leading to a much lower return on investment


    (Among numerous other sources.)

    – renewable systems do not necessarily get cheaper with scaling: high material demands, copious land use, very low power density for larger wind farms (to less than 1 watt/square meter suggested by meso-scale simulation), material limitations for conventional PVs; the dependency upon high levels of redundancy, storage, long distance transmission, etc.

    Not what IRENA says: “The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) is declining for wind, solar PV, CSP and some biomass technologies, while hydropower produced at good sites is still the cheapest way to generate electricity. These technologies, excluding hydropower, have high learning rates. This means that capital costs decline by a fixed, average percentage for every doubling of installed capacity; for solar PV modules, this can be up to 22%.”

    – some nations (like China) are pursuing a nuclear solution (we have given them molten salt technology which has already been demonstrated to work to a high degree of reliability), so nations that implement a comparatively poor energy policy should be particularly disadvantaged and dependent

    And what about China’s renewables initiatives?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 Jun 2013 @ 6:24 PM

  97. The New Face of War — Orion Magazine

    … Like the insurance industry, the military recognizes that it cannot afford the luxury of remaining skeptical about climate change, the effects of which, the QDR notes, “are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters.” The military is thus “developing policies and plans to manage the effects of climate change on its operating environment, missions, and facilities.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jun 2013 @ 6:29 PM

  98. for Corey Barcus, see the extensive discussion at <a href="; Bravenewclimate on that material.
    It goes offtopic here real fast if people respond to it, from experience.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jun 2013 @ 7:51 PM

  99. 91 Hank said, “Yes, there will be next generations, to some extent.”

    For sure. We can sulphate the sky enough to bring just about any scenario down to “merely catastrophic”. For a species, that’s just an evolutionary opportunity.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 7 Jun 2013 @ 8:39 PM

  100. Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 7 Jun 2013 @ 8:39 PM

    You say- ” For a species, that’s just an evolutionary opportunity.”

    Please elaborate on specific evolutionary opportunities that you see as likely resulting from your stated context.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 7 Jun 2013 @ 9:06 PM

  101. Speaking of which, what’s new from Peter Ward on the Medea Hypothesis?

    I recall some years back an expedition traveling on an icebreaker heading to extend prior work on some outcrop of ancient rock on an island — that was expected to generate several years worth of laboratory work before they could come to any conclusions.

    I haven’t seen anything on that yet.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jun 2013 @ 10:24 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jun 2013 @ 10:31 PM

  103. Hank,

    Barry Brooks (over at BraveNewClimate) is promoting the IFR/PRISM, which I do not think has nearly the economic potential as the MSR. And the IFR is probably not going to scale to tens of terawatts due to fissile requirements.

    The link you posted did not lead me to the discussion you alluded to- Not Found.

    Comment by Corey Barcus — 7 Jun 2013 @ 11:54 PM

  104. “history is going to be written by the offspring of the survivors, who will, as people do, see all the past as mere prologue to their glorious present” – Hank Roberts

    Well no, they don’t, not in general. Historically, the notion that the present is the poor remnant of a glorious past is much more common. If our current trajectory leads to the kind of civilizational collapse that looks increasingly likely, any survivors will probably take that view.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 8 Jun 2013 @ 8:28 AM

  105. for Corey Barcus, fixing the link:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Jun 2013 @ 10:00 AM

  106. > evolution

    Of course people aren’t likely to -enjoy- the results:

    “… We can expect: (i) range expansion of warm-water species at the expense of cold-water species, which are driven poleward; (ii) species-specific changes in the abundance and seasonal window of growth of HAB taxa; (iii) earlier timing of peak production of some phytoplankton; and (iv) secondary effects for marine food webs, notably when individual zooplankton and fish grazers are differentially impacted (“match-mismatch”) by climate change. Some species of harmful algae (e.g., toxic dinoflagellates benefitting from land runoff and/or water column stratification, tropical benthic dinoflagellates responding to increased water temperatures and coral reef disturbance) may become more successful, while others may diminish in areas currently impacted…. The greatest problems for human society will be caused by being unprepared for significant range expansions or the increase of algal biotoxin problems …. Changes in phytoplankton communities provide a sensitive early warning for climate-driven perturbations to marine ecosystems.”

    Gustaaf M. Hallegraeff 10 MAR 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2010.00815.x

    I posted earlier mention of an assay using far-ranging migratory bird species looking at nitrogen isotope ratios indicating there’s been a recent change in ocean food webs after millenia of stability.

    We have broken the ocean as well as the atmosphere. How much changes as climate modelers incorporate the info from the plankton biologists?

    Rapid climatic driven shifts of diatoms at high latitudes, to give just one recent example.

    A sad reminder; yes, evolutionary pressure on rapidly reproducing organisms is a good early warning — to those who know about evolution. Some basic science is needed for people to trust the scientists who are trying to warn people what’s happening.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Jun 2013 @ 10:17 AM

  107. Corey Barcus wrote: “while ‘renewable fuel’ is free, the overall system costs are very high … renewable systems do not necessarily get cheaper with scaling”

    Those statements are blatantly false. “Overall system costs” of solar and wind generated electricity are already competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear generated electricity, and as deployment of solar and wind has skyrocketed all over the world, costs have plummeted, and there is every reason to expect that to continue.

    It’s up to the moderators to decide whether they wish to enforce their rule that discussion of nuclear power is off-topic, and I have no interest in “debating” the merits of molten salt or any other nuclear power technology, since I regard nuclear power as having little value in addressing the urgent problem of GHG emissions.

    But I do find it objectionable when advocates of nuclear power resort to demonstrable falsehoods about solar and wind energy to make their “argument”.

    It’s understandable, since the rapidly improving efficiency of solar and wind, along with their even more rapidly plummeting cost, makes the whole nuclear power “debate” moot — but it’s still objectionable.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 Jun 2013 @ 11:56 AM

  108. > present is the poor remnant

    Well, I know what you mean — but (ironically) people saying “civilization” was better in the past ignore the ecologists who warrn that our diminishing biodiversity is the consequence of our behavior, and we ought to be changing our ways to do less damage. Odd, isn’t it?

    I was thinking of the attitude that “whatever happened up til now, I’m doing all right” — people who seem to have no regret for what’s been lost from the living world. Ecologists differ on all that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Jun 2013 @ 12:10 PM

  109. “The basic facts of the situation:

    – current global energy consumption is on the order of 17 TW
    – our global population is expected to grow to between 9 and 10 billion by 2050
    – energy use will likely grow with population growth, and rising expectations for increasing the quality of life (energy-per-capita) will ensure that affordable energy gets used, regardless of source.”

    Other than current global energy consumption being on the order of 17 TW the rest of those statemnents are not facts.

    They are assumptions based on extrapolation of past trends.

    The laws of thermodynamics and actual physical resource limits and what we know about population dynamics makes me think that the likelihood of 10 billion humans living on this planet together, is a scenario that I wouldn’t necessarily bet on…

    As for expectations, etc… I think there is what I would characterize as a ‘Longage’ of expectations. Probably due for a major contraction as reality collides with them!

    Whatever is coming down the pipeline, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
    Assumptions based on the BAU paradigm are probably not going to play out as expected.

    BTW, as others have mentioned your comment on the cost of renewables and their potential could use a bit of updating. Things are in flux and much is changing very rapidly.

    Anyways, “it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future” possibly attributed to Yogi Berra.


    Comment by Fred Magyar — 8 Jun 2013 @ 1:03 PM

  110. For discussions of various electrical power generation technologies, consider using the ably moderated
    which has an entire sub-board for energy.

    But as such discussions have little to do with climatology, not here please.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Jun 2013 @ 4:51 PM

  111. David @110

    “But as such discussions have little to do with climatology, not here please.”

    Someone correct me if I am wrong, however I was under the impression that the whole point of the open thread ‘Unforced Variations’ thread was to provide a space where there could be discussions about topics which might not be climate science per se yet would have at least some connection to the subject in a bigger picture sense. I certainly think that energy generation be it by fossil fuels or alternative means is a highly relevant topic.
    Not to mention that there are legitimate scientific studies that are specifically looking at how this relates to climate science.

    “Energy is the defining challenge of the 21st century, with unprecedented implications for national security, long-term economic competitiveness, and climate change. Leading the way on finding solutions, the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are pooling their vast expertise in engineering, chemistry, biology, environmental science, law, public policy and other related fields to help achieve an affordable, sustainable and clean supply of global energy.”

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 9 Jun 2013 @ 3:16 AM

  112. Well, Hank, I think the Beckwith stuff refers to the Dansgaard-Oeschger events, as he writes about “6-14°C increase in temperature over Greenland on a decadal scale” in the past. Though he certainly did not clarify whether he meant global or local in his video talk, the former would certainly be utter nonsense.

    Comment by PatrickF — 9 Jun 2013 @ 6:46 AM

  113. Fred Magyar, actually these “debates” are for the most parts irrelevant since geo, wave, wind, solar etc have been shown to be feasible to reach low carbon emission scenarios and to be economical at the same time.We do not have the luxury to test everything over the next decades (think cold fusion). Calls for a lot of R&D is just a delay in the struggle to prevent tipping points in the earth climate system. What you suggest has therefore little to do with climatology, not here please.

    We are in the phase of roll-out, we need to deploy now – globally, if you do not understand this you have not followed the science.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 9 Jun 2013 @ 8:05 AM

  114. > Not to mention … legitimate scientific studies …
    > looking at how this relates to climate scientists.

    There’s the problem! Not citing them (and those scientists don’t post here). You know where to find them: bravenewclimate. Go there. They moderate knowledgeably, losing the opiners and copypasters fairly effectively.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Jun 2013 @ 9:28 AM

  115. Fred Magyar #111, there is a special rule here introduced after mention of ‘nuclear’ repeatedly led to thread derailment. Yes I agree it complicates discussing energy technologies comparatively ;-)

    Adding to David’s mention of BNC, let me link to Jerome a Paris’ wind power blog, also about renewables more generally.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 9 Jun 2013 @ 10:23 AM

  116. Btw, does anyone know where i can find the discussion of the Garret paper (
    that Hank mentioned (here on RC)? I cannot find it via the “search” option. Would be very interested in an evalution of his ideas.

    Comment by PatrickF — 10 Jun 2013 @ 4:53 AM

  117. I think that Garrett paper — which says “… the human system grows through a self-perpetuating feedback loop” — failed to consider Stein’s Law.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Jun 2013 @ 8:53 AM


    MODIS detected surface urban heat islands and sinks: Global locations and controls

    Good clear figures. I stumbled across that one because it cites a recent paper by Ming Cai modeling how the slight extra heat actually produced by human activity may be enough to trigger local and regional changes in movement of the atmosphere, changing where the (far larger) heat captured from the sun goes. There’s quite a bit on that:,5

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Jun 2013 @ 9:44 AM

  119. Pursuant to the discussion about discussing options for reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation, I would again like to recommend the site The site does permit comments on the articles, though at present there is relatively little discussion going on there.

    However, it is a really great site for keeping up on developments in solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources, as well as batteries and other storage technologies, as well as electric vehicles and rail. All of these fields are changing VERY rapidly, and very often I find that people opining about them here are unfortunately ill-informed about what’s really happening in these industries today.

    Also, as most readers of this blog are probably aware, Joe Romm’s site regularly features very good articles on renewable energy, nuclear power and related topics, along with excellent climate reporting.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 Jun 2013 @ 10:21 AM

  120. How _complicated_ the interactions among components of this stuff gets:

    “… Future changes in precipitation acidity are likely to depend on multiple factors including trends in NOx and NH3 emission controls, naturally occurring dust, and fossil fuel use, with significant implications for the health of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems….”

    May 2013
    Trends in cation, nitrogen, sulfate and hydrogen ion concentrations in precipitation in the United States and Europe from 1978 to 2010: a new look at an old problem

    DOI 10.1007/s10533-013-9860-2

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Jun 2013 @ 10:22 AM

  121. 113 Prok said, “We are in the phase of roll-out, we need to deploy now – globally,”

    Naw. The science is clear. we’re at 400. Our models show no particular point for tipping. They’re out there, but we don’t know where. Lowest CO2 level in 100 years should be our guide. If we hit a tipping point along the way, well, we’re human. We survived WWII. “Sulphates reduce any scenario to merely catastrophic”.

    Massive R&D for a decade, THEN a massive rollout. That’s a formula for success.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:21 AM

  122. Declining cost of wind, solar, etc is a very nice thing, and leads us to the next thing to discuss, which is:

    How would we plan to build and maintain renewable infrastructure with much less FF burning, and eventually next to none?

    Discussing renewables in the context of the current FF economy without mentioning the game-changing reduction in FF’s is kind of like wading into the Pacific from a Costa Rican beach carrying a 20-kg stone, getting up to your waist, and remarking that this is going great so far, because the water is pleasantly warm. Well, OK, but what happens after you get in over your head? Something important will change. Needs thought.

    In my humble analogy, the nice, but temporary, resource is the air to breathe. For infrastructure of all kinds, the “air” currently is nearly all transportation, ships, mines, factories, built environment, and materials dependent on FF’s.

    When do we need to make a sharp reduction in FF burning (or will be forced to anyway by availability or cost [which are just 2 sides of the same coin])? We’ve had a pretty good idea for 40 years what’s ahead, since Limits to Growth, the oil crises, etc. Extrapolate current progress to the future. Do you like the rate so far? Figures like cost per megawatt installed or cost per megawatt-hour provided do not extrapolate in any simple way (and perhaps not in any meaningful way at all) when you know you will be forced away from today’s infrastructure. You have to completely redo the engineering and economics on a new base. The executive summary is: we aren’t.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 10 Jun 2013 @ 12:12 PM

  123. #122–“How would we plan to build and maintain renewable infrastructure with much less FF burning, and eventually next to none?”

    That’s a very good question.

    I approach it with an historical one: was the existing infrastructure ever planned? Obviously, its subcomponents were, and obviously integrating them as they grew required planning. But to what extent was it all ‘planned’ per se, and to what extent did it grow from the bottom up, driven by technology, economics, and an evolving regulatory structure determined by both planning and politics?

    I don’t know the answer to that, but my guess is that there was an awful lot of ad-hocery along the way, and the same will likely be true as we transition to less FF.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Jun 2013 @ 1:28 PM

  124. Jim Larsen wrote: “Massive R&D for a decade, THEN a massive rollout.”

    With regard to solar and wind generated electricity, both massive rollout of today’s powerful and mature technologies AND massive R&D into dramatically better technologies are both well underway.

    Which is as it should be. As exciting as are the new technologies approaching commercialization (especially in solar), the current mass-market technologies are already great, and already have huge potential for rapidly slashing the GHG emissions from electricity generation.

    In that decade that you mention, using today’s solar and wind technologies, the USA could reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation to ZERO. There is no need to wait for better technology — the technology we have NOW can do that NOW.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 Jun 2013 @ 1:53 PM

  125. Re- Comment by Ric Merritt — 10 Jun 2013 @ 12:12 PM

    You say- “How would we plan to build and maintain renewable infrastructure with much less FF burning, and eventually next to none?”

    Even with the rapid increase in installed photovoltaic solar electricity, the energy generated became greater than energy required for production and installation around 2010. This net energy will increase rapidly in the future.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 10 Jun 2013 @ 3:11 PM

  126. > Massive R&D for a decade
    Transfer of investment from fossil to replacement energy
    > THEN a massive rollout.

    Fixed that for ya.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Jun 2013 @ 3:20 PM

  127. Jim Larsen @ 11:21am: “We survived WWII.”

    I have pictures of the war cemeteries I visited near the D-day landing beaches that suggests that “we” isn’t everybody. Fortunately, my father was one of the “we” – but not all the men he walked through Normandy with were so lucky. My brother was clearing out some of my mother’s effects the other month, and found old ration books from when my parents were in London in the early 1950s – still dealing with “war” shortages. “Surviving” isn’t necessarily an easy-going life-style.

    “Massive R&D for a decade, THEN a massive rollout.

    Sounds like you are planning a breakthrough. Nice when they come along, but really hard to plan on a short schedule.

    Comment by Bob Loblaw — 10 Jun 2013 @ 10:25 PM

  128. In Ancient Ice, Clues That Scientists Are Underestimating Future Sea Levels

    Comment by prokaryotes — 10 Jun 2013 @ 11:19 PM

  129. Some may find this CBC story on the Keeling curve of some interest; there’s Ralph Keeling and Dr. Janice Burch (I hope I have her name correct), among other researchers.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 11 Jun 2013 @ 1:26 AM

  130. Ric Merritt says

    How would we plan to build and maintain renewable infrastructure with much less FF burning, and eventually next to none? …

    … nearly all transportation, ships, mines, factories, built environment, and materials dependent on FF’s.

    … Figures like cost per megawatt installed or cost per megawatt-hour provided do not extrapolate in any simple way (and perhaps not in any meaningful way at all) when you know you will be forced away from today’s infrastructure. You have to completely redo the engineering and economics on a new base. The executive summary is: we aren’t.

    A low enough cost per megawatt allows hydrogen to be electrolysed out of water, carbonate rock to be pyrolysed (“calcined”) to give CO2, the leftover alkaline earth to be strewn over land or shallow sea to capture as much CO2 as it gave up, and the hydrogen and CO2 to be catalytically made into liquid hydrocarbon and water.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan — 11 Jun 2013 @ 9:43 AM

  131. Steve Fish #125 (10 Jun 2013 at 3:11 PM) —

    An EROEI > 1 for photovoltaic is great, though the actual number matters of course. If you (anybody) can turn that around to run ships, mines, and heavy machinery on it, that is what would really matter over time scales of decades to centuries. Not very close currently.

    GRL Cowan #130 (11 Jun 2013 at 9:43 AM) —

    Your statement about low-cost energy is true I guess, but not very helpful. What would make energy low-cost? We are proving that we can do a good, and improving, job of making wind turbines, PV, etc from FF, but that says little about infrastructure not supported by FF. To prove anything about that, you really have to build it, at scale. You get a stingy amount of FF for transition, which we are mostly squandering while ignoring the issue.

    Never mind my flying car, I’ll go without. Show me a container ship and one of those mining trucks with the tires twice my height, both running without FF’s, and built in factories running without FF’s, and the factories themselves built without FF’s, then we’re getting where most folks assume we’re going, without backing up their assumptions. People used to climate issues would benefit from thinking of it as a feedback problem. Feedback often makes extrapolation hazardous.

    I try to throw this into the conversation once or twice a year, when I feel it’s missing, without going on and on banging the same point. I think I’ve made the point. I have no more expertise than most folks, and less than many, but face it, there are no true experts on the future of industrial civilization. All I can legitimately ask for is that folks grapple with the right questions.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 11 Jun 2013 @ 12:01 PM

  132. As the White House prepares a climate change reform agenda that embodies the bold spirit of this year’s State of the Union address, in which President Barack Obama emphasized executive authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Congress has begun debating the nation’s new energy future. Concentrating solar power should be a key component of this dialogue.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 11 Jun 2013 @ 1:18 PM

  133. Ric Merritt says: “Show me a container ship and one of those mining trucks with the tires twice my height, both running without FF’s …”
    In fact most of those giant mining trucks, and increasingly more ships, use diesel electric propulsion, which of course could use bio-diesel rather than FF – as for the energy used to build the machines and the facilities, alternatives could be used for those applications as well. The problem is we need to just get on with it, we know there needs to be a FF free future if we’re to save some fossil petro for vital uses other than burning.

    Comment by flxible — 11 Jun 2013 @ 4:26 PM

  134. prokaryotes @128 — The link you provided invariably causes my Firefox to have a segmentation fault. So while I’d like to read the article I cannot.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Jun 2013 @ 5:56 PM

  135. Uhm, that is strange, maybe install ghostery and inclussion extensions or try that with chrome browser. Also this error msg could hint to a RAM failure?

    Comment by prokaryotes — 11 Jun 2013 @ 6:19 PM

  136. > Firefox … segmentation fault
    Same here; reported to Firefox as they request

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Jun 2013 @ 6:40 PM

  137. Bob L said, “Sounds like you are planning a breakthrough. Nice when they come along, but really hard to plan on a short schedule.”

    Secular A is the man for finding out about those. He insists they’re coming soon, and I wouldn’t bet against him.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 11 Jun 2013 @ 7:27 PM

  138. Don’t forget June 12 is hug a climate scientist day. Like this.

    Comment by GlenFergus — 12 Jun 2013 @ 3:38 AM

  139. David, go to the main page; an apparently identical link there to that ice cores page works ok for me.

    > prokaryotes
    Firefox (21.0, https-everywhere) opens your link, tries “” and crashes.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Jun 2013 @ 7:10 AM

  140. Bob L wrote: “Sounds like you are planning a breakthrough.”

    Jim Larsen replied: “Secular A is the man for finding out about those. He insists they’re coming soon …”

    Breakthroughs in solar, wind and battery technologies are occurring on a daily basis. Again, I encourage everyone to visit … it’s a great “news feed” for developments in those industries.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Jun 2013 @ 10:07 AM

  141. flxible #133 (11 Jun 2013 at 4:26 PM)

    Bio-diesel will, or would, be great, provided of course it arises from infrastructure not dependent on FF’s. But this begs the original question, namely, is such an infrastructure even possible, and if possible, can we get there without decades or centuries of rough going, maybe very very rough.

    If the inevitable decrease in FF’s comes too soon and too suddenly, we have more evidence than we usually like to think about that the lurch will cause economic disruption, with huge pressure on investments of all kinds, and political conflict with no obvious limit. We can’t alas assume that everybody will pull together to make the possible actual, because if that were likely, seems as if it should have started decades ago, at a far greater pace than we’ve seen.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 12 Jun 2013 @ 11:58 AM

  142. “… renewable technologies can provide all the power the world needs.The Renewables 100 Policy Institute presents many on its website including “A Plan to Power 100% of the Planet With Renewables,” a 2009 cover story of Scientific American ….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Jun 2013 @ 1:12 PM

  143. #141–“But this begs the original question, namely, is such an infrastructure even possible…”

    Of course it is. Energy is energy.

    The one technological difficulty that I’m seeing is high-temperature process heat. But that can in principle be supplied either by nukes or syn fuel (which can be another form of solar.)

    The economics are, admittedly, harder. But realistic pricing of carbon emissions would surely help in a major way. And I’d reiterate my point that this won’t happen pending a comprehensive top-down planning process (though the more realistic planning, the better), any more than past industrial transformations have done.

    A couple of (nuclear enthusiast) links on this:

    Personally, I’m not that squeamish about nuclear power anymore–I think that the dangers, though non-negligible, are much less than continuing BAU. But I must say that I question just how large the ‘unreplaceable’ portion of the high-temp demand is–for example, making bio-ethanol is often listed as requiring fossil fuel, but most of Brazilian production (as I understand it, anyway) is fired by biofuel (specifically, “bagasse”, the non-sugary portions of the sugarcane used as the main feedstock.) So I’m a bit ‘skeptic’ there…

    Still, either way there is no technological barrier to near-complete replacement of fossil fuels. It is true, of course, that we will be using infrastructure that was built with fossil fuels for decades to come–probably well into the next century. But who cares? Those emissions have been, er, emitted–well, many of them. But as the percentage of non-FF energy in the mix continues to rise, the carbon-intensity will continue to drop accordingly.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Jun 2013 @ 1:26 PM

  144. How Hot will it Get? (Berkeley Lab)

    “If we can limit our emissions, then the permafrost region will release less carbon to the atmosphere, there is a curve – it’s not a all or nothing question.” Ben Abbott

    Bob L wrote: “Sounds like you are planning a breakthrough.”

    According to Elon Musk, we need a breakthrough in energy density transmission.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 12 Jun 2013 @ 2:09 PM

  145. Ric Merritt wrote: “… infrastructure not dependent on FF’s … is such an infrastructure even possible …”

    There is a big difference between an infrastructure that is dependent on burning some fossil fuels to build coal-fired power plants which will subsequently spew massive amounts of carbon pollution for decades, and an infrastructure that is dependent on burning some fossil fuels to build solar power plants and wind turbines which will subsequently emit NO carbon pollution, ever.

    Likewise, there is a big difference between burning fossil fuels to build millions of gasoline-fueled cars per year, each of which will subsequently spew carbon pollution for years, and burning fossil fuels to build electric cars & rail systems which will emit no carbon pollution, ever.

    At this point, what’s urgent is not to come up with a plan to eliminate the last, most difficult-to-eliminate 10 percent of GHG emissions within a few decades — what’s urgent is to come up with a plan to eliminate the first, easiest-to-eliminate 90 percent of GHG emissions within a few years.

    Fortunately, there is a LOT of low hanging fruit — for example the 58 percent of the USA’s primary energy consumption that is outright WASTED (according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), or the coal-fired power plants that can be replaced with wind and solar much more quickly and at much lower cost than most people realize.

    That’s the stuff that we need to get on with NOW, if we are going to buy the time to tackle the more difficult-to-eliminate emissions.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Jun 2013 @ 3:15 PM

  146. Kevin McKinney wrote: “The one technological difficulty that I’m seeing is high-temperature process heat.”

    Concentrating solar thermal generates some serious heat. And of course it is always possible to use electricity (from solar, wind or hydro) to produce hydrogen fuel with electrolysis.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Jun 2013 @ 3:22 PM

  147. >> high-temperature process heat.
    >Concentrating solar thermal

    “Make hay while the sun shines”
    is a long-honored proverb,
    but I doubt that
    “smelt aluminum while the sun shines”
    is sustainable.

    Producing (and recycling) aluminum, steel, many kinds of glass and most chemical processes require better control than that.

    Now if we could put a thermostatic control on a volcano …

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Jun 2013 @ 4:30 PM

  148. #146–Yes. At one of the linked articles, the argument was made that the best CSP sites often don’t have great water resources. I don’t know how serious an argument that is; in principle you’d have to quantify need, potential resource and technological and economic constraints in bringing CSP and water together. I saw no indication that any such analysis had been done, so the point remains at the hand-waving level, AFAIK.

    And as I said, the question of how much high-temperature heat demand there is remains open in the first place.

    Good point, too, about the low-hanging 90%. Priorities…

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Jun 2013 @ 5:39 PM

  149. Hank Roberts @139 — Thanks, but unfortunately that leads to a video version and I don’t do those.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Jun 2013 @ 6:36 PM

  150. The N Hemisphere’s Atmospheric Circulation Has Collapsed Creating a Persistent Polar Cyclone

    Comment by prokaryotes — 13 Jun 2013 @ 4:50 AM

  151. > SecularAnimist says: 12 Jun 2013 at 3:15 PM
    Good points, I strongly agree, about not investing new money building infrastructure that commits to continuing use of fossil fuels.

    The coal companies are all over America’s little towns and colleges trying to get commitments to _fifty_year_contracts_ as the little old coalfired power/heat/steam plants are up for renewal. They know exactly where and who their customers are.

    Smart towns and colleges don’t commit to a future burning coal.

    Most little places aren’t that smart or well informed about alternatives.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Jun 2013 @ 8:58 AM

  152. And by going green, that same town attracted this manufacturer — of a combination of concentrating photovoltaic and solar thermal collector.
    Looks promising (not scaled for individual home use — yet).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Jun 2013 @ 9:00 AM

  153. Inspired by some of the discussion and links above, I thought I’d check back with Beacon Power/Beacon Energy and see how they are doing since the bankruptcy and acquisition by Rockland. Corporate PR is, of course, a biassed source, but nevertheless they have some good news to push:

    “Beacon’s industry-first 20-megawatt (MW) frequency regulation plant in Stephentown, New York, began full commercial operations in June 2011, and its performance has been exceptional – with no material technical issues since acquisition. Overall plant availability has been 97%, including 100% availability over the last four months.”


    “Beacon restarted manufacturing operations at its Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, facility in December 2012, and flywheels are once again in commercial production. Also in December, the company began construction of its next 20 MW frequency regulation facility, in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania. The initial 4 MW will be operational there in September 2013, with the plant expected to reach full commercial operation by mid-2014.

    “Beacon’s owners, Rockland Capital, performed a rigorous investment analysis prior to moving forward with construction of the second plant. Scott Harlan, Managing Partner at Rockland Capital, said, “We are very excited to have begun work on the Hazle project, which will help improve system-wide efficiency on the PJM power grid. At 20 MW it will be one of the largest fast-response energy storage resources in that market.”


    One of the much-pilloried DOE loan recipients who went bust, Beacon paid off most of the loan in the bankruptcy proceedings prior to acquisition. We’ll see how things shake out, but it’s nice to see that flywheel energy storage is still alive post-Solyndra, and perhaps even ‘recovering,’ if I dare use that word.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Jun 2013 @ 11:10 AM

  154. The Heartland Institute is trying to pass off its bogus Not The IPCC Report as somehow having been endorsed by the Chinese Academy of Science because they’re gotten < ahref=";. a Beijing university press with a similar name to publish it in Mandarin transaltion !

    Comment by Russell — 13 Jun 2013 @ 11:13 AM

  155. No disagreement with SA and Hank Roberts about low-hanging fruit. Burning FF for the best transition away from them at least has a rationale. Wasting them is just boneheaded.

    My concern is with the assumptions and simple extrapolations. For example, what actually happens on that hoped-for day when, say, PV reaches parity with coal for grid watts? If building PV is still dependent on an overall FF economy, then investment in PV, plain and simple, requires burning FF’s, and as they become harder to lay ones hands on, and investment on PV grows to a significant part of the economy, BOTH kinds of grid watts will refuse to become cheaper, even become more expensive. That’s only an isolated piece of a global economy full of feedbacks, and it’s an oversimplification, but it’s not nearly so damaging an oversimplification as assuming that the curves will cross and then everything will flip toward PV (or whatever). The curves are not independent!

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 13 Jun 2013 @ 11:58 AM

  156. 148 Kevin M said, “Good point, too, about the low-hanging 90%. Priorities…”

    I agree, and efficiency is the lowest-hanging fruit. Shaving a bit off Secular’s waste stat, we could cut electrical use by 50%. Another ~33% is generated by low carbon sources (hydro, nuclear, wind, solar), so that’s about a 75% reduction before counting that dirty coal plants would be disproportionately closed. Plus, there’s the advanced grid to build. If we keep slowly ramping up the manufacturing of solar and wind while churning out more of Secular’s “daily breakthroughs”, we’ll have the tools in place for a massive build-out to electrify, syn-fuel, or bio-fuel our vehicles. I’ve been saying a decade for a while. Probably more like 8 years now.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 13 Jun 2013 @ 2:34 PM

  157. NASA Finds ‘Amazing’ Levels Of Arctic Methane And CO2, Asks ‘Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?’

    Comment by prokaryotes — 13 Jun 2013 @ 6:06 PM

  158. Re- Comment by prokaryotes — 13 Jun 2013 @ 6:06 PM

    Not sleeping. Flatulent!


    Comment by Steve Fish — 13 Jun 2013 @ 7:33 PM

  159. #155–“If building PV is still dependent on an overall FF economy, then investment in PV, plain and simple, requires burning FF’s…”

    Ric, maybe I’m missing something here, but that bit seems just wrong to me. There’s nothing magical about FFs that makes them intrinsically necessary for manufacturing PV. Therefore, the posited dependence “on an overall FF economy” is irrelevant: the ‘new energy’ needed for PV manufacture can just as well come from wind, or PV, or hydro. Sure, for the near term one will burn some FFs to build PV, just because the energy mix includes FF capacity.

    But those PV modules come into service. Then what happens? Presumably, FFs are displaced and the next generation of PV has a lesser FF component built in. And since you’ve posited that the price advantage is now with PV, why would the shift toward it raise the cost of “BOTH kinds of grid watts?”

    Moreover, you seem to be overlooking an economic feedback: displacing FFs will slow the rate at which “they become harder to lay ones hands on,” presumably (and somewhat ironically) helping to hold the price down, all other things being equal. (Since, as you say, there are loops and interconnections in the economy, all other things may not be equal, but still…)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Jun 2013 @ 8:41 PM

  160. #154–Bum link; I think that quotation mark is probably the culprit, since it obviously isn’t working as HTML code. But this worked for me, in any case:

    I saw the WUWT original story and thought it odd. It makes more sense in the context supplied by the actual Chinese Academy of Science:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Jun 2013 @ 8:48 PM

  161. Antarctic Ice Shelves Melt Mostly From Below
    and the melt has been speeding up.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Jun 2013 @ 10:14 PM

  162. Thanks- here it is with the link fixed :

    The Heartland Institute is trying to pass off its bogus Not The IPCC Report as having been endorsed by the Chinese Academy of Science because they’re gotten a university with a similar name to host a launch party for its Mandarin transaltion !

    Comment by Russell — 13 Jun 2013 @ 10:33 PM

  163. The World’s Biggest Coal Company Is Turning To Solar Energy To Lower Its Utility Bill.

    India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 13 Jun 2013 @ 10:39 PM

  164. 153 Kevin McKinney: Renewables are so intermittent that the requirement is to store enough power for a whole week:
    17 trillion watts X168 hours/week= 2856 trillion watt hours of energy storage =2.86 x 10 exponent 15 = almost 3 quadrillion watt hours

    Can enough flywheels be made to store 3 quadrillion watt hours? At what price?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 14 Jun 2013 @ 12:03 AM

  165. This is what Google is up to when it isn’t providing the NSA with what it wants…

    Very Cool!

    Comment by Flakmeister — 14 Jun 2013 @ 8:38 AM

  166. #164–Edward, I’m not going to go in detail into why I think your first statement is quite wrong–and even quite wrong-headed. However, I note that the EIA says that US generation last month was:

    Total Net Generation
    (Thousand MWh) 325,372

    If I haven’t dropped a decimal point somewhere, that’s 3.25 x 10e14. I’m not sure where the order of magnitude difference comes from; perhaps you meant world rather than US generation, or maybe you were using a different measure. Or heck, maybe I did drop that decimal.

    But I really don’t care: if you think that the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing for an entire week over an area the size of the continental US, you are obviously living in a different world than the one the rest of us inhabit. From what I can tell, such a thing has never even happened over Denmark:

    (Note that this is Forbes–hardly a haven for ‘greenies.’ The difficulties and opportunities of integrating wind are both treated seriously, as far as I can tell.)

    More basically, you are kind of missing the point anyway–the (current–no pun intended) use of flywheels isn’t long-term storage, it’s quick-response grid stabilization. And at that task, they seem to be quite economical and perform much better than FF back up generators.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Jun 2013 @ 9:25 AM

  167. Edward Greisch wrote: “Renewables are so intermittent that the requirement is to store enough power for a whole week”

    With all due respect, that’s nonsense.

    Multiple studies in both Europe and the USA have demonstrated that a regional portfolio of renewable energy sources, managed through a smart grid, can produce 24×7 electricity that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear generated electricity — WITHOUT storage.

    Having said that, viable energy storage technologies abound — thermal, chemical and kinetic — and some of these are already beginning to be deployed on the grid.

    And having said that, even if one considers only solar energy without storage, the ability to (for example) provide 100 percent of the peak electricity demand of Los Angeles from locally-deployed photovoltaics on most days, is a pretty significant contribution to reducing the need for fossil fuel or nuclear generated electricity.

    Again, the site is a useful resource for keeping up with developments in both renewable energy and storage technologies.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 14 Jun 2013 @ 9:54 AM

  168. > Can enough flywheels be made
    > to store 3 quadrillion watt hours?

    When faced with a massive problem, do you wait for a single perfect solution?

    We have many possibilities; point is to improve as many of them as possible to the point where their usefulness is understood.

    Big point is — don’t rush to burn all available fossil fuel building more fossil fuel infrastructure *cough*fracking*cough*.

    Work as if you live in the early days of a better world.
    Invest for your heirs who will live there.
    Personally, I’m a big fan of the springy molecules that serve as heat stores by phase change, and as windup power storage boxes, with teeny little ratchets for mechanical input and output, also containing tiny motor-generators. Yes, they’re only science fiction–so far.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Jun 2013 @ 10:07 AM

  169. As often happens with these things, curiosity got the better of me WRT wind generation and intermittency. I found a very interesting, though a bit dated, report from GE on Texas wind power, as ERCOT contemplated scaling up to 15 GW (nameplate) wind capacity. The report found problems–but none were considered unmanageable within the bounds of existing technology.

    The general approach that they took was to compare actual wind data from 2005 and 2006 and scale it to match a 2008 ‘state of the system’ to create a (fictional) “Study Year.” Rationale is given in Section 2 of the study.

    Of interest to me was Figure 3.4, comparing wind generation for the study year with the load for the same period (p. 3-19.)


    It’s highly technical, and so a challenge for the casual reader, but certainly provides considerable insight on how wind ‘plays’ in the real world of grid operators.

    Also worth noting: in 2012, Texas hit a nameplate capacity of 12.2 GW; the 2005 RPS legislation had set a target of 10 GW by 2025. It’s extremely interesting (and encouraging, to me at least) that in jurisdiction after jurisdiction, goals for adding wind and solar have been drastically exceeded.

    That’s despite the system hitting transmission constraints. (This, too, has happened in other jurisdictions, notably China.) However, a massive addition is about to come online:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Jun 2013 @ 10:40 AM

  170. Can enough flywheels be made to store 3 quadrillion watt hours? At what price?

    It’s kinda hard to miss that global energy distribution system in the form of highly visible transmission lines. Can you explain how you missed that?

    I prefer a FUD free zone. Thanks in advance.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 14 Jun 2013 @ 11:13 AM

  171. 164 Edward G asked, “Can enough flywheels be made to store 3 quadrillion watt hours? At what price?”

    I think you’re conflating an off the grid house that has a single source of energy with a vastly interconnected grid drawing power from multiple sources and multiple locations.

    Plus, thanks to climate science and meteorology, we’ll have great forecasting, so we can plan for times of plenty and paucity on the demand side too.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Jun 2013 @ 12:21 PM

  172. Kevin McK #159 (13 Jun 2013 at 8:48 PM) —

    I’m not claiming unique brilliance about assumptions and feedbacks, just trying to keep them visible in the conversation.

    My if-then that you questioned was meant just as a tautology: in a world where building PV depends on FF (unquestionably the world we live in today, think about all the factories, transport, etc etc), investment in PV of course requires burning FF. We couldn’t even drive a truck to the job site without them. (PV here is an oversimplified stand-in for renewables generally.)

    We’d all like a world with FF decreasing towards zero, but you can’t just assume how far and fast that will go (while staying rich). If grid electricity were the only energy carrier, that assumption might not actually look too bad. Invest in PV, even if it takes initial FF, get energy out. As long as EROEI is not too bad, make more PV, get tremendously virtuous cycle, forget FF.

    The real world has some nasty roadblocks in that cycle. We need (=would like) a world-economy-sized basket of partners with grid energy. The cycles and feedbacks get hard to model, or build in the real world. PV or wind turbines get you evanescent current, and storing it is hard (= expensive, = big hits to EROEI). Converting it to liquid fuel is darned hard. Nobody knows the overall EROEI of the world system. Nice thought experiment: does it have to be a world-sized system? OK, a few dozen hunters and gatherers can survive on their own, but what’s the minimum size of a rich industrial economy, with and without FF? Remember, you need factories, ships, and mines out of your PV, not just some nice clean joules.

    If, in your words, there is “nothing magical” about FF, why are they so hard to swear off? Why haven’t 20,000 enthusiastic folks got together and made a rich but sustainable town with only initial inputs from the existing industrial economy, no continuing FF required? Could you do it with 500 people? What if the minimum is >= 100 million or 1 billion? The least you can say is that those millions need to concentrate and cooperate a lot better than presently to avoid shocks (supply, climate, whatever) that will damage ALL investment.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 14 Jun 2013 @ 1:29 PM

  173. So a tangential question.
    Carbon trackers.
    I see more and more of them.
    I may have once seen one that asked if you compost — carbon capture.
    Mostly they want location, gas, electric, transportation — all carbon burning.
    None yet has asked about planting trees or growing topsoil or even gardening.

    Is there a more comprehensive carbon tracker out there somewhere — one that does pay attention to those tiny little individual behaviors that, er, do belong in a better world?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Jun 2013 @ 2:27 PM

  174. #172–“If, in your words, there is “nothing magical” about FF, why are they so hard to swear off?”

    In a word: politics.

    In three: economic self-interest.

    In four: Unenlightened economic self-interest.

    Ric, you make some good points–certainly a little serious thought makes it clear that this isn’t, as you say, easy to model.

    But that’s partly why I’m quite sure that it’s not going to happen in a top-down, wholly ‘organized’ way. Past development didn’t; future development won’t either. And neoclassical economists and free-market advocates would argue that it actually *shouldn’t.*

    Maybe they are right about that; I don’t claim to know. But while we can’t model the total system, we do know quite well some of the directions in which we need to be moving–as our agreement on SA’s “low-hanging fruit” point illustrates.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Jun 2013 @ 5:22 PM

  175. Study of Oceans’ Past Raises Worries About Their Future
    “You wouldn’t think that putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would change the amount of nitrogen available to fish in the ocean, but it clearly does.”

    Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Jun 2013 @ 9:48 PM

  176. 153 Kevin McKinney: Renewables are so intermittent that the requirement is to store enough power for a whole week:
    17 trillion watts X168 hours/week= 2856 trillion watt hours of energy storage =2.86 x 10 exponent 15 = almost 3 quadrillion watt hours

    Can enough flywheels be made to store 3 quadrillion watt hours? At what price?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 14 Jun 2013 @ 12:03 AM

    Sure, if you think it’s possible to make current consumption levels sustainable.. which we can’t.

    How does this first order error continue to inhabit our dialogues on climate, energy and society?

    Comment by Killian — 14 Jun 2013 @ 11:25 PM

  177. @ 157 – I was reading FishOutOfWater’s post on

    After making a few inappropriate comments I have decided to keep my opinions to myself and stick with asking questions. So please excuse my interruption but this whole thing doesn’t sound good to me.

    I watched a program on The Weather Channel last night with a horrific title like: “Predicting the End” and the graphic descriptions seemed to be a bit dramatic but the gist of the program dealt with methane hydrates coming up from the seabed.

    I’m sorry but it really sounds to me like we’re fu*ked. If this methane is coming out as FishOutOfWater and others including Joe Romm are saying, how in the hell are we going to survive this? I know scientists don’t necessarily panic or even discuss being scared or worried because it’s not a rational thing to do but would someone please explain to me why we shouldn’t be worried? This information is coming from NASA. Then there’s this tidbit from the Pentagon:

    If all this methane decides to come up in the form of a massive Arctic fart, and the methane combines with water vapor forming clouds that could potentially ignite via lightning strikes…. just how serious is this? Can this wipe humans out? I’d kinda like to know if anyone has at least a general idea about what we’re in for here. The massive flooding in Europe combined with the fires and drought in Colorado and New Mexico aren’t reassuring. Thanks for your time and I apologize for interrupting the scientific discussion.

    “Permafrost, which is anything but permanent in a warming climate, stores enormous quantities of carbon. Bacteria convert that carbon to the greenhouse gases CO2 and methane (CH4) when the permafrost melts. Permafrost covers a vast area of the Arctic. Global warming is approaching the tipping point of 1.5°C when permafrost will melt all across the Arctic.”

    What then????

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 15 Jun 2013 @ 12:00 AM

  178. Arctic hydrate breakdown and catastrophic methane release is not really an issue. Even the ‘catastrophic’ Paleocene-Eocene boundary release was probably about 0.5 Gt C per year vs human release of 10Gt in 2010. The major worry is that the land carbon sink will significantly decrease because the Arctic becomes a carbon source. If Arctic carbon storage drops from about 1500 Gt to something more like the rest of the world–say 500 Gt, this could continue for quite a while.

    Comment by old_salt — 15 Jun 2013 @ 8:27 AM

  179. The state of the climate and national security

    Comment by prokaryotes — 15 Jun 2013 @ 11:06 AM

  180. Apparently there is a process for inexpensively converting CO2 to calcium carbonate with a nickel nanoparticle catalyst – that was derived from the study of sea urchins –

    The process is developed enough that it will be used in a new experimental sustainable winery on the campus of the University of California at Davis to capture CO2 from fermentation –


    Comment by Steve Fish — 15 Jun 2013 @ 11:23 AM

  181. @ 178 – I’m reading the report from NASA and they don’t seem to think this is no big deal or NOT an immediate threat according to what I’ve seen.

    “Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon – an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.”

    Early Results

    “The CARVE science team is busy analyzing data from its first full year of science flights. What they’re finding, Miller said, is both amazing and potentially troubling.”

    “Some of the methane and carbon dioxide concentrations we’ve measured have been large, and we’re seeing very different patterns from what models suggest,” Miller said. “We saw large, regional-scale episodic bursts of higher-than-normal carbon dioxide and methane in interior Alaska and across the North Slope during the spring thaw, and they lasted until after the fall refreeze. To cite another example, in July 2012 we saw methane levels over swamps in the Innoko Wilderness that were 650 parts per billion higher than normal background levels. That’s similar to what you might find in a large city.”

    That’s Methane, NOT CO2. Yes, methane is short term compared to CO2 but one massive belch from the Arctic Ocean of Methane is what concerns me. Long term we have a CO2 problem but short term looks to be an entirely different problem.

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 15 Jun 2013 @ 11:37 AM

  182. How much difference would this sort of change made (assuming hypothetically all concrete manufacturing changed to the new proportions of chemical constituents and we quit sticking rebar inside concrete where it rusts and busts after a few decades):

    “… analyses showed that the Roman recipe needed less than 10 percent lime by weight, made at two-thirds or less the temperature required by Portland cement. Lime reacting with aluminum-rich pozzolan ash and seawater formed highly stable C‑A-S-H and Al-tobermorite, insuring strength and longevity. Both the materials and the way the Romans used them hold lessons for the future…. Stronger, longer-lasting modern concrete, made with less fuel and less release of carbon into the atmosphere ….”

    (I realize it’s way premature; just curious if this kind of change makes any difference in the models, as it’s hoped it would make a difference in reality)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Jun 2013 @ 1:06 PM

  183. “Renewables are so intermittent that the requirement is to store enough power for a whole week”

    Global requirement, of course, because we all know that the Sun frequently stops radiating for a up to a week, the Moon freezes in its orbit for days at a time, the atmosphere goes into stasis etc. Hence we need to store enough energy to see us through these pesky suspensions of reality.

    Fickle bodies. What use is physics when it stops behaving in this way??

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 15 Jun 2013 @ 1:15 PM

  184. #183–“…these pesky suspensions of reality….”

    Doug, you’ve been commenting again at The World’s Best Science Blog, haven’t you?


    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 15 Jun 2013 @ 1:29 PM

  185. The “week” of no sun and no wind doesn’t have to be all at once. It can be a long, cold, cloudy and calm winter. It can be spread over 8 months in the northeastern US or northwestern Europe.

    As for this super-grid idea, we don’t have room temperature superconductors to connect Australia to England.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Jun 2013 @ 3:05 PM

  186. Kevin McKinney, SecularAnimist, Hank Roberts: to do: Get some city to try to get all of their power from renewables. Portland, Oregon would be the city to choose since they have written books on the subject.

    The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience 
by Rob Hopkins

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Jun 2013 @ 3:10 PM

  187. @Steve 180- Where’s the calcium come from? Carbonic anyhydrase catalysts are numerous and old news. The problem is where does the calcium come from?

    Comment by Dave123 — 15 Jun 2013 @ 3:31 PM

  188. > 180, 187
    Great articles Steve, thanks.
    From the second link:
    “The beauty of a nickel catalyst is that it carries on working regardless of the pH and because of its magnetic properties it can be re-captured and re-used time and time again. It’s also very cheap — 1,000 times cheaper than the enzyme. And the by-product — the carbonate — is useful and not damaging to the environment….”

    Dave123 asks where calcium comes from.
    Anyone who has boiled a kettle dry has seen a white dust in the bottom; or looked inside an old water pipe and seen white layers built up inside it.
    “Seawater contains approximately 400 ppm calcium…. Rivers generally contain 1-2 ppm calcium, but in lime areas rivers may contains calcium concentrations as high as 100 ppm.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Jun 2013 @ 4:47 PM

  189. ps for Dave123 — remember this would be added to equipment already in use: — where the limestone is used to capture the sulfur. Nobody said this was simple.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Jun 2013 @ 4:55 PM

  190. Apparently there is a process for inexpensively converting CO2 to calcium carbonate with a nickel nanoparticle catalyst – that was derived from the study of sea urchins –

    The process is developed enough that it will be used in a new experimental sustainable winery on the campus of the University of California at Davis to capture CO2 from fermentation –

    Comment by Steve Fish — 15 Jun 2013 @ 11:23 AM

    Have them call us when it’s inexpensive *and* sustainable.

    Comment by Killian — 15 Jun 2013 @ 5:06 PM

  191. #186–Ed, you may be laughing a bit behind your hand, but I appreciate the links none the less. They look pretty interesting.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 15 Jun 2013 @ 5:21 PM

  192. Also #186–“As for this super-grid idea, we don’t have room temperature superconductors to connect Australia to England.”

    I rather think England to Australia would be a tad excessive–though I guess it would pretty well solve the ‘no solar power at night’ thing.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 15 Jun 2013 @ 5:23 PM

  193. Re- Comment by Dave123 — 15 Jun 2013 @ 3:31 PM

    Dave, I know little more than what was in the articles I linked and I don’t have access to the full article in Catalysis Science & Technology. The calcium nanoparticle catalyst is apparently much less finicky than the previous enzyme methods because it is pH independent, it is a whole lot less expensive, and because nickel is slightly magnetic it can be easily separated from the calcium carbonate. The process also works with magnesium.

    As for where does calcium come from, Wikipedia says that it is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and in the ocean. Weathering of silicate rocks to release calcium ions is a part of the slow natural calcium cycle.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 15 Jun 2013 @ 6:24 PM

  194. Edward Greisch #185, the German gas network can store the equivalent in methane of half a year of national electricity consumption.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 16 Jun 2013 @ 2:14 AM

  195. To all who are still stuck in their BAU paradigm thinking, like sessile barnacles on a sinking log in the middle of the ocean. No form of alternative energy will save a system that is by definition unsustainable. That log is sinking and those who are fixed to that log by some really strong glue are going to go down with it. So arguing that alternatives don’t work is a strawman, we already know they can’t be a substitute for fossil fuels. So stop saying that!

    It is entirely possible that those who think like that are going to take all of us down with them. However in the meantime some of you might want to watch what those few who think differently have in mind. Here is the essence of the message from the Solar Impulse Live site:

    “By going beyond the question of energy, Solar Impulse would also like to encourage each and every one of us to become pioneers in our own lives, in our ways of thinking and behaving. ” Bertrand Piccard

    Perhaps if we all did that then we might together find a way to build a civilization that can do so much more with so much less. We won’t know if it is possible unless we try. What we know for sure is that the civilization that we have built can’t go on…

    The Solar Impulse landed early this morning in Washington DC, check it out! I encourage everyone to follow at least the last leg of their flight from DC to New York. Pay particular attention to how they manage energy during the flight. They have one heck of a can do TEAM!

    Cheers and best hopes for transitioning to a new less energy intensive and less wasteful paradigm!

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 16 Jun 2013 @ 7:48 AM

  196. Encouraging:
    (yes, there’s a typo in the original link, that’s how it is)

    ——excerpt follows———-
    “… Last week, a New York Appeals Court ruled unanimously that that Georgia Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, must hand over internal documents pertaining to the publication of 11 studies published in reputable scientific journals between 2008 and 2012. At issue in the case: whether the firm can be held accountable for engaging in a “crime-fraud” by planting misinformation in these journals intending to show that the so-called chrysotile asbestos in its widely used joint compound doesn’t cause cancer.

    Science falsely presented as independent research—with lawyers suggesting revisions

    Here’s what we know ….”
    ——-end excerpt————

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Jun 2013 @ 8:47 AM

  197. For those interested, the source cite:
    Matter of New York City Asbestos Litig. (2013 NY Slip Op 04127)

    “… The foregoing constitutes a sufficient factual basis for a finding that the relevant communications could have been in furtherance of a fraud, and the motion court properly confirmed the recommendation directing in camera review of the internal documents. As the court remarked, it is of concern that GP’s in-house counsel would be so intimately involved in supposedly objective scientific studies, especially in light of GP’s disclosures denying such participation (see United States v Philip Morris USA, Inc., 449 F Supp 2d 1 [D DC 2006] [applying the fraud-crime exception, in regard to defendants’ litigation-related efforts to skew smoking and health research], affd in relevant part 566 F3d 1095 [DC Cir 2009], cert denied _ US _, 130 S Ct 3501 [2010]).”

    “Advocacy scientists” will be reviewing their past transactions carefully, I expect.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Jun 2013 @ 9:37 AM

  198. So arguing that alternatives don’t work is a strawman, we already know they can’t be a substitute for fossil fuels. So stop saying that!

    FUD. I wouldn’t think of demanding that you stop posting nonsensical nonsense here, because it’s always an opportunity to counter it with facts.

    Now how could you not understand the magnitude of these quantities?

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 16 Jun 2013 @ 11:46 AM

  199. “Nearly half of the East Antarctic ice shelves are also thinning, some due to probable exposure to “warm” seawater, with connections to ice drainage basins grounded below sea level.”

    Rignot et al. Science, doi 10.1126/science.1235798

    Amery(2.4), Shackleton(1.8), Totten(2.2), Moscow University(2.0) seem to have hot water hitting their bases. I have indicated grounding line depth in Km in parentheses. At these depths sea water at 0C is 3C above the pressure melting point.

    Of course there are juicy bits concerning West Antarctica as well.


    Comment by sidd — 16 Jun 2013 @ 3:48 PM

  200. Community-sized solar cooker:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Jun 2013 @ 7:41 PM

  201. Meanwhile back in Beijing , Fred Singer & Co. are still denying the Heartland Institute has a problem with the Chinese Academy of Science.

    Comment by Russell — 16 Jun 2013 @ 8:26 PM

  202. Didn’t think we were supposed to be discussing it here anymore, but …

    Re Edward Greisch, Martin Vermeer, et al.,
    (be sure to look at the visualizations on the right side of the page)
    (I would have bumped up the CSP and PV contributions a bit, but anyway, it gives a sense of how it would work out (includes taking advantage of flexibility of hydroelectric output)
    (Now take the excess/stranded PV+wind component and turn it into fuel onsite (site some of the power plants where transmission lines cross natural gas lines?) – as has been suggested ~ 1 year ago(?). Use Li2CO3 fuel cells/batteries to make C for industry; use some biomass for C too (energy, chemical feedstock). Don’t forget to have transmission lines into Mexico, Canada, etc. HVDC is ‘undergroundable’ (though at the highest voltages? not sure), and why not put those under AC (already acquired right-of-way (HVDC cables coaxial, shouldn’t be interference? Also better for Carrington events?) Efficiency decreases for longer transmission and chemical storage, but only some fraction of the energy goes through those pathways…

    EIA has info on natural gas and petroleum/petroleum product stocks for US; consider storage potential.

    Overbuild capacity, use excess for CO2 sequestration, etc.

    May provide some links if I get back to it…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Jun 2013 @ 8:48 PM

  203. Fred Magyar — 16 Jun 2013 @ 7:48 AM

    Fred, I’m sad. I’ve been saying what we need to do for years now. Why go to another source?




    Comment by Killian — 16 Jun 2013 @ 9:44 PM

  204. Also facts.
    “… er capita ecological footprint (EF), or ecological footprint analysis (EFA), is a means of comparing consumption and lifestyles, and checking this against nature’s ability to provide for this consumption. The tool can inform policy by examining to what extent a nation uses more (or less) than is available within its territory,”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Jun 2013 @ 11:27 PM

  205. 191 Kevin McKinney: I’m laughing at Portland, Oregon, not at you. People in Portland, Oregon seem to be serious, but their leaders all resigned. Then the organization decided to do something else.
    192 Kevin McKinney: A superconducting grid covering the whole globe is the idea. The sun is sure to be shining somewhere. The goal for an electric utility is 99.998% up time, leaving no more than 10.5 minutes per year without power.

    If any of you think 99.9% of the time is reliable enough, please go ahead and try it out in your home town. You will be on the next train out of town, with tar and feathers. There are 8772.48 hours in a year. 99.9% up time leaves 8.77 hours of down time. Check “Estimated Value of Service Reliability for Electric Utility Customers in the United States” at to get the cost.

    194 Martin Vermeer: So you are suggesting that we use methane as our battery? OK if we can make methane out of the CO2 in the air. No fair using coal as your carbon source. We want zero CO2 production, remember?

    195 Fred Magyar: I expect a human population crash. “Ecological Footprints and Bio-Capacity: Essential Elements in Sustainability Assessment”  by William E. Rees, PhD, says we are 2 billion over the planet’s permanent carrying capacity without GW. But renewables still don’t work. It isn’t a strawman. Renewables are too intermittent. Period. Until you can store enough energy or invent a room temperature superconductor.

    198 Thomas Lee Elifritz: We already know that there is plenty of energy in sunshine. That is not the problem. How do we put sunshine in a bottle?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 17 Jun 2013 @ 12:23 AM

  206. @Steve 193

    My doctoral work is in catalysis, and I’ve been seeing carbonic anhydrase catalysts for decades. It’s a common problem that some news article gets written by a reporter who doesn’t have background knowledge of an area hypes a new discovery that is simply one of long string.

    But the heart of this matter are the economics of getting your hands on the calcium needed to make carbonate and precipitate that out of water. Calcium is indeed the 5th most common element on the earth’s surface….but it’s in a form where it’s largely useful for neutralizing CO2…

    Calcium Chloride (used for de-icing) is a by product of making chlorine… and when used as a de-icer ultimately ends up as calcium carbonate.

    But if you wanted to get calcium chloride by first intent, you’d find the cost prohibitive.

    The other huge source of Calcium, which accounts for its abundance is limestone- but that’s calcium carbonate already. No points here for doing anything about CO2…this stuff has already done that.

    If you want Calcium oxide- well that doesn’t work either- because you make it by calcining limestone- and that puts CO2 right back into the atmosphere.

    In otherwords, the problem here isn’t the rate at which we can hydrolyze CO2 into carbonic acid- the problem is where do we find calcium that isn’t already tied up as carbonate in the first place.

    strange capcha: skyvclan the

    Comment by Dave123 — 17 Jun 2013 @ 2:50 AM

  207. hank- @two posts.
    The stuff you see in your kettle when its boiled dry is already calcium carbonate. It’s useless for soaking up more CO2.

    If we had mountains of calcium sitting around then the reaction

    Ca + CO2 –> calcium carbonate would be a wonder way to soak up excess CO2. But unfortunately the Ca available on the surface of the planet is already in the plus 2 oxidation state, and is thus tied with some other counter ions. It takes energy (and thus the production of CO2) to put Ca in a form where it’s useful to neuturalize CO2.

    We harp on the earth’s energy balance all the time- same skill set for understanding why having yet another new carbonic anhydrase catalyst is the least of the problems.

    Comment by Dave123 — 17 Jun 2013 @ 2:57 AM

  208. Edward Greisch wrote: “A superconducting grid covering the whole globe is the idea.”

    Yes, it’s a completely unnecessary and pointless idea, but one that you keep harping on for reasons that I cannot comprehend.

    Edward Greisch wrote: “We already know that there is plenty of energy in sunshine. That is not the problem. How do we put sunshine in a bottle?”

    We have an abundance of technologies, already in use and rapidly improving, for storing the energy from sunlight in chemical, thermal or kinetic form.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Jun 2013 @ 9:51 AM

  209. Hank Roberts wrote about ecological footprint analysis: “The tool can inform policy by examining to what extent a nation uses more (or less) than is available within its territory.”

    The Institute For Local Self-Reliance looked at a part of this question, regarding energy resources in the USA, and found:

    “How self-sufficient in energy generation could states be if they relied only on their own renewable resources? … The data in this report suggest that every state could generate a significant percentage of its electricity with homegrown renewable energy. At least three-fifths of the fifty states could meet all their internal electricity needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders. Every state with a renewable energy mandate can meet it with in-state renewable fuels. And, as the report discusses, even these estimates may be conservative.”

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Jun 2013 @ 9:59 AM

  210. #205–Thanks for expanding, Ed. I’ll only say that you seem to have a very ‘binary’ view–power is either ‘up’ or ‘down’. That doesn’t match very well what I understand to be the case, nor what one would expect from the nature of renewables.

    See, for example, the GE report for ERCOT that I linked above in the thread. You’ll find that they characterize renewable variability as being similar to supply-side variations–IIRC, the term used was ‘ramping events.’ Large ‘point-source’ plants are another story.

    Of course, I’m not saying that blackouts can’t happen–they happened before renewables and they will happen again in the future–though perhaps less so, rather than more so, if we1 are smart.
    1–“We” meaning “power engineers, planners, administrators, and politicians,” primarily.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 17 Jun 2013 @ 9:59 AM

  211. > calcium
    Dave123, yes, you’re describing one part of the way we’ve overloaded natural biogeochemical cycling.

    We’ve been dumping so much CO2 so rapidly into the atmosphere — the rate of change problem.

    Finding calcium for limestone and magnesium for dolomite — available to react with that CO2 — is another rate of change issue.

    Nature’s answer in the past has been — more extreme weather, faster erosion, exposing more rock, more sediment flux, ocean pH change, change in ocean microbes, and sedimentation to make those sedimentary rocks. Eventually.

    We’re pushing CO2 increase at a rate maybe 100x faster than nature ever did.

    My bet is that the blue-green algae will take the opportunities we are providing for their return as dominant species on the planet. My other bet is they won’t show much gratitude.

    Basically we need to push the -other- parts of the biogeochemical cycle up to match the rate of fossil fuel burning for a while, or substitute for those, or live with however nature handles the mismatch.

    Calcium is available where it’s biologically available — another sunshine-limited process. Who knew?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Jun 2013 @ 10:23 AM

  212. Re- Comment by Dave123 — 17 Jun 2013 @ 2:50 AM

    My interest in the nickel nanoparticle story was regarding the fact that many interesting discoveries in science are the result of integration of two areas, such as marine biologists studying sea urchins providing an idea to chemical engineers. It is helpful to have an expert, such as yourself, to correct some of my confusions.

    You have said, several times, that carbonic anhydrases are, essentially, old hat, but it is my understanding that anhydrases are cellular biological enzymes (e.g. proteins), whereas elemental nickel is acting as an inorganic catalyst. I thought that there was a very big difference. Also, isn’t a new catalyst that is 1000 times less expensive, pH insensitive and easily recoverable from a reaction vessel a remarkable advance in this area of research? Please correct my misperceptions.

    I am aware that a lot of calcium is bound in carbonates, but this is why I mentioned silicate rock (90% of the crust) of which granite, for example, releases calcium ions from weathering without releasing CO2. These ions are a part of the calcium cycle for scavenging CO2 that would naturally bring down atmospheric concentrations in the future. Perhaps someone will find an economical process for developing calcium and I eagerly await any further developments in this research story.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 17 Jun 2013 @ 12:02 PM

  213. Edward Greisch #205:

    OK if we can make methane out of the CO2 in the air.

    Quite. Perhaps you should have read the article behind that link ;-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 17 Jun 2013 @ 12:46 PM

  214. ps, that Royal Society link is to a decades-old article as a start; follow forward from there to some of the current work. Note particularly mention of biofilm research, which is booming — fascinating stuff with many applications.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Jun 2013 @ 1:11 PM

  215. Imho – The ocean circulation connects with the south and northern hemisphere. Today’s warming and related melting increases fresh water influx at the north pole and – possibly creating a DO event on steroids. A situation will arise when the THC possibly directs less warm water to the north and iceberg breakup will cool parts of the northern hemisphere. After this “brief” cooling phase the warming then will proceed, possibly triggering more feedbacks ( think hydrates ).

    Quote from Dansgaard Oeschger Wiki: D-O cold events, and their associated influx of meltwater, reduce the strength of the North Atlantic Deep Water current (NADW), weakening the northern hemisphere circulation and therefore resulting in an increased transfer of heat polewards in the southern hemisphere. This warmer water results in melting of Antarctic ice, thereby reducing density stratification and the strength of the Antarctic Bottom Water current (AABW). This allows the NADW to return to its previous strength, driving northern hemisphere melting – and another D-O cold event. This theory may also explain Heinrich events’ apparent connection to the D-O cycle; when the accumulation of meltwater in the oceans reaches a threshold, it may have raised sea level enough to undercut the Laurentide ice sheet – causing a Heinrich event and resetting the cycle.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 17 Jun 2013 @ 1:14 PM

  216. “We’re pushing CO2 increase at a rate maybe 100x faster than nature ever did.”

    There is a natural rate and an extreme “event” rate. The natural “volcano” rate is 10.000 times slower than today’s human emissions release. And on top of this many novel greenhouse gases in the mix – different carbon sinks, different ocean state and with our ozone state who is still in trouble (see Arctic ozone hole in recent years).

    Comment by prokaryotes — 17 Jun 2013 @ 1:18 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Jun 2013 @ 1:22 PM

  218. 208 SecularAnimist: 1. We all have batteries. That isn’t the question. See:
    “A Nation-Sized Battery”

    For the US alone, “This battery would demand 5 trillion kg (5 billion tons) of lead.”

    “A USGS report from 2011 reports 80 million tons (Mt) of lead in known reserves worldwide, with 7 Mt in the U.S. A note in the report indicates that the recent demonstration of lead associated with zinc, silver, and copper deposits places the estimated (undiscovered) lead resources of the world at 1.5 billion tons. That’s still not enough to build the battery for the U.S. alone.”

    So we could build a lead acid battery that would cover from 1.6% of the US from known sources up to possibly 30% of the US if we prospect for lead everywhere on Earth. Civilization doesn’t stop at the US border. You have to make batteries for the whole planet. YOU CAN’T DO IT. THERE ISN’T ENOUGH LEAD. Same for any other kind of battery. Same for any combination of battery types.

    2. A superconducting grid covering the whole globe is required to give you 99.998% up time for your electricity supply. 99.998% up time is the standard. Think like the electric utilities. We have to make a reliable electricity supply. 21st century civilization can’t run on intermittent electricity. Why you cannot comprehend this, I don’t know.
    Be sure to read the linked papers.


    Comment by Edward Greisch — 17 Jun 2013 @ 2:42 PM

  219. We already know that there is plenty of energy in sunshine. That is not the problem. How do we put sunshine in a bottle?

    I think it’s called enthalpy of formation. There are numerous other ways to deal with the conversion problem however, the best way is to avoid it all together by finding suitable cogeneration pathways. When all else fails, sell it to the grid. These are very simple engineering problems.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifirtz — 17 Jun 2013 @ 3:29 PM

  220. Edward – why on earth would you build your nation-sized battery from lead? The obvious conventional battery would be whatever you are powering your electric cars with. Less conventional would things like pumped hydro and subsurface pressured gas systems. Lots of other ideas around for large stored energy systems.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 17 Jun 2013 @ 4:36 PM

  221. speaking of biofilms:
    Life in the ‘Plastisphere’: Microbial communities on plastic marine debris

    “… Some Plastisphere members may be opportunistic pathogens such as specific members of the genus Vibrio that dominated one of our plastic samples (the authors, unpublished data). Plastisphere communities are distinct from surrounding surface water, implying that plastic serves as a novel ecological habitat in the open ocean. Plastic has a longer half-life than most natural floating marine substrates, and a hydrophobic surface that promotes microbial colonization and biofilm formation, differing from autochthonous substrates in the upper layers of the ocean.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Jun 2013 @ 6:31 PM

  222. #218–Some reactions: 1) the “Response to Lang” paper argues that in fact you *can* do 100% renewables;
    2) the ‘lead battery for the US’ link clarifies Edward’s ‘you need energy for a week’ idea–but also brings to my mind the old joke about the spherical cow in a vacuum. It’s also worth remembering that the rule of thumb which was the starting point for the whole exercise is for *remote installations*–not large geographical regions!

    Nevertheless, the conclusion is worth quoting:

    “This post does not proclaim that there is no way to build adequate storage to accommodate a fully-renewable energy infrastructure. A distributed grid helps, and an armada of gas-fired peak-load plants would offset the need for full storage. Storage can be augmented by pumped hydro, compressed air, flywheels, other battery technologies, etc.

    Rather, the lesson is that we must work within serious constraints to meet future demands. We can’t just scale up the current go-to solution for renewable energy storage—we are yet again fresh out of silver bullet solutions. More generally, large scale energy storage is not a solved problem. We should be careful not to trivialize the problem, which tends to reduce the imperative to work like mad on establishing adequate capabilities in time (requires decades of fore-thought and planning).”

    – See more at:

    But wasn’t that what some of us were saying, more or less?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 17 Jun 2013 @ 8:58 PM

  223. Steve,

    Not trying to be picky, but simply and hands down there’s nothing special about hydrolyzing CO2. It’s just some reporter not knowing the history. Also don’t be confused by my use of carbonic anhydrase. Because of the biological circumstances it’s simply common practice to call a catalyst for hydrating CO2 a carbonic anhydrase.

    Off the top of my head, the reaction of carbonic acid with a calcium silicate to produce silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate will be the rate determining step anyhow even if the reaction is strongly exothermic, simply because of the solid liquid interface. There’s also the likelyhood of a calcium carbonate layer forming on top of the silicate, further inhibiting the reaction

    Comment by Dave123 — 17 Jun 2013 @ 9:30 PM

  224. Last comment at thread includes:

    > Thus, with a little work, our current infrastructure can crank out
    > a “national NaS battery” in about 5 years. (144 megatons sodium needed
    > / 33 million megatons produced per year). There are economic issues to
    > consider, but from a physics perspective, this is doable!
    > The comparable figure for lead batteries is 1300 years.

    As noted there, we don’t need one single solution. We need a lot.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Jun 2013 @ 10:07 PM

  225. Secrets of Abrupt Climate Shifts revisited

    Comment by prokaryotes — 18 Jun 2013 @ 12:09 AM

  226. Edward Greisch,

    I lived on wind and solar (mostly solar, wind did not work for me) for 10 years. Even on cloudy days we generated 50-75% of what we got on average days. Sunny days were a bonus. With renewables you would not have times of no power supply like with coal and nuclear. You would have less power. Brownouts can be managed by having some users volunteer (for a price) to get less power. Why would you design a battery backup for coal and nuclear to use with a renewable generating system? Can you provide a citation for a week when there was no wind over the entire USA? What week had the least wind ever measured? The sun comes up on cloudy days and everyone knows it is never cloudy over the entire USA.

    I recently read an article about the cost of backing up a nuclear plant that shut down because of a small fire. Current grids must be able to back up several megawatts of power with no notice or the grid collapses. A renewable grid is not subject to such large instantaneous fluctuations. It may be cheaper to backup renewables since they have smaller fluxes. Your claims of lead acid battery backup required are nonsensical. No-one suggests such a system except you. Think before you post more here. You damage your cause with constant FUD.

    Comment by Michael Sweet — 18 Jun 2013 @ 6:33 AM

  227. #226–Michael, the link made more sense; the physicist who wrote the piece intended the ‘national lead battery’ as a kind of demo for the size of the problem. But it is very much the “spherical cow in a vacuum;” not much relation to practical realities. I don’t know if Ed took it a tad too seriously, or just didn’t make clear to us the nature of the proposal.

    The ‘week-long reserve’ came from a rule of thumb for remote installations. But they are stand-alone point source systems; as the physicist said in his conclusion, “A distributed grid helps.” Though it seems he underestimated the degree to which that is true. Your experience echoes those of other users whose stories I have read–writer and biologist Amy Seidl, for one:

    But she does ardently wish for more storage; she bemoans the fact that on sunny June days the (mostly solar) Vermont system is fully charged by 10 AM–and still more that it is backed up by a gas generator which does see a few day’s service, generally during the winter. And that, too, sounds consonant with the experience of the unnamed physicist, who begins the article with a brief description of his own home’s solar-PV system.

    In general, I think that is a fair picture of where renewables are today: there are problems and challenges, and we do need to face them squarely–just as we need to face the need for carbon mitigation–but they are not insoluble, unmanageable nor prohibitive.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 18 Jun 2013 @ 7:46 AM

  228. #224–“As noted there, we don’t need one single solution. We need a lot.”

    Amen, Hank. That’s why I wish nuclear advocates and renewables advocates would train less fire on each other (both here and elsewhere); it just sets the table for the ‘fosso-philes.’

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 18 Jun 2013 @ 7:49 AM

  229. Edward Greisch, with all due respect, these notions about building a “nation-sized” lead-acid battery, and a “superconducting grid covering the whole globe” are just nonsense.

    Perhaps they are somebody’s idea of entertaining science fiction, but they have absolutely NOTHING to do with the reality of today’s powerful, mature, and rapidly improving solar, wind, energy storage, and distributed smart-grid technologies, which are already being deployed at all scales all over the world.

    If you want to learn about the reality of today’s renewable energy (and storage) industries, I again recommend as a good place to start. For example, they have a page where they have gathered together links to a variety of studies examining paths to achieving an electric grid powered by 70-100 percent renewable energy within a couple of decades:

    On the other hand, if you prefer to avoid educating yourself about the realities of renewable energy while continuing to spin science fiction yarns, that’s your choice.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Jun 2013 @ 9:55 AM

  230. > train less fire on each other (both here and elsewhere)

    The crap merchants fund both “sides” (the farthest-apart groups) to delay policy changes. It’s a long practiced tactic. People are suckers for it.

    Tribune watchdog: Playing with fire — Chicago Tribune‎
    “With cigarettes starting deadly fires, tobacco companies created a new scapegoat — the furniture going up in flames — and invested in a national group of fire officials …”

    Decades of deaths and wide production of hormone mimics — the price of delay. But for the industries that used the tactic, decades of profit.

    The lawyers and PR companies that do this are “just doing their job” — there’s no conscience operating.

    When your heartfelt cause gets funded by an unidentified donor, it’s hard to consider the possibility you’re being used as a puppet in the delay game.


    When you see the wackos on all sides and nobody in the middle of the policy questions, polarization and no progress — ask who’s profiting.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Jun 2013 @ 10:38 AM

  231. Since you all post about energy…

    Secretary Moniz said yesterday that the Energy Department would “aggressively” pursue solar energy because the potential is “underestimated” and competitive in many areas.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 18 Jun 2013 @ 12:38 PM

  232. re 216 prokaryotes – actually, I think it’s more like ~ 10 Gt C/yr / ~ 0.2 Gt C/yr = 50 times (give or take, and give if including other GHGs as CO2eq). That 0.2 Gt/yr geologic emission tends to be balanced by silicate weathering -> net carbonate formation + organic C sequestration (PS some geologic emission is from organic C) (with the inorganic sink generally tending to balance via negative chemical weathering feedback; organic sink is not so nicely behaved), so maybe it’s the typical order of magnitude of the imbalance that is ~ 0.001 Gt/yr (??)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 18 Jun 2013 @ 6:59 PM

  233. 209 Every state with a renewable energy mandate can meet it with in-state renewable fuels.

    This is self-evident with even a cursory understanding of energy, natural building, simplification…

    What freaks me out is that nowhere in any of the posts is the idea of *just using a lot less* ever even considered.

    Gotta laugh…

    People are crazy.

    Comment by Killian — 18 Jun 2013 @ 8:49 PM

  234. Patrick, if you start watching this lecture by James Hansen, 6 minutes in he explains how the natural rate is 10.000 times faster then today’s emission rate. At minute 6:51 the slide outlines this

    Natural Rate ~100ppm/My (0,0001 ppm/year)
    Human made Rate today ~2ppm year

    The 8 Minute Epoch 65 million Years with James Hansen

    But that figure is for the equilibrium scenario when India collided with Asia, and weathering of rocks occurred when the Himalaya grow and ending of the Deccan traps around 60 and 68 My – until to around 55 My (PETM). Though we have to tweak this natural rate to a past event or deglaciation rate in order to judge the severity of our exponential curve of todays emissions scenario. For instance the buildup phase of PETM

    Remarkably, however, even the lower estimates for the carbon release during the onset of the PETM (1 Pg C y1 ) and over the past 50 years from anthropogenic sources seem to be of a similar order of magnitude (see the Methods section). The PETM may therefore serve as a case study for the consequences of the carbon dioxide released at present by human activities.

    The PETM carbon release rate was estimated using our initial carbon input of 3,000 Pg C and an input timescale of the order of 5,000 years (ref. 29), giving a rate of 0:6 Pg C y1 . The average carbon release rate from fossil-fuel burning and cement manufacturing from 1954-2004 is 5 Pg C y1

    But the pre PETM phase lasted 3-5k years. And carbon sinks and the biosphere had time to react in a rather timely manner, meaning it was in a better shape. Today we have a unprecedented fast buildup rate, which creates an overload of emissions on the natural systems. And because we are already deep into the buildup phase we need to use the buildup rate comparison. Which is probably in the realm of what you wrote, Patrick. Instead of 3-5k we have 50-100 years.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 18 Jun 2013 @ 11:13 PM

  235. “Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight”

    They say they are going to store energy as hydrogen.

    “Comments on Jacobson et al.’s proposal for a wind, water, and solar energy future for New York State”

    Hydrogen is a “leaky” gas because, with the electron removed, the hydrogen atom is just a proton.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 19 Jun 2013 @ 12:05 AM

  236. Killian, use the quoted string in a search. The blog software doesn’t render quoted strings correctly so it’s not a clickable link; copy and paste this into your browser search box. “energy conservation”

    Same with any other quotable string you want to find at the site. “use less”

    The fact that you don’t find it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Distinguish posts by the Contributors from those by us kibitzers, too.
    Makes a difference who wrote something; search is just the first step.

    Search is your friend.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 12:26 AM

  237. @ 218 (& 224) I really like that post by Tom Murphy you’ve linked, “A Nation-Sized Battery,” from his “Do the Math” blog (2011). I think it exemplifies the kind of thinking and calculations that need to be done. A fitting hobby for a guy whose day job is shooting a laser at the moon.

    Here’s the complete course.

    It’s a talk by Murphy titled, Growth Has an Expiration Date:

    I might call it: “We’re Not Even Taking Care of Our Gerbil Yet,” which is a direct quote–well, almost.

    Murphy’s blog takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth:

    The current post is on the difference between entropy and disorder.

    Comment by patrick — 19 Jun 2013 @ 2:58 AM

  238. Thanks Patrick — the Murphy talk is very good.

    If only the economists would listen (sigh).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 9:27 AM

  239. “efficiency is a hat with only one or two bunnies left in it …. don’t think we should anticipate more than a factor of two improvement …” — Murphy talk

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 9:34 AM

  240. Vast methane ‘plumes’ seen in Arctic ocean as sea ice retreats

    Comment by prokaryotes — 19 Jun 2013 @ 9:34 AM

  241. “population … is a hockey stick in a logarithmic plot, which is super scary”
    ” … the population boom is just a fossil fuel boom ….. we’re at a very special moment in the history of humanity …. treating the last 200 year history as normal and extrapolating ruthlessly from that is a very perilous game. …. a return to more primitive ways is a distinct possibility ….”

    [if we could even sustain today’s energy use for the current world population … we’d have to live at 20 percent of current US energy use]

    “sustainable … we have no clear idea what it means or what level we can expect to operate sustainably. The fossil fuel joyride ….” [has clouded our minds]

    “If we want to build a new energy technology … that requires an up-front energy investment … what we’re running short on ….”

    — Murphy talk

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 9:44 AM

  242. #235–Thanks for those links, Ed.

    “They say they are going to store energy as hydrogen.”

    And thermal storage and battery storage and distributed EV-battery storage and a laundry list of other stuff. (I’m sure you know that part, Ed, and just didn’t mention it, but casual readers here may think you meant that exclusively.)

    “Hydrogen is a “leaky” gas because, with the electron removed, the hydrogen atom is just a proton.”

    Yes, this is well-known–and has been the crux of much research. Google “hydrogen storage technologies” and limit results to the last year to get some good info on the state of the art. Currently, the most buzz seems to be around the Aussie firm Hydrexia, which is trying to commercialize a solid-state storage technology, and has drawn investment from both the Australian government and from a private (I think) French company. I don’t have much of a take on it one way or the other myself, but it’s an ‘ongoing development.’

    In related news, Japan is apparently rolling out a limited deployment of hydrogen fuel cell cars and fueling stations. Still pretty pricey technology, though–““Prices of below ¥10 million have now come into sight,” a Toyota official said.” That’s roughly $100K USD–and that’s for “lower cost” vehicles. The fueling stations are half a million USD and up.

    Of course, Martin just posted information on Germany’s developing use of methane synthesis to store renewably-generated energy; there’s also an article about similar use of hydrogen there. Striking was the idea of using natural gas as a hydrogen storage medium.

    Another striking bit was this:

    “Germany, which has led the world in installing solar capacity, isn’t just concerned about climate change. Its leaders think that in the long term, renewable energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels, so it could give the country an economic advantage, says Miranda Schreurs, director of the Environmental Policy Research Center at the Freie Universität Berlin. Germany will serve as a test case to show whether industrialized countries can compete while relying on renewables.”

    The times continue to be ‘interesting.’

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 19 Jun 2013 @ 9:51 AM

  243. Apparently my post from above about methane plumes is back from 2011.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 19 Jun 2013 @ 10:09 AM

  244. Mr. Greisch, the document you have regurgitated talks about ‘feasibility’. This is not the issue at all, this is a requirement. You have no choice.

    You can either do this, or your nation or nation state fails. It’s an either or situation. Epic fail on your part. You are dramatically and completely misunderstanding and underestimating the magnitude of the problems of fossil fuel extraction, distribution and combustion. Once power is produced, the distribution of it is now a trivial engineering exercise, and one that can for the most part be completely avoided by in situ production and use. But even then, the grid can still get it where it needs to be, as a value added. So my suggestion to you is that when you are digging yourself a huge hole, quit digging. Just a suggestion. FYI.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 19 Jun 2013 @ 10:33 AM

  245. > vast methane plumes
    Yep, it says right at the top of the article that the blog is reposting the much-reposted Guardian story from several years ago. Semiletov’s promised scientific journal article may be this one, which mentions “intense gas torches” —

    Mechanisms responsible for degradation of submarine permafrost on the eastern arctic shelf of Russia
    Lobkovskii, L. I.; Nikiforov, S. L.; Shakhova, N. E.; Semiletov, I. P.; Libina, N. V.; Anan’ev, R. A.; Dmitrevskii, N. N.
    Doklady Earth Sciences, Volume 449, Issue 1, pp.280-283
    Abstract not Available

    DOI: 10.1134/S1028334X13030124
    Purchase on $39.95
    Teaser image of first page at

    Those reblogging the old story should note if and they’ve found something published beyond these much-repeated press releases.

    There’s probably going to be a pony there somewhere eventually — if the rate of change now is different enough from the paleo warming episodes to blow off the cover on the material that survived the past several warming episodes. It’s a big if, because the rate of change in the sediment temperatures is rather slower than that of the atmosphere.

    The question is — are there photographs and measurements published anywhere documenting the features so compellingly described in the language of the press releases and reblogged over and over and over again for years.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 1:52 PM

  246. Deniers in Congress are unrelenting: US lawmakers seek deep cuts to NASA climate research

    A bill floated by leaders of the House Science Committee seeks to restore “proper balance to NASA’s science portfolio” by slashing roughly US$500 million from the agency’s Earth science division, which received $1.785 billion this year.

    Gotta love that balance.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 19 Jun 2013 @ 3:27 PM

  247. NASA Finds ‘Amazing’ Levels Of Arctic Methane And CO2, Asks ‘Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?’

    Comment by prokaryotes — 19 Jun 2013 @ 4:02 PM

  248. 247
    What’s amazing abour 650 extra PPB of CH4 with Heartland Institute flacks waxing nostalgic for the good old days of 3,500 PPM CO2 ?

    Comment by Russell — 19 Jun 2013 @ 7:05 PM

  249. Mars Had Oxygen-Rich Atmosphere 4,000 Million Years Ago
    Amazing, if correct.

    Are we all descendents of Martians, then?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Jun 2013 @ 7:59 PM

  250. prokaryotes, do you think there’s a way to get “Climate State The Research Magazine” to begin citing sources for their stories?

    Items are reblogged, often from Joe Romm, sometimes others, but without cites to the source in the research journal being, apparently, quoted.

    For example the thing reblogged from the Guardian has an illustration, not cited to anything, that appears only on the home page but not on the article page, showing a profile view of the seabed and ocean with indications of methane plumes:×175.jpg

    Now that’s really interesting — but whose image is it?
    Is it from some published research as it appears to be?
    It’s OK to copy stuff within “fair use” guidelines, but it’d be most helpful if whoever runs Climate State The Research Magazine would cite original sources.

    As Gavin has mentioned, the best way is to give the DOI number — that’s really the only reliable longterm way later readers can find the science.

    Just for those of us who like that kind of thing. I know it gets tedious.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 8:09 PM

  251. PS, yes, Google Image Search does find prior appearances of what looks like the same illustration — going back many years, actually. So it’s not news.
    This might work; if not put the image link into the image search tool.
    But what’s the original source?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 8:12 PM

  252. PS, the earliest I found is from 2009, cited to the National Oceanography Center, Southampton, published here: by a different group of researchers, in a different location.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 8:15 PM

  253. Hank Roberts, i will try to do better with citing of images. Though cites are actually there for each single article – source and credit to many images as well. Though when it comes to getting “feature/intro” images i use Google image search and many images from there come without credits. And BECAUSE it is not always easy to get the credits. Also this means to invest extra time (searching and writing the one liner). And sometimes i do not have that time. ClimateState has currently ZERO funding, though i thank you for the constructive feedback and will try to do better, especially with images which are more scientific.

    In case of the image with methane plumes you mentioned, it is from here

    Comment by prokaryotes — 19 Jun 2013 @ 8:38 PM

  254. That’s actually a useful cite to a real publication — not about the guy your story is about, but rather different people studying a different location years earlier. That’s why citing works:

    “… this is the first time scientists have found them in where the conditions for their occurrence can be clearly attributed to climate warming.

    ‘Various people have predicted this for several years, and methane from hydrate beneath the sea bed has been strongly appealed to by scientists looking to explain past climate shifts,’ says Professor Graham Westbrook, a geophysicist at Birmingham University. ‘But this is first time anyone’s discovered a situation where it actually seems to be happening now as a result of rising water temperatures,’ he adds.”

    I believe that’s still the case, from the reading I’ve tried to do. Perhaps one of the scientists knows more.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jun 2013 @ 9:32 PM

  255. 210 Kevin McKinney: I haven’t been in a brownout. My electricity seems to be either on or off. I’ve heard that brownouts do happen in other countries. We don’t want brownouts because brownouts damage things like electric motors.

    213 Martin Vermeer: Read the link. That will be expensive methane.

    220 Phil Scadden: Try it.

    222 Kevin McKinney: [Natural] Gas fired power 66% of the time is what we were trying to get away from.

    226 Michael Sweet: What is FUD? “Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations,[1][2] politics and propaganda.
    FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor’s product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival. Wikipedia
    My electricity goes down because of storms, not because of generator problems.

    229 SecularAnimist

    244 Thomas Lee Elifritz: Yes we do have a choice.

    All of you renewables salesmen: NO FUD. I want you to put together a complete plan showing all of the costs and how it is possible. You have to make it work everywhere. So far, you have just hand waved. Ted Trainer says “There are periods when there is close to no wind blowing anywhere in a large region, and these times can last for many days. Weather tends to comes from the west in large “synoptic patterns” and these can leave the entire continent of Europe under conditions of intense calm, cloud and cold for a week at a time.
    For several days in a winter month in good wind regions there would have to be almost total reliance on some other source.”

    So quit hand waving and prove you can do it. I don’t believe you can at a price and availability that are possible without killing a few billion people.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 20 Jun 2013 @ 2:39 AM

  256. My electricity goes down because of storms, not because of generator problems.

    Edward, your electricity goes down because you have no alternative local backup. That’s your problem because many commercially available backup strategies exist but you CHOOSE not to take advantage of any of them.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 20 Jun 2013 @ 9:01 AM

  257. > renewables … you have to make it work everywhere

    Oh, stop being silly.

    The current coal-fired industrial revolution and population boom killed a whole lot of people and continues to do so. Also got a whole lot of people born, too, remember? The population “hockey stick” is coal-powered. And all those people die eventually. Lots fewer people would have been born to die without coal. But you’re somehow using human lives as the measure and attacking the idea of moving to renewable power. This is just nuts.

    Sure, you can find extremophiles who want to sit around and proclaim how salvation comes from doing only exactly what they say, exactly how they say.

    There’s a difference between saying it’s possible and saying it’s easy.
    Nobody yet is saying we’ll get out of this brief delusional bubble of easy cheap energy without doing more nasty damage and without having to pay the long-deferred costs. Nobody’s that optimistic — except the “plenty in my lifetime and after that the world ends” people.

    Don’t be one of them.

    Look at that video again:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jun 2013 @ 9:19 AM

  258. #255–“222 Kevin McKinney: [Natural] Gas fired power 66% of the time is what we were trying to get away from.”

    Quite correct, we are. I posted a sizable quote from your source, and you’ve unerringly picked out the point in it–the “armada of gas-fired peaking plants”–that I found most dubious myself.

    The Trainer article makes a series of objections to Jacobsen & Delucchi, but ignores (or predates?) Budischak et al, 2013, which did modeling including 4 years of actual weather data for the PJM grid in the US Midwest and central East:

    They found 5 occasions where gas backup was used.

    Note that the PJM region is quite a bit smaller than Europe–I’d guesstimate about one-fifth the area–as Europe is usually defined, so you wouldn’t expect greater variability in the European case. And the PJM is already interconnected with other US and Canadian markets.

    Note also that Trainer rather mixes apples and oranges by talking about “Europe” and then citing data relative to “Ireland, the UK, and Germany,” which would obviously exclude all of Southern and Eastern Europe, not to mention Scandinavia. So I am quite skeptical about his conclusions around prolonged “calm, cloudy periods.” (Quite a few of his examples also relate only to wind.)

    Finally, regarding “All of you renewables salesmen: NO FUD. I want you to put together a complete plan…”: Don’t be silly. You couldn’t put such a plan together for nuclear, and I doubt you could point to one online, either.

    But even if you could, it would be far too large for even a post, let alone a comment. Consider the Lang plan for New York you linked to as an instance on the ‘renewable side’: A good deal of the criticism in the published comment (also linked above) amounted to pointing out aspects in which Lang was incomplete or sketchy. Yet Lang’s 17 pages, probably in excess of 5,000 words, with a couple hundred bibliography items. For context, the Yamal post was about 2300 words and 5 or 6 citations.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 20 Jun 2013 @ 10:10 AM

  259. Edward Greisch wrote: “I want you to put together a complete plan showing all of the costs and how it is possible.”

    I’ve posted these links previously. You can read them, or choose to ignore them.

    Institute For Local Self-Reliance: “At least three-fifths of the fifty states could meet all their internal electricity needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders … even these estimates may be conservative.”

    CleanTechnica: “70%, 80%, 99.9%, 100% Renewables — Study Central”

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 20 Jun 2013 @ 10:12 AM

  260. For prokaryotes — seriously, man, the approach you are using — “when it comes to getting “feature/intro” images i use Google image search” — is really inappropriate for posting references to scientific reports.

    Taking a picture from one journal article and using it to illustrate another is just bad practice. Even if a newspaper does it, or another blogger does it, or you think it makes your blog more convincing to have the illustration attached to what you’re trying to show people — it’s wrong.

    If you were a journal author and did that, your paper would be withdrawn.
    I don’t know where bloggers get their ethics, but I urge you to look into your own good common sense — and do better.

    Yes, there’s one actual real example of methane coming out of ocean deposits, and you took the illustration from that — and used it to repost the apparently unsupported story widely circulated about a different scientist’s press releases about a different location.

    Not good for anybody.

    Reality is _plenty_bad_ as it is.
    Trying to tart it up for impact — makes the truth less likely to be believed.

    Ok, Jeremiad done for now. Nothing personal. You’re trying.

    No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jun 2013 @ 10:13 AM

  261. FWIW, brownouts, USA.

    They happen, for instance:


    FWIW, images.

    Cite for science, but also respect copyrights.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 20 Jun 2013 @ 11:25 AM

  262. Another factor to consider in renewables’ favor is that new generating capacity from that source is currently outstripping that of the competition and, at least according to a recent Bloomberg study is projected to continue doing so through 2030.

    To me, what is actually happening trumps the naysaying.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 20 Jun 2013 @ 12:02 PM

  263. Hank Roberts, first off i feel that this discussion belongs on my blog under said article not here. Though i’ve to disagree with you because the article in question is about methane plumes just of another magnitude. And because there is no better image i use the image which shows the physical process of smaller methane plumes. There is nothing wrong with that. And on another note, as much as i welcome blog feedback i think the primarily focus should be the topic at hand, not details.

    If you sincerely want to contribute something constructive in the future, link under said article a better image instead of posting on an entire different site, thanks!

    Captcha = fulfils onHumen

    Comment by prokaryotes — 20 Jun 2013 @ 12:57 PM

  264. #260–“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

    Or, alternately and from the same pen:

    “Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us!”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 20 Jun 2013 @ 1:01 PM

  265. PS, would someone else take on the grouch role for a day or six? I need a break.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jun 2013 @ 1:20 PM

  266. Celebrate the Pale Blue Dot

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jun 2013 @ 1:54 PM

  267. re 237 Patrick – the entropy link was quite interesting.

    I noted this comment – part 3, I agreed with the first sentence at least – that one can meaningfully discuss low and high-entropy energy (relatively, of course) – and that this can be quantified – in fact the original post does so (low-entropy energy from the sun travels through space, then upon reaching the atmosphere scattering and absorption add some entropy (amounts vary over spectrum, direction and maybe polarization ?)… photosynthesis will have smaller entropy gain than thermalization at various temperatures – some conversion to kinetic energy is allowed because thermalization is not all at the lowest temperatures (atmosphere (troposphere in particular) is a heat engine, although some parts (I think within the troposphere, but also above and below? (I’m thinking of wind-driven upwelling. There is an adiabatic lapse rate for the ocean so there should be some conversion to enthalpy, right?) of the circulation are heat pumps to do the reverse (Brewer-Dobson circulation is an example; also Ferrel Cell, although as a heat pump that’s a goofy one because it’s an average circulation superimposed on average temperature – it exists mathematically but I’m not sure to the extent that it exists like a real positive mass density in a spherical shell as opposed to the existence of the negative density spherical region that exists in an overlapping concentric positive density region) in space as opposed to the regions of negative mass that you add to some other mass distributions to get a total) … ultimately radiated to space with a higher entropy (entropy produced on Earth and carried away) ,;

    the second part I’d amend to making the most efficient/valuable/interesting/etc. use of that process or else forcing it to be slower or through one particular route rather than another (spontaneous energy flows with gains in entropy)

    it’s interesting that the comment misses the point when applying it to solar and wind power (solar power resource is relatively low entropy as discussed in the blog; wind power should be lower still (it’s macroscopic kinetic energy!)
    – The collecting and transmission of this power being analogous to the sorting of salt and coffee grains while the entropy of the fluxes is mainly like that within grains

    (although there is an additional limit to conversion efficienty relative to incident energy flux, as some of that flux must be rejected in either case (Betz limit for wind power, solar conversion requires heating up an end of a mechanical heat engine which must then emit radiation (a greenhouse effect can reduce this, but as the heat engine Th approaches photospheric temperatures, a greenhouse becomes less effective) or in the case of PV, the generation of electron-hole pairs with some population density that, for a given energy separation, corresponds to a brightness temperature (which is not generally the actual temperature of either the electron or hole populations when considered separately), corresponding to the minimum photon intensity that must be emitted at that part of the spectrum; as best I recall from the last time I studied it, there is a trade-off between the efficiency of conversion of the captured energy and the efficiency of capturing the energy (Wikipedia has good info on these topics, I think).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 20 Jun 2013 @ 4:45 PM

  268. re 255 Edward Greisch -@ my 202 – see link given – see visualizations to the right, and pdfs at the bottom –
    From “Volume 2: Renewable Electricity Generation and Storage Technologies”, section 10.5.1 (emphasis mine, compare to first figure at ):

    One key difference between wind and PV is that a single small PV system frequently exhibits greater variability than wind in short-term power output (seconds to minutes) due to passing clouds (Curtright and Apt 2008). However, the aggregate output from a large PV plant (several MWs), or several small PV systems distributed over a wide geographical area, has far less variability and significantly reduced short-term ramp rates than a single small PV system (see Figure 10-18). Even the combined output of a few PV systems has been shown to significantly reduce the magnitude of peak fluctuations in power output. This suggests that the distributed nature of PV installations can mitigate the short-term variability of the system as a whole.

    “Western Wind and Solar Integration Study: Executive Summary”

    Regarding HVDC, , … I had others but I can’t find them just now. But see also the nrel links.

    From , I roughly estimated 3.9 T cubic ft natural gas storage (working gas) capacity.
    Based on (which lists stock, not capacity, so this may be an underestimate), I decided to use 1.8 G barrels and 0.7 G barrels total and non-crude oil.
    With that and numbers from , ,
    (year 2011)
    I got natural gas storage capacity of 16.0 % annual nat.gas consumption and 4.09 % of total primary energy (14.9 days primary energy storage). For petroleum, I got (total,non-crude) 26.2 %, 10.2 % of annual petroleum consumption and 32.6, 13.5 days of total primary energy consumption. Of course that’s a rough estimate that doesn’t take into account differences in volumetric energy densities among petroleum and it’s products.


    Well, there’s conversion efficiency – two way if it goes back into power plants (CHP or not? What about putting TPV cells on residential furnaces; natural gas lines used like transmission, sort’a – but don’t rely on this too much because where winters aren’t too cold, heat pumps make sense (they might make some sense anyway – if ground-sourced (?)… or for preheating… etc.). On the other hand, remember to take into account that I put the storage in terms of primary energy consumption (When given in terms of primary energy or using Btu, The EIA generally gives non-thermal (and, I think, CSP and geothermal) renewable energy in terms of primary equivalent based on a standard power plant conversion ratio, although I’ve noticed (I think) one exemption).

    Meanwhile, some energy consumption is storable (cooling and heating) (combine smart grid with satellite imagery, etc.)

    We have 21 or 22 GW hydro pumped storage capacity ( ), though I’m not sure of the energy capacity. The use of hydro for hourly-daily balancing is pictured in the first nrel link (visualizations: ). I can’t find the total area of hydroelectric reservoirs… but I’m not the only one who’s thought of this: (a much more ambitious version: . Could the the more realistic version just use the existing canal(s)?)

    I haven’t been able to find any studies on the correlation between solar power and wind power resources (wind aids in evaporation but also can be associated with precipitation) and available hydroelectric power and water usage. At least with solar, I’d expect a tendency to increase during droughts, thus, aside from the average seasonal cycles, solar might balance hydroelectric and desalination/pumping needs. But to what extent? That’s actually a climatological question, so unlike all of the above it may be ‘legal’ here.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 20 Jun 2013 @ 7:33 PM

  269. The Sublime of Superman, ‘Man of Steel’
    … alien invaders try to inject particulates into earth atmosphere.

    Very cool to see that blockbuster movies now feature soem form of

    Comment by prokaryotes — 20 Jun 2013 @ 10:59 PM

  270. science, related to climate change.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 20 Jun 2013 @ 11:00 PM

  271. 258 Kevin McKinney RE:

    “For scenarios in which backup is used rarely and at moderate fractions of load, LOAD CURTAILMENT is probably more sensible than fossil generation.” Nope. You can’t turn off my air conditioner when I need it most.

    “If renewable generation is insufficient for that hour’s load, storage is used first, then fossil generation.”

    Fossil fuel is used 9 hours/year. A great improvement but not quite as advertised.

    They use 3 times as many wind turbines as nameplate power would suggest. I expected 4 or 5 times nameplate power would be required, but they make up for it with solar. Their price for wind turbines is unrealistically low.

    They assume zero line loss.

    Meteorological stations are sparse. This is unrealistic, especially because they have no meteorological stations in hilly or mountainous regions. There is almost no wind in the valleys. You are forced to build very tall structures on the peaks only since the mountains are forested and may be off limits. That applies to West Virginia, the western 2/3 of Pennsylvania, part of Virginia and maybe Kentucky. This is where “Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time” fails.

    Good try. Doing it for nuclear is a 1 liner. France already does it 80%.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Jun 2013 @ 12:43 AM

  272. #271–Thanks for reading in some depth…

    “You can’t turn off my air conditioner when I need it most.” I don’t think that’s a realistic example of ‘load curtailment’ in this context–though I’m willing to be educated.

    “Fossil fuel is used 9 hours/year. A great improvement…” Indeed.

    “Their price for wind turbines is unrealistically low.” Really? Sez who? Their notes on the question:

    For the cost of renewable energy and storage, we used published costs for 2008, and published projections for 2030, all in 2010 dollars. For example, projected capital costs for wind and solar in 2030 are roughly half of today’s capital costs but projected operations and maintenance (O&M) costs are about the same (references and explanations of costs are in Tables 1 and 2).

    They do cite published sources for their projections, which seems to merit more than a flat ‘unrealistic.’

    “Meteorological stations are sparse…” I have no idea what this paragraph is supposed to be about. I’m pretty sure that wind resources are mapped, and are being mapped better on an ongoing basis–especially where actual projects are under consideration. But perhaps that isn’t to your point? And what do met stations have to do with it?

    “Good try. Doing it for nuclear is a 1 liner. France already does it 80%.”

    And yet you are insisting on 99.9% for renewables… personally, I wouldn’t mind a bit if the US increased nuclear to, say 25% or 30% of the mix if it came straight off of the coal capacity. But do you have a detailed plan for making that happen politically? (Sadly, I don’t see it happening.) And what would be the build time, it it did?

    Recent history on that, per WIki:

    In late 2011 and early 2012, construction of four new nuclear reactor units at two exiting plants were approved, the first such in 34 years. As of December 2011, construction by Southern Company on two new nuclear units has begun, Units 3 and 4 at the existing Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, and they are expected to be delivering commercial power by 2016 and 2017, respectively.[92][93] Shortly thereafter, Units 2 and 3 at the SCANA Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina were approved, and are scheduled to come online in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

    A number of other reactors are or were under consideration – a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland, a third and fourth reactor at South Texas Nuclear Generating Station (now canceled), together with two other reactors in Texas, four in Florida, and one in Missouri. However, these have all been postponed or canceled. But, looking ahead, experts see continuing challenges that will make it very difficult for the nuclear power industry to expand beyond a small handful of reactor projects…

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Jun 2013 @ 8:30 AM

  273. > Nope. You can’t turn off my air conditioner when I need it most.

    Demand does not always equal supply.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Jun 2013 @ 8:58 AM

  274. RE: 271 and previous, ad nauseum. (Taking on grouch role)

    What’s happening right now trumps your naysaying:

    “A new report from the Worldwatch Institute says that the installed capacity of renewable power generation, excluding large hydro, surpassed the global installed capacity of nuclear energy generation last year. The cross-over point on output is expected in a few years.”

    And this: “…the price of renewables is coming down and that of nuclear is rising and needs a subsidy to make it competitive…But it is clear that without subsidy – in the form of a high fixed price for electricity that the consumer has to pay for 30 years – nuclear power plants are unlikely to be built.”

    Etc., etc. Point is, if there were substantial validity to your position, we wouldn’t be seeing explosive growth (and declining prices) for renewables — instead we’d see something other than stagnation in nukes.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 21 Jun 2013 @ 10:29 AM

  275. Re- Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Jun 2013 @ 12:43 AM

    You say- “Nope. You can’t turn off my air conditioner when I need it most.”

    This is the selfish and self-indulgent attitude that is a major part of our problem.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 21 Jun 2013 @ 10:41 AM

  276. Re- Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jun 2013 @ 1:20 PM

    For intelligent and accurate communication scholarship is very important. Those of us who mostly read greatly appreciate your comments. Go grouch go!


    Comment by Steve Fish — 21 Jun 2013 @ 10:53 AM

  277. > the article in question is about methane plumes
    > just of another magnitude. And because there is no
    > better image i use the image which shows the physical
    > process of smaller methane plumes.
    > There is nothing wrong with that.

    Please reconsider your approach.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Jun 2013 @ 11:02 AM

  278. This blogger did a good job on the subject:,-be-wary-of-methane-emergency-claims

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Jun 2013 @ 11:08 AM

  279. {NASA Finds ‘Amazing’ Levels Of Arctic Methane And CO2, Asks ‘Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?’

    Comment by prokaryotes}

    I think I posted this earlier in the thread and don’t remember getting any sort of answer to my question so I’ll ask it again…

    Do we have or will we have a Methane problem soon? I know methane reverts to CO2 eventually but is this a serious problem in the short term? I’m trying to figure out if this is a big deal compared to the warming we already have or will the Methane cause a spike in temperature and exacerbate the warming?


    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 21 Jun 2013 @ 4:48 PM

  280. From a quick scan of recent comments it didn’t seem that this has risen to the surface – apologies if it’s already been noted. I happened upon it via a headline gadget on my browser and though might be worth glance this weekend as beach book reading for those up for a break from bodice ripper fare.

    The gadget produced actually produced this link, providing broad hints of the red meat that the usual suspects may or may not be regurgitating soon.

    Comment by WhiteBeard — 21 Jun 2013 @ 6:19 PM

  281. More off topic (and rather ignorant I fear) commentary which is entirely USA-centric.

    Global warming is a world problem. More important, Real Climate is about climate, not purported changes to the energy mix. Could we please stay on topic?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Jun 2013 @ 6:26 PM

  282. “Fig. 1. A map showing the outlines of the current PJM system (blue line) and of the inland and offshore meteorological stations used for the wind data (pink asterisks).”

    LOOK at the pink asterisks. They don’t cover the map.

    275 Steve Fish: Air conditioning is a life saver.

    To those who are FUDing nuclear: 281 David B. Benson is correct. I didn’t bring up nuclear.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Jun 2013 @ 10:02 PM

  283. #282–“LOOK at the pink asterisks. They don’t cover the map.”

    So your point is that you think more met stations would document more shortfalls of wind?

    Maybe, but I’d expect that more likely they’d reduce those shortfalls. And I’m a musician; I can wave my hands real pretty.

    But more seriously, perhaps these images will suggest why the stations used cluster the way they do:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Jun 2013 @ 10:45 PM

  284. Just a video with aerial views of the current Calgary flooding and yesterday’s interview with Bob Sanford on The Current podcast, he elaborates on extreme weather and flooding.

    Canada Calgary Aerial View + Bob Sanford speaks Floods June 22, 2013

    Comment by prokaryotes — 22 Jun 2013 @ 12:53 AM

  285. Air conditioning is a life saver.

    Concrete earth sheltered well insulated (external to the structure) living space completely obviates the need for the energy, the machinery and the hazardous gases. Improved thermoelectrics are already indicated by theory.

    You need to get with the program instead of making up excuses for inaction. This is getting tiresome, if anybody is actually interested in the big picture, I have recently submitted a comment to the NAC (NRC) Space Board which outlines the only reasonable method to proceed with this problem. Here. Enjoy your global meltdown.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 22 Jun 2013 @ 5:57 AM

  286. Could we please stay on topic?

    Dude, it’s a open thread, and I fail to see how you can seperate energy and population from climate, or anything else for that matter. Epic fail there, David, seriously.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 22 Jun 2013 @ 5:59 AM

  287. Kevin #283,

    actually there is a new generation of wind turbines that can take advantage of low wind, described here. The basic idea is very simple: bigger rotors for given generator size. They start producing earlier and run for more hours per year, resulting (paradoxically) in higher capacity factors.

    In Germany, a lot of “re-powering” — and new installation — of wind turbines in low-wind areas is now taking place, including the South (which was traditionally considered unsuitable for wind).

    BTW hub heights are 90-140 m. Those American maps for a hub height of 50 m look dated.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 22 Jun 2013 @ 7:04 AM

  288. >entirely US-centric


    There are reasons growth in renewables is exploding and not for, uh, other types.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 22 Jun 2013 @ 7:33 AM

  289. Re- Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Jun 2013 @ 10:02 PM

    You say- “Air conditioning is a life saver.”

    You must live in some terrible area where multiple generations have not prospered, raised children, lived long, and enjoyed life prior to the advent of air conditioning. Now if you are referring to the very small percentage of people who, because they are ill or otherwise compromised, might need air conditioning (just like some need oxygen), then your statement is true, but these folks require an insignificant amount of extra electrical generation.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 22 Jun 2013 @ 10:39 AM

  290. #77 PatrickF

    Prof Emeritus Guy McPherson apparently commands an enviable following.


    Comment by simon abingdon — 22 Jun 2013 @ 10:41 AM

  291. #287–Martin, thanks for that link. It’s good to know about such developments (especially as I live in a relatively wind-poor part of the US.

    Yes, the 50-meter info is dated, but at least it is consistent, presumably accurate, and conveniently available for purposes such as the comparison I made. Anybody know of something more up to date?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Jun 2013 @ 11:00 AM

  292. Wannabe troglodytes and ‘Heatstroke ? What heatstroke?’ enthusiasts are invited to provide alternative explanations of why Florida’s hockey stick demographic curve inflects upward in the year freon was invented ?

    Comment by Russell — 22 Jun 2013 @ 11:20 AM

  293. #290–Including a terribly sincere and well-intentioned guy who writes, in the linked blog :

    “Therefore, with reference to the above graph, the thawing permafrost is already releasing 0.2 Gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere on an annual basis. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to realise that, in the short term, even this has the warming potential of 20 Gigatons of carbon, which is twice the global anthropogenic carbon emissions in 2010.”

    Er, you can’t compare the warming potential of ‘carbon’ by the warming potential of ‘carbon’ and get anything but a GWP of 1….

    Heck of it is, his big point–that things are likely worse than we think–could well still be right. But basic goofs obviously don’t help to persuade.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Jun 2013 @ 11:24 AM

  294. A couple of followups:

    Regarding US wind energy resources, the most recent nationwide data is from 2010, and is available from the US DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s “Wind Powering America” site:

    The U.S. Department of Energy provides an 80-meter (m) height, high-resolution wind resource map for the United States with links to state wind maps. States, utilities, and wind energy developers use utility-scale wind resource maps to locate and quantify the wind resource, identifying potentially windy sites within a fairly large region and determining a potential site’s economic and technical viability.

    The same site provides community-scale (50-meter) and residential scale (30-meter) wind resource maps, and 90-meter offshore maps.

    Based on their analysis of that NREL data, the Institute For Local Self-Reliance concluded:

    Five Midwest states (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) could get nearly all their electricity from wind … 32 states could get all of their electricity from in-state [renewable] resources …

    Regarding air conditioning, it’s worth noting that according to a recent study, “air conditioning in homes may account for up to one third of electricity use during periods in the summer when the most energy is required in large cities”, which is to say, on long, hot, sunny days — which is also generally when solar energy generation peaks. So for air conditioning specifically, solar power is the ideal energy source, generating peak power exactly when (and in the case of distributed solar, where) it is most needed.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Jun 2013 @ 11:55 AM

  295. has a report on greenland. Melt reached the saddle on Jun 11 and 13

    Comment by sidd — 22 Jun 2013 @ 12:55 PM

  296. Edward Greisch #255:

    > That will be expensive methane

    You ain’t seen nothing yet. Guess how much a kWh costs from a hospital emergency generator?

    In a well designed renewable grid, only a small fraction of total energy will be produced by backup. It’s no big deal — inevitable, actually — if it costs a bit more.

    The last MWh produced by a nuclear plant to satisfy rare load spikes won’t be cheap either. Nuclear only looks good — well, as good as it looks — for the first 80%.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 22 Jun 2013 @ 1:38 PM

  297. Thanks, SA, thanks, sidd.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Jun 2013 @ 2:05 PM

  298. Hirabayashi et al., Nature Climate Change ,DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1911

    quantify increase in flood projections over 21st century. South and Southeast Asia and Africa are particularly affected. The Lena, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Murray-Darling expected to see 100yr flood every 10 yr or less (Fig 2b)


    Comment by sidd — 22 Jun 2013 @ 4:10 PM

  299. Re air conditioning and load curtailment

    9 hours divided into 5 separate time segments, over ~ 4 years. But maybe some segments were longer than others…

    Well, how much would it warm up/cool off if you lost your HVAC for a few hours? Alternatively, how much overheating or overcooling (including Freezers, etc.) can be tolerated prior to such an incident, to store up heat or lack thereof (we can forecast)? Probably more for larger buildings .

    It was pointed out that transmission/distribution losses were not included in the model. That will tend to raise cost, but if we just assume an across-the-board scale up, we get an increase of ~ 7.5 %, give or take (100/93 – 1, ). It would be interesting to know how either minimizing cost taking T&D into account or T&D losses would affect the outcome, modeling the grid’s details (perhaps favoring ~collocated wind and utility solar and storage, more rooftop PV (local or not-to-distant generation that correlates with load peaks) , etc.

    Forecasting was also not included in the above study (to manage T&D with rooftop solar, on a partly cloudy day, run HVAC/etc. during sun breaks; link smart appliances to visible satellite…), nor was hydroelectricity (important), nor was transmission to/from other parts of the country continent, which could include CSP – which in some cases could be ~collocated with wind and/or hydro (for T&D efficiency), and can be made into baseload or net-load-following power (daily storage and natural gas (or other fuels – bio?) backup for winter or whenever).

    Adding transmission would raise the costs of the renewable systems calculated here, whereas using adjacent grids, demand management, and forecasting all would lower costs. We judge the latter factors substantially larger, and thus assert (without calculation) that the net effect of adding all these factors together would not raise the costs per kWh above those we calculate below.
    …[skipped paragraph]…
    Our study has some limitations. PJM is a large system operator; a smaller region would experience less smoothing effect from connecting wind across its region. We discounted future renewable generation at 12%, did not project any increase in fossil fuel prices, eliminated tax subsidies for renewables but not traditional generation, and did not project any technology breakthroughs for renewables, all of which raise the comparative cost of renewable power.

    I’m not sure I understand what they mean about the 12% discount (though I haven’t gone through the appendices) – I see a 12% listed in note a. for Table 2, but I would have guessed this was done so that it could be added to capital costs and then run through the same procedure including financing costs to find levelized cost/kWh. 12 % seems a bit high to me for an interest rate on something so ‘concrete’ as a power plant, but then the 12 % discount (but only for 20 years!) in isolation would make O&M seem too cheap, wouldn’t it (except the 20 year thing?)? OTOH, PV degrades slowly over time…

    Re 282 Edward Greisch – maybe that’s were most of the wind power would be in their scenario? (I think that was Kevin McKinney’s point although I only glanced at one of those maps.)

    (PS they used PVWatts for solar (not sure if this is how they accessed it or if it’s the same version, but (note: you can zoom out to get global) (you can get monthly averages for an average year; you can also get specific hours for actual years, although the time periods differ among locations – frustrating if you want to run your own regional simulation); keep in mind .

    For CSP there’s (note: you can zoom out to get Hawaii) – if you go to Analysis Tools, then Resource Graph, and then click on places, you can get graphs showing the annual cycle (average, and extremes – PS there is of course some autocorrelation in the weather (persistence), but I wouldn’t assume the worst year is as bad as all the worst months in a row) – which is notably flatter in some places than others and in some cases has a summertime dip (so as renewable penetration increases, the value of resources may shift from where the annual average is highest toward where the seasonal cycle matches remaining net loads and/or less interannual variability) –

    See also (note not all data sets are easily/generally accessable (I got a warning message once – not sure if it was here or somewhere else on nrel – but just be careful out there, okay). For the 1991-2010, I’ve used “NSRDB Research Solar Fields Data (No Meteorological Data)” – Individual years (so I didn’t need to bother with compression software; of course, It takes so long I never got around to finishing what I started).

    See also (though I haven’t gone through it yet myself but I sampled a map and though I didn’t understand it, it was quite interesting-looking  ).)

    286 Thomas Lee Elifritz – makes sense but we’ve been told by moderators not to. I jumped in (with some caution) because it was already happening – not generally a good excuse but in this case I’m prepared to stop whenever necessary (and maybe the moderators are okay with it so far – maybe it’s been more productive and civil than at other times?) – and now seems like a good time. … Re 281 David B. Benson – a bridge to

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Jun 2013 @ 4:54 PM

  300. > life prior to the advent of air conditioning
    As a born Southerner
    with relatives from Georgia to Texas,
    let me here testify
    that while I grew up
    with no air conditioning anywhere,
    I would not expect to grow old
    in “99 and 99” hot humid conditions without it.

    Ideal answer: shade your roof from the summer sun with PV panels.
    Cool the PV panels and preheat your incoming water supply, and dump excess heat into the ground with a heat pump to use for wintertime.

    Not affordable yet, mostly.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Jun 2013 @ 5:32 PM

  301. @294 SecularAnimist

    “So for air conditioning specifically, solar power is the ideal energy source, generating peak power exactly when (and in the case of distributed solar, where) it is most needed.”

    I guess it depends on what one’s understanding of the word *exactly* is.

    My understanding is that solar energy peaks at noon, whereas the maximum urban heat load occurs between 5 and 7 pm, depending on humidity and latitude.

    Fact is that we need to develop more efficient systems for energy storage. One way might be to slightly increase condenser temperature/pressure at power plants during the morning hours and divert some of the steam through a storage medium at say, 90 C, and then recover this heat 8-12 hours later. The condensate would, of course, have to be recovered during charging to maintain the correct inventory of boiler feedwater. Recovered heat could be used to run an ORC or a vortex engine (AVE) to supply the extra power needed at the peak.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 22 Jun 2013 @ 7:35 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Jun 2013 @ 7:48 PM

  303. I quote the header of this thread:
    Unforced Variations: June 2013
    Filed under: Climate Science Open thread

    It does not state Climate Science and Energy and Population.
    I go elsewhere for informed commentary on energy.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 22 Jun 2013 @ 9:44 PM

  304. The Alarming Science Behind Climate Change’s Increasingly Wild Weather: Ostro And Francis On Video

    More insights from Jennifer Francis on arctic amplification and the former climate skeptic Stu Ostro elaborates on atmospheric thickness increase, followed by an interesting Q/A

    Comment by prokaryotes — 22 Jun 2013 @ 10:08 PM

  305. 9 hours divided into 5 separate time segments, over ~ 4 years – Think I might be mixed up – was the 9 hours in one year? That’s much closer to the 0.1 % figure.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Jun 2013 @ 10:56 PM

  306. Why confusing voters works — because when people get confused, can’t trust sources to be working really hard to get the information right, can’t tell who’s telling the truth and has the facts right, voter turnout goes down.

    stated clearly by a GOP strategist:

    “PAUL WEYRICH: They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. […] As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Jun 2013 @ 11:11 PM

  307. Thanks for your on-topic post, sidd.

    In the same vein, has anyone else notice the large number of extreme weather event going on very recently?

    Massive fires in Indonesia cause dangerous smog in Singapore

    Deadly flooding in France follows the deadly flooding in Germany

    And don’t forget that thousands are still stranded by the deadly flooding in India

    Calgary is under water

    Deepening drought, fires, and threat of fire in the US West…

    Worst ever power outages and general mayhem from super-storm in Minnesota

    That “worst ever” phrase keeps popping up in these stories.

    Perhaps something has fundamentally shifted in the global climactic system?

    Comment by wili — 23 Jun 2013 @ 2:29 AM

  308. I go elsewhere for informed commentary on energy.

    I openly acknowledge that climate, energy, population and even weather, agriculture, land use and financial insecurity are all interconnected, and cannot be separated into their components if any progress is to be made.

    I also acknowledge the futility of having critical discussions on topics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the natural sciences, space sciences, earth sciences and life sciences, with even educated people, who demonstrably lack the open mind necessary for substantive, demonstrable progress in seemingly intractable global problems. Credibility over credentials, that’s my creed, David.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 23 Jun 2013 @ 12:13 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Jun 2013 @ 1:23 PM

  310. Arctic Amplification(Extreme Weather): Jennifer Francis June 6, 2013

    Comment by prokaryotes — 23 Jun 2013 @ 1:48 PM

  311. #299–“Re 282 Edward Greisch – maybe that’s were most of the wind power would be in their scenario? (I think that was Kevin McKinney’s point although I only glanced at one of those maps.)”

    Yes, that was exactly my point–their asterisks coincide pretty well with the best wind resources. It’s almost as if Budischak et al knew something about the topic, isn’t it? ;-)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Jun 2013 @ 5:38 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Jun 2013 @ 7:07 PM

  313. and from that search:
    JGR: Atmospheres
    Drivers of projected change in arctic moist static energy transport
    Natasa Skific, Jennifer A. Francis*
    Article first published online: 4 APR 2013
    DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50292

    “The combined changes result in a total annual decrease in tropospheric MSE of about 3% by the late 21st century. The difference, while statistically not significant, represents a weak negative feedback on Arctic amplification.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Jun 2013 @ 8:25 PM

  314. Re #313

    On Earth, the polar vortices are located in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere. […] Dr Jennifer Francis, professor of Atmospheric Science at Rutgers University, explained earlier this year how the loss of summer Arctic sea ice has led to the weakening of the polar vortex leading to more extreme weather. […]

    Spatial changes in the stratospheric aerosol associated with the north polar vortex
    In late January and early February 1983, observations made by the Stratospheric Aerosol Measurement (SAM II) satellite system showed that aerosol extinction profiles measured within the northern polar vortex differed significantly above 18 km from those measured outside the vortex. Values of the calculated optical depths above 18 km for February 1, 1983, are lower by approximately one order of magnitude within the polar vortex than those outside. Similar differences were found in the aerosol backscattering profiles obtained using an airborne lidar system when crossing the polar vortex. Since potential vorticity at a constant altitude is not conserved across the polar vortex, horizontal adiabatic transport does not occur.

    How are aerosols affected by arctic amplification? What would be required to keep and or restore the sea ice?

    Comment by prokaryotes — 23 Jun 2013 @ 8:55 PM

  315. That 1983 paper has been cited by:

    and is probably interesting to the geoengineering folks; I recall some suggestion somewhere that just increasing sulfate over the Arctic might reduce warming there — but does a layer of sulfate also decrease cooling at night?

    We know chemicals also are ‘amplified’ at the poles — that’s where much of the mercury and persistent organic chemicals like PCBs ends up.

    It would certainly be a shame if dumping sulfates into the polar atmosphere were to affect the polar seas’ plankton where half our oxygen gets made, eh?

    That would be a rather typical human “leverage point” result — grabbing the lever and pushing it the wrong way — that systems theory warns about.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Jun 2013 @ 11:19 PM

  316. re my last comment (299)- I wrote something ( but if we just assume an across-the-board scale up, we get an increase of ~ 7.5 %, give or take (100/93 – 1, ). )assuming PJM T&D losses ~= national, which isn’t necessarily true.

    re 301 Jerry Toman – my understanding was qualitatively similar – ie some time shift, in hours, between solar resource and AC demand. However there should tend to be some nonzero correlation. (not specific to AC, but see Table 6 @ )

    PS Given the significant daily cycle in electric power consumption, one could maintain approx. the same power variation capability in W while inserting a solar source that varies ~twice as much (then the other sources would peak at night/evening/morning); both the diurnal cycle in energy demand and solar resource (outside of high latitudes) should tend to peak in ‘summer‘ (oops, another time shift is possible here, but I’m being rather approximate).

    Back to your point: Some HVAC systems can store heat (or lack-thereof) – this is being done now , though at a different time of day – for a shift to solar power, one would generally store up cold in the morning rather than during the night. (Sense only some HVAC uses could do this practically, they might use a larger time shift ??). Although, perhaps, smaller buildings might simply set the thermostat lower in the mid-morning (within tolerable limits of medications, etc) to build up cold. More easily done with higher thermal masses (see passive solar design)… I’m not sure how well this would work.

    This takes away from the local generation and weather-AC demand correlation advantage, but using solar power from the west would also aid in the time shift. Hydroelectric resources may be useful, too.

    A study which looked at at least some of the things that Budischak et al did not is here (PDFs at bottom, visuals to the right) (I know I pointed this out before).

    Solar monthly resource maps Solar variability:
    – maps and explanations both! But it would have been nice if they had analyzed a combined spatial-temporal variability – ie take 3×3 and 5×5, 10×10 etc. grid cell averages and find temporal COV values.

    Wind seasonality can be found here (ch 2, then click on map links), although the maps aren’t in as much detail as more recent ones linked by others above or at , and perhaps are outdated?

    Okay, really done now.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Jun 2013 @ 11:27 PM

  317. President Obama is scheduled to speak Tuesday about global warming issues. Hopefully he will have something worthwhile to say.

    There are already news articles about this topic. Those who feel so inclined might want to join in on the online Comments sections for such news. You would be an unusual, welcomed breath of fresh air and reason.

    Comment by AIC — 24 Jun 2013 @ 2:33 AM

  318. Re: 308 and “elsewhere for informed commentary…”

    Indeed, and note that one of his recommended places for “informed” nuke commentary is “” How do they get away with discussing energy issues on a site named thusly?

    Awesome deployment of irony. Well done sir!

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 24 Jun 2013 @ 8:41 AM

  319. one of his recommended places for “informed” nuke commentary is “”

    Commentary on nukes is neither informed nor brave. I’ll say one thing, though, the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons we already have are going to come in nice and handy for last minute asteroid deflection, and for the creation of deep space heat sources for electronics.

    Other than that I have no time for so called informed commentary on nukes, certainly not as an energy paradigm for a planet with seven billion apes.

    Make of that what you will.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 24 Jun 2013 @ 11:49 AM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Jun 2013 @ 1:05 PM

  321. Hi David,

    I checked out BNC’s energy board. If that’s the best discussion of a low-carbon energy future we have, then we are truly screwed. You appear to be one of the only people (in a pretty sparse field, at that) that takes any kind of balanced view. Between referring to renewables as “unreliables”, going on about the “solar scam” and commentators being rated as “hot neutrons” etc., it mostly comes across as a nuclear lovefest (and I’m not anti-nuclear, more nuclear-skeptical) with numerous posters hell-bent on trashing the competition.

    In all seriousness, do you have any better places to have a discussion of low-carbon energy?

    Comment by MartinJB — 24 Jun 2013 @ 3:50 PM

  322. @304 Great stuff. Too bad the graphics aren’t coming across. For Stu Ostro’s slides, this pdf has most of the same ones, and it’s perfectly clear:

    The title of this document is: “Global Warming, Extreme Weather and My Journey.”

    The last slide says something Ostro does not say directly in the video:

    “I am confident enough overall in what I’m seeing to go out on the limbs that I have gone out on.

    “As a forecaster, I have an obligation to call ’em as I see ’em, and the same goes with what I’m observing in the changes in the weather. On my last day on this planet, I need to not look back and think that I didn’t do so.

    “I certainly don’t have all the answers, and the climate-weather system is so complex that they will be difficult find, but I hope to at least find some of them.”

    Comment by patrick — 24 Jun 2013 @ 6:08 PM

  323. > BNC … lovefest
    BNC is trying to talk sense to the fission fans about climate, as its FAQ says.
    The commenting got moved off to a separate page and isn’t getting much moderation, sad to say. It’s easy to drive people off of any possible agreement by pushing them into polarized discussion.

    Northcote Parkinson said that delay is the deadliest form of denial.
    Seems like polarization is the deadliest tactic used for delay.

    It’s hard to avoid, at best.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Jun 2013 @ 7:39 PM



    Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe is an evangelical Christian and makes no secret of that. In this interview, she describes how both her scientific expertise and her faith inform her efforts to explain climate change to the general public and especially to climate skeptics. She emphasizes the importance of responding to common questions and explicitly addressing misconceptions, and of starting climate conversations with a discussion of shared values—which, for Christians, means talking about the commandment to love one’s neighbors. Hayhoe talks about what it’s like to be a climate scientist whose work is under attack, and how her negative experiences with Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are symptomatic of a culture in which opinions and gut feelings often take precedence over facts.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Jun 2013 @ 7:43 PM

  325. that’s
    doi: 10.1177/0096340213485947
    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 2013 vol. 69 no. 3 1-9
    Abstract Free (quoted above); full text is paywalled

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Jun 2013 @ 7:44 PM

  326. RE: #323 “trying to talk sense to the fission fans about climate…”

    If that were ever true, it’s not today, as of the time of this comment. Looking at page one of the home page, which reflects the editorial decision making, one finds 7 articles, two of which, “Advanced fission and Fusion technologies for sustainable nuclear energy” and “Green Junk – In praise of waste” cover the ostensible topic at hand.

    The remaining five, beginning with “Log, slash, truck and burn – welcome to renewable electricity nirvana” and ending with “81,000 truckers for solar!” are devoted to trashing renewables with varying degrees of vehemence.

    In a sense, then, I agree they stay on topic — just not the topic implied by the name and FAQ.

    In comparison, RC stays much more on point. And on that note…

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 24 Jun 2013 @ 8:28 PM

  327. Walter Pearce @318 — BNC Discussion Forum has moderately frequent comments by employed and retired power engineers, one of whom really understands nuclear power plants. One has to hang around to find out who the sensible posters are and who is just emoting. I do hope you will read Log, slash and burn and also 81,000 truckers for solar. Both make rather serious points albeit in a rather hard-hitting Aussie-argument style.

    Barry Brook is a professor in a field closely associated with climatology. His view of electrical generation is akin to mine; any combination of low-carbon generators which provides reliable, on demand electricity just just fine provided we can afford it.

    And there is a separate section for discussion of Climate Change, where Barry Brook first started.

    Hank Roberts @323 — Mrs. Moderator stops by once a day to clean up, post post moderation. I find she does quite well in the difficult role of not being an overly heavy handed moderator.

    Both and others — I lived and worked in Sydney for 6 months last century. I like many aspects of the Aussie style and feel I understand it well enough. Eastern Australia (South Australia up to Queensland) has a very serious electrical generation decisions to make fairly soon as the old coal burners are not going to last that much longer. The grid in Eastern Australia is almost, but not quite, 3 separate ones. Any low carbon generation solution meets some difficult technical challenges there; it is a good test bed for ideas.

    But suit yourself. You can find plenty of sites about electrical generation concepts run by people who have no conception of what it requires to have a reliable grid. Barry Brook and the power engineers do. I’ll admit the view is quite conservative. That’s the engineers for you; they know that whatever is designed and added to the grid has too work. That certainly tends to promote continuation of what has been shown to work. I appreciate that reminder.

    [The reCAPTCHA oracle entones DIAGNOSIS umanyha so I must have it all about right.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Jun 2013 @ 10:42 PM

  328. … “ the upcoming satellite gap…. is a complex story, with some private sector firms doing their best to kill the project. And yes, some ideological elements are at play here. But poor NOAA management is the key element.
    A little review ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jun 2013 @ 12:00 AM

  329. From the above: “… Ah, now it is time for the villains of this story. Two private sector firms (PlanetIQ and GeoOptics) want to get into the GPS satellite business, which is fine. But neither has successfully launched such a satellite and neither has a working prototype, from what I can tell. But they (and particularly the PlanetIQ crowd) are actively working against COSMIC, providing all kinds of misinformation and unfounded criticisms….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jun 2013 @ 12:01 AM

  330. This is question for the satellite and modeling communities both. I understand that we can’t get a energy balance from satellite data alone. But I also understand we do get crude estimates. But for a moment let’s pretend that we don’t have the deep sea data and we’re seeing the relatively flat surface temperature and 0-700 meter ocean temperature as claimed. Are the satellite data good enough to say “wait, you’ve got to be missing something…. the outgoing radiation is too little to account for a gap that big” or is it ” the level of error in the satellite data is big enough that we could have that much more outgoing long wave to account for the temperature trends and not see it”? any takers? Citations to primary literature appreciated.

    Comment by Dave123 — 25 Jun 2013 @ 2:19 AM

  331. MartinJB, Walter Pearce,

    you could look at RIB joint. Run by a retired nuclear physicist who I have sometimes characterised as an ‘equal-opportunity debunker’. It’s not much about energy, but about nuclear, radiation, climate and (esp. medical) denialism.

    I’m afraid you’ll have to follow a number of sources for the full picture. There’s Jerome à Paris for wind, the Energiewende blog, and the already mentioned Cleantechnica, who are all unabashed about their object of love. You have to put the pieces together.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 25 Jun 2013 @ 3:30 AM

  332. Thanks David B. and Martin Vermeer.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 25 Jun 2013 @ 5:38 AM

  333. David B. Benson wrote: “… people who have no conception of what it requires to have a reliable grid”

    It’s important to keep in mind that there are financial interests that are heavily vested in maintaining a grid that reliably — and profitably — distributes electricity from large-scale baseload power generators to end users, and is NOT designed to integrate highly distributed, sometimes variable, large and small scale energy generators.

    Some of these interests view distributed energy generation and storage, and the new, smart-grid and micro-grid technologies that enable them, as a threat to their established, and profitable, business model — and are, in various places, lobbying to maintain barriers, or impose new barriers, against the rapid market penetration of distributed renewable energy sources.

    Likewise, there are some “conservative” power engineers who are heavily vested in technologies that “worked” for the highly centralized power grids of the 20th century, who will confidently talk all day long about how large amounts of distributed, variable renewable energy sources “won’t work” with a reliable grid — even as they are being proved wrong by the deployment of both renewable energy and advanced smart-grid technologies all over the world.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 Jun 2013 @ 9:59 AM

  334. NH-SH differential warming and TCR June 14, 2013 by Isaac Held

    “… The idea here …. is to use what we are relatively sure about — the time history and the radiative forcing from the WMGG’s — to constrain TCR…. while assuming as little as possible about aerosol forcing and natural multi-decadal variability….
    “… I am thinking of this as being more exploratory than quantitative, nudging readers of this blog to think beyond the global mean time series.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jun 2013 @ 10:54 AM

  335. SecularAnimist #333, I read here in a 2009 article that

    A decade ago, concern was expressed that the variability and uncertainty of wind would seriously impair the reliability and stability of the electric power system. Today, after considerable practical experience with wind power, power system engineers acknowledge that — even with substantial wind energy contributions — the lights will stay on.

    “A decade ago” would be around 2000. This agrees with my own recollection… but I don’t find references for it. Can you help?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 25 Jun 2013 @ 2:32 PM

  336. 327 David B. Benson is correct. The electric utility industry would have used wind and solar from the beginning and would have bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights ages ago if wind and solar were profitable. As it is, the electric utility industry will only buy renewables if forced to do so by law.

    SO QUIT TALKING AND GO DO IT! Don’t have the money? Not surprised.

    The moderator should shut down the non-climate threads.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 25 Jun 2013 @ 3:06 PM

  337. “The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity by the highly regarded scientists, Erwin and Valentine. ….
    … discusses real controversies and real science. For example, there was a world-wide shift in ocean and atmospheric chemistry during this period: was it primarily an abiotic process, or did the expansion of bacterial forms and the emergence of multicellular life contribute significantly?”

    Sounds like this may be relevant to the changes we’re now provoking, much faster, in ocean microbiology.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jun 2013 @ 3:37 PM

  338. By the way, the President gave a speech. Sundry links & details here:


    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 25 Jun 2013 @ 4:40 PM

  339. Grids getting smarter, or people just noticing what the grid can already handle?

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 25 Jun 2013 @ 4:43 PM

  340. Here’s the transcript

    and here is a big problem

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 25 Jun 2013 @ 6:18 PM

  341. @316–Patrick

    Thanks for the interesting and useful links.

    Generally speaking, my thinking is that it would be better to have electricity reliably generated from renewable sources over as small a *grid-size* as possible. Thermal storage would be useful to achieve this–up to a point.

    More broadly, I view wind and solar PV (or CSP) as somewhat of a *two-legged stool* supporting reliable operation of a grid, inasmuch as some regions lack wind, while others lack solar, especially during winter months and some lack BOTH. To some extent, these technologies compliment one another, while often they overlap, or leave a substantial gap in generation potential.

    My main purpose in participating in this thread is to suggest that there is great potential of *upward convection* to add a *third leg* to this stool, providing much greater 24/7 as well as seasonal (with thermal storage) capacity. This would, IMO, reduce the degree to which we need to build overcapacity of generation to ensure reliability, as well as to reduce the need for long-distance transmission of power and to reduce net unit costs for electricity.

    If one is also concerned about the visual impact of extensive deployment of conventional *wind farms*, it could well be that facilities for the harvesting of *vertical winds* would be much less intrusive from a visual sense. After all, it was the proliferation of those *Giants* over the plains of La Mancha, which so irked Don Quixote that he felt compelled to engage them in battle.

    Just sayin’

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 25 Jun 2013 @ 6:49 PM

  342. #336 — If you want to shut it down, start with yourself. If you have no answer for why renewable deployment is far outstripping that of certain alternatives, then stop trolling the issue.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 25 Jun 2013 @ 7:00 PM

  343. Re Hank @336
    _The Cambrian Explosion_ lives up to its billing, and is best bought directly from the publisher:

    Climate students and even raypierre might take note of this on p 37:

    The Snowball Earth hypothesis envisions an Earth very different from the experience of geologists and, not surprisingly, has proven to be highly controversial within the geological community. (The press, forever in search of the spectacular, seems to think it is great.)

    If you followed Hank’s pz link you probably think pz’s sarcastic treatment of Meyer has to be uncalled for. How could anyone who has written several sciencey books possibly deserve that? Here’s a hint.

    Recaptcha says ynsult first

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 25 Jun 2013 @ 7:05 PM

  344. EG says: “The electric utility industry would have used wind and solar from the beginning and would have bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights ages ago if wind and solar were profitable.”

    Unfortunately, that industry bet on the wrong horse back when sunshine wasn’t as profitable as cheap coal, and as the link Pete D points to shows, they appear to be realizing they lost the bet.

    Comment by flxible — 25 Jun 2013 @ 7:57 PM

  345. Wow Ed (25 Jun 2013 @ 3:06 PM), snark much? So, have you built a nuclear power plant? What, don’t have the money?

    News for ya’… plenty of people (and I dare say including some in this discussion) HAVE done solar and even wind. Sure, you probably meant utility scale, but that’s just ridiculous. Individuals don’t do utility scale power generation. And hard-headed business men are doing utility-scale renewables.

    Obviously, we can’t roll back time, but it would be interesting to see what our generation mix would look like if the development of renewables hadn’t been deliberately retarded and nuclear and fossil fuels hadn’t received epic amounts of subsidies (including significant technology transfer from military applications for the former and being comped the price for carbon for the latter, in addition to the more conventional subsidies they both receive).

    Comment by MartinJB — 25 Jun 2013 @ 8:48 PM

  346. The Climate Show 34: Four Hiroshima bombs a second

    Comment by prokaryotes — 25 Jun 2013 @ 9:15 PM

  347. The electric utility industry would have used wind and solar from the beginning and would have bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights ages ago if wind and solar were profitable. As it is, the electric utility industry will only buy renewables if forced to do so by law.

    I hate to say this but you are a FREAKING *****. The solar industry didn’t come into being until the satellite era and took decades to mature, and wind started in the plains in the 30s with DC brush type generators for water pumping and lights for cows on farms, and didn’t get serious until it involved little 1 meter turbines on sailboats. There weren’t even decent electronic inverters back then because high power MOSFETs didn’t exist yet. Get an education dude. These are rapidly maturing industries that only in the last decade or so scaled into industrial capabilities. The ‘grid’ and its turbines came into being the last century in Niargra Falls. Give it a rest, your ignorance and agenda is showing.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 25 Jun 2013 @ 9:59 PM

  348. Unfortunately, based on comments in various places many people apparently think they will be able to tap, swipe and whine their way through the climate crisis, leaving as an unsolved problem the matter of usefully visible political energy and clout behind the few politicians willing to raise their heads.

    Bitching on climate blogs isn’t going to stop our crashing the planet. Perhaps the greatest friend of impending disaster is useless catharsis.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 25 Jun 2013 @ 11:05 PM

  349. > bought up all of the wind and sunshine rights
    Sez who? Where would you buy them, and how, compared to subsidized fossil fuel prices?

    > GO DO IT! Don’t have the money?

    Pfui. $25 is all you need to start:

    (I’ve got somewhat more than that in so far myself, and after some overdue divestment from retirement mutual funds, will have rather a lot more. Hoping for more similar programs, I know of at least a couple others similar so far.

    Invest as though you’re in the early years of a better world. If you build up your own neighborhood, part of your return is having that neighborhood.

    And wind and sunshine rights? Work on getting the topsoil back on some piece of waste land, they’re cheap and it’s worth doing. Need guidance? This helps:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jun 2013 @ 11:58 PM

  350. Hate to always bring up questions about doom-and-gloom articles, but any I’ll ask:

    Here’s an article by a High-school teacher, who claims the united states could be uninhabitable by 2050 due to increasing drought-stress, I wonder how firm his arguments are?

    I am sorry if I divert from the discussion here, but seems to be kinda heavy stuff (just ignore the nuclear-waste doom & gloom stuff).

    Comment by PatrickF — 26 Jun 2013 @ 5:10 AM

  351. #340–Personally, I think the speech was a fabulous manifesto–much better than I hoped.

    *That’s* what the “bully pulpit” should look and sound like.

    As to the fracking issue, you’re never going to get compromise-free politics. The US emissions trajectory of the last couple of years suggests that natgas may indeed be workable as a ‘bridge fuel.’ But it also seems clear that true best practices for methane control need to be implemented and that impacts need to be robustly quantified.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 26 Jun 2013 @ 9:54 AM

  352. Edward Greisch wrote: “the electric utility industry will only buy renewables if forced to do so by law.”

    With all due respect, that’s a ridiculous falsehood.

    In 2012, wind energy was the number one source of new electricity generating capacity installed in the USA, accounting for 42 percent of all new capacity installed — more than 13 GW, comprising at least 190 projects in 32 states, brought online by more than 105 owners, of which 90 percent are independent power producers. (And altogether, renewable energy accounted for the majority, 55 percent, of all new US generating capacity installed in 2012.)

    And in the first quarter of 2013, solar energy accounted for over 48 percent of all new US generating capacity, with 723 MW installed, a 33 percent increase over the first quarter of 2012 (utility installations more than doubled). More than 4 GW of new photovoltaic capacity, and 938 MW of concentrating solar thermal power, are expected to come online this year.

    None of which was “forced” on anyone “by law”.

    Not that legally requiring the electric utility industry to move to zero-emission sources of energy would be a bad thing.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 26 Jun 2013 @ 10:12 AM

  353. From:

    Species: Coccolithophores, Emiliania huxleyi
    Genome size: ~ 141.1 million base pairs

    E. huxleyi is a free-floating photosynthetic plankton with a global distribution ranging from the equator to the subarctic. This marine phytoplankton underpins most marine food webs and has played a major role in global climate for more than 200 million years. This organism fixes up to 20 percent of the carbon within its various habitats, creating ocean blooms that spread over hundreds of thousands of square kilometers. They also release CO2, adding to the complexity of their influence on the global carbon cycle.

    The contribution E. huxleyi makes to Earth’s climate is likely due to its capacity to thrive in a wide variety of habitats and produce blooms in many environmental conditions. Researchers looked for the genomic basis of this species’ remarkable flexibility by comparing the reference genome sequence from one strain of E. huxleyi to 13 other strains. Across the different strains they found genomes composed of a core set of genes and many unique genes that may account for the species’ extensive metabolic repertoire. Though all of the strains tested ostensibly come from a single species, their high genetic variability suggests that a single strain is not likely to be representative of all strains, making this phytoplankton a good model for the study of speciation as well as adaptability to climate change.

    B.A. Read et al., “Pan genome of the phytoplankton Emiliania underpins its global distribution,” Nature, doi: 10.1038/nature12221, 2013.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Jun 2013 @ 10:13 AM

  354. Actually, SA (26 Jun 2013 @ 10:12 AM), this comment, “None of which was “forced” on anyone “by law”” isn’t strictly true. Owing to renewable portfolio standards regs in many areas, utilities ARE required by law to buy renewable energy.

    Comment by MartinJB — 26 Jun 2013 @ 10:50 AM

  355. Re #349: Mosaic looks very interesting but, sadly, there are currently no investable projects currently available. Would love to know of any others you’ve experience with.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 26 Jun 2013 @ 2:07 PM

  356. for Walter:
    I recall other similar operations were mentioned in this:

    Crowdfunding Clean Energy – Opinionator – The New York Times

    Found that using this search, which may find more that could interest you:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Jun 2013 @ 6:58 PM

  357. PatrickF @359 — First of all, Robert Alvarez is completely ignorable. However, the drought is a stable prediction of climate models. If correct, only New England and the Pacific Northwest remain tolerable in the lower 48 region of the USA.

    Try the search box at the top of the page for relevant threads here on Real Climate.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Jun 2013 @ 9:19 PM

  358. Hmm, did the “search” stuff already, could not find something that is related to drought projections in the future, maybe I entered the wrong words.

    So the US could really become uninhabitable within a few decades?

    Comment by PatrickF — 27 Jun 2013 @ 1:44 AM

  359. Hank — thanks.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 27 Jun 2013 @ 4:38 AM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Jun 2013 @ 9:02 AM

  361. more on drought here:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Jun 2013 @ 9:17 AM

  362. Someone has pasted the full text of my article (the peer-reviewed one) on the internet. You can click on it from the bibliography on my web page:


    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Jun 2013 @ 1:56 PM

  363. and on sea level rise:

    Hat tip to:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Jun 2013 @ 3:36 PM

  364. re my 316: of course one could start putting PV on westward-facing roof slopes, etc. Not generally the best place to get the most time-averaged power (unless other sides are shaded by trees, etc.) but if the cost keeps dropping … (see fig 2.6 – installed cost)
    (related: , (haven’t read the link from that last one))

    … it might make (more) sense.

    (from p.2 of (last update 2003): “Some fixed PV systems are installed 10o to 20o west of south to increase energy production during the late afternoon – exactly when the electric utility’s summer demand for electricity is typically greatest. Meanwhile a SHW may be oriented 10o to 20o east of south to maximize morning solar heating, after the cooling of the night.“)

    An issue that I think (?) may arise from this is larger relative ramp rates in the evening approaching sunset, particularly if the module area is oversized relative to the inverter, etc. On the other hand, west-facing panels would have a later ‘effective sunset’ than panels facing due south with non-zero tilt (throughout spring and summer, a panel tilted at latitude experiences an effective sunrise and sunset at 6:00 AM and PM, give or take for location within time zone and the Analemma – although it will have a prolonged and I imagine potentially rather bright ‘dawn’ and ‘dusk’) – which would have the opposite effect on relative ramp rate, I think. (Daily tracking would definitely increase ramp rates, with steadier output over the daytime, at least for clear sky.)

    Different houses/buildings/etc. with different landscaping and roof designs, etc., may be contributing differing levels of PV generation to the local grid (and displacing differing amounts of natural gas or electricity with solar water/space (pre-)heating) for different parts of the day.

    re 341 Jerry Toman –

    I’m not sure quite what you mean about using the vertical motion. I remember seeing a presentation about wind power where it was stated that wind turbines and/or traditional wind mills are/were/should be tilted upward at some angle because the wind blows somewhat downward – which always puzzled me (the soil can only hold so much air!) until I learned about how eddies are dealt with mathematically (for example, – hey, look, I turned an energy supply discussion into an atmospheric science discussion! We’re back on topic!).

    Because of friction with the surface, momentum fluxes must be downward. Except very close to the surface (where molecular viscosity is more important, relatively), this is accomplished by eddies (which may be whipped up Kelvin-Helmholtz style – sufficient vertical shear relative to stable stratification will lead to instability – small perturbations can grow (initially exponentially) – analogous to unstable growth of barotropic Rossby waves (but that is quasi-horizontal) – in either case, energy in the mean flow is transferred to the energy of the eddies/waves (and to lifting up of more dense fluid and pushing down of less dense fluid in the vertical shear case).

    What this requires of the circulation structures is that eddies must be (counterintuitively, until you think about it) tilted up-shear – that is, they can be depicted as ellipses that tilt into the wind with height (the mean wind would tend to untilt the eddies and retilt them with the mean shear, but then the eddies would transport momentum up-gradient (‘negative eddy viscosity’) – I think this may happen in some contexts (barotropic Rossby waves could decay, losing energy to the mean flow), but on the small scale, it is my understanding (?) that the bigger eddies more effectively lose energy to the smaller eddies, … “and so on to viscosity – so that the eddies lose energy before their tilts would be reversed.(?)

    So the strongest winds (gusts) would have a downward component because they occur on that side of the eddy.

    Aside from that and any other such turbulence (like CAT),…

    The large scale steady winds are not associated with much vertical motion as far as speed is concerned. I think a significant chunk of horizontal motion is around and around (can be maintained as such in near geostrophic balance); it is the divergence of the horizontal motion that is balanced by convergence of vertical motion. The circulation structures may be over 1000 km wide but only ~ 10 km deep; vertical motion is slow and spread out over a large area. Actually, the synoptic-scale average may actually be the result of a more concentrated regions of vertical motion (fronts), but … I’ll have to get back to you with the numbers, but what I was going to say is that to get sizable wind speeds in the vertical, so far as I know, you have to be in or around thunderstorms, or at least cumulus clouds, or maybe be in a downslope wind storm (a gravity-wave related phenomenon, analogous to a hydraulic jump but different because the atmosphere is continuously stratified (from memory)) or …

    Otherwise, you can create your own updraft or downdraft with a solar tower (create a source of hot air, force it to rise through a structure; it’s buoyancy provides a force that drives ascent, power = force*speed (and you don’t have to obey the Betz limit here because it’s contained, although there is still a limit because the speed of the outflow still can’t be zero… etc.)). Or alternatively, spray (sea)water over the top of a big tall tower and let evaporative cooling produce a negatively buoyant column of air, etc. (and harvest the salt and fresh water). Tower height is important here because the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the tower is proportional to the product of the difference in density and the height over which the difference occurs; there may also be thermodynamic considerations (rising air cools adiabatically, to get the most out of your heat engine you want Tc to be small… this may be redundant though – if you’re given the environmental lapse rate and you know the temperature and humidity of your heated air, you can predict ‘CAPE’ and figure energy per unit air as a function of how high it rises (without entrainment/mixing) – there will be some limit beyond which any additional CAPE is negative (as in overshooting tops).

    In a third version I heard of from a commenter at a blog – maybe this one, not sure – you could have a solar tower without much of the tower, but with the advantages of a tall tower, provided the outflow is in the form of a vortex (although you lose some energy with the rotation of the vortex). This is based on conservation of angular momentum – if the upper warm column tries to break off of the lower warm column (so that it no longer provides an ‘upward pull’ on the lower air), the vortex is necessarily stretched, squeezed horizontally and thus must spin faster, and the centrifugal force associated with that produces low pressure that pulls up from below (smaller vortices are closer to cyclostrophic balance (pressure gradient force balances centrifugal force) than geostrophic balance). Hence, the buoyancy of rotating air, like a mesocyclone, can suck air up from below (providing energy to stretch an underlying vortex, such as in the spin-up of a tornado) –

    – but I think a supercell mesocyclone may have other things going for it – the rotation in that case comes from the amb-ient wind shear, so the helicity might not just be on the inside of the mesocyclone(?? – it might envelope the mesocyclone, at least in the lower part where the environmental helicity is ideally present for supercell formation – although I’m not sure about that). Helicity in this cases comes from turning of wind with height. Mathematically it is the component of vorticity that is aligned with the (relative) flow (Bluestein, Synoptic-Dynamic Meteorology in Midlatitudes, Volume II, p. 473.). Bluestein, p. 476: “in purely helical flow advection is balanced by stetching and tilting. Thus, if there is large streamwise vorticity or helicity, it is possible that the effects of (nonlinear) advection are to a great degree cancelled, and hence the cascade of turbulence down to smaller scales, which is caused by nonlinear advection, is suppressed. Hence the dissipative effects of mixing are mitigated.” (PS I haven’t gone through the math of that and don’t really understand how this works.)

    When you send a vortex out into the world away from the conditions that formed it, I suspect you would lose the benefits of helicity at the vortex’s edges, where it must rub against the amb-ient air. Then again, the shear vorticity at the edges is opposed to the vorticity within the vortex, and relative to the motion at the vortex center the along-vortex axis flow would be in the opposite direction, so the helicity would actually be of the same sign, if I’m doing this right, assuming curvature vorticity is not as large as shear vorticity at the vortex edge. But viscosity would tend to spread the rotation out and that favors no reversal of total vorticity. If this vortex is much narrower than a mesocyclone than … So… Okay, I did see – about a week and a half ago, an isolated somewhat tube-shaped cloud in the sky that was rotating (a bit more distinctly than typical turbulent eddies) and kept doing so quite oddly as it passed by, as if a cold funnel cloud that formed independently of any cumulus convection – then again, maybe a rogue Kelvin-Helmholtz instability-generated vortex that some poor cloud fragment just happened to get mixed up with… not sure…

    PS There is, or was, at least one solar tower (hot air chimney, not talking about CSP) of the hot kind (I don’t think there was any mention of an exhaust vortex). The others are still only on drawing boards, so far as I know.


    PS Secular Animist – question – SEIA – are their quarters ‘common sense’ calendar quarters (Q1 = JFM, Q2 = AMJ, etc.) or are they business quarters or some other thing?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Jun 2013 @ 6:29 PM

  365. Just to be clear, none of the solar tower ideas are my own – you can probably find (at least 2 of) them out there (google).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Jun 2013 @ 6:33 PM

  366. @364 Patrick

    Sorry to not have been more specific in my last comment. Also see #56.

    The *vertical winds* I was referring to are those due to buoyancy effects in the atmosphere which create up and down movement. This movement can become more intense as the convective energy content (CAPE) of the atmosphere increases:

    CAPE can occur naturally (from winds over warm water, wetlands or even forests) and/or be extracted from a warm source–what I call a *hot spot* at the surface.

    In the videos given below, the vortices pick up *enthalpy* at the ground or water surface. When the vortex travels over cooler surfaces, it tends to weaken.

    Waterspouts can occur when the water temperature exceeds 27 C. They can be quite strong…imagine how strong they could be if artificially fed a continuous stream of water at 40 C!

    The Atmospheric Vortex Engine, the development of which I endorse, as do others with more distinguished backgrounds, such as Profs. Kerry Emanuel (MIT), and Nilton Renno (UMich) is a conceptually simple facility on the surface designed to produce both the vorticity and energy (low-grade heat and/or moisture) needed for it to function.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 27 Jun 2013 @ 10:18 PM

  367. Has Dr. Emanuel ever said anything beyond the one sentence that keeps being quoted, where he said years ago that the “vortex engine” notion needs a proof of concept?

    That’s true of so many ideas.

    There’s money to build that, apparently, per the site:
    Link to Breakout Labs Announcement – San Francisco, Dec 13, 2013
    “… we are building a prototype in partnership with Lambton College”

    (that’s a typo at, the announcement was Dec. 2012 not 2013)

    News on that should appear at the college’s website, eventually“vortex+engine”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Jun 2013 @ 10:39 AM

  368. 352 SecularAnimist: What are the laws in those 32 states?

    358 PatrickF: “Drought Under Global Warming: a Review” by Aiguo Dai

    Bart: Please publish this one:
    “Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series”  by Barton Paul Levenson, not yet published.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Jun 2013 @ 3:49 PM

  369. > More insights from Jennifer Francis on arctic amplification …

    At 58:20, Chris Mooney asked “Are people being convinced by your interpretion of what’s happening?” Dr. Francis responded “… most people are. There are a few hardcore atmospheric dynamicists out there who are not on board totally.”

    Today PBS and other media covering the current western USA heat wave are saying: “Scientists disagree on whether global warming is the cause of the jet stream’s behavior.”

    How many scientists (proportionally) need to disagree for this to be a valid and not a misleading statement?

    Comment by SteveLL — 28 Jun 2013 @ 4:12 PM

  370. Re 366 Jerry Toman “In the videos given below, the vortices pick up *enthalpy* at the ground or water surface. When the vortex travels over cooler surfaces, it tends to weaken.” – sounds right for dust devils. (Martian dust devils also gain energy from solar heating of their own dusty air columns (according to a TV show – not sure which one – it made sense). Could work for dust devils on Earth too, I’d think, though I haven’t heard this pointed out. For water, that would be steam devils. I saw a multi-vortex dust devil once. A few years ago I actually saw one or two gigantic hay (or some large grass-like plant debris) devils – bits of hay(?) flying around – seemed like a significant fraction of a mile in diameter – well, maybe that was just how far the hay was being flung (? wish I had video to analyze; I didn’t take notes). There’s also snow devils, fire devils…

    Water spouts and tornados are generally different – they themselves are not the source of buoyant energy (I don’t think water spouts have to form over warm water) (or at least they don’t need to have CAPE, whether they do or not, so far as I know) – the driver is the overlying updraft that is actually not part of the same circulatory structure (a tornado isn’t simply a downward extension of a mesocyclone. A tornado can rotate in the opposite direction of the mesocyclone (mesocyclones themselves could rotate in either direction – given no directional shear (only speed variation), an updraft will cause rotation in opposite directions on either side and can split into two mesocylones (a right-mover and a left-mover, but my understanding is that thunderstorm activity is favored by warm advection in the lower atmosphere (although there can be elevated storms), and that tends to mean helicity, in the sense that favors the right-mover in the Northern hemisphere). Updrafts that have little or no rotation themselves can power up gustnados, cold-funnel clouds, etc.). I could imagine that maybe some devils are similar but smaller – vorticity that happens to get caught under a thermal and gets stretched out and spins up, as opposed to being the thermals themselves.

    Is there a required diameter for the vortex engine to achieve a particular height?

    re Secular Animist again – I can get monthly solar and wind net generation here for each state, but it doesn’t give monthly capacity. Quarterly capacity would at least be better than annual capacity. Use of year-end capacity (I’m not sure if that’s what EIA uses – they list net summer capacity but is that evaluated based on the capacity that was there in July?) would suggest poorer performance than the reality. Hence my question about SEIA’s quarters. Unfortunately they don’t give the info for the states (or not all of them, anyway) for free. Do you of any sources for this kind of info? Thanks.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Jun 2013 @ 4:46 PM

  371. Also see #56. – yeah, I missed that one; I didn’t come into this thread until somewhere around 200. I see patrick @ 63 mentions the downdraft energy idea.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Jun 2013 @ 4:55 PM

  372. Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., 4, 541-565, 2013
    Critical impacts of global warming on land ecosystems

    From the comment, “Clara Deser has demonstrated that projected trends in temperature can vary dramatically by the mid-21st century from ensemble member to member for a single GCM”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Jun 2013 @ 7:22 PM

  373. Climate Data Guide Spurs Discovery and Understanding

    David P. Schneider, Clara Deser, John Fasullo,Kevin E. Trenberth
    online: 26 MAR 2013
    DOI: 10.1002/2013EO130001

    Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union
    Volume 94, Issue 13, pages 121–122, 26 March 2013

    (more access to more info)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Jun 2013 @ 7:25 PM

  374. @ 370

    Without commenting on the bulk of your discussion, let me at least attempt to answer your last question concerning the existence of any relationship between the height attainable by a vortex and the diameter of the ground facilities.

    Before doing that, I would like to clarify that any atmospheric vortex that exists as a result buoyancy of warm/humid air near the surface entering into, and forming the core of a rising, spinning vortex, can technical be called a (heat) engine. It attains its movement by exploiting super-adiabatic temperature differences existing between the surface and the atmosphere at higher altitudes, as do thunderstorms (i.e., they both have CAPE). Ultimately the air that rises is replaced by the atmospheric process of subsidence.

    In a practical sense, if (little or) no attempt is made to extract energy from this movement, such as by installing wind turbines in or near its base, it is preferred that such a device be called an Atmospheric Vortex Ventilator.

    In addition to diameter, one would expect the following parameters to affect the buoyancy and intensity: heat-rate added at base, optimum vorticity (right balance between rise velocity and tangential velocity of air spinning for various *layers* admitted through facility for conditioning), relative humidity of exit air, the degree of wind shear (horizontal wind blowing across roof opening or at higher altitudes), molecular weight (little or no added CO2–more nitrogen relative to oxygen), radiative heat losses (again, no CO2 is better).

    With respect to heat-rate, it seems clear that if only (say) the bottom 5-10 m of air entering the facility were to be *conditioned* you couldn’t build a very powerful vortex (let’s say, using water at 40 C as the heat source) since you would be limited by the heat-rate. If you were to condition up to (say) the bottom 50 m of air, you could build a much more robust vortex capable of rising to very high altitudes. The layers added higher up in the *stadium* would form the outer layers or rings of the vortex and would supply additional angular momentum, which is the *force* that maintains the cohesiveness as the air rises, and prevents entrainment of outside (possibly dry) air.

    Let me also say that some have expressed concerned that if they are built too large or intense and don’t have proper controls, the resulting vortex could *punch into the stratosphere* and add water vapor there–a circumstance certainly to be avoided.

    Bottom line is that, regardless of *models* this is an *experiment in progress* and only building them would convince scientists as well as the public, and ultimately politicians (or power plant operators), that they work, which is what the AVEtec owners are attempting to do, albeit at a pace that leaves those of us who believe in their potential and interested in their rapid development more than *somewhat* exasperated.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 29 Jun 2013 @ 12:39 AM

  375. > waterspouts

    Been studied:
    Waterspout outbreaks over areas of Europe and North America: Environment and predictability,

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jun 2013 @ 12:47 AM

  376. Young et al., 332 (6028): 451-455
    Published Online March 24 2011
    Science 22 April 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6028 pp. 451-455
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1197219

    Global Trends in Wind Speed and Wave Height

    Studies of climate change typically consider measurements or predictions of temperature over extended periods of time. Climate, however, is much more than temperature. Over the oceans, changes in wind speed and the surface gravity waves generated by such winds play an important role. We used a 23-year database of calibrated and validated satellite altimeter measurements to investigate global changes in oceanic wind speed and wave height over this period. We find a general global trend of increasing values of wind speed and, to a lesser degree, wave height, over this period. The rate of increase is greater for extreme events as compared to the mean condition.

    Compare that to this info, somewhat older, anticipating that wave height trend:

    “… Waves 10 to 15 m (33-49 ft) high are not uncommon under severe storm conditions; the lengths of such waves are typically between 100 and 200 m (330-660 ft). This length is about the same as the length of some modern ships, and a vessel of this length encounters hazardous sailing conditions, because the ship may become suspended between the crests of two waves and break its back.

    “Measurements of wave height taken in the North Atlantic over the past twenty-five years by the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in England show a long-term continuing increase in wave height. Wave height has increased about 25% since 1960. Maximum wave height was 12 m (39 ft) in 1960 and is predicted to reach 18 m (59 ft) in the 1990s if the trend continues. Variations from year to year and season to season are large and there is no way of knowing whether the trend will continue. Weather-ship data from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea also show an 11% to 27% increase in wave heights between the early 1960s and 1970s. There is no known reason for this apparent trend in increasing wave height.

    “Giant waves over 30.5 m (or 100 ft) high are rare. In 1933 the USS Ramapo, a Navy tanker, en route from Manila to San Diego, encountered … waves that, as measured against the ship’s superstructure by the officer on watch, were 112 ft (or 34.2 m) high. The period of the waves was measured at 14.8 seconds; the wave speed was calculated at 27 m (90 ft)/sec, and the wavelength at 329 m (1100 ft). Other storm waves in this size category have been reported, but none have been as well documented. It is also probable that ships confronted with such waves do not always survive to report the incidents….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jun 2013 @ 2:15 PM

  377. One more related to the above and appropriate to consider, if ocean wave height is in fact continuing to increase over time (with climate change?):

    “over the last 20 years, 200 supertankers and container ships longer than 200 m have sunk in severe weather, extreme waves certainly being a main suspect.” (2005)

    Still looking for numbers for the last 10 years.

    The problem isn’t the slow increase in the average — the problem is the amplification where several large waves overlap to create an extremely large one (or where other causes do the same).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jun 2013 @ 4:17 PM

  378. and a back-burner question for Gavin et al. — would
    be worth adding to the sidebar? Reads well enough to me, but I don’t know how it’d compare to the FAQs you already have.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jun 2013 @ 6:56 PM

  379. What if denialists had obstructed U.S. action in WWII?

    Comment by Killian — 29 Jun 2013 @ 8:14 PM

  380. Critical impacts of global warming on land ecosystems

    From the comment, “Clara Deser has demonstrated that projected trends in temperature can vary dramatically by the mid-21st century from ensemble member to member for a single GCM”

    Oh, you mean a chaotic/non-linear signature? I guess they needed to confirm this, but aren’t the issues with initial conditions pretty well known? That is, wouldn’t it be weird if this *weren’t* what they found? The entire argument for urgent action on climate has to do with bifurcations and risk assessment.

    Comment by Killian — 29 Jun 2013 @ 10:17 PM

  381. Green Party response to Obama’s climate speech:
    Obama’s climate proposals fall dangerously short

    This response is absolutely accurate. No, no caveats, no conditionals, no equivocations in my statement. Obama’s speech is a suicide letter for humanity to humanity if it should become the broad response to climate, energy, collapse.

    Energy: Use them all. Blatantly, obviously, incredibly stupid. This is intended to do one thing: maintain the myth that unending growth in a finite space is possible. It isn’t. This is a prima facie reality.

    Technology: God of Tech lives and will take us all to Tech Heaven, here on Earth. Further idiocy. I am beginning to think nobody but me has ever read the work of Joseph TYainter and understood it. Tainter finds societies reach an apex in complexity, of which technology is clearly a large component, and then hit diminishing returns. If you know the Laffer Curve, you know this.

    The underlying assumption is that population growth cannot be challenged, much less stopped, so we have no choice but to tech our way out of growth limits.

    Nothing in that speech even hints at designing sustainable systems. If you think it does, you don’t understand the nature, the structure, the patterns, the principles of sustainable designs.

    This seemingly good news is a Trojan Horse in which Big Business, tech, energy companies, Big Ag, etc., are all hiding and about to jump out and end any chance at all of effective mitigation and adaptation to climate.

    If this stands as a blueprint for global action, it’s over. There is no time for a re-do.

    Comment by Killian — 29 Jun 2013 @ 10:36 PM

  382. > Oh, you mean …

    No, I don’t mean. If it’s your inference, claim it as your own.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jun 2013 @ 10:47 PM

  383. Killian:

    “This response is absolutely accurate. No, no caveats, no conditionals, no equivocations in my statement. Obama’s speech is a suicide letter for humanity to humanity if it should become the broad response to climate, energy, collapse.”

    Obama is not a dictator. What he is proposing is pretty much all that can be done without Congress. If you don’t think it’s enough (it is not) focus on Congress. Congress is where laws are made, not Obama.

    It’s like my European friends who complain that Obama didn’t shut down Gitmo. He tried to, and Congress passed legal amendments to laws that forbade him from doing so. Since he’s not a dictator, he had to obey the new laws. No choice.

    Comment by dhogaza — 29 Jun 2013 @ 11:21 PM

  384. Re SteveLL #369

    This post, covers your point

    Kevin Trenberth and Jennifer Francis on Climate, Ice, and Weather Whiplash
    Although nearly all climate scientists are in agreement on the general outlines of climate change and greenhouse gas effects, there are still, and will continue to be, areas of the science that are not yet “pound on the table we’re done” as Richard Alley likes to say. Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers has been making a persuasive case for the last year that polar amplification, and the loss of arctic ice and snow cover, are starting to have dramatic effects on global weather through the jet stream. See that video below if you have not already.

    Not everyone is in complete agreement. Dr. Kevin Trenberth is a highly respected senior researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. He reasons that because heat flows are so much greater in the tropics, that we should continue to look there for answers to the puzzle. I talked to both experts last month, and boiled down the discussion here.

    Though, you have to acknowledge that this is emerging science (only a few years old). But in general – Jet Stream configuration – behaviour it is very likely attached to the sea ice state. But tropical warmth probably plays into the atmospheric setup as well…

    Comment by prokaryotes — 30 Jun 2013 @ 9:44 AM

  385. Expedition into Antarctica (2012 docu)…

    Climate Puzzle – Investigating Climate Change in Antarctica

    Comment by prokaryotes — 30 Jun 2013 @ 10:45 AM

  386. Zimbardo on time perspectives — how people view the world.
    Rather astonishingly pertinent to climate expectations and education.
    Give it ten minutes. It’s worth the time.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jun 2013 @ 11:20 AM

  387. Killian wrote: “God of Tech lives and will take us all to Tech Heaven, here on Earth. Further idiocy … societies reach an apex in complexity, of which technology is clearly a large component, and then hit diminishing returns.”

    As I’ve written before, we had best hope that technology CAN provide a VERY quick fix to the immediate, short-term, EMERGENCY problem of eliminating virtually all greenhouse gas emissions in a VERY short time — i.e. a decade or two at most, with the steepest reductions front-loaded, beginning in five years at most.

    Because that’s the only way that the necessary reductions can possibly happen in the very short time frame needed.

    Profound, far-reaching changes to human society may well be needed or desirable in order to attain long-term, equitable, sustainable prosperity for the human species on this planet, but there is no way such changes are going to cause GHG emissions to peak and begin a steep decline within five years.

    On the other hand, rapid deployment of the efficiency and renewable energy and organic agriculture technologies that we have at hand NOW can do so, much more easily and rapidly and at much lower cost than most people realize.

    As for “complexity”, I don’t see what is inherently more “complex” about photovoltaic solar panels than coal-fired power plants (for example). The various PV technologies themselves are built on much more advanced scientific knowledge, but are in fact vastly simpler than turbines driven by steam heated by coal-fired furnaces (no moving parts, to start with).

    Arguably the electrical grid of the future, designed to intelligently handle input from a wide variety of electricity generators (variable and baseload and dispatchable, large and small scale, centralized and distributed) and consumption by “smart” users (empowered with energy management tools, onsite generation and storage) will be more “complex” than today’s grid, built around a much simpler model of large centralized power stations “broadcasting” power to “dumb” users.

    But we’ve built that kind of complexity before — and each person reading this text is in fact using it right now, in the form of the Internet. And in fact the “complexity” of the Internet (e.g. massive redundancy and routability) is its strength — it was, after all, designed that way so that it could survive a nuclear war. And given that the “smart” electric grid of the future, which is already being built around us today, will be built around modular, interconnected “microgrids” with their own generating and storage capacity and intelligent energy management, it will in effect be an “Intergrid”, and the sort of “complexity” that we see in the Internet is a good model.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jun 2013 @ 1:13 PM

  388. Re Hank Roberts #386

    To me this shows how old technology needs to be updated more frequently in order to keep up with the pace of change which comes with new inventions to our society. It also hints to evolutionary changes which arise as the climate changes and it’s obstacles and hurdles we have to master to successfully advance.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 30 Jun 2013 @ 1:49 PM

  389. > designed that way so that it could survive

    Ah, yes, that was before. When it was like FIDOnet, any site could talk to and get updates from any other. Every node a leaf node — kind of like every hand a field hand, the slogan that used to be for the old farmer’s granges. Good old days, those.

    But, terribly inefficient at live video, targeted advertising, and personalized servicing. Now, just a few main sites have everything passing through.

    Personally, I imagine a nation full of separate little microgrids will be like a nation full of little local militias — each trying to maximize its local situation as it locally sees things. That’s exactly wrong with electricity — all the operators have to quickly contribute to load balancing, within minutes, to keep the whole thing working.

    Fewer operators, more cooperation.
    Thousands of little ones, who ya gonna call?

    But people have foreseen this problem and suggested ways to cooperate.
    Here’s a rather interesting one, just to make a bit clearer why cooperation and technical standards rigidly applied are needed — for each power supplier:

    “… today’s data center designs are shaped by the increasing awareness of energy costs and carbon footprint. We posit that shifting computational workloads (and thus, demand) across geographic regions to match electricity supply may help balance the grid. In this paper we will first present a real grid balancing problem experienced in the Paci c Northwest. We then propose a symbiotic relationship between data centers and grid operators by showing that mutual cost bene ts would be accessible. Finally, we argue for a low cost workload migration mechanism, and pose overarching challenges in designing this framework …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Jun 2013 @ 6:21 PM

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