Good luck. Their editorial board, by the accounts I’ve read (I don’t read the WSJ editorial page) is exquisitely starkers. Just 180 degrees from their news organization. It’s one of the most fascinating, disturbing, depressing phenomenon in the modern world.
I admire your optimism, but I can’t share it. The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal routinely denies what is reported on its news pages, and not just in the realm of science. I don’t think they are so foolish as to believe what they say, which leaves only one other possibility.
It is a good initiative, and definately worth doing. But I think it is pretty hard to be as deep in denial as they are unless you *really* do NOT want to know. So I would be surprised if the offer were accepted.
There is an interesting movie on Global Warming coming to the US soon (in time for the elections) called The Great Warming
(brief description and links to film websites in above link)
RC, they claim consultations with top climatologists, any names from this establishment?
I applaud your willingness to participate in the discussions if they ever take place. (Though I think you’re being too modest about your own standing in the climate debate.) There is no guarantee that a discussion will open any minds (some of the minds on WSJ editorial board seem to be rusted soundly shut), but without dialog there is little hope of progress.
Thank you, and all of the contributors, for your work with this site. It’s on my daily ‘must-read’ list.
Excellent news! All along at the WSJ, a factual problem has been the editorial board’s ignorance of what the paper’s own reporters report, but an even bigger problem has been the editorial board’s journalistic practice, their unwillingness to invite and conduct an open, honest discussion.
Science’s obviously needed response to that practice is simply to offer continually, wherever and whenever possible, to have science’s best climate minds participate, if the WSJ will only open up what it has closed off.
(That response is obviously needed despite the “pristine” — remember that word from earlier RC discussions on this? — reality-blind scientists who, as Gavin accurately predicts, will “decry this as a waste of time.”)
The WSJ editorial board can dodge facts, but it can’t forever dodge its journalistic obligation to conduct open and honest discussion of facts.
So I hope RC readers will contact the WSJ editorial board with requests not just to get the climate science right, but to get the journalistic practice right.
The WSJ editorial board — especially James Taranto (James.Taranto@wsj.com), who writes “Best of the Web” online — ought at least to answer what’s being charged against them. It’s one thing to disagree with the climate consensus, but it’s quite another to deny the WSJ editorial board’s readers access to a decent discussion of it.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 19 Sep 2006 @ 10:29 AM
I will join with others and say this sounds like a great idea. I especially like the idea of including skeptics. However I am afraid that I am reminded of the old saying “you can lead a horse to water …”.
Its probably worth doing since you can at least continue to point to the offer. Kind of like the “bet on global warming” test that few skeptics are willing to take.
State Climatologists and their staffs have had close working relationships with National Weather Service people, which explains the downplaying on global warming science by both groups of public servants.
Sorry to post twice so quickly, but another blog (The Washington Monthly) is reporting the rumor that The Big Cheese himself is preparing an about face on Global Warming. The speculated date and speculated venue of this speculated change is next January’s State of the Union address. A Bush reversal would definitely give those whose skepticism is grounded in political considerations a graceful, public way out of their intransigence.
I’m with John Cross on this one – 99.5% of the time (.01 confidence, >80% probability, data available at my FTP) you aren’t going to change someone’s mind. But the upside will be the “big tent” offer, the fact that you will be keeping your enemies friends close by to see where they are getting their latest information, and lastly it will be harder for the editorial board to prevaricate with someone looking over their shoulder (making them work for their money, IOW).
It’s naive to believe that the WSJ editorial staff is ignorant about the state of the science regarding AGW.
The Economist has a level of integrity not shared by the WSJ’s editorial staff.
A debate such as that being proposed would be like a creationist vs. biologist debate. The biologist displays his or her knowledge and makes the creationist look foolish. The creationist declares victory, and the fundy press touts the result to the world.
Replace “creationist” with “AGW denialist”, “biologist” with “climate scientist”, and “fundy press” with “WSJ editorial board” and there you go …
“I will join with others and say this sounds like a great idea. I especially like the idea of including skeptics. However I am afraid that I am reminded of the old saying “you can lead a horse to water …”.
Or how about the Dorothy Parker quote …
“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”
I think this one is more apt, frankly.
Excuse me for the hijack gavin but this a must read:
A climate satellite is built and paid for. ………The Ukrainian government offered to launch DSCOVR free of charge, France made a similar offer. But NASA’s response so far has been “no thanks.”….. The mission was quietly killed this year, so the satellite is sitting in a box at Goddard Space Flight Center.
I could not imagine a stronger smoking gun of the political suppression of science.
[Response: I’m not personally familiar with this controversy, however, you should bear in mind that the biggest cost in all of these missions are not the launches, but the ongoing retrieval and processing of data once the satellite is launched. It is these costs that are most likely the sticking point. Remember there is no such thing as a free launch…. – gavin]
I think it is a good idea and worth trying. However they may choose not to address the science. I do not closely follow the WSJ editorial board but I did see a recent editorial where they criticized the new climate change law in California. In it they expressed skepticism about global warming but focussed their energy decrying the new law by minimizing the impact California could have acting alone and warned of the costs to California consumers and businesses. And of course they dragged out the boogeyman of rising emissions from China.
RealClimate would know more about this than me but I get the impression that the community of deniers have moved on from directly confronting the science because it is clear they have lost that battle. If the WSJ editorial board approach to the California law is any guide (I have seen other examples of this), the new strategy seems to be to compare any incremental solution such as the California law to an idealized immediate global solution. The deniers then find the incremental solution inadequate and therefore not worth doing. In case their first argument hasn’t convinced you they follow that up with a horror story about what it would cost but of course fail to even acknowledge the cost of not addressing climate change.
I would not trust the WSJ editorial board to stick to the agenda you would like to talk about.
Not very significant or surprising, most editorial boards differ from their reporters in most newspapers, except most editorial boards are even more radical left wing enviro-kooks that the reporters, as hard as that is to believe.
Actually, it seems as if that satellite was controversial since it’s inception. There seems to be conflicting reports on the Internet. Some call it a “Gore-camera” and a waste because of his feel-good “look at the earth from the Internet” scheme. Is this satellite critical for climate science or not? Just how well will this measure the energy budget? And won’t you need these measurements over a long period of time to make any use of the data?
He challenges them to truly follow their interest in an “open-minded search for scientific knowledge” …
The problem is that the editorial staff of The Wall Street Journal has no “interest” in an “open-minded search for scientific knowledge”. They have an interest in rapacious greed. They are bought-and-paid-for propagandists. They don’t write the things they do because they believe them to be true, and there is zero chance that they will be persuaded to “change their minds” or change what they write as a result of reviewing the scientific evidence. They are already well aware of the scientific evidence that anthropogenic global warming is real. That’s precisely the reason that they go to such elaborately dishonest lengths to convince their readers otherwise. They write the things they do in a deliberate, carefully scripted effort to deceive the public, in the interest of maintaining and increasing the wealth and power of the already wealthy and powerful fossil fuel corporations.
[Response: The point of such challenges is partly to test whether a self -professed desire for an “open-minded search for scientific knowledge” is genuine or not. I doubt very much that the WSJ will take up Sachs’ offer, but it’s important to make it obvious that they won’t, and who knows, maybe they’ll surprise us. I’m thinking about writing about the Economist’s transformation to see if there might be some lessons – I advise comparing the 1997 link from them (above) to any recent WSJ editorial. They’re really not so different. – gavin]
True, The Economist has done an excellent job of prioritizing where alledged AGW fits in the grand scheme of things, I definitely recommend the latest 2006 Copenhagen Consensus documents to you all, that is the kind of thing the WSJ does well, and of course this blog and scientists do poorly. Take a look if you dare, to see how puny and low priority possible AGW really is among real problems, it might reduce some of the excessive hubris I read here.
[Response: I’m not sure how often we need to state this, but prioritising tasks and allocating resources is a political function, not a scientific one. However, political decisions should be made in the full light of all available information – if potential costs are being ignored (‘externalised’) then no sensible C/B analysis can be done. However, economic parlour games like the Copenhagen Consensus do not come close to offering a useful analysis of the situation – too short a horizon and too limited an imagination. -gavin]
While James Taranto and John Fund don’t have college degrees, both “attended” Cal State, even in journalism they still feel qualified to call top scientists “jokers on the take” on global warming. Nothing from nothing leaves nothing. They won’t change. Their’s is to mock from ignorance. They’re stooges.
I am glad that Sachs had made this challenge but count me among those who don’t believe the WSJ editorial page is interested in the pursuit of truth. It is not like AGW is just a singular case for them…They are viciously anti-environment and will use whatever arguments are necessary to push their agenda. I think the WSJ editorial page will come around about the same time the Competitive Enterprise Institute does.
Having written Wall Street Journal op-eds , may I observe that the disparity you note is symptomatic of a problem that extends far beyond it. While the WSJ no longer has a Science Editor, such Beltway must-reads as The Washington Times ,The Weekly Standard and National Review have never had any to begin with. To compound this bipartisan problem neither have The New Republic or The Nation.
Let me therefore adduce a truly contrarian hypothesis: the problem at hand is the deplorable lack of politicized science in partisan journals –it cannot fairly be said to exist unless both sides have some inkling of what it is they are trying to politicize.
As long the PR perpetrating classes prefer propagating hype as recieved wisdom to raise ratings , the public will be their lawful prey, whether it’s Al Gore fast-forwarding sea level rise or 20/20 trying to resuscitate nuclear winter.
Having known Sin at Hiroshima, science was bound to run into advertising sooner or later.
Modelling the costs and ‘good’ or ‘proper’ responses to global warming is extremely complex (just like any social policy) and shallow and simplified games like the Copenhagen Consensus just don’t cut it. Not only must ALL costs and ALL benefits be examined, but you must look at every possibility (or at least every plausible solution). Personally, I feel that the best solutions aren’t even brought up to the table as many good and comprehensive solutions are based on sociology and psychology, not economics, and they probably require fundamental changes in how society operates.
As an example, why isn’t reducing or eliminating marketing (and consumerism) brought up as an idea? Marketing (IE., TV advertising, fancy product boxes, viral marketing, telemarketing, junk mail, marketing-based product design, industry promotion, product placement, free samples, certain aspects of trademarks, etc.) creates desires and ‘needs’ that need not exist. The way I see it, creating a need for new windows by smashing all the windows in the neighborhood (obviously vandalism) is no worse than creating a ‘need’ for golf courses, Pokemon cards, large cars, addictive drugs, or even empires and war – the end effect is more resources spent and a decrease in happiness (the decrease occurs because not everyone can pay the price, and even those that can expend substantial effort meeting the new ‘needs’). That marketing adds to global warming and plenty of other externalities (via extra economic activity and reduced efficiency) only makes the whole equation worse.
Lastly, just because an idea isn’t the best idea around doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Every proposal that has a total benefit higher than the total cost is a worthy proposal that will make humans better off than the status quo, and that should not be forgotten. There’s also no reason that programs cannot be done in parallel and it would be stupid not to do so. In the case of global warming, any social engineering based approaches (ie., demand reduction) would act synergistically with energy efficiency and renewable energy based approaches.
It’s more than what you said in 24. Propagating a controversy on global warming science for rating purposes wouldn’t work for the WSJ if we took away the two large groups of public servants who’ve been on the same team with the skeptics (see #7).
Michaels views don’t seem out of that out of line with the consensus: “His position is that the climate is becoming warmer, but it will not turn out to be as hot — or its consequences as bad — as some fear.”
Similarly, Taylor of Oregon seems spot on the current state science: “Taylor acknowledges that the Earth is warming but says it is impossible to calculate how much of that is caused by human activity.”
Has anyone calculated how much of that is caused by human activity? In which journals? Using which models? I suspect the mixed GHG proportion is somewhere between 20% and 60%, with internal climate modes and solar variation the leading candidates for the rest. I doubt anyone has made a case for high accuracy in attribution in peer reviewed journals that can stand up to scrutiny.
[Response: You are not even remotely correct in any of the above statements. Natural radiative forcing (solar+volcanic) actually leads to a net cooling over the 20th century, and the remaining (internal) natural variability could not possibly account for the late 20th century warming. Before spouting nonsense, I suggest you at least aquaint yourself with the basics. You might start with the detection and attribution chapter of the IPCC (2001) report. – mike]
The models and data are not yet up to this task, and may never be, given the accuracy which which we might have to know the climate previous to the recent warming in order to properly represent climate commitment. Even the earlier levels of forcing can never be recovered with sufficient accuracy, it does not mean we won’t be able to validate the models for projective purposes with the aid of a few more years of accurate data, and, of course, with the necessary model improvements.
[Response: It’s odd, but the desire for a fixed percentage of what the attribution to solar, or GHGs are to current warming (or the greenhouse effect is in general) is much more prevelant on discussion boards than in the literature or at scientific conferences. The reasons why it’s difficult and a little ill-defined are that a) prior to the satellite era some important forcings become more uncertain (particularly aerosols and solar), b) we still have uncertainty in the climate sensitivity (and some variation in the efficacy of various forcings, and most importantly, c) because there is a mix of warming and cooling effects, an ‘attribution’ defined as the expected delta T due to GHGs divided by the actual delta T will give more than 100%! A better definition might be to estimate it as delta T (GHGs)/ (total delta T from all warming forcings) – i.e. of all the forces making the planet warmer, what percent are GHGs. Alternatively, you could lump all anthropogenic forcings together vs natural forcings, but there too, since most estimates of the total ‘natural’ response (from solar + volcanoes) give a late 20th C cooling, you would get an anthropogenic attribution of more than 100% again. This might be worth exploring in a full post… – gavin]
Congrats to Jeffrey Sachs on the idea of a debate, will be looking forward to see if WSJ is inclined to release itself from its shackles of ignorance.
On a lighter note, there is nothing more sexy for business than a solar panel, a thing of beauty if well placed, a total renewable energy package, a money saver, a small perpetual oil well, I kind of think that the business world has lost their edge perhaps because business people read the wrong papers.
Re Jeffrey Davis comment 8, one should of course be careful with rumours (in this case, The Washington Monthly picked up the story from a UK journalist I had alerted to an article in Platts that had been forwarded by someone else – see http://jebin08.blogspot.com/2006/09/climate-uk-numbers-and-us-rumours.html ). That said, I for one would be interested to see more informed comment on the implications of targets such as 450ppm by 2050 and 2106.
Mike, I not only have read the 2001 attribution section, but also participated in the lastest draft review. Combining solar and volcanic forcings is a red herring, when the question is what proportion increases in solar activity and forcing is responsible for the 20th century warming and particularly the recent warming vis’a’vis anthropogenic GHGs. Solar forcing has increased over the 20th century and given that the oceans have not yet had time to equilibrate to the new levels of forcing, it must have contributed some to the recent warming, in fact, that equlibration was further delayed by the cooling period, so the unrealized climate commitment would have been greater than ordinarily expected given that most of the increase in solar activity occurred in the first half of the century.
[Response: Thats enough of this nonsense. We’ve discussed this ad nauseum in past posts. The trend in natural radiative forcing during the 20th century is negative. If you’ve got something new to add to the discussion, fine. Otherwise, don’t bother posting this stuff. – mike]
Gavin is on the right track with identifying the issues: “delta T (GHGs)/ (total delta T from all warming forcings) – i.e. of all the forces making the planet warmer, what percent are GHGs.” especially, since deltaT is specified, which would presumably incorporate any difference in climate sensitivity to the different forcings.
Mike’s statement that internal variation could not possibly have caused the recent warming is also a red herring. It doesn’t not have to have caused it to be significant. Even a 10% to 15% contribution is significant, and I would add that term to the denominator that Gavin has proposed. We need models that can reproduce multidecadal climate modes to properly attribute this, and given that we know the current ocean state much better than the past states, any hopes of recovering this figure probably requires running the models in reverse.
Models that attribute 100% of the recent warming to anthropogenic GHGs are likely to give erroneously high projections based on the projections of higher GHG scenerios.
The #2 priority of the Copenhagen Consensus–Water Supply and Sanitation–is a climate change issue. 1.8 billion people currently don’t have access to reliable, safe water sources. Most of these people live in arid, lower latitude regions which will likely dry out as the globe warms. I’ve always been perplexed by the decoupling of the climate change issue with world water supply problem.
Water supply is primarily a land use issue and only secondarily a climate change issue. Issues like depleting fossil aquifers, building cities in deserts, and wasteful irrigation practices have nothing to do with climate change. Even desertification is due in large part to deforestation, overgrazing, poor agricultural practices, and other land use issues.
The niggling arguments about exactly what portion of global warming can be attributed to anthropogenic causes are appalling. It’s analogous to dealing with a house fire by arguing about how the fire started and whether it will take two hours or three hours to burn the house down. First priority is to control the fire.
We are facing a global crisis. Certainly serious, possibly catastrophic. Mankind’s activities, including burning fossil fuels, are exacerbating (and almost certainly causing) the crisis so we need to change our ways. This is not an intellectual exercise. This is survival.
And Crocodile Hunter, unless YOU can present a convincing analysis that a 4 – 6 meter sea level rise won’t be catastrophic, please go troll elsewhere. Your repetitive posts just make you appear chuckleheaded.
Have to diagree that climate is only a secondary component of water issues. Sure land use is a huge part of it, but every drought, regardless of the use of bmps, has a climatic component. Even areas without development experience drought. I dig integrated water resource management as much as the next guy, but supply-side issues are going grow as time goes on.
[Response: Ah…. If only every one of my public lectures got as much press as Bill Gray’s….. Unfortunately, Gray’s conviction that he is right is just not supported by any actual evidence (peer reviewed paper anyone?). Sure it’s good for challenges to be made, but for them to have any traction in the real scientific debate (as opposed to the media debate) they need published support – and here he is woefully lacking. – gavin]
[Response: As soon as a contrarian trots out that favorite of all specious arguments “how can we model climate change when we can’t predict the weather 10 days from now?”, they’ve ceased constructive engagement and are not worth listening to any longer. – mike]
I haven’t read all the comments. I started to read Mr. Sach’s article “Fiddling While the Planet Burns” His first line “Another summer of record-breaking temperatures brought power failures, heat waves, droughts and tropical storms throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.” As always I was immediately turned off by so called scientists who try to make uneducated people like me believe that now every heat wave, drought, flood and hurricane (to name only a few) is caused by a one degree rise in global temperature . You guys say you want to talk about just the science, why not try that, maybe we do have sense enough to understand the facts rather than wonder if we should be scared to death.
True Milton, perhaps this blog could trot out all those scientists from last year for the WSJ experts(many from Ga. Tech. as I remember, and yelling and trying to shout down Bill Gray and Max Mayfield at AMS as they disagreed with them as I recall), you know the ones who claimed Katrina and the larger than average 2005 hurricane season was caused by AGW. So what do they say this year? Oh, I know, one year of odd weather proves nothing, funny, that’s what Bill and Max and the skeptics said last year that got them demonized. Try again AGW “believers”, your faith has holes in it and is sinking.
re: 38. No. Please read the peer-reviewed scientific literature. It has shown that there will always be some natural influences that affect hurricane formation but that the baseline numbers have been raised over previous decades. Furthermore, hurricane formation trends is just one of the oh so many indicators of anthropogenic global warming. You can read about many of them on this web site.
We have a developing El Nino (warming waters of the equatorial Pacific) which enhances upper level wind shear in the Atlantic. That shear is often largely responsible for the relatively fewer hurricanes. Such as this season. One season does not make a trend.
Narrow focus, cherry-picking, and personal attacks such as accusing scientific data and reproducable results to be “faith” do absolutely nothing to show that the peer-reviewed science behind climate change is not sound.
I have been thinking about suitable answers to that question ever since Rasmus started his thread that is now closed. Yesterday I was reading Poincare (in Ian Stewart’s book “Does God Play Dice”) and the answer suddenly came to me:-)
The excerpt that Stewart includes is from Poincare’s essay “Chance”. He compares weather prediction with roulette since both are deterministic but appear to be random. (This was long before Ed Lorentz!) That gave me the idea :-)
We cannot predict where the next throw of the roulette ball will land, but we do know that the house will make a profit. We may not know what the weather will be in one week’s time, but we do know that if we increase the greenhouse gases then it will be hotter. That is like the house taking a larger share of our stakes by upping the odds. We know we will lose :-(
I agree with Gavin on keeping things open and transparent.
I have been a reader of The Economist for many years now, often frustratingly so but it always keeps me on my toes. One does need to look at the overall internal management structure of the journal to understand how it functions. I do not have the link, but for subscribers to the journal there is always the Barbara Smith retirement article on-line which describes the process of editorial decisions and in particular the fights on difficult issues : in her article there were two, Vietnam and Iraq, both of which The Economist got wrong and to its credit the journal now admits perhaps that their view on Iraq should have been a little more mature.
On Climate, they were a denier and even supported Mr Lomburg : I don’t see that support currently, indeed the journal should be congratulated for getting the Climate issue right.
Some posters have already commented on the divergence of the WSJ Editorial from the main body of the newspaper. It is no different in The Economist indeed sometimes I wonder if the Editor has been reading his/her own reporters. But in general, views do cohere.
I would agree with the poster who talks about the journal’s integrity. A lot of clever people work there : you might be interested to know that the last two specials on Global Warming and Globalisation were both edited by women and in my view represented good and fair reporting.
So far as cost benefit analysis is concerned I agree with Gavin that it’s a fair start provided both costs and benefits are properly identified. There is a paper by two economists from Norway which does the maths and takes things on a bit further than Mr Lomburg’s mob and I posted on this some time ago. The point I always make about Mr Lomburg is that he is a bad and biased reporter of his own events.
That shear is often largely responsible for the relatively fewer hurricanes. Such as this season.
I see everywhere the assumption that this Atlantic hurricane season is below average. But see table 1 on this page, which displays the progression that one would expect from an average of the 1944 – 2005 seasons.
By this date (September 20), the expected activity is:
7 named systems (of tropical storm strength)
3 (nearly 4) hurricanes
1 (nearly 2) major hurricanes.
The actual activity:
8 named systems -> above average
4 hurricanes -> average
2 major hurricanes -> average
I think a bit of caution is in order; While it is possible that the oncoming El Nino will dampen Atlantic hurricane activity enough to result in a below average final season tally (as some have forecast), the present tally is so far close to average.
re: 43. Your point is well-taken, thanks. Indeed, it may well be that the developing El Nino has influenced and somewhat lessened the tropical activity this year and yet it is still a season that is close to the average, rather than being below average as one might expect.
Re 42 Steve, I don’t think I explaine my ideas very well let me try again.
What Poincare is arguing is that if we could measure the speed of the the croupiers hand and the speed and position of the roulette wheel, then we could calculate into which slot the ball would eventually rest. Because the calculations (and measurements) are impractical we say each throw is random.
Similarly, with the weather. If we could make enough measurements and enough caculations then we could calculate the weather. Poincare was writing in the 19th century before computers were widespread. Of couse now we can predict the weather, but we still think of much of it as random.
Consider roulette again. We know on average the way that the ball will fall into the pockets. For instance just less than half of throws will end in red pockets and similarly for black pockets. 1/37 of the times the ball will fall in the 0 pocket. So we know the house has an advantage of 2.3% and we can calculate how fast we will lose money. If you go to the USA, there is an additional 00 pocket so the house has an advantage of 5.3%, and we will lose money much faster. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roulette#Types_of_Roulette
Similarly we know that on average the greenhouse effect is 33K degrees. If we double the CO2 concentration then the greenhouse effect and global tempertures will increase just as the odds do when you add another zero pocket to a roulette wheel. We can calculate the odds, even if we can’t predict the next number. And we can calculate the temperture rise even if we can’t predict tomorrow’s temperature.
NB Temperatures and temperature rises are not the same things, even though they are measured with the same units. Temperature rises can be added. Adding tempertures is meaningless. It does not make sense to add the temperature of New York to that of London. So even though we cannot calculate a temperture, we can calculate a temperature rise.
“The system could right itself or spin out of human control.”
The above from the Economist commentary. But perhaps one can question the implied premise, that the ‘system’ is or ever was under human control. Though I have no idea, as a layman, if the impulse which has been imparted to the global climate system can be modified, I suspect that scientists can’t answer that question either. Before nations are willing to apply presumed solutions to the problem of global warming, they will have to be convinced, if only psychologically, that remedies exist which are not simply desperate expedients.
One example of the second large groups of public servants on the same team with the skeptics had some discussion published below.
Excerpts from August 9, 2006 Juneau Empire article:
… “Tom Ainsworth, a panelist and the meteorologist in charge of the Juneau Weather Forecast Office. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Ainsworth said, adding that the planet continuously goes through climate-change cycles. “It’s a natural thing. But if we can use our information of these cycles to improve our lifestyle, then I think we should.” … http://www.juneauempire.com/stories/080906/loc_20060809027.shtml
Some additional background material from an April 9, 2006 Juneau Empire searched article is shown below.
My questions – What are the Panel’s policy proposals up to this point? How did they arrive at them?
This winter Mayor Bruce Botelho appointed a panel of local scientists to gather the best data available about the warming trend and its present and possible future consequences for Juneau. The idea is for Juneau to become “more informed about this global phenomenon that is also happening in our backyard,” Botelho said last week. The panel’s work began a few weeks ago. It is expected to last at least six months and result in policy proposals and town meetings.
A quick glance shows a thorough summary of technology steps, using all the “stabilization wedges”: efficiency, renewables, CCS, nuclear, and fusion. I didn’t see an implementation plan yet. (The summary mentions voluntary measures and market forces, of course.) This will take time to digest.
#36, Kate Martin of the Herald might have wanted to put Gray’s tropical storm forecast batting record , taking quite the hit this year, especially from his forecast at the onset of the season. But there would not be a story with him because of such an ominous failure. Roger did good though, I appreciate a lot more his views, but he should point out another contrarian than Gray…
#43 it should not have been an average year according to all the often quoted Hurricane experts. Gray and NTS AMO cycle of +0.2 C will rage for another 20 years! All with 2005 hurricane numbers….. Memory is fleeting….
I’ve been following the global warming ‘debate’ from the late 80s. It has been clear from the beginning that the denialists have had a three fold strategy: (1) It is not happening. (2) If it is happening, the amount of warming is insignficant or at least manageable. (3) If it is happening, and the effects are likely to be disruptive, it is too late to do anything about it. It is clear from this strategy that the object is not to argue honestly about global warming but to do everything possible to delay doing anything about it.
With respect to Bill Gray and the other hurricane experts:
It might be noted that so far this year, the predictions of the hurricane experts, appear to be off with respect to the number of hurricanes. This will undoubtedly be used as evidence that global warming does not affect huricanes, and that chicken littles were reacting hysterically to what happened last year. But in fact, Kerry Emanuel and others, if I understand correctly, have not claimed that there is a relationship between hurricane frequency and global warming, and they certainly wouldn’t cliam that the relationship between intensity of tropical storms and global warming would show up in any one year. So if anyone is mistaken in the science, based on this year, it is Bill Gray and others who claim to be able to predict the likely number of such storms in the current year. Maybe they have to do some more computer modelling :-;
If I understand correctly, the hurricane predictors have told us we should expect more than the average number of storms this year. In fact, hurricane frequency and intensity should be higher than normal for many years into the future, but, they claim, this has nothing to do with global warming.
Leonard, there is a diversity of opinion among the skeptics, with varying degrees of validity. The predominate views are that warming is happening but that the models don’t have the predictive skill needed to justify the more extreme predictions, and that solar activity’s contibution is currently at high levels with significant uncertainty regarding its past levels of forcing, so its contribution may be underestimated and furthermore its activity is likely to decrease, as projected both on the basis of paleo record statistics (per Solanki) and on the basis of solar conveyor theory.
Solanki’s recent projections that the climate will be cooler by 0.2 degrees C by 2050, imply that far from being too late, we have nearly another 50 years.
These positions are defensible on any open forum, and I doubt skeptics would run from defending them.
Why not open up this forum, with skeptics also represented among the contributers to assure that all voices are heard, and then direct the WSJ editors to this site? A more permanent, open and well organized discussion can be had here, with more considered choices of words than at a live meeting, where loquaciousness rather than considered opinion will have an advantage.
We should all endeavor to address issues directly and not gloss over or dodge them. I suspect that the end result will not be resolution the issue of global warming, but will clarify the current state of the science. We need skillful models of both the climate and solar activity, and that is probably 5 to 10 years or more a way. I hope we don’t have to wait through two solar cycles to validate the conveyor theory, but we may have to.
[Response: You’ve misunderstood Solanki’s position. If the solar forcing is going to decrease (and I’m not sure that out of the dozen or so predictions out there, there is really a consensus on that), then it would lead to a 0.2 C cooling over what would be expected. He is not arguing for an absolute cooling – just possibly a slightly slower rise. But of course, as soon as any hypothesised cycle switches, it accelarates any GHG warming by about the same rate. There are no peer-reviewed papers (AFAIK) indicating that anything the sun can do will overwhelm the GHG signal in the near future. – gavin]
re: 54. There are considerable parallels to the way industry responded to acid rain issues in the 1980s, including the supposed devastating effects any acid deposition precursor emission control programs would have on the economy. Of course we all saw what happened…a booming economy in the 1990s.
Business community is by nature often a conservative one. I’d like to be optimistic in a way that once they realize AGW is bad for business, they will revise their position on the matter. The Economist has already done this, WSJ unfortunately not (yet).
Re 59: “Business community is by nature often a conservative one. I’d like to be optimistic in a way that once they realize AGW is bad for business, they will revise their position on the matter.”
Along with the news of Branson’s forthcoming investments mentioned in the above BBC link, the New York Times has another interesting piece:
If corporate directors really understood the implications of global warming, would they steer their companies toward preventing it?
Ceres, a coalition of environmentalists and investors; Yale University; and Marsh, the risk and insurance services unit of Marsh & McLennan , insist the answer is yes. And this winter, they will hold what they call sustainable governance forums to give directors an overview of the financial, legal, business and investor implications of climate change.
“Climate change is no longer the purview of scientists only,” said James Gustave Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “The widespread ramifications of unchecked climate change require that more leaders in our society understand its implications.”
With respect to Alister and Steve’s points (40, 42), I think what they are getting at was best expressed as weather is an initial value problem, climate is a boundary value problem. I don’t know the original source.
I thought I understood initial value and boundary value problems, but I don’t see how climate can be interpreted as a boundary value problem. Eli?
[Response:Weather is an initial value problem, given x(t0) what is x(t)? Climate is an boundary value problem what is the distribution of x given the insolation, atmospheric composition, topography etc. The statistical results of an atmospheric model, for instance, are the same regardless of what the initial values of the atmospheric temperature or humidity are, but they will be systematically different if I change GHG levels, or the size of Rocky mountains… – gavin]
I think that is a variation of strategy 2: yes, but what about …? It is again an argument to delay any action. I am only a poor mathematician who from time to time struggles to understand the science at anything but a superficial level, but it appears to me that Gavin’s response is in line with other things I’ve read.
“No more business as usual” is the cliched mantra invoked as a blanket solution that’s never spelled out. The abstract of Mr Legget’s paper provides the first dollar amount AGW mitigation would cost that I’ve seen: $67 Trillion. I see mitigation as “Power Down,” since GHG are most directly tied to power generation for static and mobile applications. So if emissions must fall by 60-70% in short order just to stabilize GHG, then it follows that power generation must fall by a similar amount. This begs the questions How, and What will the people thrown out of work do; questions I realize are beyond the scope of this blog but must be faced. In Gore’s recent speech, he makes the answer seem to be no more than a redirection of our economy, while ignoring the need to radically and rapidly reduce the power generation that runs the economy; in other words, business as usual with a different direction. In the paper I’m writing on this subject, I see no way to avoid throwing at least 50 million households in the USA out of the labor market, which means half of US households would be unemployed; and here I’m being optomistic.
So in any debate/discussion with WSJ, lurking in the background is the real inconvenient truth: Mitigation = Power Down = Economic Disruption and social chaos.
It seems that (General) Systems Theory is a generalisation of Dynamical System Theory applied to the social sciences, and what Poincare was saying is that the weather and roulette are similar dynamical systems. One could say that he was contradicting Steve Sadlow, but then Poincare had never heard of General Systems Theory because it was not named until the 1950s and he died in 1912.
It was Poincare’s genius to visualise dynamical systems and their applications, and only my luck to spot that just as the Rockie Mountains (well CO2 really, but Gavin’s parallel is closer) drive the global temperature, the 00 pocket drives the roulette odds. Interestingly, I have just been reading that it was not just Poincare who anticipated Systems Theory. Hegel also saw the history of civilisation as a general system, with power blocks growing and collapsing. This was the inspiration for Karl Marx and the communist revolution. So does that make me Poincare’s Karl Marx :-(
If anyone would like to read what Poincare wrote then there is a translation of his book “Science and Hypothesis” at http://spartan.ac.brocku.ca/~lward/Poincare/Poincare_1905_01.html This author’s preface is well worth reading, although I had to cut and paste it into a Word document, then tidy up the pagination before printing it off. His message is that the Newtonian machine is not how the world works. In fact it is chaotic. And he was saying that 100 years ago. See what you think!
FYI, it looks like Solanki has corrected/adjusted the results he published in Nature in 2004. I find it significant that his new analysis has adjusted past sunspot numbers up, and he has NOT repeated his claim that recent solar activity is the highest in 8000 years. So I assume his claim would be that the recent warming is just one of the highest.
Your interpretation of Solanki’s 0.2 degrees C prediction might well be right. All I have to go on for that is the reporting in New Scientist: “the most recent calculations by Solanki’s team suggest that the sunspot crash could lead to a cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere by 0.2C” It certainly isn’t from a peer review article.
I also have only seen press releases of the predictions of the solar conveyor theory. If the predictions are mentioned in peer review papers, I expect that the actual result of the paper would be reporting of the solar conveyor activity and the predictions would likely be only in the discussion, i.e. not peer reviewed. In the press releases/web reports, the next cycle was expected to be highly active, and the following was to be dramatically less active. I intend to become more familiar with the literature in this area, I’ll let you know if I find anything apropo.
#59: in the acid rain situation, I think it was fairly obvious what the problem was at the time (dead forests, rotting monuments, dead lakes) and the controls of sulphur emissions were fairly straight forward. Notice too that nothing in industry changed EXCEPT they added scrubbers to powerplants.
Fast forward to this decade: GW is a hypothetical issue to most common people. The expected results are a few degrees C warming, some melting ice, maybe water shortages somewhere we’re never heard of. Routine stuff really, except for scale, regarding which most people have exactly ZERO comprehension. Further, the solutions are not simply to add a scrubber to a few powerplants, no the solutions being advocated require a 180 degree turn away from resource consumption behaviors ingrained over the full 300 years of the industrial revolution.
Thus I am not in the LEAST confident that businesses will either pick up the ball or run with it. EVER. It is exactly this reality that spurs the WSJ and others to tear their hair out in black fury over all this “science” stuff. They simply cannot see a means by which 50% of the economy can continue to exist if we decide to turn back the clock 300 years (as they seem to think is likely to happen). And mind you, they may have something to worry about; our domestic industries have been too slow to adapt and might be at a disadvantage in the not-so-distant future. Further, the American consumer seems to have little or no stomach for these kinds of changes.
I have little hope for a business-led solution, and no hope at all for a consumer-led one, in North America. Given this, and the gravity of the threat before us, it’s hard to maintain one’s spirits.
Most of what you have to offer is mostly speculation and most often not backed up by facts. Most is not a quantifier. I wonder if most people will agree with anyone who uses most as much as you use most?
Then again, I mostly believe that most of your views about radical left wing enviro-kooks will mostly be seconded by most of your followers most always.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 21 Sep 2006 @ 6:16 PM
Maybe it is time for a DNF list, Do Not Fund. I see that in the UK a polite, though formidable letter from the Royal Society was enough to get a big oil company to reply that they would no longer fund a group of pesky deniers, including some of the worst from the States. Why not circulate a list and see how many companies will join up? If nobody pays they will not say, much.
For cat black, I understand and share your concern, but a recent poll shows
“The survey, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, was conducted Aug. 11-16, and included 1,018 respondents. It carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
Nearly three of every four – 74% – are more convinced today that global warming is a reality than they were two years ago, the survey shows. Dramatically, it is a sentiment shared by a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and political independents. While many more Democrats believe in global warming (87%), 56% of Republicans concur. Among independents, 82% think we are experiencing the effects of global warming. These numbers indicate a shift in the momentum of global warming believers.” [I really don’t like the word “believers” because it relates to faith and religion; acceptors I see as an improvement.] http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1161
Unfortuately, there’s only the mention that industry needs to reduce emissions, while this somewhat dated chart http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Greenhouse_Gas_by_Sector.png shows “Industrial processes” emitting 16.8%, which while 2nd is 4.5% less than emissions by power stations. Gore is right about one thing: people need to be educated on this topic rapidly as billions of lives are at stake.
Re #65: Karl, you’ve misinterpreted my abstract. $67 trillion is to mitigate the 10 or so global risks I assess, not just global warming. And as the expenditure can occur over several decades it works out, as the abstract states, even for all of them at only about 2% of gross world product per year. The details for all this are from the previously published literature. From this data, my paper simply attempts fairly coarse order-of-magnitude quantity surveying of how much of what is needed to be done to achieve full mitigation, how much would that cost and would it be affordable.
Re energy alone, my analysis supports what Mr Gore and many others have observed – that it is indeed just a redirection of our energy sources away from greenhouse gas emitters. In my quantification of this, I came up with the pleasantly surprising finding (which obviously will have to survive further checking), that the cost of the required scale of transition to non-emitting energy sources is actually slightly cheaper than what we would spend on new or replaced conventional plant over the period of the next few decades.
To quote from the paper (Section 3.2.2): “Resource availability is not a constraint: according to The World Energy Assessment, the technically available potential for each carbon and non-carbon) scenario is several orders of magnitude above current global energy use.
Similarly, cost is not a constraint for a range of energy options: on a levelised (full lifecycle
cost) basis, current technology for baseload power for nuclear and some renewables
(geothermal and wind) is comparable to coal (photovoltaics are currently higher in cost)
[51,52]. Finally, capital requirements: as a share of GDP, energy sector investment in the 1990s
was 1-1.5 per cent of global GDP, or $0.29-0.43 tr (average $0.36 tr) . To meet the
GHG reduction target, 60 per cent of the output of this investment would need to be noncarbon
energy. Assuming for convenience that output is proportional to input, 60 per cent
of energy sector investment (or $0.22 tr) would have to be in non-carbon energy.
Concerning costs, the World Energy Assessment  has estimated that the above noncarbon scenarios are actually cheaper (by around 50 per cent) than investments expected for a business-as-usual carbon scenario. At, then, conservatively, 30 per cent not 50 per cent lower, capital requirements for noncarbon-scenario packages of (a) nuclear, (b) wind, and (c) geothermal are each costed at
$0.22 tr_0.7 – $0.15 tr per year, or $0.07 tr per year less than the business as usual case.
Disaggregated fuel and other elements of levelised costs  are hard to source, and so
they are not specified in this estimate (that is, they are considered to be incurred similarly
for each scenario). Given this treatment favours dearer non-carbon energy generation,
such treatment is conservative. With this background, the total non-carbon energy budget increase/decrease required compared to business as usual is negative $0.07 tr. per year.
Re: 73> Concerning costs, the World Energy Assessment  has estimated that the above noncarbon scenarios are actually cheaper (by around 50 per cent) than investments expected for a business-as-usual carbon scenario.
If that is really true, convincing business to adopt noncarbon generation for baseload power should not be difficult.
The difficult problem may be convincing environmentalists to allow nuclear to be used.
To Solanki’s credit, he explicitly comments upon the implications of the new analysis for his previous result. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, when the full text clarifies questions one had when reading only the abstract. My bad.
I think RC needs a space where comments can be injected from people living at world wide locations, especially places which are experiencing dramatic climate shifts. Like right now in a big chunk of the High Arctic ,no winter yet!, the shrinkage of multi-year Polar ice, astounding for ice connaisseurs, current El-nino going hotter every day, 1997 redux,, the possible Russian winter big freeze repeat, Mid west USA drought, stange cooling near Antarctica, would be nice to read a near live comment from an antarctican….. I am sure that many are feeling a change in the Pacific various ways. Suprisingly some newspapers do this, cover current weather events while taking comments from many areas in this world, but those articles are 3 gems in a huge sand pit, I rather we communicate these events more often then commenting on a paper which is practically hopeless, this site rocks, but climate music should come from everywhere.
The problem revolves around time vs the reduction in CO2 emitting technologies. World politics, let alone implementing new technologies is not in our favour to mitigate against probable serious/abrupt climate change. Due to that fact that by around 2050 we would have added another 200 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (4.5 billion * 44 years) making a trillion tonnes in total and it will not be until this time that we have got large scale CO2 neutral technologies into action then I still say that the odds are against us being successful.
The best that we can do in the next 50 years is to make sure that increased energy demand is not CO2 emitting but even this is not guaranteed.
The total cost can be lower but if, as with nuclear, those costs are primarily upfront, capital investments (or vague future liabilities), then how you raise the money and the assumptions you build into your financing models have a big impact on whether the project is deemed to be viable.
The experience EDF has built up of building out a nuclear fleet for baseload energy and the Finnish model for decommissioning and long-term storage would seem to indicate that nuclear is a soluble problem if you get the appropriate financial and institutional structures in place. Given the lack of appetite in the anglo-saxon economies for financing large-scale engineering ventures with sovereign debt however; and our, frankly, piss-poor record at working out institutional structures that can handle the intergenerational timescales that long-term repositories require – these may not be a messages that our govts are in a good place (ideologically speaking) to hear.
Then there’s the whole green thing of course. Doubtless there are many ‘religious’ greens who will maintain their heartfelt antipathy to the big domes, but I think there are enough ‘evidence based’ greens who will hold their noses and accept a nuclear buildout in preference to coal. Ultimately, my gut feeling is that this will be enough to swing the issue.
Of these two potential roadblocks to acceptance, I’m more worried about the former.
RE Cat Black # 68.
I’m one of those “common” people you say are capable of ZERO comprehension.
I may not have a degree in a scientific field but I have a lot of “common” sense. If you can demonstrate(I’d like to see it) that you know how to slow down hurricanes, stop glaciers from melting, prevent desease, stop frogs from dying, make ice last longer in the Artic, save the rain forests, stop the sea from rising, etc. etc. by just adjusting a few parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere then I’ll accept my station in life as a common person, and you can have the throne.
YOU GUYS ARE NUTS IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE YOU CAN CONTROL THE CLIMATE OF THIS PLANET.100 parts per million less CO2 will do it I suppose, come on now, get real-climate.
re: 82. Your general personal attack and capital letters/shouting aside as if either do anything to support your comment, we are already affecting the climate of this planet. That is a given. Read the peer-reviewed literature. It is quite comprehensible. The idea that we can only affect climate in a negative way but we can not make positive changes is simply wrong. There are many examples in the past where mankind has caused negative impacts to the environment, only to make changes and corrections for the better.
So what does your common sense say about doubling or worse the atmospehric concentration of CO_2 and equivalents in other greenhouse gases? Do you claim that you know that climate, both local and global, will be unaffected by such changes? How does common sense convince you that the effect will be minimal?
I suppose that if your doctor tells you your blood pressure has risen to levels that may affect your health, your common sense tells you to ignore that because clearly those guys can’t predict anything as complex as human health.
Re #74, nuclear electricity generation is not “noncarbon generation”.
While the actual operation of a nuclear power plant does not emit CO2, the entire nuclear power generation cycle, from the mining, refinement and transport of uranium, to the construction of the power plants, to the “disposal” (actual sequestration) of the waste, to the decommissioning of the power plants, there are large amounts of fossil fuels consumed and GHGs emitted at every phase.
Of all the alternatives to burning coal and natural gas to produce electricity, including improved efficiency of use, wind turbines, and photovoltaics, nuclear power is the most expensive way to have the smallest impact on reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation. And that’s before we even get into a discussion of the other serious problems and dangers of nuclear power.
In my experience, proponents of expanding nuclear electricity generation typically begin with the assumption that it can quickly make a large contribution to reducing GHG emissions, and then move immediately to minimizing the other problems and dangers, and suggesting that the only objections to nuclear power are the irrational concerns of “greens”. But the initial assumption — that nuclear power can significantly and quickly reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation — simply doesn’t hold up.
Whatever valid arguments there may be for a massive worldwide expansion of nuclear electricity generation, mitigating global warming from GHG emissions is not one of them.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Sep 2006 @ 11:18 AM
Re 82 84
I must apologize for calling anyone nuts, its just that I can’t conceive of how you can prove that you can control the climate. I’m sure humans and other things could have some impact.
How do you know that any action we take will make the change needed. Doctors can prove that high blood pressure affects my health and can demonstrate that taking medication will reduce it,however they don’t know if I will die of a heart attack tomorrow, and I don’t think we know how the climate will be 50 years from now. I would not take medicine that had not been proven to work.
Good Luck, I know this is really a place for climate scientist to communicate, so I won’t interrupt anymore.
Milton wrote in #82: “YOU GUYS ARE NUTS IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE YOU CAN CONTROL THE CLIMATE OF THIS PLANET”
I agree that it is “nuts” to believe that humans can “control the climate of this planet.” We have neither the knowledge, nor the understanding, nor the technology to “control” the Earth’s climate.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is that we are altering the Earth’s climate in an uncontrolled way through our burning of fossil fuels and resulting emissions of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases.
Imagining that we can “control” or “manage” the Earth’s climate, or the Earth’s biosphere, is extreme hubris, and symptomatic of the very attitudes that have brought us to the present planetary crisis. What we need to “control” is ourselves, to “live within our means”. If we can accomplish that, the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere can “control” themselves perfectly well.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Sep 2006 @ 11:29 AM
Yes, homocentric hubris indeed to think we can pick the climate we want and engineer the CO2 content to make it happen. Even some otherwise distinguished scientists do actually think this possible, as this quote from Wally Broecker not long ago about his ideas on CO2 removal technology: “The goal is to stop the net buildup of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere by 2075. If we succeed, humankind might even be able to start cutting the amount of greenhouse gases in the air. That would put us in an interesting position, according to Broecker: “We as a planet would have to decide what CO2 level gives us the best – quote, unquote – climate.”
Why do you consider it hubris to hope/expect that someday we’ll be able to control the Earth’s climate to keep it in an optimum state? As SecularAnimist pointed out in #87, we are already altering the Earth’s climate. And have been for some time. The problems are arising because we’re doing it not by design but through ignorance and poor planning, and with little consideration of the consequences.
If we succeed in arresting the discharge of greenhouse gases we will have a tremendous pool of technology and expertise to draw upon for the task of reducing greenhouse gases to a better level. Do you really think that on the future day that CO2 levels are stabilized that people everywhere will declare “Mission Accomplished” and stop working to improve and restore the environment?
There is no hubris involved in dedicating ones time and energy to making things better for everyone.
Mr. Shaw, in my opinion it is hubris to think we puny humans could actually control climate, because I don’t think it is even remotely possible. It is, however, human stupidity to think we could actually agree on what that “optimum state” (as you put it), is. What global average temperature is optimum to you? That is more than likely not optimum to me, we cannot as a species even decide what religion is best, or political system, much less what climate and temperature suits everyone as optimum. But I suppose you could let the UN debate it and come to a consensus, how would you like that, considering how good they are at doing things?
[Response: Before this gets further into the realm of science fiction, it’s probably worth stating that no one seriously considers climate control a relevant issue on the time scales we generally think about (i.e. the next few decades to a century). Andrew Dessler has a good point to make on the existence of an ‘optimum’ climate on his blog (and for those who don’t click through, the point that he makes is that for practical purposes the optimum is the one we have now). -gavin]
the point that he makes is that for practical purposes the optimum is the one we have now
Stability is key. Agriculture has a horizon of two seasons: this growing season and the previous one. The farmer plants this year with the expectation that this year will be like the last one. If there’s more energy in the atmosphere, there will be more variability in weather. Too much variability and his crop fails. Too many failures and there’s famine.
SecularAnimist needs to get real. The carbon-releasing aspects of a nuclear fuel cycle are 2nd or 3rd order effects and shared, to a greater or lesser degree, by the alternatives than he likes.
Given that the US generates 65-70% of its electricity by burning fossil fuel, no feasible ramp-up in nuclear electricity is going to “significantly and quickly reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation”, but each base-load nuclear plant that replaces one or more fossil fuel plants will produce a measurable and non-trivial reduction in CO2 emissions. France is the nuclear poster child at the moment, producing on the order of 70-75% of its electricity from nuclear plants, with a “significant” reduction in CO2 emissions.
I am unpersuaded. Most of the boundary conditions Gavin cites also apply to weather forecasting. It appears to me that climate modeling (with GCMs) has the kind of constraints on the equations and the parameters that Gavin describes, but its real difference from weather forecasting is that the time horizon is pushed way past the threshold where chaos makes a weather forecast silly, out to some distant time t_end AND THEN we apply a variety of statistical functionals to the output to get a statistical description of the average behavior of a weather trajectory over that long time interval. A true boundary problem would define the initial conditions at time t_0 and the final conditions at time t_end and ask for the solution of the equations that satisfied the boundary conditions.
[Response: You don’t get it. The boundary value problem is when the initial values do not matter – i.e. the statistics don’t depend on conditions at t_0 (or t_end for that matter). – gavin]
Re #90 & 91 I haven’t read Andrew Dessler but I agree with the point that he makes that for practical purposes the optimum is the one we have now.
But it not the climate we have now that is optimised. It is us who are optimised. We have adapted to maximise the return from the planet and expanded our population to take advantage of all its niches. If we change the climate, then many of these niches will disappear and the inhabitants will suffer. New niches will not relieve the suffering of the losers, nor provide any more happines for their new occupants.
Jim, what we are saying is that the weather like one throw at roulette. You might win $1, $5, $110 or lose your stake. Similarly the weather tomorrow may be 1C, 5C, or 110F. (Just as there is a maximum stake there is a maximum temperature.)
However, if you play on the tables for several hours, then you know on average you will lose money and you can calulate how much. It is the same with the climate. If you increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere over ten years then you know how much on average the temperature will rise.
You can’t predict how much you will on one the throw of a dice after several hours play, and you can’t tell what the temperature will be on a day in ten years time. But you can say what the climate will be in ten years time.
Gavin, can you confirm that you agree with this/Poincare’s analogy.
It’s not just us … pretty much all life is optimized for the current climate. One can expect a pretty hefty reduction in the productivity of most biomes if the climate changes substantially.
That aside, the current climate is pretty good. Sea level is reasonably low thanks to Antarctica. Grasslands and temperate forests (the two biomes best suited for humans) cover a pretty hefty portion of the globe. Warm the globe up a little and deserts grow while vast amounts of coastal plains drown. Cool it down a little and much of the planet becomes covered by ice sheets and taiga.
Jim Dukelow wrote in #92: “SecularAnimist needs to get real.”
Dutch chemist Jan-Willem Storm van Leeuwen and American physicist Philip Smith have published “a physical analysis of the nuclear system: the full technical and industrial complex, needed to generate electricity from uranium” which examined “the potential contribution of nuclear power to the world energy supply in the future and to the mitigation of the anthropogenic climate change in the future.”
“Electricity comprised about 16% of the total world energy consumption in 2005. Less than 16% of the world electricity is generated by nuclear power stations, so the total share of nuclear power is about 2.5% of the world energy generation, slightly less than that of hydropower. Even if the world electricity generation would be all nuclear, it would provide only 16% of the world energy demand.”
“The use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road and under the most favourable conditions, approximately one-third as much CO2-emission as gas-fired electricity production. The rich uranium ores required to achieve this reduction are, however, so limited that if the entire present world electricity demand were to be provided by nuclear power, these ores would be exhausted within five years. Use of the remaining poorer ores in nuclear reactors would produce more CO2 emission than burning fossil fuels directly. [Emphasis added.]”
The report is available online, with a summary in HTML and the full text in PDF format:
Re: #11, #7 The whole State Climatologist issue. I think the letter of support is more a defense of the State Climate Office program as a whole. Having worked several years in a SCO/Regional Climate Center…the folks in those offices have a good grasp of climate change and the issues. Because the programs are “operational” in their nature…the mindset tends to be a bit more towards that of operational forecasters (see Dr Curry’s remarks in previous post and the current issue of BAMS). It’s not a denial mentality…it’s a different culture. As far as the AASC…read the (still current) climate change policy:
The SCO/RCC program provides important data, research, and outreach functions to the US. I personally was a bit miffed when I read some of the language in the Post. The SCO/RCC programs are a great deal more than “weather librarians”.
As far as Dr Michaels…he is still the NCDC recognized SC of Virginia.
In a Google group on science environment I responded as to what I think constitutes a proper time frame for one to move from weather to climate. I gave it some more thought and edited my reply as follows:
Climate exists for periods of little or no change in climate states. Climate states include ice, vegetation, atmospheric and oceanic conditions. As a result of anthropogenic global warming, the world’s climate states have been changing rapidly during the last few decades. Now we have global weather and climate change. We no longer have current global climate, only climate state.
From what I got out of that report, current uranium reserves, at least of marginal ores (0.02 to 0.1% concentration) look fairly substantial. The best ores (>10% and decomissioned nuclear weapons) are indeed very close to depleted, but there’s plenty of room between that and ores which cannot be profitable extracted on a net energy basis. While it does mean that we could fuel our reactors for hundreds of years before the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) strictly fell below one, the pollution, including CO2, would be pretty lousy and the EROEI would still be lousy enough to make nuclear power an expensive and inefficient proposition.
Still, if breeder reactors and fuel reprocessing can ever be made practical, even lousy ores (down to perhaps 0.005% concentration – giving reserves far in excess of other fossil fuels) could be used with an EROEI over 1. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen though.
As uranium prices have risen rapidly in the last several years (from under $20/kg to about $110/kg today), we’ll probably get much better evidence of how extensive profitable (generally high EROEI) uranium reserves are in a few years.
re 98. … the folks in those offices have a good grasp of climate change and the issues. …
The State Climatology’s Statement on Climate Change says:
… While the State Climatology Office is not actively involved in scholarly work investigating the issue of climate change, our Office is often called upon to offer scientific opinions on the topic. The subject matter is of professional interest to us, but we make no claim of expertise in this highly complicated and politicized field of study. … http://climate.umn.edu/doc/climate_change.htm
I think their use of the words ‘highly complicated and politicized field of study’ for global warming science downplays the knowledge and seriousness of the subject and encourages a mentality for people to do nothing significant in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The words ‘highly complicated and politicized field of study’ for global warming science have also been used by supervisors of operational National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), the NWS river forecast centers, NWS regional offices and NWS headquarters.
An incandescent bulb, made of a wire filament encased in glass, emits only 5% of the energy it consumes as light; the rest is wasted as heat. Fluorescent lights, which consist of tubes filled with mercury vapour, are roughly four times more efficient. LEDs, however, contain no mercury and already rival fluorescents in efficiency. Upfront costs make them too expensive for most general lighting applications, but experts expect that to change over the next five years as prices come down and efficiencies go up.
Worldwide about 20% of all electricity generated is used for lighting. Several studies reckon that LEDs could eventually cut that amount in half. That would not only save billions of dollars in electricity bills, but also significantly reduce energy demand, environmental pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions.
I wonder how many people are killed or injured changing lightbulbs every year? If LED lighting becomes universal, since the bulbs last over 10x longer, that should reduce death/injury from changing them by over 10x. Also reduces maintenance costs of buildings. I wonder if the studies that look into the economics of climate change solutions factor in these sorts of benefits?
Little wonder that many are calling biofuels “deforestation diesel”, the opposite of the environmentally friendly fuel that all are seeking.
With so much farmland already taking the form of monoculture, with all that implies for wildlife, do we really want to create more diversity-stripped desert?
Personally, I think that by far the most energy efficient means of transport (and hence, lowest CO2 emissions) would be for cars to be only powered by electric motors (no fuel burning engine at all). This simple Flash slide-show makes a pretty good summary: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog1/wp-content/uploads/2006/09/converted.swf
(click on each slide to advance it)
Now, Tesla Motors are planning to start shipping their EV sports car in 9-ish months, so aren’t a neutral party – but they do give references for their figures. Still, with electic motors and batteries both being able to achieve over 90% efficiency, it’s not like there’s any technology today that can beat it by a non-trivial amount. (Shame super-conducting motors would be impractical for cars – though trains, boats and maybe even trucks could be possible). Tesla’s first car costs $100k or so but they’re planning to use the profits from it to develop cheaper more general purpose electric cars: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog1/?p=8
New Technology Converts CO2 into Biofuel
Thanks for looking at this important new technology.
C02 Exhaust to Ethanol
GS CleanTechâ??s Carbon Dioxide Bioreactor
Decreasing Emissions while Reducing Dependence on Foreign Oil
Greenhouse gas emissions and energy dependence are two of the United States largest concerns. During 2005 alone, the United States released into the atmosphere over 5 billion metric tons of C02, an increase of over 600 million metric tons since 1994. Carbon dioxide is a well known greenhouse gas that absorbs and traps the infrared radiation that is reflected off the earthâ??s surface causing surface temperatures to increase.
During 2005, the United States imported and consumed more than 200 billion gallons of oil. As our nation strives to become more energy independent and environmentally proactive, it is imperative that we implement new consumption practices that rely less on foreign oil and more on cleaner, greener sources of homegrown energy. We need to be better about conservation and we need to continue to innovate ways to consume natural resources in smarter, more efficient ways. GS CleanTech is committed to delivering innovative new technologies that help our clients achieve this and to help reduce their carbon footprint.
GS CleanTechâ??s Objectives:
GS CleanTechâ??s patented C02 Bioreactor reduces greenhouse gas emissions while creating an additional feedstock for renewable fuel production. If applied at ethanol facilities, it would boost fuel production by more than 15%, and if applied to coal fired power generation, it could produce more than 200 million gallons of renewable fuel annually for every 1,000 MW of electricity produced. Even more significant, however, is the relatively small footprint of the bioreactor. While traditional corn derived ethanol produces up to 450 gallons of fuel per acre, GS CleanTechâ??s C02 Bioreactor can produce more than 200,000 gallons of fuel per acre. With GS CleanTechâ??s C02 Bioreactor, our clients can reduce their carbon footprint while turning their exhaust carbon dioxide into a valuable source of clean, homegrown fuels.
GS CleanTechâ??s C02 Bioreactor is an enclosed structure with the ability to convert a concentrated supply of C02 into oxygen and biomass. The biomass can then be converted into fuel through traditional means.
All plants, including algae, need the following to live and grow: a supply of C02, light, a growth media and water with nutrients. The GS CleanTech C02 Bioreactor provides these resources in a compact, cost-efficient way.
First, concentrated C02 is captured at power plants or other source and piped to the bioreactor. The sunlight is then collected using efficient parabolic mirrors that transfer and filter the light to a series of light pipes. The light pipes channel the light into the bioreactor structure where it is distributed and radiated throughout the structure using light panels. The algae requires as little as 1.5% direct light which means that our collected light can be distributed over a substantial surface area.
Next, a growth media, such as polyester, is inserted between each lighting surface. Water, containing nutrients, continuously cascades down the growth media to facilitate the final required step for optimal growth.
Finally, to harvest the algae, the flow rate of the water over the growth media is increased slightly to gently remove a portion of the algae, allowing a portion of algae to remain and to begin the next growth cycle. The removed algae is then collected and routed for conversion into renewable fuels.
Our technology is also very flexible and can accommodate a variety of algae types. High starch, high oil, or high cellulose algae can be grown in our bioreactor depending on output fuel requirements.
GS CleanTechâ??s C02 Bioreactor has the ability to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to create an entirely new feedstock for cleaner and greener burning fuels. Our bioreactor can substantially reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced from ethanol, power generation other industrial facilities while generating a significant new source of revenue. GS CleanTechâ??s C02 Bioreactor is profitable for our customer and cleaner for the environment.
Impact on Ethanol Facilities:
About one third of the mass of the corn input into the ethanol production process exits the process at the fermentation stage in the form of carbon dioxide. GS CleanTechâ??s patented bioreactor technology uses algae to consume these carbon dioxide emissions. The algae use the carbon dioxide in the exhaust, sunlight and water to grow new algae, giving off pure oxygen and water vapor in the process. If properly cultivated, the algae double in mass every 7 to 12 hours and are harvested for conversion into clean fuels as they grow to maturity.
GS CleanTech is currently deploying its first commercial scale pilot bioreactor system and anticipates use of the bioreactor technology at ethanol facilities to further enhance corn to clean fuel conversion efficiencies.
Impact on Coal Gasification
A standard coal gasification facility gasifies and partially oxidizes prepared coal with oxygen and heat into a hydrogen rich synthesis gas, or syngas. The syngas is combusted and converted into electricity in a gas-fired generator. The gasification stage of the process generates carbon dioxide emissions which, in some of the most advanced current practices, is compressed and sequestered underground in saline formations or the like. The carbon capture and sequestration stage of this process increases operating costs by more than 20% as compared to standard coal-fired gasification.
As applied at a coal gasification facility, GS CleanTech’s bioreactor consumes exhaust carbon dioxide and has the potential to offset the substantial operating and capital costs associated with conventional oxygen production while producing a valuable biomass co-product that can be used to enhance the plant’s power output and/or add new revenues arising from the production and sale of biomass-derived fuels.
Too bad the coal to electricity step is only about 40% efficient, with additional losses in transmission lines and in the charger. The overall efficiency is in the range of 20%-30% for electric motors – roughly comparable to fuel powered hybrids. Electric cars are far heavier than comparable Otto or Diesel engine powered cars, reducing their efficiency somewhat. Electric cars would help reduce air pollution in cities, but they would not do much to help either energy efficiency or CO2 emissions.
Electric cars are also very resource intensive because of the batteries. Every several years a tonne or so of batteries must be replaced (and hopefully recycled).
The heart of the problem is the personal vehicle, which is only made worse by the average vehicle being maybe twice the size it needs to be (and maybe 20 times the size of a bicycle or a person walking). A trolley or train is efficient, both in capital and in energy, because it packs so many people on board per kg of vehicle, and in the case of trains, because of aerodynamic efficiencies of scale. Those same economies of scale allow them to be electrically powered by wires, which is far more efficient (mostly in capital) than any battery system can ever hope to be.
Perhaps George Landis doesn’t know that atmospheric CO_2 levels have varied between quite narrow limits since the end of the last ice age. During this time, we developed agriculture, cities, and all of our current civilization. It seems imprudent to increase that concentration so that it rises signifcantly out of that narrow range. We have already done that, and climate scientists claim that the results in global climate change are evident. I find their arguments convincing. Since the effects (for CO_2 at least) appear to be roughly proportional to the logarithm of the concentration, we may be able to afford the current increase. But if we double or worse the concentration, which is what should be expected with a business-as-usual scenario, then the consequences may not be to our liking. Climate scientists have some solid ideas about what may happen in these circumstances, which, again, I find convincing, but suppose they are wrong. In that case, there is no reason to assume things will go better than they predict rather than worse. Uncertainty in such matters is not our friend.
Perhaps like the organisms that created an Oxygen atmosphere earlier in the Earth’s history, our species is only part of a natural process and we only have an illusion of being in control of what we do. If that is the case, what will happen will happen. Many lifeforms which couldn’t survive in an Oxygen atmosphere died off. So, it may be that lifeforms which can’t survive on a hotter planet will also die off. Let’s hope we are not one of them.
This is an logic let me say very simple solution as i understand it on first sight.
I will start to look more deeper into it. Just wonder how efficient it is.
If this can be optimized to zero emmision(which is a matter of capacity=space) then this can greatly contribute to lowering CO2 emmisions.
This should be applied to all kinds of static emmission contributers.
Also vehicles need a device which collect emmision and then later at gas stations, collected compressed emmission gets transfered back to such an algae Co2 system.
Also id like to read more comments on this technology.
The crux of the problem with this idea is that gasoline (represented by octane here) is an extremely dense and portable source of energy and the effluents are very bulky and hard to contain.
Assuming that you burn your fuel in a pure O2 atmosphere and both the fuel and oxidizer are fully consumed, you get the following:
2 C8H18 + 25 O2 –> 16 CO2 + 18 H2O
C8H18 has a mass of about 114 g/Mil while CO2 has a mass of about 44 g/Mil. This means that the CO2 has 3.08 times the mass of the C8H18 (octane) that you burned. This is assuming that you can perfectly extract the CO2 from the exhaust stream, which isn’t practical. A more realistic (but still better than actual results) reaction is as follows:
2 C8H18 + 25 O2 + 100 N2 –> 16 CO2 + 18 H20 + 100 N2
For an input of 228 g of fuel, you now get an output of 3,828 g of exhaust to store on your vehicle. Not only must you store about 16.7 times the mass of your fuel, but most of the exhaust is a gas, which means expensive cryogenic or pressurized vessels. That the H2O is liquid, the CO2 solid, and N2 gaseous? at reasonable pressures (200 to 800 bars) and room temperature makes the engineering more than a bit difficult too. Even plain CO2 storage (if one can find a way to remove the N2 on-board a vehicle) will be difficult. And let us not forget that a substantial amount of energy (at least 10%, perhaps over 100% of the energy in the fuel burnt) is needed to compress and cool the effluent into a pressurized vessel.
Using methanogenesis (ie., C2H6 + 2 H20 –> CO2 + CH4) would produce a small enough stream of exhaust that it could be stored (mostly by keeping atmospheric nitrogen out of the process), and both CO2 and CH4 are fairly easy to store in a pressurized vessel, but the reaction generates far less energy than combustion and I know of no man-made device that uses this reaction for power. It also means that one has to carry the oxidizer (H20) on board, further reducing the vehicle’s range.
In short, carbon capture on vehicles is extremely impractical with current technology, especially in light of the slew of alternatives that exist.
The statement at the time was a compromise, if I recall correctly. The primary function (from what my mind can remember) of the statement was to acknowledge anthropogenic effects on climate change while 1) making everyone happy within the AASC and 2) acting as a “political shield” for AASC and it’s members on both sides of the debate. (Academic freedom can be endangered from both political parties…folks forget that, IHMO)
As far as the NWS…I have heard some folks in the NWS make the same statement. Thankfully, while not speaking for my employer (the NWS…by the way)…I think the culture is shifting some, at least in my region. While still having to go through the review process at Region HQ…I’ve seen in general a great deal of encouragement on doing applied research such as the work you did at the RFC that you have previously mentioned. Of course…could be just my region.
Your comments in #110. are appreciated. In past years I thought highly of the individuals working in the State Climatology office in Minnesota. I knew Earl Kuehnast as a friend, which it seemed almost everybody did. The Fourteenth Annual Kuehnast Lecture Series is coming up (link below). I think Earl would have dealt with the global warming subject in an outspoken way. I have been outspoken on global warming since January of 2000 when I spoke at the inter-agency annual Spring Flood Outlook meeting, repeating the words of then NOAA director Dr. James Baker who spoke about global warming on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather that week. It still bothers me that no one in any of the public agencies which I dealt with throughout my career while at the NWS Upper Midwest River Forecast Center was supportive of what I said at the meeting and later on. It still bothers me too that my supervisor told me before my presentation on spring snowmelt flood outlook procedures that I must not bring up the subject of global warming at the meeting. He told me to follow his example of 1993 when he told national media not to bring up the subject of global warming while interviewing him about the massive flooding in progress that summer. That’s 14 years of NWS public forecast offices not speaking out publicly about climate change in the U.S. and global warming. Isn’t anyone else at RC upset enough about that to try to help change that?
RE 104: Fossil fuel to electricity conversion efficiency of 40% is generally accepted. In many cases, however, much higher total efficiency of fuel utilization can be achieved by means of the co-generation principle. The “waste” heat from electricity generation can be used for space heating or industrial process heating purposes.
A total efficiency of 85 – 90 % can be achieved this way.
The approach generally requires open markets for both electricity and heat energy, and a relatively high new investment in distribution of the heat component (i.e. pressurized hot water/steam networks). It has, however, proven financially viable even prior to the current (and future) price levels of fuels.
The co-generation power production has been extensively applied in Northern Europe since the 1960’s, particularly in Finland where a saving of 20% of fossil fuel use has already been achieved. Extensive use of co-generation (and district heating in general) has also other clear advantages. Few smokestacks with low emissions, and an economical approach to the flexible fuel concept (including biofuels). A summary can be found in http://www.worldenergy.org/wec-geis/publications/default/tech_papers/17th_congress/1_2_17.asp
Too bad the coal to electricity step is only about 40% efficient, with additional losses in transmission lines and in the charger. The overall efficiency is in the range of 20%-30% for electric motors – roughly comparable to fuel powered hybrids. Electric cars are far heavier than comparable Otto or Diesel engine powered cars, reducing their efficiency somewhat. Electric cars would help reduce air pollution in cities, but they would not do much to help either energy efficiency or CO2 emissions.
Your figures are mostly wrong – or rather out of date and incomplete.
For a start, dissel doesn’t just appear – it has to be extracted, refined and transported. All that consumes a lot of energy – and generates CO2.
The Tesla Roadster’s weight (planned production spec) is 2400 pounds / 1100Kg (the prototypes weight a bit more). That includes standard features like air-con. 0-60mph in 4 seconds, range 250 miles. Of the 1100Kg weight, the battery system is 450Kg – about 300Kg for the l-ion batteries themselves, 150Kg for packaging, cooling, safety, monitoring etc.
Since you can charge it up at night, you can use off-peak rates of 5 cents per kwh (PG&E Schedule E-9 off-peak rate), which means $1 will get you 100 miles. You won’t get anything like 100miles/$1 in a similar spec diesel sports car (the Tesla Roadster isn’t designed for maximum efficiency, but peak performance, since the aim is to make it a competitive sports car). On 40% efficient coal power, the overhead of transmission, energy conversion to/from the car battery, and motor efficiency would bring that down to 28.5% – using 60% efficient natural gas power, that’d be 42.7%.
For CO2 emissions, keeping all the fossil fuel power stations burning isn’t a solution either. Much greater use of wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, solar (and maybe nuclear) power will be needed anyway. Tesla actually offer a solar panel pack as an option with the Roadster – if solar power generation can become a lot more competitive (something many firms are working on) then that would change the economics of “green” electricity production significantly as it would become a standard feature on most houses/buildings.
Electric cars are also very resource intensive because of the batteries. Every several years a tonne or so of batteries must be replaced (and hopefully recycled).
In case of Tesla Roadster, that’s 300Kg of actual batteries – and they’re guaranteed for 5 years. And you would most certainly want to recycle them since you’d get a lot of money for it. Battery technology is something that should improve a lot though, in the coming years.
Those specs look awfully optimistic if GM’s EV-1 or plug-in hybrids are anything to go by. 100miles/$4 (electricity is 20 cents/kW*h here, off peak) translates to 200W*h/mile or a power of 12kW at 60mph. This is unrealistically low and I’m skeptical that it’s true, considering that the power source (electric or gasoline) has no effect on how much power is needed.
As far as the source goes – most electricity comes from coal, and that fraction is likely to increase in the future. Almost 100% of any new electricity demand (especially baseline demand) will come from new coal plants in the current political climate. From what I see in the news, very few of those are going to be co-generation plants or tied to district heating.
Transportation energy demand is mostly supplied by oil and amounts to an energy demand that is larger than the energy presently delivered as electricity. If a substantial portion of the transportation system were to convert to electricity, the increase in generation capacity would be very large. The present cost of off-peak electricity is the result of there being an excess capacity at that time of the day. If lots of people begin to use electric cars, that excess will no longer be available and the electric generating companies will begin to charge higher rates for that supply. Also, today’s cost of electricity includes the capital expenditures made over many previous decades. The cost of new power plants today will be much larger, the result of on-going inflation. Solar electric generation is great for meeting the daytime peak in electric demand, much of which is the result to air conditioning load. When the sun is shining, A/C demand goes up. But solar won’t be available at night. Wind may also be intermittent, thus that source can’t be relied upon as baseload in most locations.
Of course, the Tesla 2400# 2 seat roadster isn’t a family car and is a long way from an SUV. I didn’t read the blog, but I suspect these cars will have a hard time passing the crash safety tests without being made much heavier. To sum up, don’t count your chickens until they are hatched. Let them build the first 100 and we will get some actual real world test results.
To get back to the matter at hand, I’m don’t think that Dr. Sach’s well-intentioned suggestion will achieve anything, and it would probably be counter-productive. The writers on the WSJ editorial page are not dumb people — you couldn’t be dumb and give the casuistry they offer up on climate change the patina of common sense that they sometimes achieve. They know that they use discredited arguments, cherry-pick data, and elevate paid “experts” with an ax to grind. They read their own news pages as well as coverage elsewhere, and it doesn’t matter.
Given their persistence in defending the indefensible, it’s easy to assume that they are looking at the issue through a purely ideological lens, and what they see is an issue whose proposed solutions entail regulation, international treaties (creeping world government in their eyes) and taxes — all things they find anathema. I suspect that they would love the idea of a forum like the one proposed because it would offer a new venue through which to attack the idea of consensus and the bona fides of the scientists who are concerned with the issue. In sum the proposed idea would give them an opportunity to perpetuate the notion that that the threat of climate change is still subject to debate, which is all the skeptics really want to acomplish. Wouldn’t it be better if the scientists concerned with the threat moved beyond debating what is settled and more towards what can be done?
So, instead of trying to persuade the unpersuadable, why not alter the forum of the format slightly. Why not make invite them to join in discussing how to deal with the threat against various scenarios under which it might unfold? I doubt they’d go for this, of course, but on the off chance they did, maybe some new market-based ideas would come up.
Just a thought.
Transportation energy demand is mostly supplied by oil and amounts to an energy demand that is larger than the energy presently delivered as electricity. If a substantial portion of the transportation system were to convert to electricity, the increase in generation capacity would be very large.
Yes, an all (or mostly) EV transportation system would need a lot of electricity generation. (Fortunately, being more efficient, not quite so much energy as the potential contained within oil products, but still a lot). Local micro-power generation won’t solve it all (unless super-cheap super-efficient PV is suddenly found to be possible – very unlikely) though would help in the long term.
But the amount of oil is finite, and for renewable alternatives such as converting biomass to ethanol, it’d actually be more efficient to turn it into electricity at a large power plant to deliver to EVs – internal combustion engines in cars are not nearly so efficient as power plants. Using a given amount of land for solar power is also much much more efficient than using the same amount to grow biomass – and you can put solar power plants in deserts too.
So for me, the bottom line is that electric vehicles are the most energy efficient form of transportation, making them the best long term solution. Not that it (or any competiting) solution would be easy or quick.
If a substantial portion of the transportation system were to convert to electricity, the increase in generation capacity would be very large. The present cost of off-peak electricity is the result of there being an excess capacity at that time of the day.
Other things being equal, yes – a large scale take-up of EVs would effect the electricity market (and also the oil market). Improvements in electrical efficiency in other products that tend to be used 24/7 would help offset that though, within limits.
Also, today’s cost of electricity includes the capital expenditures made over many previous decades. The cost of new power plants today will be much larger, the result of on-going inflation. Solar electric generation is great for meeting the daytime peak in electric demand, much of which is the result to air conditioning load. When the sun is shining, A/C demand goes up. But solar won’t be available at night. Wind may also be intermittent, thus that source can’t be relied upon as baseload in most locations.
Maybe in a few decades, the typical solution would be to have electric cars with easily replaceable batteries. During the day, local micro-power generation (PV + wind on roof or whatever) would help charge a spare battery (with excess being sold to the grid) and then the owner would swap batteries as appropriate. The viability of such things would certainly be varied though.
For general purpose 24/7 renewable power generation, tidal power would be quite reliable. Wave might not be too bad either. Of course, that’s only when reasonably near the coasts.
Of course, the Tesla 2 seat roadster isn’t a family car and is a long way from an SUV. I didn’t read the blog, but I suspect these cars will have a hard time passing the crash safety tests without being made much heavier. To sum up, don’t count your chickens until they are hatched. Let them build the first 100 and we will get some actual real world test results.
They’ve built 10 prototypes so far and one has already been “sacrificed” for a set of crash tests. The car design is mostly by Lotus and is quite similar to the Elise (though using carbon fiber instead), so I’d be quite surprised if they had serious problems. And it’s not like weight = safety either. I’m not counting my chickens though – but they seem to know what they’re doing.
Following the Roadster they plan to do a 4-door salon (“Project White Star”), and is supposed to be much cheaper ($50k or so) – mostly by re-using technology, or better 2nd gen. All the profits from the 1st gen car (the Roadster) are planned to be fed into R&D for the 2nd car (base work has already started). I wonder what the full specs will be like – it would be impressive if they could design a bigger car that was cheaper and had similar range to the 1st gen model – I imagine the main improvement would have to be the battery system, though I also image the car would be much more designed around efficiency.
The problem that I have with the posts at this site is that you seem to rationalize away anything that goes against your belief in significant global warming caused by mankind. You’re not any more objective than the WSJ.
[Response: Hmmm… Our confidence that GW is happening and in some significant measure is due to human activities – and thus can be expected to continue – is based on a wide range of different pieces of information: theoretical studies of the impact of greenhouse gases, aerosols, solar; observational studies of land, ocean, sea ice, glaciers; modelling studies from energy balance models to fully coupled GCMs. Thus this is a large amount of evidence to shift. It is highly unlikely then that any one new study (let alone an editorial page article) will make much difference. However, many of the arguments that are made against the consensus are logically flawed, involve cherry picked data or studies, or demolish strawmen arguments. This kind of errors can be pointed out very clearly whenever they occur without regard to the conclusions that are subsequently being drawn (i.e. bad arguments are bad arguments regardless of the correctness of the supposed conclusion). If we only succeed in helping readers become more discerning in their appreciation of these ‘arguments’ then we will have served some purpose. Objectivity is something to be constantly strived for, but that is not the same as giving every argument equal weight. -gavin]
I’m not sure where this should go, but since this topic area started with a discussion of the reporting of climate science by the WSJ and the Economist, RealClimate readers may be interested in listening to “The Current” tomorrow morning on CBC Radio One.
One of the topics will be geoengineering and the guests will include Frances Cairncross, the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and a former editor of the Economist, Roger Angel from the Univ. of Arizona who will discuss the space borne mirror concept, Stephen Salter from the Univ. of Edinburgh who will discuss generation of marine clouds using a misting device and yours truly who gets to cover everything else (sulfate aerosols, ocean fertilization, what is geoengineering and why do they hate us, etc.) including the biggest coverup since Watergate if we got to do it, the Global Albedo Enhancement Project.
The producers have told me that they want this to be a serious presentation of the potential benefits of climate engineering and that with 30 minutes or so devoted to it, there will be more time to flesh out some of the issues and developments more fully than is possible in the newspaper articles that have recently appeared.
and on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 137. They also archive parts of some of their broadcasts.
The program guide doesn’t show the geoengineering segment and it may have been deleted or rescheduled, although I note from a review of their previous weeks’ editions that there are usually three segments and only two are listed for tomorrow. Regardless, I am going to be in a local NPR studio Monday morning at 8am and will let everyone know if it has been rescheduled.
The Storm van Leeuwen and Smith (SLS) report that mystery writer SecularAnimist cites and quotes (kindly providing a URL) is reminiscent of the sort of trash science hit pieces that the fossil energy disinformers commission, although the motivation here is clearly different. The SLS report was commissioned by the Green Party legislators in the EU as a background paper for the 2000 COP6 conference in the Hague. The Greens chose well-credentialed authors who could be reasonably expected to produce congenial conclusions, on the basis of earlier writings. The Green/SLS motivation is an obsession with preventing nuclear power from being considered as one of the tools for moving the world to a lower carbon future.
I encourage RealClimate readers interested in this issue to read not only the SLS summary and the report, available at http://www.stormsmith.nl , but also the World Nulcear Association rebuttal at http://www.world-nuclear.org and the SLS rebuttal to the WNA rebuttal.
For the moment, it might suffice to note some of the SLS introductory material. They write:
Unique features of nuclear power
The nuclear system has some unique features no other energy system has, being:
o the energy source is a metal to be extracted from ores,
o the generation of immense quantities of radioactivity,
o the extremely long-term committments of 100-150 years,
o very large uncertainties still exist regarding the completion of a nuclear project. [end quote]
Third bullet first. I wouldn’t think RealClimate reader would be inclined to view fossil fuel use as NOT involving a 100-150 year commitment.
The first bullet is true as far as it goes, but several of the renewable technologies, because of the low energy densities they are exploiting, require large amounts of metal that must be extracted from ores. Wind energy is a canonical example (I am a fan of wind energy — on a clear day I can look out my window and see on the order of 300 wind turbines).
The second bullet is simply anti-nuclear cant. The uranium ore starts with each uranium atom sitting atop a long decay chain that will eventually produce over the course of a billion years or so on the order of 12 million electron volts of energy. If the uranium atom fissions, it will release 200 million electron volts, most of which is captured as heat with roughly 33% of that heat eventually converted to electrical energy. Left behind are two or three fission products that typically decay away in a far shorter time than the original uranium atom and with perhaps 10-20% of the energy release. The upshot is that the amount of radioactivity in cesium-137 and strontium-90,two of the most common fission products, is down by a factor of 1000 in 300 year and by a factor of a billion in a thousand years. In a thousand years the spent fuel, however it is being sequestered, is less radioactive than the orginal uranium ore.
The very large uncertainties noted in the fourth bullet exist, but are largely a product of the skill of some of the Green organizations in working political and legal levers to delay siting and construction of nuclear plants, thereby greatly increasing their cost.
France gets most of their electricity from nuclear. Finland and Japan are not far behind. China is building nuclear plants about as rapidly as they can finance them from internal funding and foreign investment. All of those countries have rejected the pseudo-analysis in the SLS report.
Almost all of the societal costs of nuclear power are internalized in the costs of building and operating the plants. Almost all of their waste products are well sequestered from the biosphere. The fossil fuel industry dumps almost all of its waste into the atmosphere and into surface water and groundwater.
Nuclear power is a complex technology requiring skilled implementation, but ought to be part of a comprehensive approach to reducing the use of carbon-based energy.
Re 1,2, 4,5, et al.
I used to subscribe to the WSJ and on many occasions was amused (and sometimes frustrated) to read news and business stories on topics related to evolutionary biology (e.g., discovery of an exciting new fossil dinosaur; breakthroughs in genetic engineering or gene therapy which were possible only because evolution is real), while the op-ed section ran commentaries, sometimes in the same issue, by creationists and ID proponents attempting to refute evolutionary theory. It made me realize the WSJ editorial staff is sometimes motivated by factors other than what is good for big business.
I doubt the paper’s editors will take up Sachs’challenge – they have nothing to gain. And they certainly have their credibility to lose, though that does not seem to concern them when it comes to other issues.
Another nuclear technology (also described on the WNA website, world-nuclear.org) is Thorium fission. Actually, thorium is bombarded with protons to become fissile U232. The system has some attributes that may make it worth considering. Any turn down the nuclear path should only be done as part of comprehensive attempt at an AGW “solution”. As for #119 Woody, your (Gavin’s) comment should be carried at the ready by those who encounter denialists.
The WSJ had another excellent editorial today about Richard Branson’s “gift” to Clinton’s Global Initiatives to solve global warming and thus save the planet. Interesting how the pro-AGW believers have been mostly silent on this incredibly generous and unselfish “donation” to save our species. Maybe you guys are smarter than I thought.
[Response: Obviously I would agree… However, if you could post/link to a non-subscription version of the op-ed or at least some relevant quotes, it would be easier to see what you are talking about. – gavin]
OK Gavin, it is very short, so a few quotes and paraphrases to give you the spirit of it:
“There are plenty of reasons to cock a skeptical eyebrow at Richard Branson’s pledge, announced last week in the company of Al Gore and Bill Clinton, that he will devote $3 billion over the next 10 years to combat global warming. But we’ll give him this much, at least he puts his money where his mouth is. What he plans to do is invest in biofuels (ethanol and rapeseed) through his latest venture company, Virgin Fuels. There are real environmental questions (deforestation, intensive farming practices) about switching to biofuels, however the British government has mandated all fuel stations to get 5% of their gas from renewables by 2010. But who says you can’t do well by trying to do good? Unlike advocates of the Kyoto Protocol or similar top down, tax and spend regimes to fight global warming at least Branson sees innovation and technology through private sector investment as the best way to improve the enviroment. This is strikingly similar to the Bush administrations proposals put forward earlier this year in Sydney through the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. Those proposals were denounced by the usual environmental suspects as big business-Bush conspiracies, but if Branson does it, everyone says it’s cool.”
On a related note, anybody catch James “global warming is the greatest hoax ever” Inhofe’s speech on the Senate floor today? It’s a corker, full of quotes sure to stand the test of time such as comparing the scientific consensus on global warming to the scientific consensus on Pluto before its demotion. Wow.
re: 126. Branson and certain other large corporations are attempting to step up to the plate. Great news. What has lacked is any sort of leadership from the government side aside from the usual carefully krafted comments usually made around Earth Day each year. Luke-warm acknowledgement of the problem does not cut it from a government that ought to be show leadership here and abroad. Per 127, when you have Congressman making absurd comments such as Inhofe today, the government has a long way to go with respect to understanding science, the scientific process, and what is needed. Inhofe specifically has been shown this but fails to make an effort to learn. The Inhofes and other denialists of the world/government clearly are not smarter than anyone thought.
The above suggestions seem theoretical. Change the generation source of power, as opposed to addressing the foundation of the problem, over consumption of energy and materials. There is no discussion or support for the first steps which other countries have taken.
For example, the price of gas in the US is $2.75/gal as compared to Europe $5.40/gal, due to higher gasoline taxes (US13% vs Europe 65%). European’s drive small fuel efficient cars (Many diesel. Diesel engine is approx. 30% more efficient than gasoline, due to fundamental reasons.) Average fuel efficiency (American cars) in 2005 is the same as the average fuel efficiency, in 1981, 25 miles/gallon. Higher prices for energy results in lower consumption. European’s use the gasoline tax to subside public transit which is one reason, European average energy use is 342 MBTU/person per year as compared to American 145 MBTU/person per year.
Either the conservation argument due to there being a finite amount of fossil fuels on the planet or the protect the US economy argument, US imports 11MMbbl of oil per day and the US has a sever balance of trade problem could be used to justify a tax on gasoline. Similarly a tax on electricity would result in less use electricity use, through better insulated homes to reduce air condition use, more efficient types of lighting used, and so forth.
Why is there no consensus on higher energy taxes, in the US?
Comment by William Astley — 25 Sep 2006 @ 11:29 PM
Why bother with the Wall Street Journal? This outfit has been far right for many years. Surely one can find many and better sources of scientific
thought trolling the web than can be found on the pages of this neo-con rag. Surely one wouldn’t look for medical information in a magazine devoted to homeopathy? No one should have a problem getting all the info on global warming from alternate sources as respectable if not more so than the WSJ.
Comment by Will. Mattsson — 26 Sep 2006 @ 12:15 AM
RE # 124, 126 George: I’m confused about your point here – are you being serious, or sarcastic?
First, you wrote:
“Interesting how the pro-AGW believers have been mostly silent on this incredibly generous and unselfish “donation” to save our species. Maybe you guys are smarter than I thought.” [Smarter? How so?]
You then quoted the WSJ as saying:
“Those proposals were denounced by the usual environmental suspects as big business-Bush conspiracies, but if Branson does it, everyone says it’s cool.”
[So, have AGW believers ignored Branson’s donation, as you suggested, or praised it a “cool,” as the WSJ suggests?]
Quoth Inhofe: “The American people know when their intelligence is being insulted.”
[Response: Pretty much every time he gives a speech….. – gavin]
Comment by Florifulgurator — 26 Sep 2006 @ 7:52 AM
Chuck, my tongue was firmly in my cheek (can’t see that on the blog words) when I made the remarks about the generous, unselfish stuff. The WSJ said the enviros think it’s cool, and Clinton has had much good press from the usual liberal media sources on it of course. However, I can see from perusing the numerous AGW blogs that the pro-AGW scientists are too smart to praise it (recognizing it for the capitalistic and self promoting and enriching act it was), so that is my read on it.
Comments 122 and 132, and others, call to mind an important distinction concerning the purposes of continually confronting the WSJ’s irresponsible opinion-page editors.
On the one hand there’s the challenge of converting the benighted WSJ editorialists, which may well be hopeless, as many here say. But on the other hand are two other reasons to confront the WSJ continually anyhow.
One is to press the WSJ editorial-page editors, whatever their own views, simply to hold an open discussion. Even they must admit that that means at least occasionally printing commentaries representing the scientific consensus, not seeking to debunk it. An open discussion is important because the WSJ opinion page reaches a large audience of influential people who, same as anybody, deserve a “fair and balanced” discussion.
The other is to demonstrate continually to the world that scientists representing the international climate consensus seek earnestly and forthrightly to discuss what the WSJ editorial-page editors not only don’t believe, but won’t even discuss or allow to be presented to their readers. Especially because the WSJ is identified with powerful sectors of society, it’s useful to spotlight their unwillingness to conduct an open discussion.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 26 Sep 2006 @ 9:38 AM
Re: #126: Mr Landis, one key difference between the Asia-Pacific Partnership and the Branson donation is money. I believe that the Asia-Pacific deal has just enough funding for administrative purposes, and leaves everything else to the voluntary public-private partnerships that it hopes to encourage. If the administration were to promise $3 billion for the partnership, that would be a better start. Though, really, we need much more than $3 billion for technology development. And still, when it comes down to it, we’ll need a carbon policy one day, because fossil fuels are just too cheap to compete with if you don’t include their externalities.
You will need the infamous Real Player to hear it. We covered a lot of ground in 28 minutes (but not with plastic).
I’ll have more to say about this program later, but I wanted to note that on last night’s ABC News there was a report about the recent NAS paper from Hansen and Wigley regarding the evidence that we will exceed the highest atmospheric temperatures in the last million years by 2050 and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
The last part is what got me. Tom Wigley, who just a few days ago outlined a plan to inject sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to stop the warming, was shown in the story. So which is it? We can do nothing, we should do nothing, we should only try to reduce emissions, we should do geoengineering, we should prepare for adaptation? Lots of mixed messages these days.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 26 Sep 2006 @ 1:40 PM
“It’s analogous to dealing with a house fire by arguing about how the fire started and whether it will take two hours or three hours to burn the house down.”
I disagree with the analogy. It does matter what caused it. If a broken gas main is fueling the fire, no matter how much water you put on the fire, until you turn off the gas, it will keep on burning. We need to understand how much is our portion. If it is only 10 percent. I doubt there is much we can do about overall global warming.
In trying to research the whole life-cycle CO2 emissions attributed to nuclear energy, I found this report (link below). My understanding is that the authoring institute is decidely anti-nuclear; that said, their conclusion—that nuclear produces about 40-60 grams/kWh—doesn’t seem so bad when you consider that coal (in US, 52% of electric is coal derived) emits nearly 2 lbs. per kWh in direct emissions (i.e., not even counting the whole life cycle).
This 60 gms/kWh figure was a surprise to me; I thought the enrichment cycle and the embodied energy in the plants would lead to a much higher figure.
“I disagree with the analogy. It does matter what caused it. If a broken gas main is fueling the fire, no matter how much water you put on the fire, until you turn off the gas, it will keep on burning. We need to understand how much is our portion. If it is only 10 percent. I doubt there is much we can do about overall global warming.”
But since this means that anthropogenic global warming will fix itself the moment people realize that a leak gas pipe cannot supply them with an unlimited amount of steam power, there’s no need to worry..
Gavin,I was going to leave my comment with your response (#119) stand without further comment, until two others seemed to think that your response put a knife through my concerns. It doesn’t. I am not trying to be snarky or difficult, but your analysis of what you do is not how I and others see it.
Essentially, in my opinion, anyone who agrees with your side, no matter how unqualified–such as an editorial cartoonist or a “concerned scientist” in an unrelated field, is praised; and, anyone who does not agree with you, although a reputable scientist, is taken apart in ways such as calling him an industry hack. Science is science no matter who pays for it, and there are a lot GW supporters with a financial conflict of interest who get accepted here.
There are true nuts on both sides of the debate (and there is still a debate, despite Al Gore’s claims), but you fail to recongnize or call down the nuts on your side, which makes this as much of a cheerleading site as a science site.
Rather than give you the usual suspects to criticize, I enjoy the variety of posts and comments at an additional site, which I think is honest and worthy of respect and your consideration. It is that of Jennifer Marohasy found at http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/ .
Please don’t think that I’m trying to be a troll. I really am respectful of your site and just wanted to point out the difference in how I see things versus your regular crowd.
I read on the Welcome page that, “[i]n order to limit the scope to those issues where we can claim some competence, the discussion here is restricted to scientific topics. Thus we will not get involved in political or economic issues that arise when discussing climate change.” This policy statement appears massively violated in the current thread, especially in connection with gavin’s gratuitous slur in reference to Sen. Inhofe (see comment appended to #134). The Senator has a different understanding of the facts, so the right response is to insult him? I was attracted as a layperson to RC thinking that its contributors were above name-calling. It seems I was mistaken.
Comment by Leighton Anderson — 26 Sep 2006 @ 5:35 PM
Regarding the “excellent” WSJ editorial referenced by George Landis in comment #124 and subsequent comments, regarding Richard Branson’s investment in biofuels, the editorial is in fact representative of the nonsense spouted by the WSJ editorial board every day. Note their emphasis that Branson made his announcement “in the company of Al Gore and Bill Clinton” — consorting with Democrats! Oh, the horror!
The reality is that everyone who is investing in clean, renewable energy technology — whether biofuels or photovoltaics or wind turbines or geothermal heatpumps or super-insulated passive solar-heated houses or solar hot water heaters or flex-fuel pluggable hybrid electric hypercars or whatever — is selling, or hoping to sell, a product on the market and wants to make a buck. Lots of bucks, actually.
There is no contradiction whatsoever between providing climate-friendly solutions to energy needs and making a profit. In fact, the necessity of overhauling our basic energy technologies to deal with global warming is an enormous business opportunity, and smart capitalists all over the world are falling over themselves to invest in companies that are producing and deploying photovoltaics and wind turbines. The growth in those fields is already large, rapid and accelerating.
And the editorial grossly misprepresents the Kyoto protocol, which as much as anything else it does is designed and intended to leverage government committments to reducing GHG to stimulate market innovations to accomplish the actual reductions, whether through cap-and-trade schemes or technological innovations.
The problem for the folks whose interests the WSJ editorial staff serves is that a rapid, large scale-transition away from burning fossil fuels to clean renewable energy sources and dramatically improved efficiency is going to shift profits away from the ultra-rich fossil fuel barons and to other people and other companies. That’s why they and their bought-and-paid-for propagandists at the WSJ engage in such ridiculous demagoguery.
Thus, I am finding ever more appeal in the grand compromise that Pierre H. suggested in “Catastrophe in Slow Motion” […]: shut down one or two big coal burners for every nuke built.
Well, if the nuclear industry gets its way and gets the taxpayers to foot the bill for an aggressive program of constructing new nuclear power plants — which, unlike wind turbines and photovolaics, the private market won’t touch unless the government (i.e. the taxpayers) provides massive subsidies and absorbs all the risks — and if that “grand compromise” is agreed, then we might be able to start shutting down a few coal-burning power plants in 15 years or so.
Electricity from wind and photovoltaics can be brought online much faster, much more cheaply, more scalably, and without any of the risks of nuclear.
Having said that, to date I am not aware of any fossil-fuel powered electricity generation plant anywhere in the world being shut down because it was “replaced” with wind, solar or nuclear power. Correct me if I’m wrong, but at this point, realistically, what we are talking about is replacing the construction of new coal or natural gas fired plants with alternatives.
When the day comes that we actually start shutting down existing coal-fired power plants, I guess humanity will have actually gotten serious about dealing with global warming.
To paraphrase the old saying about models “All analogies are flawed, some analogies are useful”. The analogy I used in #34 was simply meant to illustrate my point, it is not worthy of too much debate in and of itself.
I agree that we don’t fully know the relative proportions of the various natural and anthropogenic forcings that contribute to global warming. However, the fact that there are limits to our knowledge is neither a reason nor a justification for delaying action to reduce our GHG emissions. I am an engineer, not a climate scientist, but I am not aware of even a shred of credible science that suggests reducing GHG would exacerbate global warming. Indeed, every credible article I’ve read indicates that the solution(s) to global warming will involve reductions in GHG emissions.
So, as an engineer, I believe that we, as individuals, as a nation, and as a species, should get busy implementing the measures we know will work. This includes improving the energy efficiency of industrial processes, energy conservation, and a major investment in the improvement and production of renewable energy generation technologies. The less fossil fuel we burn, the less GHG we emit.
Continuing ‘business as usual’ for years until additional research refines our understanding of climate dynamics to a few more decimal places just seems foolish. The hotter we force the climate, the more catastrophic the consequences, and the more expensive the mitigation. If I’m wrong please help help me understand where I went astray.
re: 144. If you follow the scientific process which climate research does, there is really very little debate left at all. The “financial conflict of interest” point is quite a tired and very old red herring which has been addressed quite clearly.
I off-topically belabor the nuclear power question because I think it is very important.
In my view, apart from the well documented problems, dangers and risks of nuclear technology, nuclear electricity generation has little value in reducing GHG emissions, and offers that little value at enormous cost. Thus any large scale investment — and it would necessarily be a large scale, and long term, investment — in a nuclear buildup would be a tragic misdirection of resources, sucking investment out of other alternative energy and efficiency technologies that have a lot more to offer, without all the problems of nuclear power.
Caldecott’s latest antinuke book searingly debunks the claim that the impending “nuclear power renaissance,” purported by some to be the only answer to global warming, is “clean and green.” She covers all the bases, from the carbon emitted in the creation of nuclear power (higher than fossil fuels if the entire process from uranium mining to waste disposal is included) to the cost of nuclear plants (too high to be viable without large government subsidies) and the health risks and possibility of accidents and terrorists’ access (more than we’d like to think). She also points out that, despite proponents’ assurances, we still haven’t found a safe place to store the waste materials for the necessary thousands of years, and that state-of-the-art nuclear plant technology is still full of unresolved problems. Caldecott’s predictable alternative is also sensible: switch to wind and other benign renewables, turn down the thermostat, wear a sweater, use energy efficient lights and dry clothes on the clothesline. Detractors will complain that she is strident and incendiary, but those who believe that facts matter will want to read her frighteningly convincing argument.
I am sorry this is off the topic but I have just download the CEI’s critque of An Inconvenient Truth. A NZ denalist group have referred to it glowingly.
It is the usual mixture of old out of date arguments, cherry picking and quote mining. However first up they are (mis)using Realclimate as a source to justify the old water vapour argument. Here is the extract:
Comment: Water vapor, not carbon dioxide (CO2), is the most important greenhouse gas. Computing the exact contribution of each type of greenhouse gas to the overall greenhouse effect is complicated, because the gases â??overlapâ?? in some of the spectra in which they absorb infrared radiation. Taking the overlaps into account, RealClimate.Org concludes that â??water vapor is the single most important absorber (between 36% and
66% of the greenhouse effect), and together with clouds makes up between 66% and 85%. CO2 alone makes up between 9 and 26%, while the O3 and the other minor GHG absorbers consist of up to 7 and 8% of the effect, respectively.”
I went looking for the bit where Realclimate talked about the importance of understanding the difference between reactive and forcing gases but it was not there.
Can someone tell me why Dr. Lovelock is seeing nuclear as the rescue of our problems?
Also people should be aware that during this heatwave at least in europe (don’t know the US but should be identically in this scenario).
Many reactors had issues cooling them, as river water were way to warm to cooldown the nuclear power plant.
I read someone suggesting building it near oceans to prevent this from happening during future heatwaves, but then can they construct the power plant while taking in account rizing sea levels?
Also sea water near the land will be warm too, so even this is not a solution.
Heatwave/Nuclear Power Plant Scenario
While during a heatwave nuclear power plants which exist and gets normaly cooled down by river water, needs to shut down or throttle when the river hits a heat tipping point, causing the outfall of electricity.
Leading to many problems such as no air conditioning specialy for the elder people, food become bad in hours basicly without electricity our civilization is gone at seconds…
We need sustainable energy ressources not technologys which fallout when you need them.
> 131, “Europeans drive small fuel efficient cars”
And the history of that is rather comparable to the later history of tobacco, coal, polychlorinated biphenyls, chlorofluorocarbons — profit and denial for decades.
I’ve quoted other excerpts from this elsewhere, but not this one:
” the early 1920s was a crossroad in the American automobile industry. It had the option of developing smaller, more efficient engines that use better grade gasoline, or the larger, more powerful engines that rely on TEL [tetraethyl lead] to boost the octane rating. This point was emphasized by Dr C.F. Kettering, then the president of Ethyl Gasoline Corporation, at the conference to discuss the public health question in the manufacture, distribution and use of TEL gasoline:
“We have got to do one of two things: we must build motors which are more efficient — we must build motors of very much smaller size and sacrifice a great many factors which we now enjoy in the motor industry, or we must do something which will allow us to get more work out of the fuel unit. Now, in regard to the building of such motors, there is nothing of a patentable or unknown thing in the building of higher efficiency motors. Our neighbors on the other side [of the Atlantic] a few years ago built high compression, relatively high efficiency motors because we shipped to them a better grade of gasoline than we use in this country…, the automobile art today knows enough to design motors to take a better fuel, but instead it is handicapped because it has not been able to do it” (ref. 7, p. 9).
Dr Kettering, however, enthusiastically supported Frank Howard’s (of Ethyl Corporation) vision that TEL was a “gift from God”, and that the continued development of the particular motor fuel was essential to American civilization . The Europeans, and later the Japanese, however, continued to develop smaller engines that burn higher grade gasoline. ….
… about 20 trillion (20 x 10e12) liters of leaded gasoline were produced during the 60-year period. In terms of the volume alone, leaded gasoline must be ranked among the top organic chemicals used by modern society. …
7 U.S. Public Health Service, Public Health Bulletin No. 158, Proceedings of a Conference to Determine Whether or Not there is a Public Health Question in the Manufacture, Distribution, or Use of Tetraethyl Lead Gasoline, GPO, Washington, DC, 1925.
excerpt quoted from:
The Science of the Total Environment,
92 (1990) 13-28 Elsevier
THE RISE AND FALL OF LEADED GASOLINE
JEROME O. NRIAGU
Nuclear reactors require cooling, typically with water (sometimes indirectly). The process of extracting energy from a heat source, called the Rankine cycle, requires the steam to be cooled down. Rivers are the most common source of cooling water, as well as the destination for waste heat. The temperature of exhaust water must be regulated to avoid killing fish; long-term impact of hotter-than-natural water on ecosystems is an environmental concern. In most new facilites, this problem is solved by implementing cooling towers.
The need to regulate exhaust temperature also limits generation capacity. On extremely hot days, which is when demand can be at its highest, the capacity of a nuclear plant may go down because the incoming water is warmer to begin with and is thus less effective as a coolant, per unit volume. This was a significant factor during the European heat wave of 2003. Engineers consider this in making improved power plant designs because increased cooling capacity will increase costs.
“I am not trying to be snarky or difficult, but your analysis of what you do is not how I and others see it.”
Yes Woodrow M. and only one take is true as with many issues. Let’s see, there is NASA represented by Dr. Schimdt and plethora of supporting studies by reputable people and there are the “Raelians” led by Cucamonga or their equal the Center For Competative Enterprise paying Pat Michaels to say what they’d like to be true if at all possible. Only one is and when the facts aren’t on your side wingnuts just make it up. It’s a false equivalency. “Not seeing it” is succumbling to personal political fantasy which is Woody’s World to be sure but it isn’t scientific. Global warming is a scientific question that has been answered, but not yet solved. 
‘In most new facilites, this problem is solved by implementing cooling towers.’.
The reason my Nuclear is seen as a viable solution to both general energy shortages and AGW is because the problems it has are ameniable to engineering fixing. This isn’t something people seem to want to hear.
James Hansen is now telling us that the future is effectively going to be a wild ride unless emissions are curbed soon.
I for one am not holding my breath. We are at least 30 to 50 years away from getting a significant portion of the 800 million cars onto an alternative (if it ever happens before the Oil finally Peaks and runs dry) fuel and our electricity supply if changed significantly world wide etc.
yer sure we may have the means (I am doubful about that at the present time) but have we got the political will? Not at the present time it would seem, all alternatives seem or need to be evaluated in the context of trade talks and the free market economy. What chance in the timeline available for the emission reductions necessary?
The Economist’s survey seems determined that the goal is to “stabilize carbon content of the atmosphere” at around 550 ppm, i.e (sub.):
So how does the estimated cost of climate change compare with the cost of mitigating the effects? Unsurprisingly, that is not easy to calculate either. First, what is meant by mitigation? Many experts would settle for stabilising the carbon content of the atmosphere at around 550 parts per million. There is no particular magic to that figure, but given that carbon concentrations are now at 380ppm, it looks achievable and does not make most scientists’ hair stand on end
This figure is repeated elsewhere in their survey and I wonder if its as arbitrary as it seems. Does your hair stop standing on end at around 550 ppm?
[Response: 550 ppm is almost a doubling of the pre-industrial value of 280 ppm. Based on our current understanding of climate sensitivity, stabilising at this level will lead to a global mean warming most likely around 3 ºC. Many experts would argue that the impacts of such a warming would be so severe that raising global temperature by that much would constitute a “dangerous interference with the climate system” – which the world including the US government agreed to prevent in Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The European Union has agreed to limit global warming to at most 2 ºC above the pre-industrial temperature – this is our official climate policy goal. Many think this is still too high, considering the impacts, but note that to stay within this limit with high likelyhood, the greenhouse gas concentration needs to be stabilised below 450 ppm CO2-equivalent, not 550 ppm. And note the subtle but important difference between CO2 concentration alone, and the sum of all anthropogenic greenhouse gases expressed as CO2-equivalent. The climate system of course responds to all the gases, so to meet a certain temperature limit one needs to take all relevant gases into account. This makes the CO2 stabilisation level more stringent, dependent on how effectively we can reduce the other gases. Thus, if the Economist meant to say 550 ppm CO2, rather than CO2-equivalent, then the expected warming would be even above 3 ºC. This would definitely make my hair stand on end. -stefan]
Re #159, 550 PPM is over 1.1 trillion tonnes of atmospheric CO2 which I fear is far too high for my liking. I would have thought that 850 billion tonnes is a more approprriate level but one that will be surpassed within 12 years.
Well, if the nuclear industry gets its way and gets the taxpayers to foot the bill for an aggressive program of constructing new nuclear power plants — which, unlike wind turbines and photovolaics, the private market won’t touch unless the government (i.e. the taxpayers) provides massive subsidies
Well firstly, it’s an open question as to whether mandating that fossil-fuel generators secure their waste to a level comparable to what nuclear generators are required to do would drive commercial entities out of the fossil-fuel power business. The fact that they don’t have to pay for those externalities is of course a massive implicit taxpayer subsidy for fossil-fuel (especially coal) generation.
Secondly, you say ‘taxpayer subsidy’ like it’s always a bad thing; whereas I say ‘sovereign-debt financing’ can have a lot going for it. Sovereign debt typically incurs interest rates well below what the best-grades of corporate paper can get (5% vs 8% say). This has a huge impact on whether a project that has large up-front costs, but low running costs (as nuclear does) is financially viable when compared to a ‘low startup costs, high running costs’ project like a fossil-fuel power station (where the price of fuel inputs are the principal determinant of cost/KWh).
Deprecating all forms of state action is thus an implicit preference for certain categories of engineering project and infrastructure solution – one that is not derived from fundamental technological or engineering imperatives, bur rather rooted in a political or institutional choices.
This isn’t really the venue to debate the merits or otherwise of various energy infrastructure strategies however – check out the various diaries that Jerome Guillet has written at the European Tribune which deal with the financing of energy infrastructure for more detail of where I am coming from on these sorts of issues. He’s an investment banker who works in the energy sector (financing wind projects for the most part), so he knows this stuff much better than I do.
Somewhat in defense of gavin’s jab at Sen. Inhofe, which was noted as being in contradiction to the no-politics intent of the site, one can no longer separate the science from the politics on global warming. Whether it was the politicians who hijacked the global warming issue or the many scientists who enjoyed the grants and celebrity by catering to the politicians and the press, now the issue has become clouded by opportunists. So, if a liberal politician exaggerates global warming threats and scientists on his side don’t point out his errors, then there is a credibility gap.
The challenge of people who are sincere about global warming threats and solutions is to take back the issue from those who abuse the truth for gain. I would feel better accepting claims if I could be sure that they were sincere and objective.
The problem with taking a “balanced” view of the science is that, given the current widespread consensus in the scientific community, you tend to give a disproportionate standing to a mostly fringe group of skeptics in the search for balance. Given the small number of prominent skeptics (you can count them with your hand), and the connection that many have to political organizations (AEI, Cato, CEI, etc.), its fair to look at where their interests lie. I haven’t seen Realclimate cheerleading an obviously political climate change report by, say, Greenpeace that exaggerates parts of the science of AGW in the course of their call to action, so there really isn’t grounds to claim that these groups are treated differently.
Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 27 Sep 2006 @ 10:21 AM
I hope that in a few years we will look back at the days when a president could seek scientific advice from a writer of thrillers and wonder how that could ever have happened. We can hope that in 2008, both Democratic and Republican candidates for president will be on the same page with respect to the science of global warming. If McCain gets elected president, he will still have the problem of dealing with congressional dinosaurs such as Inhofe and Barton, but perhaps some others in his party may begin to see the attempt to stifle the evidence everytime it pops up as a losing proposition. Let’s hope the debate will be over the best way to deal with the problem, not whether or not there is a problem.
Reply to RC Reply #159, how can anyone or any body state that they claim to be able to limit warming to 2 Deg C or 3 Deg C. The climate is not linear is it and sudden and abrupt climate change is what the records tell us has happened regardless of what the linear models of the IPCC are telling us.
James Hansen once again warns us against 1 Deg C of further warming.
Its the bogs and tundra thawing that are going to potentially release many millions of tonnes of CO2 and Methane along with the rain forests drying out that is the concern along with our inability in a short space of time to deal with ourt own Co2 excesses.
Just a question related to nuclear power plant cooling: It’s been
a while since I took thermodynamics, but my impression was
that cooling is required for ANY heat engine. If memory serves
me, the generation part of a nuclear plant is pretty much the
same as for a coal plant: a steam turbine. The only difference
is the source of the steam. So coal plants ought to produce
the same amount of waste heat, per megawatt, as a nuclear
plant, and have similar cooling requirements. (And they do
indeed have cooling ponds &c.) So is my understanding at
Oh, and about Europeans driving more fuel-efficient cars? I’ve
lived in Britain and Switzerland, and didn’t notice this. They
may drive a large BMW or a Range Rover rather than a
a US-sized SUV, but that seems to have more to do with narrow
streets and limited parking than the cost of fuel.
Re. #164 Zeke, actually I do read science publications including the two that you mentioned, but I don’t always agree with their conclusions. Increasingly I’m seeing science articles written by journalists rather than scientists, and some of them can get pretty far out.
(A little off topic, but I got into a long debate months ago with a science journalist on another issue; and, without telling me, he just had published in a prominent science magazine an article that agrees with my claims that he originally disputed. Maybe journalists aren’t always right the first time. However, they can be quite arrogant, and it’s hard to get them to admit when they are wrong.)
I don’t agree that there is a consensus on your side of the issue, but, even so, you don’t give weight to conclusions based upon how many accept a premise. As long as there are sincere and qualified scientists who dispute many claims of the global warming supporters, then their disputes have to be disproven by science and not editorial boards.
Maybe Gavin or others have dismissed these to themselves, but the articles seem to indicate that your claim that you can count these skeptical scientists on one hand is not accurate and is more an indication of how one can come to false conclusions based upon being hammered with false information by political junkies and left-wing media.
Unfortunately, it will take hundreds of years to know if claims of the effects of global warming and if proposed solutions would work–sort of convenient for the crowd on the left whose scare theories are regularly debunked in a shorter period.
I just want the truth about the issue and the truth about costs to fix it. Right now, the proposals in Kyoto are very expensive and do not come close to doing anything except to bring western economies down. Bottom line on that, I’m not willing to spend a lot as long as the issue is open–and, it still is not proven.
Those who support global warming would help their side if they weeded out their nuts who make the rest of us legitimately skeptical.
[Response: Well, I would have a higher opinion of your opinions if you didn’t quote things that are easily demonstrated to have no substance. The Peiser commentary on Oreskes results was simply rubbish and he has admitted as much. The only citation he found that was clearly non-consensual (out of the 34 he originally claimed) was an op-ed from the AAPG – hardly a peer-reviewed paper. (See Deltoid for all the gory details). The Bray survey could have been interesting, but when an on-line survey is thrown open to everyone on the ‘climatesceptics’ mailling list (with no check of credentials), it is less than compelling. Regardless of these spats, the fact that the community overwhelmingly supports the consensus is evidenced by picking up any copy of Journal of Climate or similar, any scientific program at the AGU or EGU meetings, or simply going to talk to scientists (not the famous ones, the ones at your local university or federal lab). I challenge you, if you think there is some un-reported division, show me the hundreds of abstracts at the Fall meeting (the biggest confernce in the US on this topic) that support your view – you won’t be able to. You can argue whether the consensus is correct, or what it really implies, but you can’t credibly argue it doesn’t exist. -gavin]
Mystery writer SecularAnimist now cites Helen Caldicott, out on the loonier fringe of the anti-nuclear movement. I encourage all sentient readers of RealClimate to read some of Dr. Caldicott’s writings to get the flavor of where she is coming from.
Again, nuclear waste has been stored safely during the six decades of the nuclear age (with the exception of mining/milling tails in some locations) and will continue to be stored safely in the future. The wastes from fossil fuel use are dumped directly into the air, groundwater, and surface water and will be for the foreseeable future. Every careful analysis shows a public health impact of fossil fuel use that is at least two orders of magnitude greater than the impact of the nuclear industry.
The German sweetheart report that SA cited in his last message shows a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for nuclear, even if you believe their estimates, which I don’t
What about storing wind energy in the form of liquified air. Could for instance be used to extract oxygen that could power an closed cycle/exhaust free gas turbine. The cold oxygen depleted gas left over from the extraction process might still be cold enough to freeze out CO2 from the oxygen/exhaust loop.
However, even if we could relativly dump radioactivity items into safer places then e.g. our oceans … as i mentioned in this thread …during heatwaves nuclear power is not sustainable.
Also from the 44x power plants worldwide you cant speculate all countrys have the same safe standards. (War, Terror, Natural causes, such as earthquakes.)
Basically, the thermal efficiency of a steam plant (that is the fraction of available heat that is converted to electricity) will depend on the temperature and pressure of the steam produced in the steam generator and on the temperature at which the heat is removed from the plant’s steam/water/electricity generating loop.
For a variety of reasons, it is easier to design an fossil-fueled steam generator that produces high temperature, high pressure steam (close to the critical point for water and steam) than it is to designed a reactor core and steam generator that will do the same.
For that reason, fossil plants average between 40-45% efficient and nuclear plants (at least the most common ones) around 32-34%. That means that for a given amount of electricity generated, a nuclear plant will have to reject to the environment about 10% to 20% more heat than a state of the art fossil plant.
This rejected heat is dumped into the air (with cooling towers) or into rivers or the ocean. In either case, and with either fossil or nuclear plants, there may be times when the air is too hot or the river (but not the ocean) is too hot to reject all of the heat generated at full power. The plant will then have to back off of full power to continue operating. I ran into the same situation in my car a few years ago on a Southern California freeway at 15-20mph in 112 degree heat. My radiator could not reject all of the heat being produced by the engine.
Jim Dukelow responds to my links to critics of nuclear power with little more than ad hominems, and in fact less than “ad hominems”, really mere name-calling.
I am a “mystery writer”? What does that even mean?
The study by Storm van Leeuwen and Smith is “pseudo-analysis”? Mr. Dukelow offers no justification whatever for that derogatory characterization.
Helen Caldicott is on the “loonier fringe”? As I said, this is nothing but name-calling.
As to the alleged “safety” of nuclear power, here is some further recommended reading. Note that the author, David Lochbaum, is currently with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who Jim Dukelow may regard as part of the “loony fringe” along with Dr. Caldicott, so I will note that Lochbaum holds a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee and worked for nearly 20 years in the nuclear power industry prior to joining UCS.
A new report on [long-term shutdowns of nuclear power plants] shows nuclear power in the United States is more dangerous and more costly than necessary. Since the first commercial plant opened 40 years ago, reactor shutdowns of a year or longer have occurred a staggering 51 times at 41 different plants. Most of these were due to widespread safety problems that eventually could not be ignored. While these reactors shut down before they experienced a major accident, we cannot assume our luck will hold.
Some proponents of nuclear power have dismissed such safety concerns by arguing that no United States nuclear plant has experienced a meltdown since Three Mile Islandâ��s partial one in 1979. Thatâ��s as fallacious as arguing that the levees protecting New Orleans were fully adequate prior to Hurricane Katrina because there were no similar disasters between 1980 and 2004.
The tremendous cost of these shutdowns -â�� a total of nearly $82 billion in lost revenue -â�� suggests how intently operators try to avoid them, and how serious shutdowns are when they occur. But nuclear reactors that are not operated as safely as possible are accidents waiting to happen.
Most of the shutdowns happened because safety margins at the plants were allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that reactor operations could not continue. Inadequate attention to safety by plant owners and operators, combined with poor oversight by the NRC, caused 36 of the 51 year-plus outages. There are 104 nuclear power reactors in the United States. Forty-one have experienced year-long outages. A 1-in-3 chance of incurring a year-plus outage was not part of the bargain when these plants were built and licensed.
Since 1973, long-term safety-related shutdowns have occurred, on average, once per year. Despite the continued need for these shutdowns, the NRC has not adequately improved its oversight of nuclear safety. The NRC should detect falling safety margins and intervene before it takes longer than a year to restore safety to acceptable levels […] Nuclear power is clearly not safe enough when so many reactors have to shut down for so long to restore safety to acceptable levels.
I would emphasize that these widespread, severe safety problems and the frequent, costly year-long shutdowns of nuclear plants that are required to address them occur in spite of the obvious financial incentive that the nuclear industry has for avoiding them.
Proponents of a major buildup of nuclear electricity generation on the huge scale that would be required to have any significant impact on GHG emissions (as Storm van Leeuwen and Smith point out, less than 16% of electricity generation is currently nuclear, and electricity is only 16% of world energy consumption) should first address the very serious safety problems with the existing fleet of nuclear power plants that the UCS study documents.
And then they still need to explain why US taxpayers should invest astronomical amounts of money in building new nuclear power plants when advanced wind turbine and nano-tech photovoltaic technology stands ready to bring as much or more electricity generation online, cheaper, faster and without the risks and dangers of nuclear power, and while private investors are pouring money into these rapidly expanding technologies as fast as they can.
Please note that if your comment is rejected as spam, it probably because of frequently used words by spammers – ‘poker’ or ‘mortgage’ are most common. Put in a space or something, and as long as the spammers don’t do the same, you’ll be ok. Sorry about that.
I think it’s time to ignore/kick/ban paid people who fraud.
“We have begun a bold new era of environmental protection here in California that will change the course of history,” Schwarzenegger – 27th sep 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 27 (Reuters) – In a move backers hope will inspire other states to follow suit, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a pioneering law on Wednesday aimed at reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
[Response: Injecting sulphates is obviously not an ideal solution – in fact its probably a bad idea unless you’re really desperate. But it may not be quite so bad for acid rain as you think – in the stratosphere the fall-out would be much slower (I’m guessing) – William]
Re #146: (Me no english mothertounge) Gavin probably clarified the linguistic semantopragmatics of my quoth.
Comment by Florifulgurator — 27 Sep 2006 @ 9:41 PM
“As long as there are sincere and qualified scientists who dispute many claims of the global warming supporters, then their disputes have to be disproven by science and not editorial boards.”
You have it backwards. The claims of those supposedly ‘sincere and qualified scientsits’ have to be supported by the usual method, submission for publication in the peer reviewed scientific literature. So far, few of these denialists have attempted to go this route. When they have, as for example Richard Lindzen and his iris effect, they have not been turned away. But the ideas have not, so far at least, held up under criticism and through observational studies.
Let me say it another way. We are making significant changes in the concentration of certain gases in the atmosphere. If we continue to do that as business as usual we can expect a doubling or worse of those concentrations within the next century, and it won’t stop there. These gases are known to have an effect on the radiation budget of the planet. All that is beyond any serious debate. It is incumbent on those who claim that nothing need be done about this to prove the changes to the climate system are highly likely to be benign. And they should be held to the most rigorous standards.
Let me proceed by simple analogy. Suppose I proposed to gradually increase Benzene levels in your home so that within your lifetime, they would reach significantly higher levels. Wouldn’t you want some advance proof that doing that is not going to adversely affect your health. Or, would you just wait until you started having health difficulties?
Thanks Stefan, I was aware of the +3 degree implication and was sort of baffled as to how the Economist has unearthed *many* experts “would settle for stabilising the carbon content of the atmosphere at around 550 parts per million”. Note that the whole “reduction is possible and economically easy” argument of the Economist, *depends* on the 550ppm target (which I’ll charitably take to mean CO2 equivalent since elswhere in the survey they acknowledge the difference).
So apparently this level has been chosen by the Economist to make the no-sweat feasibility argument more realistic – and certainly what pete best says in #167 above makes the whole cost-benefit assessment rather difficult to formulate. Anyway isn’t the 2007 IPCC report supposed to discuss a few things about the nonlinearities involved? Will it attempt to quantify the danger of catastrophic feedbacks?
RE 179 “Lindzen’s Iris effect”: The following really disturbs me. I was on the NASA website yesterday and it stated, falsely, that Richard Lindzen’s Iris theory (that climate distortion [global warming] will be stopped by increasing cloudiness in the tropics) was still possibly correct.
His theory, according to my understanding, has been strongly disproven scientifically and NASA is falsifying the conclusions: “Iris Hypothesis remains an intriguing hypothesisâ??neither proven nor disproven.”
What kind of country is this when a scientific agency deliberately falsifies scientific conclusions in order to win over naive American citizens?
I remember reading that communist Russia (vis a vis the “inferior” quality of foreign equipment) and Nazi Germany with the “superiority” of the Arian race) did the same thing…Politicizing science.
In my personal opinion, we are committing national suicide.
Comment by Richard Ordway — 28 Sep 2006 @ 11:07 AM
Re. 179 Lindzen’s Iris theory.
I thought that scientifically, Lindzen’s theory (Iris effect) ie. that more tropical clouds would cause cooling and that would solve global warming, was thoroughly and scientifically debunked with hard evidence: “Instead of the strong negative feedback that Lindzenâ??s team found, Linâ??s team found a weak positive feedback (Lin et al. 2001). That is, Lin found that clouds in the tropics do change in response to warmer sea surface temperatures, but that the cloud changes serve to slightly enhance warming at the surface.”
Yet the NASA website includes a disturbing endnote that is not what I understand to be the truth based on evidence: that the scientific community has also agreed that the Iris theory has no proof to support it: “Currently, both Lindzen and Lin stand by their findings and there is ongoing debate between the two teams. At present, the Iris Hypothesis remains an intriguing hypothesisâ??neither proven nor disproven.”
This NASA website seems to be deliberately altering scientific findings. The evidence states that the Iris theory is dead…and NASA is stating that there is evidence where none exists…that the Iris effect is valid.
Comment by Richard Ordway — 28 Sep 2006 @ 11:50 AM
Nice post, but I just want to throw my two cents in.
What matters is not the spread between the interest on corporate and sovereign debt (which is currently under 1% for AAA corporate debt in the US) but rather the difference between government and corporate discount rates. The discount rate that corporations use is often around 15%.
PS: The capital cost of a coal power plant is several times more than the fuel cost and, like nuclear plants, they are not very sensitive to the price of their fuel (at least at current coal and uranium prices of roughly $40/tn and $110/kg respectively). Only with natural gas and oil power plants are fuel costs the largest cost.
Remember this from Inhofe to Judith Curry? Found online today, ironically, only at the junkscience archive for October 31, 2005:
“”Lawmaker hurricane talks turn turbulent”
– “WASHINGTON – A congressional briefing on global warming and hurricanes by scientists from Georgia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came to a stormy end Tuesday when a Senate staff member charged that their presentation was “one-sided.” “You people are espousing minority views that a vast majority of scientists dispute,” John Shanahan, an aide to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., told scientists Judith Curry of Georgia Tech and Kerry Emanuel of MIT. He then accused the American Meterological Society, which sponsored the briefing, of rigging it to exclude climate-change skeptics.” (Cox News Service)
Mystery writer SecularAnimist, who protects his reputation by hiding behind a pseudonym, wrote:
“Helen Caldicott is on the “loonier fringe”? As I said, this is nothing but name-calling.
“As to the alleged “safety” of nuclear power, here is some further recommended reading. Note that the author, David Lochbaum, is currently with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who Jim Dukelow may regard as part of the “loony fringe” along with Dr. Caldicott, so I will note that Lochbaum holds a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee and worked for nearly 20 years in the nuclear power industry prior to joining UCS.”
Characterizing Helen Caldicott as part of the loonier fringe of the anti-nuclear industry is not name-calling, it is reportage. I continue to invite RealClimate readers to read some of her stuff and decide for themselves.
On the other hand, I consider David Lochbaum to be a sensible critic of the industry, although I don’t agree with all of his criticisms. I do agree with him when he writes “nuclear power in the United States is more dangerous and more costly than necessary”, although he doesn’t really go into the reasons why. Among those reasons, there are few other countries that allow individual utilities to order custom-designed plants, to the extent that among the hundred plants in the U.S. there are probably a dozen basic designs and no more than 15-20 plants that are duplicates of other plants owned by the same utility. France, on the other hand, has two or three basic designs replicated dozens of times. You have a similar situation with Southwest Airlines and the struggling “legacy” airlines. Southwest standardized on the Boeing 737, so its pilots and maintenance crews need learn only one plane and Southwest can stock one set of spare parts. That has provided a significant chunk of their cost advantage.
Lochbaum’s 51 longer-than-a-year shutdowns of 41 US plants should be seen in the context of 100 reactors and around 2000 reactor-years of operation.
The SLS report and the German report they cite are outliers among the studies of Life Cycle Costs of energy systems, but, even so, Figure 6 of the German report shows nuclear with CO2 emissions roughly consistent with Gas-Turbine-Cogeneration and Photovoltaics and roughly a tenth the emissions of coal plants. It doesn’t give a value for non-co-generation gas turbines, which would be greater than nuclear but less than coal.
Similarly, Figure 7 shows the cost of nuclear electricity roughly consistent with wind, co-generation with gasified wood, coal, natural gas co-generation, energy efficiency II, and biogas co-generation. Nuclear electricity is less than a third the cost of photovoltaics. Only energy efficiency I and combined-cycle-gas-turbine-co-generation are significantly cheaper. Figure 7 nuclear electricity cost figures are inconsistent with similar estimates in Table 1 on the previous page.
You build nuclear plants because one of them is the electricity generation equivalent of about 2000 1 Mwatt wind turbines, it can be base-loaded, and will provide power at predictable times. In fact, any system using wind or solar power will need to have roughly 80% of the system capacity in base-loaded plants like nuclear, fossil, or hydropower to maintain grid stability in the face of variation in the output of wind turbines or solar plants.
re: 185 Almost by definition, calling anyone part of a “loonier fringe” is name-calling. It is most certainly not reportage. It is quite sad when people can not separate personal “opinion” from “fact”.
Re 177 “#139 The last part is what got me. Tom Wigley, who just a few days ago outlined a plan to inject sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to stop the warming, was shown in the story.
Sulfate would add acid rain. It would also ignore the problem of ocean acidification. It’s not exactly an ideal situation.”
The injection hygroscopic ‘industrial’ fertilizer salts into the lower part of the atmosphere – with the exeption of sulfates, nitrogen and phosporuos of course – is what we need to save us from being poisoned by acid rain and nuclear pollutants.
You build nuclear plants because one of them is the electricity generation equivalent of about 2000 1 Mwatt wind turbines, it can be base-loaded, and will provide power at predictable times.
That’s an ironic statement given Lochbaum’s finding that 41 out of 104 nuclear plants in the USA have experienced year-long shutdowns due to extreme safety problems. You seem to imply that wind turbines and photovoltaics are unable to produce power at “predictable times”, which is not true.
I do agree with him when he writes “nuclear power in the United States is more dangerous and more costly than necessary”, although he doesn’t really go into the reasons why.
Yes, he does: “… reactor shutdowns of a year or longer have occurred a staggering 51 times at 41 different plants. Most of these were due to widespread safety problems that eventually could not be ignored … Most of the shutdowns happened because safety margins at the plants were allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that reactor operations could not continue. Inadequate attention to safety by plant owners and operators, combined with poor oversight by the NRC, caused 36 of the 51 year-plus outages.”
Mystery writer SecularAnimist, who protects his reputation by hiding behind a pseudonym …
I am “hiding” nothing and I have no “reputation” to protect. I include my real email address on every comment I post.
It is fair enough to urge other readers to read Dr. Helen Caldicott’s work and form their own opinion of it, and of course I previously linked to Amazon.com’s page for her most recent book, to facilitate doing just that. That doesn’t change the fact that referring to her as “loony fringe” is mere name-calling.
Well who actually takes Inhofe serious? Not even republicans…
CNN Fact Checks Inhofeâ��s Diatribe Against Global Warming Science
On Monday, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) took to the Senate floor and launched into a 45-minute diatribe on global warming science. Repeating his claim that global warming is a hoax, Inhofe said, â��The American people knowâ�¦when they are being used and when they are being duped by the hysterical left.â��
In particular, he attacked the news media. According to Inhofe, â��During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry.â��
This morning, CNN hit back with a segment documenting that virtually everything Inhofe said was flatly contradicted by the facts.
The CNN segment concluded: â��Inhofe challenged the media to get this story straight in that speech, but when we asked for an interview with him we were told heâ��s just too busy to speak with us this week.â��
RE #182: Yeah this is no doubt part of the NOAA disinformation campaign from the internal PR office decreed from “on high.” If you can hold ambiguity that will be enough seems to be the political strategy of the administraion. I know of one fisheries scientist who quite NOAA after a trial on a management decision. It’s the order of the day. This seems Lysenkoistian to me. I’ve worked for the Forest serice and US Fish and Wildlife. The atmosphere is similar there.
Sulphates are not all acidic. For dusting the upper atmosphere, it seems reasonable to choose one that is nearly neutral such as sodium sulphate (Na2SO4) or gypsum (CaSO4 plus some water of hydration).
— Relatively reasonable, I mean. Better than trying to do it with sulphuric acid mist. Relatively silly, compared to the only geoengineering proposal that makes any sense to me: strewing quicklime (CaO) over a few thousand square km, collecting it and calcining it once it has turned to lime (CaCO3), preventing the pure CO2 from the calciner from reentering the atmosphere.
Re #182: The problem with those NASA “Iris” pages is that they’re nearly five years old. Maybe the problem is that there’s no budget to update them just now, but as the Iris is now mainly of historical interest maybe the best thing would be to just delete them.
First, Wind and PV do not produce electricity in a reliable manner. There is some predictability, but that is not the same thing; it’s perfectly possible to lose all wind and solar output over a whole region under some weather conditions. It dosen’t matter if you can predict this or not, you’ll still have a blackout unless you have non-weather-dependant backup plants. Using any storage scheme for this raises the amount of intermittant capacity required according to one over the square of the capacity factor, which renders the whole system unviable for current CF numbers.
Nuclear plants (as with all power generation) will have some outages, but on average they give 90% capacity factor and don’t all fail in sync. That’s a world away from renewables; even the best wind farms struggle to get 33% capacity factor and a high pressure area can stop wind generation across a large geographical area.
Here’s my problem with Caldicott (and the Storm papers) – the distortion of science in the name of the environment. In the case of caldicott, the blatant playing-up of cancer risks – appropriate sampling can link *anything* to cancer if you try. The Storm papers, if you take the time to read them, systematically take the highest estimates of energy costs they can find at every stage, together with the worst estimates of resources, and impose some quite staggering requirements at the end (decomissioning and mine restoration). And, of course, assume that Natural gas is a viable source of long term electric generation.
In both cases, what you are reading nears a strong resembalance to the anti-AGW propanganda pushed by the AEI, as an example, or even some of the anti-evolution stuff Answers in Genesis pushes out.
As far as I can see, the danger from going down the renewables route is simply that twenty years hence, you find that producing 20% of electricity from wind, 10% from solar-thermal (PV is never going to get a look in, sorry), and perhaps 10% of transport fuel is various biofuels. You then realise that you can’t increase the renewables fraction without destabilising the whole grid, and there is no more land to grow biofuels on. Which means you’ve taken CO2 emissions down perhaps 15% and reached an engineering dead end. That’s nowhere near good enough if you consider AGW to be a threat.
So what you are doing is essentially hyping up a very small theroetical risk (ie multiple severe nuclear accidents) with the consequence that a large scale near certainty – significant problems from AGW – gets ignored. That’s almost certainly not what you intend, but wishful thinking does not a reality make.
SecularAnimist, I have read Helen Caldicott’s work.
Short version: she’s wrong, and a lot of the time she’s very obviously wrong.
For instance, her claims of widespread acute radiation sickness after Three Mile Island simply don’t make sense. If this occurred, there would have been many people hospitalised, and a number of near-term deaths, as a result.
Similarly, her regurgitation of the Storm van Leeuwin and Smith analysis isn’t any more correct for the number of times it’s been repeated. If you want a thorough debunking, might I suggest nuclearinfo.net’s rebuttal. If SLS’s figures were correct, the Olympic Dam uranium mine would use more energy than the total electrical generation of the state it is located in, a state with 1.5 million people in it!
Caldicott’s work is not all that different to the work of climate change denialists, in fact.
“If the Economist can rise to the challenge, maybe there is hope for the Wall Street Journal….” Well, maybe; but the Economist is European, and thus has something like an informed and realistic perspective. The WSJ editorial board are lackeys of American oligarchs who think that they own the world now and forever.
Comment by richard schumacher — 29 Sep 2006 @ 5:56 AM
Re: #185 “In fact, any system using wind or solar power will need to have roughly 80% of the system capacity in base-loaded plants like nuclear, fossil, or hydropower to maintain grid stability in the face of variation in the output of wind turbines or solar plants.”
In fact – you are delightfully mistaken.
Recent research has shown that, if you distribute the generating capacity from renewables fairly evenly over a large enough area [say the UK] and also have generating capacity from a variety of sources [wind, solar, tidal], then you actually find that when the wind doesn’t blow in one location, it blows somewhere else, or that extended periods of low wind tend to be associated with high pressure systems that inhibit cloud formation, so solar can take up the slack, etc. Consequently, the total power output of the system as a whole is not as variable as “conventional wisdom” states. Also, winds tend to be stronger in the early evening – exactly at the time of peak demand for electricity.
This would require building wind turbines in locations that weren’t as obviously favourable as the locations currently used, in order to achieve a good geographical spread of generation. Of course micro-generation, with most buildings in the country having solar panels and wind turbines, fits into this idea perfectly.
For even greater resilience you can create infrastructure that would store excess energy to be released when renewable output was low. The obvious way to do this would be to have a sufficiently large renewable energy capacity that you would use to create hydrogen for transport use. Some of this hydrogen could also be used as back-up electricity generation.
Finally, the current electricity grid systems are designed to deal with entire power stations [100’s of MW] suddenly failing and falling off the grid. They can deal with the relatively smooth variations in output from [many] wind turbines that occurs over periods of a few hours.
Renewables are a solution. There is some work to be done, for sure, but it can be done, and it’s merely political inactivity that is holding them back.
And, again, there’s very interesting ideas to make the use of electricity variable to match variations in supply. There are solutions, if people are willing to work, innovate and perservere.
Nuclear is not one of these solutions. It simply produces vast quantities of dangerous waste that we have no way of safely storing for thousands of years.
Lochbaum’s 51 longer-than-a-year shutdowns of 41 US plants should be seen in the context of 100 reactors and around 2000 reactor-years of operation.
Whereas the briefing note on French nuclear power I googled up from the Uranium Information Centre shows that the French nuclear fleet has ~800 reactor-years of operation. It would be interesting to see the comparable shutdown statistics for EDF, but my lunch break wasn’t long enough for me to track any down. I suspect that they would be significantly lower than the US stats.
Secular Animist – I think both Jim and myself would argue that the correct conclusion to draw from Lochbaum’s findings is that US civil nuclear power has been poorly implemented and should not form the institutional basis for any future expansion.
The EDF example shows that nuclear power can be built and operated to a high standard at a comparable cost (3 cents/kWh at present) to other forms of generation however. So nuclear can be done well and I would suggest that any future programme in the States should look to the French and Finnish examples (and the US Navy for that matter – they seem to be much more effective nuclear engineers than the US civil sector) for guidance and models on how to do it.
… ‘The National Weather Service has now confirmed at least 28 tornadoes from Friday and early Saturday morning in MO, IL, KY, AR, TN, and AL. That sets a record for the largest September tornado outbreak that was not spawned by the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane’. …
So how come The National Weather Service (NWS) has not informed the public that this has been ‘the largest September tornado outbreak that was not spawned by the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane’?
And how come NWS has not informed the public how ‘unusual’ it was for the Sept 16 tornado to hit in MN after dark (approximately 10 PM)?
Are people at NWS, NOAA and DOC afraid that the public might claim they are being scaremongers if they suggest there may be a connection between Fall tornadoes and climate change or global warming?
Is there a connection between late night tornadoes (that cannot be been seen by spotters due to darkness) and climate change?
— — ‘maybe there is hope for the Wall Street Journal’,realclimate.org)
PS: The capital cost of a coal power plant is several times more than the fuel cost and, like nuclear plants, they are not very sensitive to the price of their fuel (at least at current coal and uranium prices of roughly $40/tn and $110/kg respectively). Only with natural gas and oil power plants are fuel costs the largest cost.
Sure. Gas (especially) has been a huge part of new-build in the last decade however and if longterm fuel prices continue high (as I suspect they will) that will turn out to look pretty silly.
As you say the financing structure for coal plant is much more comparable to nuclear. If the waste management externalities and climate impact risks were accounted for properly I suspect (but do not know) that they would end up looking broadly similar to a nuke plant. Coal generation is a familiar concept however and has an influential lobby, so the risk factors are disregarded.
Andrew Dodds, thanks for the realistic appraisal of the role of renewables. You said, (and it is worth repeating):
[As far as I can see, the danger from going down the renewables route is simply that twenty years hence, you find that producing 20% of electricity from wind, 10% from solar-thermal (PV is never going to get a look in, sorry), and perhaps 10% of transport fuel is various biofuels. You then realise that you can’t increase the renewables fraction without destabilising the whole grid, and there is no more land to grow biofuels on. Which means you’ve taken CO2 emissions down perhaps 15% and reached an engineering dead end. That’s nowhere near good enough if you consider AGW to be a threat.]
We advocates for public response to AGW have a responsibility to lead with technical alternatives to the BAU, fossil fuel-driven energy sector. Offering the public 80-90 percent carbon reduction options that are not technically feasible – regardless how popular they might be – serve no purpose, waste time and damages our credibility. Renewables have a part to play but transmission grid realities will limit their role.
I realize this page is not an electric engineers blog but climate scientists can and should offer their perspective on AGW and possible impacts on cloudiness and changing wind patterns, e.g., I could suggest the work of Dr. John Walsh on Arctic cold air outbursts.
Maybe RealClimate could help all of us separate the wheat from the chaff on the whole renewables discussion by posting a thread from a contributor such as Mr. Dodds or someone from EPRI or MIT. And, it would be of real value to have some discussion on the impact of electric utility dereg and how that has taken, in some states, the decision-making on power generation choices, out of the hands of utility commissioners and put them into the hands and wallets of Wall Street investors — not an inconsequential element in the equation.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 29 Sep 2006 @ 9:21 AM
Science 29 September 2006:
Vol. 313. no. 5795, p. 1871
The world’s oldest scientific society has challenged the world’s richest corporation over what it sees as an attempt to confuse people about global warming. In a sharply worded letter made public last week, the 346-year-old Royal Society criticizes the oil giant ExxonMobil for giving money to “organizations that have been misinforming the public about the science of climate change” and for promoting an “inaccurate and misleading” view, to wit: that scientists do not agree about the influence of human activity on rising temperatures. ExxonMobil issued a rebuttal, and some climate-change skeptics attacked the Royal Society for trying to stifle debate.
For a country like the UK, you might get solar 8 hours a day. A high pressure system around at night, which could be perhaps 10% of the time, would mean that the vast majority of your installed capacity was offline.
The system can cope with the fairly sudden loss of a few percent of capacity; but you are talking about up to 90%. It’s one thing to be able to *predict* that you are going to lose this, quite another to be able to do anything about it. It’s actually quite sad to see exactly the kind of language abuse that AGW-skeptics try (equating ‘intermittant’ with ‘unpredictable’, saying ‘It’s not unpredictable’).
If you are talking about generating hydrogen to compensate, then you will need to install 5-10MW of intermittant sources for every 1MW of end use baseload. That is not a minor issue; it’s not just a matter of ‘a bit of work to be done’. It’s pretty fundamental and so far, I haven’t seen any attempt to seriously address the problem, just attempts to claim it dosen’t exist.
In #193 Andrew Dodds wrote: “PV is never going to get a look in, sorry”
With all due respect, this comment seems to me representative of the ill-informed and glib dismissals of the potential of photovoltaics and wind turbines that is the other side of the coin from the equally glib dismissal of the dangers, risks and environmental problems of nuclear power that are all too often put forward by proponents of nuclear power.
Ill-informed, say I? Here’s what I mean:
A study published in March 2005 by The Energy Foundation found that “Residential and commercial rooftop space in the US could accommodate up to 710,000 Megawatts of solar electric power … for comparison, total electric-generating capacity in the US today is about 950,000 MW.” In other words, if the existing siting capacity for rooftop photovoltaics was fully exploited, it could produce nearly 75% of the USA’s current total electricity generated from all sources.
The same study found that “the potential US market for grid-connected solar rooftop PV could reach 2,900 MW per year by 2010, assuming that the solar industry can achieve a breakthrough price of $2.00-$2.50 per installed watt. This would be enough new electricity, brought online in just one year, to power more than 500,000 average US homes […] representing an annual market of about $6.6 billion (equipment and installations).”
A July 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “Investors along Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park are pouring money into solar nanotech startups […] Nanosys and Nanosolar in Palo Alto — along with Konarka in Lowell, Mass. — say their research will result in thin rolls of highly efficient light-collecting plastics spread across rooftops or built into building materials. These rolls, the companies say, will be able to provide energy for prices as low as the electricity currently provided by utilities, which averages $1 per watt.”
One year later, in June 2006, Nanosolar announced that “it now has $100 million in funding to take its breakthrough photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity technology into volume production” and “it has started executing on its plan to build a volume cell production factory with a total annual cell output of 430MW once fully built out, or approximately 200 million cells per year, and an advanced panel assembly factory designed to produce more than one million solar panels per year.”
“Thin solar films can be used in building materials, including roofing materials and glass […] Inexpensive solar electric cells are, fundamentally, a ‘disruptive technology’ […] Much like cellular phones have changed the way people communicate, cheap solar cells change the way we produce and distribute electric energy […] the prospect of this technology creates a conundrum for the electric utility industry and Wall Street. Can – or should – any utility, or investor, count on the long-term viability of a coal, nuclear or gas investment? The answer is no.”
Two billion households worldwide could realistically be powered by solar energy by 2025, according to a joint report launched today by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace. The report concludes that thanks to advances in technology, increasing competition and investment in production facilities, solar power has now become a serious contender in the electricity market; able to provide low-cost, clean, CO2 emission free energy.
The report also concludes that the global photovoltaic (PV) industry could potentially create more than 2 million jobs by 2040 plus a cut in annual CO2 emissions of 350 million tonnes – equivalent to 140 coal power plants – by 2025, and become the energy of choice for consumers.
In 2005 the total installed capacity of solar PV systems around the world passed the landmark figure of 5000MW (= 10 average size coal power plants). Global shipÂments of PV cells and modules have been growing at an average annual rate of more than 40% for the past few years.
Electricity generation from photovoltaics and wind turbines is already growing rapidly worldwide and has tremendous potential. Please don’t dismiss it before studying it more closely.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 29 Sep 2006 @ 12:03 PM
Secularanimist: there are any number of people promising cost reductions in solar energy. You seem to be making the assumption that the most optimistic predictions of solar cell tech developers will pan out, and that that other technologies are static. That’s a false assumption; there are a number of technologies on the drawing board for nuclear plants that if successful will lead to significant cost reductions, and are probably a lot less technically ambitious than solar cell tech.
Secondly, the elephant in the room that nobody in the renewables business wants to acknowledge is the requirement for large scale energy storage if intermittant renewables are to make up a significant proportion of the grid. Despite furious research, they’re very expensive and inefficient. And without them, intermittant renewables can’t ever make up more than a small fraction of the grid.
From an Australian context (a place that has no shortage of sunlight) I’ve looked at analyses by Australian green groups about senarios for CO2 emission reduction in Australia. None of them involve significant contributions from solar power, all the way through to 2050. Draw your own conclusions.
In a scientific breakthrough that has stunned the world, a team of South African scientists has developed a revolutionary new, highly efficient solar power technology that will enable homes to obtain all their electricity from the sun.
This means high electricity bills and frequent power failures could soon be a thing of the past.
The unique South African-developed solar panels will make it possible for houses to become completely self-sufficient for energy supplies.
The panels are able to generate enough energy to run stoves, geysers, lights, TVs, fridges, computers – in short all the mod-cons of the modern house.
Production will start next month and the factory will run 24 hours a day, producing more than 1 000 panels a day to meet expected demand.
Re #204 and “Secularanimist: there are any number of people promising cost reductions in solar energy. You seem to be making the assumption that the most optimistic predictions of solar cell tech developers will pan out, and that that other technologies are static. That’s a false assumption; there are a number of technologies on the drawing board for nuclear plants that if successful will lead to significant cost reductions, and are probably a lot less technically ambitious than solar cell tech.”
Knowing the history of space flight helps you to examine these things. The original solar cells cost something like $500.00 per peak watt, in the 1960s. By 1970 that was $200.00 per peak watt, and by 1980 $15.00 per peak watt. Solar photovoltaic has steadily become cheaper for four decades. There’s no reason at all why the decreases in price should not continue. And when — not if, but when — they hit $2.00 per watt, they will be competitive. More PV capacity has been put in place around the world every year for the last several years.
For nuclear — I’m sure a safe nuclear plant can, in theory, be built. But you’d still have dozens of places with rich nuclear fuel sitting around, and trucks or train cars loaded with the stuff going from place to place. How much would Al Qaeda pay for 40 pounds of “yellowcake?” I don’t want to find out!
Robert Merkel wrote in #204: “From an Australian context (a place that has no shortage of sunlight) I’ve looked at analyses by Australian green groups about senarios for CO2 emission reduction in Australia. None of them involve significant contributions from solar power, all the way through to 2050. Draw your own conclusions.”
Sen. James Inhofe Lashes Out At CNN, Grossly Distorts Global Warming Science
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) has responded angrily to yesterday’s CNN segment debunking his diatribe against global warming science. His rebuttal is shockingly dishonest. Here’s a sample:
[CNN’s Miles] O’Brien also claimed that the “Hockey Stick” temperature graph was supported by most climate scientists despite the fact that the National Academy of Sciences and many independent experts have made it clear that the Hockey Stick’s claim that the 1990’s was the hottest decade of the last 1000 years was unsupportable.
Actually, that National Academy of Sciences just released a study supporting the so-called “Hockey Stick” study (by Mann et. al). Here’s an excerpt from the report:
The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence…Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium. [pg. 3-4]
These reports may shed some light to some of the difficulties experienced with mass Wind Farm deployment. Realistically, we as a society are going to have to accept a certain mix of renewables and non-renewables (ie. Nuclear) in our power generation makeup if we are serious about attacking the AGW problem.
There may be a time in the future when the technology and economics make 100% renewable energy feasible but that day is not here yet. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be striving for it though.
DeePG wrote: “There may be a time in the future when the technology and economics make 100% renewable energy feasible but that day is not here yet. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be striving for it though.”
100% renewable energy, even if we are only talking about 100% renewable electricity generation and not including combustion of liquid petrofuels for transport, would mean shutting down all the existing coal, natural gas, and uranium fueled power plants in the world, and no, that day is certainly not here yet. But that’s not really the question.
The discussion that’s going on now is whether vast amounts of resources should be directed into a massive expansion of nuclear electricity generation, and, aside from concerns about the dangers and risks of nuclear power, whether that is a sensible and productive way of addressing the problem of anthropogenic global warming, particularly when compared with the results that could be obtained by directing a comparable amount of resources and effort into photovoltaic and wind turbine electricity generation.
My own view is that a massive expansion of nuclear power would be — again, apart from the hazards of nuclear power — a tragically costly and ineffective way of addressing global warming.
And in fact, given the rapid development of PV and wind technology, its already rapid growth worldwide, and the huge amount of private investment that it is attracting, I expect that the massive expansion of nuclear is simply not going to happen, although the nuclear industry may continue to have some success for a while in getting governments to subsidize it. It will be overtaken by PV and wind, and the nuclear expansion will be rendered obsolete before it even gets underway.
This thread has devolved into a circluar discussion with virtually no substantive, quantified points being made or offered. Its like watching two blindfolded tennis players doing their best to beat their opponent.
At # 200, I suggested inviting the input from electrical engineers and professionals who know something about ancillary service and other obligations generating sources have to protecting the integrity of the grid. And, I mentioned the consequences of utility dereg and how that has shifted decision-making away from centralize planning and control (utility commissions) and towards the private sector and independent power producers.
Anyone interested in discussing more than heresay and tokens?
Comment by John L. McCormick — 29 Sep 2006 @ 3:57 PM
Barton Paul Levenson: if by yellowcake you mean U3O8, it is likely that its recent price rise to, if I recall correctly, US$1.40 per thermal barrel-of-oil-equivalent, i.e. US$140/kg, has put Al Qaeda more in mind of selling off some of the many thousands of pounds it must have than of acquiring more.
Storage of electricity is too expensive by a factor of ten or so to be currently feasible on a large scale. (Exceptions are pumped storage and compressed air – both depend on very rare geological formation. And pumped storage has major ecological problems – far worse than normal hydroelectric.) But thermal storage of high temperature heat costs about $40 per KWH of capacity. So thermal solar electric combined with storage of the heat in molten salts could provide truly dispatchable solar electricity – at a much lower cost than solar photovoltics – probably somewhere around 15 cents per KWh.
Secondly intermittent sources like wind can can provide up to 20% of electricity without storage, without destabilizing the grid and without adding a great deal of grid management cost. While going beyond this would be expensive on a large scale – you could add few hours of electrical storage to 4 cents per kwh wind generators without increasing the cost beyond 6 cernts a kWh. And with a few hours storage instead of getting 20% of your energy from wind you can get half without destabilizing the grid. So that averages out to a truly renewable stable and reliable grid for 11 cents per kWh. Flow batteries mixed with wind generators in this context would serve as spinning reserve for the grid as a whole. Of course the cost would be lowered further because you can add small amounts of hydroelectric and geothermal which are both cheaper than the previously cited prices and fully dispatchable – suitable for base, peak or load following.
Windy sites are fairly common; most people in the world live with 500 miles and certainly within a thousand of a windy site.
Site suitable for solar thermal generation are less common. You need desert or near desert. But Extremely High Voltage DC lines can ship electricity up to 5,000 kilometers with todays technology with tolerable transmission losses. The United States has deserts in the middle of the country; we don’t have any place that is not within 5,000 kilometers of such a desert. Similarly Latin America has the Deserts of Mexico and Chile. Canada does not have deserts, but it has enough hydroelectic capability so serve the same purposes. Europe has the deserts of the Middle East, if the Middle East is willing. (London is less than 3,000 miles of Tripoli, Libya. (Of course that means the Middle East will remain a major energy source even after we get off oil. Anyone who wants world peace better work on getting the world to act peacefully; there is no magic technology that will take place of people learning to love one another.)
Africa, China, and the Indian Subcontinents have their own deserts.
Re: 212 For those interested, please read the links in 209 (especially the Wind Farm Operational Impacts) as they do shed light on the questions asked in 212. I too was frustrated with the circular discussion and that is why I posted the links.
Over 200 comments on one post indicates that this has strayed into a huge topic almost by accident. It is the right emphasis however â�� the reality and risks of global warming is no longer in question, the issue is what to do about it. Perhaps this blog should shift its emphasis, or spin off a subsidiary one?
The issue with renewables is not their production costs: for wind power at the right sites these are below thermal power today, and the prospects for solar thermal power are very promising. The problem with renewables is not their cost, but the fact that they are intermittent – the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. Carbon-free chemical energy storage is needed, and the best candidate may be not hydrogen (too many problems) but ammonia, which is cheap to make, easy to transport and a good fuel for both gas turbines and internal combustion engines. More on this at the total issues blog. For baseload electrical power there is no reasonable carbon free alternative to nuclear power, and despite its problems I have to agree with James Lovelock (before he turned to despair): CO2 emissions have far greater risks than the small risks from nuclear waste.
But I have a few things to add. For those folks in rainy climates who doubt solar power, let me tell you about Mediterranean climates. When I built my house 24 years ago here in Village Homes, Davis, California, I installed a water heating system on the roof. Sometime in April, I shut off the gas water heater and have ample super hot water provided by the sun until sometime in October when the first clouds appear. For the rest of the year, the roof system pre-heats the water on sunny days and the gas heater does the rest.
Many neighbors have installed PV systems this year. For much of the year, their electric meters run backwards as they produce more energy than they consume. Most of California, as well as other western states, have such suitable climates where rooftop systems can capture solar energy.
This, of course, does not make the energy providers happy (for us, PG&E) since our production of energy is their revenue loss. But it is a good for society.
However, as a wilderness advocate, I do not support blanketing our deserts with PV plants. These are not wastelands — they are biologically important ecosystems. Let’s use our millions of rooftops first.
To the issue of the intermittent energy production of solar and wind, there are some mitigations. One is pump storage, where at times where renewable energy sources exceed demand, water is pumped uphill into reservoirs with hydroelectric facilities. When demand is greater (or when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind fails to blow), the hydro plant provides the electricity. This already is used in California to meet peak demand, which usually occurs in the afternoon and early evening on hot days.
Can renewables replace fossil fuels? Maybe not at current consumption levels. But perhaps it is time for folks to start discussing the roots of our problems — world population growth and increading energy demand. Reducing our numbers and decreasing our per capita energy use might give us a chance to survive this impending train wreck.
Nuclear energy? Please. We have nowhere in the U.S. to store our existing waste, and should Yucca Mountain ever be approved, it instantly would fill with existing waste. Besides, creating much more radioactive material in our unstable world (which will become far more unstable as global warming and running out of oil adds to the stress) does not seem to be a wise choice. Although I must concede that the use of this nuclear material by terrorists or as “tactical” nuclear weapons could lead to reduction of world population — which would be a positive action.
The issue of base load is an interesting one. In the same sense that solar/wind is not suitable for baseload, nuclear is not suitable for peak demand situations (you don’t want to ramp a nuclear reactor up and down and up and down
Although I must concede that the use of this nuclear material by terrorists or as “tactical” nuclear weapons could lead to reduction of world population — which would be a positive action.
Actually im quiet surprised about your last sentence after reading your comment. I know many people think the earth gets too crowded?
But as hawking said we need to settle in space too. So there is a potential in the next 50-100 years that millions can life on moon and mars.
Also birth control is importend, conflicts what ever kind of are unbalancing our social and political harmonys, and will slower processes of settleing into space — will slower process of evolving of our species — saveing our species.
And the risc of terror has grown in the last century, because of war actions which created many new terror…
When you refer from AGW factors and energy solution to human population, then don’t forget that the majority of emmisions is made by only a few humans from the industry nations.
I apologize for posting again somewhat off topic, but why not implementing a small message board, a place for the basics and hot topics?
Like many who express concern over the safety of spent nuclear fuel storage, the wit “Jim Eaton” seems to feel no need to acknowledge that this safety has been complete in practice, in that no neighbour of any storage site — of which, of course, the US has many — anywhere in the world seems to have been harmed by it in the slightest degree, ever.
This is a very different performance from that of other forms of spent fuel such as solid coal ash, carbon monoxide, and this forum’s main concern, carbon dioxide.
>However, as a wilderness advocate, I do not support blanketing our deserts with PV plants. These are not wastelands — they are biologically important ecosystems. Let’s use our millions of rooftops first.
If you could use PV you are right that rooftops (and highway walls and roads and other human built surfaces) could supply all our electricity.
The problem is that electicity storage is expensive. The only reasonably priced large scale storable carbon free electricity is solar thermal (rankine or steam engines powered by parabolic mirrors) with heat storage in molten salts. And because this can only use direct sunlight (unlike PV which works fine in cloudy weather) suitable land is limited to deserts.
And you are right that using large amounts of desert for this is ecologically undesireable. But, if we did a fifty/fifty solar thermal, wind mix you could supply not only current but future demand with about 5% of desert land. When you compare this to damage to deserts done by coal and uranium mining, gas and oil drilling I think you will find this more ecologically desirable than the alternatives. And of course solar thermal and wind are not our only sources. We can get a small percent from existing hydroelectric and geothermal, which are fuly dispatchable and can be used to “shape” non-dispatchable sources to some extent.
What about pumped storage as an alternative? Well, ignoring ecological consequences for a couple of sentences, pumped storage requires a mountain and a water source – not such a common combination. Existing pumped storage could provide a few percent of the dispatchable electricity a fully renewable supply system would require. It is unlikely there is undeveloped capability to add enough pumped storage to make much of a difference.
One possiblity: convert all existing hydroelectric facilities into pumped storage. If energy was our only concern that would work. But dams are NOT just for electricity. Large dams are major water sources and major sources of flood control. Worried about peak oil? Try peak water (which in a sense is here anyway). Food production considerations alone mean we can’t afford to convert existing hydroelectricity into pumped storage. Nor are flood control considerations trivial.
And that is before considering ecological effects. Dams are horrible ecologically. When you consider sheer damage to wildlife and river and stream water quality, (soil erosion, and so forth) there is a real question of whether regular hydropower is better or worse than nuclear power ecologically. Pumped storage is many times worse in this respect. Instead of storing water for a while then dumping it into a river, you store water, dump it into the river, then pump it back, killing more riverlife, causeing more erosion, removing more nutrients. And you do this again and again,doing five or seven or ten times the damage of normal dams. There are rivers in the united states that have two thirds of their volume pumped to storage reservoirs than released again on a daily basis. So if you care about agriculture or wildlife you don’t want to greatly increase use of conventional pumped storage.
OK is there a less ecologically damaging way of doing pumped storage? Yes there is – at least on a small scale. The Japanese have built an experimental ocean based pumped storage facility. I haven’t been able to get figures on the economics. But ecologically I suspect it would also be undesirable on a large scale.
On the small scale you find a cliff overlooking the ocean. Build a reservoir, pump the salt water up to it, and return it to the ocean via a pipe – running a turbine which generates around 75% of the electricity it took to pump it up the cliff in the first place. (A 25% round trip loss BTW is not bad at all for electricity storage.) The reservoir doubles as a salt water lake for boating and swimming.
Now imagine doin this on a large scale. A problem with any large scale pumped storage expansion is land use. There is a practical limit to how high the head can be on a hydroelectic facility. That means that each kWh stored takes a lot of square footage. Pumped storage on a large enough scale to make solar thermal electric unneccesary would consume more land than solar thermal electric. And you are talking cliffs overlooking oceans. Much of that is valuable land economically. It is certainly valuable ecologically. (Also large scale pumping of salt water onto land? What if some of that leaks into the water table?) So unconventional pumped storage is not any more of a large scale solution than conventional.
Rather than make this any longer, I’m going to make a second post on efficiency and nuclear power.
How many people do you think that the Moon could support?
How many people do you think Mars could support?
It took ten tons of fossil fuels to get 3 people to the Moon, and they only lasted there for a few days. No one has ever been to Mars with its freezing temperatures remaining below -30 F/C, never mind the biennial global dust storms!
We do not know if, far less where, there is a habital planet, but it is certainly more than two light years away since that is the distance of the nearest star.
We don’t have to blow up the earth to make it uninhabitable. We only have to raise the dewpoint above 100 F everywhere and we will all die from drowning as our lungs fill up with dew!
In other words, once the temperature in the tropics gets higher than 100F, then both the tropics and the sub tropics will be uninhabitable. Then all 6,000,000,000 of us will have to huddle in what is now taiga and tundra, and will then be a soggy muddy mess. You only have to look at photographs of the melting permafrost to see what it will be like :-(
I posted some hours ago a long comment on why solar thermal with molten salt storage was the best alternative in the medium term. (Hopefully it will show up before this one does.) One aspect I saved for this comment was nuclear. I’m not against reconsideration of nuclear power on principle. But it is NOT cheap, and so really needs to be compared to other alternatives.
First point on nuclear energy. We do not, in fact, have a long term solution to disposal of nuclear waste. France has pretty much admittted this. It stores nuclear waste in short term facilities (short being many decades) on the grounds that eventually, perhaps hundreds of years in the future we will develop a solution. Two problems with this sort of reasoning. We don’t know when such a solution will occur, or if it will occur before the temporary facilities wear out. And we don’t know how expensive the solution will be – meaning we don’t know the real cost of nuclear power plants.
However, if the only choices are continued carbon emissions or nuclear power then we have to at least evaluate nuclear power.
Let’s take a closer look at the French example – since France is considered THE nuclear success story.. Nuclear power plants supply about 70% of French electricity, comparatively cheaply (at least on first glance). Further France sells surplus nuclear electricity to Italy, German (and I think some other EU nations as well) and laughs at their hypocrisy in dismantling or refusing to build their own nuclear plants.
But France has its own hypocrisy. French nuclear electricity would not be so cheap if it could not supply power to other EU nations. Nuclear power plants take days (or at least a good fraction there of) to shutdown or bring back up. But power demand varies from a minimum to maximum. The mimimum (base load) tends to be responsible for about 40% of total kWh consumption ovwer the course of 24 hours. France is able to provide nuclear electricity at a higher level of output than this only by selling surpluses to other nations during off-peak demand. If Germany, Italy, et. al. stopped purchasing this surplus, making up the lost revenue would require almost doubling the cost of nuclear supplied electricty.
In other words French Nuclear power plants are part of an international Grid. Current prices are cheap only because it limits itself to less than the base load of the total grid of which it is part.
OK – so let us look at the mixed renewable and nuclear grid some people want to consider. We could have 20% variable renewable electricity, because a well managed grid can accomodate this degree of variable sources. We could have 40% nuclear. We could have perhaps another 10% of dispatchable renewable – combined biomass, geothermal, and hydro.
We have 30% of electrical demand left. Either we meet it with fossil fuels or we add storage. In the later case we are back with the main problem we faced with renewables; we need storage to compensate for its variable nature.
Because of this – I think you will find solar thermal with molten salt storage less expensive on a whole system basis than nuclear power. Production of raw power may be cheaper for nuclear – though I think not if you count all costs. But storage is cheaper for solar thermal. In a carbon neutral world, storage costs dominate production costs – regardless of whether nuclear power is in the mix or not.
Another question is the question of efficiency. And yes we can use power a lot more efficiently than we do at present. Probably we can even cut demand in rich nations like the U.S. by 60% or so in absolute terms – even after population growth. But unless you want the poor nations to stay miserably poor (something they won’t put up with in any case) energy demand in nations like China, and Indonesia, and India is going to rise in absolute terms as population rises, probably in per capita term as well. And even after large cuts rich nations consumpion is not small. 40% of current U.S. consumption is not a small energy demand to meet. In short, there is no degree of optimisim about energy consumption that will justify ignoring the supply end of the situtation. You are not going to get away from the need for storage, regardless of whether you use nuclear power or not.
Re #222 and “no neighbour of any storage site — of which, of course, the US has many — anywhere in the world seems to have been harmed by it in the slightest degree, ever.”
An explosion in a nuclear waste site at Chelyabinsk, USSR contaminated an area the size of a small state in 1957. And right here at home, Hanford has been cited repeatedly over leaking barrels of n-waste.
Re #223 electricity storage is not expensive if you can store it by pumping water uphill but that also leaves lots of other questions unanwered but naybe potential energy is part of the answer. In times of renewable suplus convert it.
Sorry but your information is bascily flawed.
– I talk about a timeframe of the next 50-100 years.
– The technology is in construction to use other ways you refering to, to bring human into space. (e.g. space elevator.)
– The moon and mars will have bases soon i guess will start in about 10-20 years. These bases will be constructed to support life — survive on its own. (e.g. Biosphere example, i know the TEST didnt run very well)
– And do not forgett about the possibility of terraforming, which can take around 500 years, the mars has a potential?
On the bottom line your assumption that with a heated earth all survive is not realistic. Extinction of our species is possible in such a scenario.
Re Tim Eaton,
sorry i still working on my english language knowledge, well at least now as you pointed this out i find it kinds funny — ironicly though :p
D.Gagne P.Eng (Electrical and Control Engineer), thank you for the comment and the interesting link.
Are you able to provide some insights on the fundamentals which limit the use of intermittant power sources (e.g., wind and solar) to an approximate 20 percent of input to the grid? Perhaps you could link us to discussions of power control areas and transmission congestion zones that, during extensive heat waves, struggle to keep the grid stable during peak demand approching the absolute limit of generating capacity — circumstances that trigger rolling brownouts or blackouts. During such events occuring later in the day, solar would be less available and wind capacity –might be– greatly diminished.
Those are the technical discussions I hope we could join in the remaining days of this thread (30 day window). Then, knowledge might trump fantasies.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 1 Oct 2006 @ 12:33 PM
CSPAN2, The Other SciFi Channel
And just in case you think the WSJ editorial board is 100% biased, check out the reasoned opining of their little brother in the money business, Investor’s Business Daily. IBD writes that Sen. Inhofe was able to get coverage of his one man climate skepticism symposium via CSPAN and the Drudge Report. Drudge is simply a link site right back to the U.S. Senate, while CSPAN2 is contractually obligated to carry the U.S. Senate live while in session, even when all there is to see is people milling around the front desk as classical music plays in the background.
>Re #223 electricity storage is not expensive if you can store it by pumping water uphill but that also leaves lots of other questions unanwered but naybe potential energy is part of the answer. In times of renewable suplus convert it.
You seemed to have ignore the whole point of post #23 – not rebutted it but ignored it. There are not that many places you can pump water uphill. So that means you don’t have a whole lot of pumped storage potential – and thus can’ store large amounts of electricicity inexpensively. Unconventional types of pumped storage are very expensive. Converting existing hydroelectricty into pumped storage would drastically reduce agricultural water supply and flood control. Salt water pumped storage uses expensive oceanview property.
Also the ecological effects are nightmareish. Large scale pumped storage would destoy rivers. Large scale salt water pumped storage would flood coastal ecosystmes with salt water on a large scale.
Maybe I’m missing something, but it looks to me like solar thermal with storage in molten salts is the least bad means of getting dispatchable carbon neutral electricty. Not a good means, but the least bad. Wind is great for non-dispatchable renewable electricity, One can argue about whether nuclear is sound or not, but it provides base load NOT dispatchable power. Solar thermal with thermal storage seems to be best dispatchable means with large scale potential – suitable for base, peak or load following as needed.
Re #231, I agree with your analysis Gar and once again it states that renewable power is not storable with the sort of gains required to stem AGW, however I did read an article in scientific america recently that stated that the USA requires a new electricity infrastructre and that renewables could be used make surpercritical hydrogen that would keep the superconducting cables superconductiong, this hydrogen can then be tapped by houses for use to power their cars etc as it is made constantly by renewable energy sources such as PV, solar, wind, wave etc.
And this it would seem is the only real way of dealing with AGW, by literally redesigning some of the wests infrastructures so that they can cope and accommodate new non CO2 producing technologies.
>Those are the technical discussions I hope we could join in the remaining days of this thread (30 day window). Then, knowledge might trump fantasies.
One point is that no-one (outside of vary biased advocates) suggests that problems with interconnections to intermittent sources can not be dealt with fairly inexpensively up 20% of grid capacity. I have an appointment so I’ll post some links later.
231> There are not that many places you can pump water uphill. So that means you don’t have a whole lot of pumped storage potential…
How about some calculations to check this? For your number of 30% of a nuke plant (600MW) requiring storage for say about 5 hours (20,000 sec.), that is .3 x 600 x 20,000 = 3,600,000 MJ. With an average head of 50m, each cubic meter has an energy (mgh) of 1000 x 9.8 x 50 = ~0.5 MJ.
So we need about 7,200,000 cubic meters of water. A circular tank of 300m diameter and 100m height will hold that. Does anyone see an error in this calculation?
As for location, most US (and Canadian) industry is within 500km of the Great Lakes. Why not locate this storage adjacent to (or even in) the lakes?
OK one study on intermittent power integration into grids:
Julie Osborn et al., A Sensitivity Analysis of the Treatment of Wind Energy in the Aeo99 Version of NEMS, LBNL-44070 / TP-28529. Jan 2001. Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory -University of California; National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 12/Jun/2004 http://enduse.lbl.gov/info/LBNL-44070.pdf.
Some other studies that came to similar conclusions:
A study by the German Energy Agency (DENA) – “Planning for grid integration of wind energy in Germany onshore and offshore up to the year 2020″ (2005) – concluded that:
– Wind energy in Germany could triple its power production to 77 TWh in 2015, providing 14% of net electricity consumption, without any need to build additional reserve or balancing power stations. By 2015 there would be 26 GW of wind capacity installed on land and 10 GW offshore.
– Only minor expansion of the grid would be required. An additional 850 km of extra high voltage lines would need to be built by 2015, and a further 400 km upgraded. This represents only about 5% of the existing network, and takes into account the expected expansion in offshore wind farms. The estimated investment cost of ~1.1 billion would increase the price of electricity for consumers by less than ~1 per household per annum.
detailed technical report by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) – “Large scale integration of wind energy in the European power supply” (2005) – concluded that:
– It is technically feasible for wind power to cover a significant share (up to 20%) of electricity demand in the large interconnected power systems of Europe whilst maintaining a high degree of system security, and at modest additional cost. Not an unbiased source, but the EWEA has extremely good technical imformation.
A report by the International Energy Agency – “Variability of Wind Power and Other Renewables: Management Options and Strategies” (2005) came to a similar conclusion.
There was also one done in the UK that suggested that even a 30% penetration by variable source would not be that expensive – though the sweet spot, the most renewable energy for the dollar remained at 20%.
One thing you could consider. When it comes to the potential of renewable energy or the safety of nuclear energy there is not currently a consensus. Thus you cannot bring in an expert to “settle” the question. I think it would be very productive RC to bring some experts into the discussion, but it would need to be experts – plural. Because there are multiple legitimate viewpoints on this you really woud need to bring in representatives of multiple sides of the debates.
>I agree with your analysis Gar and once again it states that renewable power is not storable with the sort of gains required to stem AGW,
Except for solar thermal with molten salt storage. Solar thermal costs slightly over 11 cents per kWh^1.
Storage in molten salts cost about $40 per thermal kWh equivalent^2.
That would put the cost of solar thermal electricity with sufficient storage to make it the equivalent in reliability of coal plants about 15 cents per kWh. Again this cost is only achievable in deserts. But every major population center on earth has large deserts within feasabile DC line transmission distance – and using about 5% of desert land would pretty much fill world needs for dispatchable electricity.
This is a lot cheaper than switching to hydrogen infrastructure (at least with current technology).
Of course we could always hope for breathroughs in hydrogen technology, or in development of flow batteries, or various thermal regeneration techniques for electricity storage (zinc etc – where metal batteries produce electricity and then are regenerated or remanufactured via solar heat.) But failing such breakthroughs, solar thermal electricity with thermal storage is the least expensive source of dispatchable carbon neutral electricity we have available today in large quanities – both ecologically and economically.
2)National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), NREL: Concentrating Solar Power Research – Parabolic-Trough Thermal Energy Storage Technology. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), 26/Mar/2005 http://www.nrel.gov/csp/thermal_storage_tech.html
Has anyone figured out how much these collectors would degrade if the sulfate injection route is taken? I hate to be cynical but I can sure see our government doing something to block solar energy and explaining it as the only reasonable way to reduce global warming.
The Economist survey was indeed a strong endorsement of the prevailing view. However, it did make one point which suggested a lack of urgency. In the pieces entitled “Dismal Calculations” and “Where to Start” we are told that 550 ppm (a doubling) of CO2 is not too scary. It seems to me that we could meet that ceiling without too much pain even if we do very little to rein in emissions in the next two or three decades. Say in 2040 levels are 480 ppm (as in the IPCC’s IS92a “business as usual” scenario), emissions are 7 ppm (double present levels), the stabilizing annual emission target is 0.46 ppm (or 1 GtC) and 60 per cent of emissions stay in the atmosphere. In this case annual emission reductions of 5 per cent from 2041 would get us to our target in 2094. I do not think our descendents will have too much trouble with such reductions, if they consider it a worthwhile exercise. Am I missing something?
Re 228 SaveGaia, you are wrong to say that I believe our survival on this planet is guaranteed. Quite the contrary. So long as everyone believes that our survival is guaranteed, and that there is no need to take action, then I fear we will continue down the slippery slope until the tipping point is reached, and our extinctionis then inevitable :-(
The idea of terraforming is great but… Would it not be easier to terraform Earth so that it can support the current population, rather than try to attempt to do that to some hostile environment such as the Moon or Mars? The reason that Earth is suitable for life is because it is covered in water and it lies at a distance from the Sun that keeps that water liquid. Although the Moon passes that test, both the moon and Mars have too little gravity to retain oceans, even if we could transport enough water from the Earth to supply them.
Perhaps we could direct a comet in the directon of Mars and so add water to its atmosphere that way. A similar trick with the Moon would be too dangerous, because the comet might miss the moon and hit the earth. But you still have the problem of moving 6 billion people from here to Mars. Besides Mars is much smaller than Earth. Where would they all stand?
No! The answer is to stopping wrecking this planet before we start mucking about with other ones.
5%/year over the whole world sustained for over half a century is an extremely tall order. Also, 550 ppm is going to have very severe effects. 385 ppm is bad enough as it is. Why don’t you try reading the rest of the information on this site.
A constant 5% is just one way of getting to the target. The pain of such a transition will depend on the technologies that are available. The pain would certainly be less than than making drastic cuts in the next few decades. Unless, of course, the economic and other damage of the added global warming is so severe that more pain now is worth it.
So I think we can say that the issue of whether we should take drastic action in the next few decades hinges on our assessment of whether a doubling of CO2 concentrations from their pre-industrial level is too high.
Interesting perspective here (in draft, stumbled upon):
A Perfect Moral Storm:
Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Corruption
Stephen M. Gardiner
University of Washington firstname.lastname@example.org
“There’s a quiet clamor for hypocrisy and deception; and pragmatic politicians respond with …. schemes that seem to promise something for nothing. Please, spare us the truth.”
“… we cannot get very far in discussing why climate change is a problem without invoking ethical considerations. If we do not think that our own actions are open to moral assessment, or that various interests (our own, those of our kin and country, those of distant people, future people, animals and nature) matter, then it is hard to see why climate change (or much else) poses a problem. But once we see this, then we appear to need some account of moral responsibility, morally important interests, and what to do about both. And this puts us squarely in the domain of ethics.
“At a more practical level, ethical questions are fundamental to the main policy decisions that must be made, such as where to set a global ceiling for greenhouse gas emissions, and how to distribute the emissions allowed by such a ceiling. For example, where the global ceiling is set depends on how the interests of the current generation are weighed against those of future generations; and how emissions are distributed under the global gap depends in part on various beliefs about the appropriate role of energy consumption in peopleâ��s lives, the importance of historical responsibility for the problem, and the current needs and future aspirations of particular societies….
“My thesis is this. The peculiar features of the climate change problem pose substantial obstacles to our ability to make the hard choices necessary to address it. Climate change is a perfect moral storm. One consequence of this is that, even if the difficult ethical questions could be answered, we might still find it difficult to act. For the storm makes us extremely vulnerable to moral corruption.
“Let us say that a perfect storm is an event constituted by an unusual convergence of independently harmful factors where this convergence is likely to result in substantial, and possibly catastrophic, negative outcomes. …..
— end of excerpt —
Philosophy and ethics don’t feature for corporations or sociopaths, but individuals may feel the need to consider them. This is a good reminder of the difficulties in long term thinking and why that’s very likely to lead to immoral behavior instead of good foresight and appropriate action.
Re #239, Unfortunately I would suggest that 550 ppm equates to a lot of additional Co2 from non linear (type II or abrupt) climate change which will probably lead to around >700 ppm and higher temperatures all around. Indeed what is the risk of AGW people will ask?
Well for one is the fundamental shift in the world hydrological cycle and another is the possible slow down of the North Atlantic Conveyor and another is the disappearance of the Amazon and the melting of the ice caps along with more pestilence and disease in a warmer world.
550 ppm is not even possible to predict due to the non linear nature of nature
RE: 120, 139. Several days ago I mentioned that I would have further comments about the CBC Radio One program The Current that featured a 30 minute segment on geoengineering in which I was interviewed along with several others.
I have summarized my response here to some of the concerns that came out of this program as well as some of the ones that have been brought out in recent media reports. A complete version of this response, including calculations for the sulfur and soot options described below is available on request from me as a pdf file.
Frances Cairncross, a British economist was concerned that the U.S. would use its technology base to unilaterally attempt to recklessly and illegally geoengineer the climate within the next 5-10 years.
While I cannot speak for the current administration or any future one, the likelihood of this is low because most of the technologies that could be used this quickly by their nature either use land or airspace in other countries and would therefore require some level of international cooperation.
I said that while the U.S., China, Russia or the EU could go it alone on some of the geoengineering schemes, given the low level of expertise in this field today, it is more likely that an international effort would be undertaken in the coming decade and that the U.S. would not necessarily be the technology leader.
I was asked by the producers to talk about how regional alteration of land albedo could be used in the Canadian Arctic to help refreeze the summer ice. I didn’t get to describe a theory of Atlantic hurricane mitigation in which a dust suppression project in the Sahel could limit the water vapor energy supplied to tropical waves that form Cape Verde storms.
The producers also wanted me to talk about how a portfolio of geoengineering technologies could be simultaneously applied, maximizing benefits while limiting risk of harmful effects or failure.
The remainder of the response is an analysis of how three such options could be used independently or in concert to achieve a stabilization of GHG forcing from 2000 to 2050.
What I did is not an implementation plan, just an examination of how these strategies could be used and what must be considered if they are to be carried out.
I want to make the point that these are not science fiction as these have been lumped together by the media with ideas that largely are, but large-scale engineering projects that can be undertaken within 5-10 years using existing technology. It is the modeling and understanding of impacts that is lacking, not the hardware or know-how.
I examined three technologies, increasing the sulfur content of jet fuel to increase sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere, running jet engines with richer fuel to air ratios to generate soot in the stratosphere and direct injection of sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere using jet aircraft as the delivery means.
The plastic reflective cover idea has been addressed at length elsewhere and is not discussed as much in the response. I did want to mention that a carbon nanotube film has been developed by the Univ. of Texas at Dallas and if such a material could be cost-effectively scaled up, it could replace the plastic film. This material is said to be superstrong and lightweight (90lbs/square mile). Since 80% of the cost of the plastic cover project is the plastic itself, that could greatly improve its economic viability.
Both Crutzen and Wigley’s papers and media interviews left the impression that either balloons or 10,000-20,000 aircraft would be required to carry out the sulfate aerosol injection stragegy. Wigley even based his modeling on pulses as large as that of volcanic eruptions: 1-5million metric tons all at once.
The same result can be achieved by increasing the sulfur content of jet fuel from the present 0.04% to between 0.6 and 0.9%. Since one of my assumptions is that only half the sulfur is actually converted to reflective aerosol, if the reality is that close to 100% is, then levels fairly close to the current fuel specification limit of 0.3% can be used to achieve the desired outcome, as the expected growth in use of jet fuel keeps pace with overall GHG emissions. By doing this, GHG forcing can be held at the 2000 level until 2050, giving more time for replacement technologies for energy use to be installed.
Alternatively, jet engines can be run rich with 1.3% of the fuel converted to soot that then blocks sunlight and possibly warms the stratosphere enough to reduce stratospheric ozone depletion reactions. A level of up to 2.6% soot might be enough by itself to hold forcing constant in 2050 and like the sulfur content in jet fuel would have to be increased over time. A combination of the higher sulfur and soot might work better and allow the sulfur levels to be kept as low as possible if 0.3% cannot be exceeded.
Finally, I looked at direct injection of sulfur dioxide gas from aircraft. This can be done with a fleet of around 220 planes each releasing 61lbs per minute while spending 6 hours in the stratosphere each day.
I prioritized these strategies as follows: sulfur dioxide release using dedicated fleet, run engines rich, combination of rich fuel and high sulfur fuel and high sulfur fuel only.
Comments are welcomed. My email address is email@example.com. I can supply the document in Word format also if required.
re. 198 “Are people at NWS, NOAA and DOC afraid that the public might claim they are being scaremongers if they suggest there may be a connection between Fall tornadoes and climate change or global warming?”
This is very interesting. Thanks for posting it. However, remember that usually no one single event or season should be attributed to global warming…you need long term trends and records. The tornadoes could be attributed, for example, to a random weak El Nino interacting with a random increase in long-term drought conditions interacting with random oceanic current fluxuations…etc.
This does not mean that that particular tornado season was not strongly influenced by global warming, but just that scientifically it is probably a little too early to say so without more long-term records being analyzed.
I personally agree that it probably does have something to do with global warming, but that is really just my own opinion.
… spent nuclear fuel storage …
no neighbour of any storage site — of which, of course, the US has many — anywhere in the world seems to have been harmed by it in the slightest degree, ever.
BPL, you quote only the second part, then mention “n-waste” storage failures at Hanford and Chelyabinsk. It sounds as if you might have a pretty good point. But is there anything important you have failed to mention?
Writing as someone who knows something about both:
The Chelyabinsk waste tank explosion resulted from a loss of cooling in a tank designed to require cooling the remove the heat generated by the radioisotopes. From my point of view, it was a failure of safe engineering design from the same folks who figured how to make a low-enriched uranium-fueled reactor (Chernobyl) go prompt critical.
The Hanford waste tanks were designed not to require cooling for the waste stream they were sequestering. Around a fourth of the early 147 single shell tanks leaked to soil, as a result of corrosion, primarily along the waste/air interface on the side walls of the tanks. After it became clear that some of the tanks were leaking, 28 double shell tanks (with monitoring of the internal annulus) were built and put in service. None of the double shell tanks have leaked. The Hanford waste tanks sit about 400 feet above the water table, 400 feet of mixed sand and volcanic ash soil. Most of the leaked radionuclides, and, in particular, the uranium and plutonium, bind strongly to that sort of soil, and little of the approximately one million gallons of high-level waste that leaked from the single shell tanks has reached the water table. The Hanford operations (which, you should note, were military plutonium production operations, not a civilian nuclear power facility) had a second waste stream with high volumes of liquid but low concentrations of radionuclides. That waste stream was essentially dumped directly to the soil and did migrate to the water table and eventually to the Columbia River. However, that waste stream was also subject to radionuclides bonding chemically to soil and to basalt and was massively diluted by the flow of the Columbia River — due to Hanford’s desert environment, groundwater flow rates are low.
Until we moved into our new house, I drank water from the Columbia, downstream from the Hanford Reservation for 25 years. At no time during that 25 years was the concentration of any radionuclide in the downstream Columbia even close to the EPA drinking water limits.
Hanford nuclear waste, like commercial nuclear wastes has been well-sequestered from the biosphere, with the exception of the first few years of operations. The public health effects of those first few years have been extensively studied (to the tune of 10s of millions of dollars). The effects, if any, were too small to be detected by a fairly large epidemiological study.
The Economist Survey is certainly suggesting that there is a general concensus that 550ppm is not too bad.
In Dismal Calculations we read:
“Many experts would settle for stabilising the carbon content of the atmosphere at around 550 parts per million. There is no particular magic to that figure, but given that carbon concentrations are now at 380ppm, it looks achievable and does not make most scientists’ hair stand on end.”
And in Where to Start we read:
“The concentration of CO2 in the air has risen from 280ppm before the industrial revolution to around 380ppm now, and the IPCC reckons that if emissions continue to grow at their current rate, by 2100 this will have risen to around 800ppm. Depending on population changes, economic growth and political will, this could be adjusted to somewhere between 540ppm and 970ppm. The prospect of anything much above 550ppm makes scientists nervous.”
Just curious how well do we understand the impact of all the acid rain your proposal will inflict on the global ecosystems?
Can you for example elaborate on the effects it may have on amphibian populations in Central American rainforests and how that may affect predators that feed on them.
How about the consequential natural selection of acidofilic microorganisms over those that thrive in a more alkaline aquatic environments in the Amazonian tributaries and the entire food webs that may be affected there.
I supposed you are completely comfortable with your understanding of how the possible acidification of the oceans will affect coral reef ecosystems?
I have to assume that you have at your disposal much more sofisticated computer models of all the paramaters that exist in ecosystems than for example the climate scientists have of global climate models.
Forgive me for being extremely sceptical of such proposals. I would much prefer an effort at major paradigm shifting away from our current unsustainable status quo. I realize that my personal veiws are not yet quite mainstream, however it seems to me that an emphasis on continued reduction of carbon based fuels and more research and developement devoted to increased energy efficiency may be a better investment.
I know that many out there have vested interests in continuing to state the negative impacts of implementing alternative energy sources on a very large scale.
I would at least like to see some mechanisms in place to hold those that propose such schemes as releasing sulfur aerosols into the atmosphere accountable should such schemes backfire and cause unintended consequences.
Granted I don’t expect that to really happen and once the damage is done it may be a bit like executing a murderer, it neither brings back the deceased nor does it really provide much comfort for those that have to live on without their loved one.
Re #252, Well if Scientists are not concerned too much by emissions rising another 170 ppm or and additional 270 billion tonnes of free Co2 then by that time we would have probably run out of fossil fuels anyway and hence there is no issue and hence there is no need for Real Climate to exist.
Unfortunately that is not the evaluation of James Hansen (Head of GISS) who states that we have perhaps 10 years to avoid potentially serious climate change. Why does he say this do you think, well I would say it is because the climate is not as the computer models would have us think and that something is missing from them, because the actual evidence of climate is more abrupt than that. Things are melting and stressing faster than the climate models predict.
Maybe Real Climate should comment on this directly. 100 ppm added since 1850 has equated to around 0.6 C in warming I believe. Another 170 ppm added by 2100 would equate to another 1.0 or 2.0 C in warming which is not considered to be too drastic? If this is the case then by 2100 all fossil fuels will be exhausted and hence no problem, just a warmer world with higher sea levels. Nothing to drastic.
We have enough fossil fuels to reach 550 ppm and far beyond that. 1,000 ppm can easily be reached using current reserves of coal, oil, and gas alone. Throw in extra resources becoming reserves because of rising prices or better technology, new discoveries, and unconventional sources such as tar sands, peat, and heavy oil and we can probably reach 2,000 ppm and possibly much higher. Even if we don’t burn most of the peat in power plants, much of it will probably oxidize or undergo methanogenesis because of land use changes (tropical peat) and global warming (arctic peat).
As far as the 100 ppm rise goes, the current effect is 0.6C, but the end effect will be more once the oceans have a chance to catch up. 550 ppm is expected to cause between 1.5C and 4.5C of warming. 4,000 ppm (my rough guess as to what uncontrolled fossil fuel burning will eventually give before we run out of the stuff) will give a 6C to 18C increase (assuming a clean logarithmic response to more CO2 – a big if).
‘A study published in March 2005 by The Energy Foundation found that “Residential and commercial rooftop space in the US could accommodate up to 710,000 Megawatts of solar electric power … for comparison, total electric-generating capacity in the US today is about 950,000 MW.” In other words, if the existing siting capacity for rooftop photovoltaics was fully exploited, it could produce nearly 75% of the USA’s current total electricity generated from all sources.’
Well, that’s not really what the Energy Foundation report says. First, p. 2 has the disclaimer
“This report must be read in its entirety. It is important that the reader understand that no representation is made as to the accuracy or completeness of content of this report. No person has been authorized by Navigant Consulting Inc. to provide any information or make any representation not contained in this report. Any use which a third party makes of this report, or any reliance upon or decisions to be made based on this report, are the responsibility of such third party. Navigant Consulting Inc. does not accept any responsibility for damages, if any, suffered by a third party based on this report.”
Second, the report’s 710,000 Megawatts of solar electric power are very different megawatts than the 950,000 MW of existing electrical capacity. Base-loaded coal, hydro, and nuclear plants will operate at a capacity factor of 80-90%. Natural gas turbines are used for load following at capacity factors around 15-20%. The Navigant Consulting report uses units “Wpdc”, which they define as “the amount of power a PV device will produce at noon on a clear day with sun approximately overhead when the cell is faced directly toward the sun.” With early mornings, late afternoons, clouds, and nighttime, we are talking about a capacity factor (Whours produced per Wpdc) on the order of 20-25%, averaged over a year. Thus, the hypothetical 710,000 Mwatts of solar electric on rooftops correspond to about 30% of the electrical generating capacity of the 950,000 Mwatts of existing electrical capacity, not 75%.
Third, the reader of SecularAnimist’s posting should be aware of the speculative nature of Navigant’s market projections. They are based upon a hypothetical price breakthrough for PV installed capacity, a roughly 50% reduction by 2010 from the hypothetical installed price of $5.30/Wpdc (hypothetical because it is not the current installed price, but rather assumes a continuation of current price reduction trends up to 2010).
Fourth, I too have been watching/listening with interest to the buzz about thin-film PVs, which is given some credence by the money that venture capitalists are pouring into the companies pursuing the research. The caveat is that these are the same venture capitalists that poured money into Internet companies in 1998-99. I do agree that, if the research comes to fruition, it will be a market-disruptive technology. On the other hand, when I was studying nuclear engineering, I formulated the aphorism “nothing works as well as a paper reactor”.
“The issue of base load is an interesting one. In the same sense that solar/wind is not suitable for baseload, nuclear is not suitable for peak demand situations (you don’t want to ramp a nuclear reactor up and down and up and down”
Gar Lipov wrote:
“But France has its own hypocrisy. French nuclear electricity would not be so cheap if it could not supply power to other EU nations. Nuclear power plants take days (or at least a good fraction there of) to shutdown or bring back up. But power demand varies from a minimum to maximum. The mimimum (base load) tends to be responsible for about 40% of total kWh consumption ovwer the course of 24 hours. France is able to provide nuclear electricity at a higher level of output than this only by selling surpluses to other nations during off-peak demand. If Germany, Italy, et. al. stopped purchasing this surplus, making up the lost revenue would require almost doubling the cost of nuclear supplied electricty.”
Most nuclear plants are quite capable of following the daily load cycle. What they can’t do is follow flucuations on a time scale of a few minutes. For that, gas turbines or hydro plants are needed. The assertion that France “needs” the export market for their nuclear plant electricity is simply not correct. I am sure they enjoy the foreign exchange benefits of that market, but if necessary they could follow the daily load cycle of their domestic market.
An electrical grid is a large dynamical system. A useful analogy might be to consider it to be a complicated network of linked bungie cords of different lenghts and strength. The aspect of the grid that imposes practical limits on the fraction of wind and solar is the grid stability. If you cut one of the bungie cords, a disturbance will run through the whole grid and can, under some circumstances, set up oscillations whose amplitude far exceeds the initial disturbance and exceeds the capability of the grid-protecting components. The great Eastern blackout of a couple years ago and the two large Western blackouts of around a decade ago were examples of that sort of grid destabilization.
We do not have enough fossil fuels for 2000 ppm. Oils current known reserves are just about 1.2 trillion Barrels or 30 years worth an natural gas around 40 years worth. Forget tar sands and the like, the are a last desperate attempt to keep fossil fuels alive but they are too water and energy intensive to work.
Only Coal is a big player, possibly some 270 years worth left but not at present and projected rates of use.
>Most nuclear plants are quite capable of following the daily load cycle.
Not really, or at least not except by discarding power. A nuclear power plant really has two setting – “on” and “off”. You can’t throttle down a nuclear power plant in any meaningful sense. So there is no way a nuclear plant can do load following inexpensively. Of course what you can do is throttle down the heat engines that use heat from nuclear p ower plants. But they are producing the same heat; you are simply throwing away more of it – just as in some cases electricity from a wind generator has to be discarded. So your statement that a nuclear power plant can follow the daily load does not seem to be supported – unless you want to multiply your per kWh cost by three.
>An electrical grid is a large dynamical system. A useful analogy might be to consider it to be a complicated network of linked bungie cords of different lenghts and strength. The aspect of the grid that imposes practical limits on the fraction of wind and solar is the grid stability.
Yep, and most people who have looked at it seem to think that without storage and without very high costs, that limit is 20%. (I have seen outliers that suggest 10% or 30%, but 20% seems to be the conclusion by the overwhelming majority who have looked at it.)
This is of course without storage. Add even small amounts of storage and the percentage goes up substantially. And we can achieve small amounts of electrical storage in two ways. We can use flow batteries which are very expensive per kWh, but can be done inexpensively if used to store very small amounts of electricty at very high capacity and capabilities. (You can think of them as the next step after super-capcitors. Super-capacitors store nano-seconds to seconds worth of electricity to bridge the time between a power loss and spinning reserves coming into play. Flow batteries can economically store up to fifteen minutes power, serving as spinning reserve. That means actual spinning reserves can be replaced by operating reserves capable of being brought on-line in 15 minutes or less (hydro-electric, geothermal, solar-thermal with storage, natural gas, diesel). Alternatively we can use small amounts of pumped storage. (Pumped storage is cheap, and we could use large amounts of pumped storage if we had it. But pumped storage is limited by requireing by requiring rare geographical features and having disasterous ecological consequences.)
In other words you can get (arguably) low carbon base load (~40% depending on what percentage total load base represents) from nuclear power. You can get perhaps 5%-10% all-purpose(base,peak, intermeidate and load following) from really high quality sources such as hydro-electric, geothermal and biomass. (Biomass in electric generation is normally burned as solids, and is base load like coal. But you can gasify biomass and run combined cycle turbines, thus supplying any part of the load cycle you wish.) A well managed grid without storage can tolerate around 20% of supply from variable sources without disrupting stability or reliablity. A small amount of electrical storage can extend the percent of variable electricty that can be tolerated.
If we are to have a low carbon grid, that still leaves a huge gap which requires large amounts of storage not small amounts of storage.
The only means of doing large scale storage at a reasonable price (large scale compared to world electricity consumption I mean) is high temperature thermal – which as far as I know only works with solar thermal. I know it has been looked into for nuclear and fossil fuel plants – but the problem there is that fossil fuel plants use much higher temperature heat than solar thermal, and nuclear plants are designed to use higher temperature heat than fossil fuel plants. The higher temperature heat you are storing, the more expensive storage medium is required to begin with, and the hard it is to retain the heat. (Higher delta-T either produces faster thermal losses or requires better insulation. And the higher temperature heat you are storing to less choice you have for insulating material.)
So, unless you want to assume breakthroughs in storage or generation technologies, you will need a high percent of solar thermal with thermal storage as part of the electric grid mix. You could use hydrogen or flow battery storage, but that is going going to cost much more than thermal storage. You could build nuclear reactors to peak storage requirements, and discard the electricity off-peak but again you are multiplying your per kWh cost many times.
Now you could still argue for just this mix – Nuclear for base, hydrolectric, geothermal, biomass to the extend practical for shaping, variable sources such as wind with small amounts of electrical storage as “filler” to lower total costs, and solar thermal with storage for fully dispatchable power above what the hydroelectric et. al. could provide.
But what you must acknowledge that we are going to need large amounts of solar thermal with storage regardless of whether we use nuclear electricity, and once you realize that solar thermal with storage can replace nuclear electricty, and actually provide higher quality electricty in terms of grid stability,it becomes hard to argue that we should build nuclear/solar thermal mix rather than a greater number of solar thermal plants.
RE: 254 Before you remand me to the Hague for trial I would point out in my defense that I did state in my complete report the following: “Other issues that must be addressed: impact on engine performance and operating life, impact on stratospheric ozone, tropospheric air quality, uneven cooling of the atmosphere and ocean acidification.”
Regarding the issue of acid rain that keeps coming up, the amount of sulfate aerosol that would be added by my one-day-at-a time scheme is pretty tiny by comparison with power plant emissions and even over a year’s time would probably not have any detectable impact on biological ecosystems. The more important concern would be the effect on stratospheric ozone, something else I said should be investigated.
I just tried to post a message responding to Gar Lipow’s post 262. RC rejected it as containing spam-like elements. I can’t think of anything in the message (which I would have to re-create, as it has disappeared at this end) that would be considered spam-like. I would appreciate if you would review the attempted posting and post it, if appropriate.
[Response: We never see messages that get immediately rejected. Try the browser back button to recover. Remove all references to ‘mortgages’, poker, loans etc. Email the message to contrib-at-realclimate.org if you can’t work out the problem. Sorry for the inconvenience. – gavin]
“The only means of doing large scale storage at a reasonable price (large scale compared to world electricity consumption I mean) is high temperature thermal – which as far as I know only works with solar thermal. I know it has been looked into for nuclear and fossil fuel plants – but the problem there is that fossil fuel plants use much higher temperature heat than solar thermal, and nuclear plants are designed to use higher temperature heat than fossil fuel plants. The higher temperature heat you are storing, the more expensive storage medium is required to begin with, and the hard it is to retain the heat. (Higher delta-T either produces faster thermal losses or requires better insulation. And the higher temperature heat you are storing to less choice you have for insulating material.)”
As with many of the things Gar has been writing lately, he has this exactly backward. Fossil-fuel plant operate at higher temperatures than nuclear plants (that is, they feed higher temperature, higher pressure, higher enthalpy steam to the steam turbines that produce the electricity). That is why nuclear plants operate at a thermal efficiency of 32-34%, while fossil coal- and natural-gas-fired plant have thermal efficiencies around 40-45%. A corollary is that a nuclear plant will reject more heat to the environment for each kwhr produced than a fossil plant.
Jim Dukelow wrote: “I just tried to post a message responding to Gar Lipow’s post 262. RC rejected it as containing spam-like elements.”
This happened to me once. I emailed RC and found out what the offending word was: “m o r t g a g e” but without the spaces between the letters (in reference to financing residential rooftop photovoltaic systems to reduce upfront costs).
It would be a nice enhancement to the spam-filtering feature of the site if it could be programmed to inform the commenter at the time the comment is rejected of the reason for the rejection, and provide an opportunity to edit the comment to remove the (probably almost always inadvertently) offending content.
>As with many of the things Gar has been writing lately, he has this exactly backward.
Umm so far about the only thing you have been able to rebut successfully, and a minor point. Both Coal and Nuclear Power operate at a higher temperatures than solar thermal. So thermal storage for them is more expensive than for solar power. I note you still have not explained how nuclear power can do load following.
>What a remarkable weakness for power plants whose ancestors are naval propulsin reactors to have. And yet winter is of so little concern in re solar power plants that one need never even mention it
Ignoring the nastiness, I will deal with the valid points.
Nuclear submarines don’t have to try to keep dollar per kWh competive with fossil fuels. Nuclear power plants that are designed to provide commercial electricity are on and off period. Don’t know why you are disputing this point so stridently. It is widely recognized, and base load power is one heck of an important contribution; you sure as heck are not going to get base load from wind or photovoltatics – even if thin film drops by a factor of five (about which I am skeptical).
And concerns like winter and cloudy days is why solar thermal generators need to be placed in deserts – so that they have signficant amounts of sunshine summer and winter. That keeps storage needs to days rather than months.
“BTW, if my schemes work, do I get a big reward?”
Sure, but ocean acidification and acid rain are not exactly separate issues.
Even if what you say is true about the amount of sulfate aerosol that would be added by your one-day-at-a time scheme being pretty tiny by comparison with power plant emissions and even over a year’s time would probably not have any detectable impact on biological ecosystems.
I would still like to have a little more empirical data available on which to base the final decision to go ahead with such a plan.
I’m just not convinced that that information is currently available, if you know otherwise then please be so kind as to share it.
I am not suggesting that you be remanded to the Hague for trial, I actually applaud your attempt at looking for solutions. It’s just that I believe that this particular solution is like putting a dirty band aid on a severed artery. If we don’t change our ways of doing things at the most fundamental of levels the fact that the band aid will cause an infection is almost irrelevant. We need a tourniquet to staunch the flow then we need to stitch the artery shut!
Then we need to learn to stop trying to punch through plate glass windows with our fists.
“>Most nuclear plants are quite capable of following the daily load cycle.
Not really, or at least not except by discarding power. A nuclear power plant really has two setting – “on” and “off”. You can’t throttle down a nuclear power plant in any meaningful sense. So there is no way a nuclear plant can do load following inexpensively. Of course what you can do is throttle down the heat engines that use heat from nuclear p ower plants. But they are producing the same heat; you are simply throwing away more of it – just as in some cases electricity from a wind generator has to be discarded. So your statement that a nuclear power plant can follow the daily load does not seem to be supported – unless you want to multiply your per kWh cost by three.”
Like so much of what Gar has been writing lately, this is just flat wrong. G. R. L. Cowan correctly noted that this would be an amazing characteristic for a type of reactor initially designed to power warships and, in particular, submarines, which are exquisitely vulnerable to an unexpected loss of power.
In fact, commercial nuclear reactors have an array of shutdown and control rods and chemical reactivity control. The shutdown rod can bring the reactor to zero fission power in about a second, not the “hours” that another poster alleged. The control rods and chemical reactivity control can modulate the power smoothly between zero (shutdown) and 1 (full power) and do it on a time scale that allows the reactor to follow daily load cycles without any difficulty. As they do that, the amount of heat generated is proportionately reduced; the plant does not simply make less electricity and discard more of the heat generated at full power.
There is a strange “gotcha” in reactor control. If the reactor scrams (the one second shutdown), the operators have only a few minutes to bring it back up to power (a process of a few hours for a normal startup). Past that time, radioisotopes of xenon and samarium build up in the reactor. These isotopes are strong neutron absorbers and “poison” the reactor core to the point that it cannot be started up until the xenon and samarium have decayed away, a matter of a few hours (6-24, depending on how long the reactor had been operating at power prior to the shutdown).
This xenon poisoning, an inconvenience for an electrical utility, can be life threatening for a submarine operating at depth. After the Thresher accident, a battle scram bypass was added to submarine reactor controls, allowing the captain to maintain the reactor at power when the safety ciruitry would otherwise generate a scram.
Although power reactors can follow the daily load cycle, most cannot not easily follow higher frequency oscillation in the grid load. Thus, even in a utility like Electricite de France, whose reactors do follow daily load, some rapid-response “peaking” generation is required to follow load variation on the scale of a few minutes up to a couple of hours.
If a commercial reactor ramps down to half power for half the day, say, there will be a modest increase (a few percent, not a factor of three) in the cost of power generated during that time, since the fixed costs of the reactor (cost to build the reactor, cost to pay the employees, etc.) are being spread over fewer kwhrs being generated.
A good policy for RealClimate posters would be to write about things they know and understand or, at least. preface the others with “I have read/heard” followed by an indication where they read or heard it.
I read and heard my information above during the course of a thirty-year career as a nuclear engineer and a risk analyst.
“That is why nuclear plants operate at a thermal efficiency of 32-34%, while fossil coal- and natural-gas-fired plant have thermal efficiencies around 40-45%. A corollary is that a nuclear plant will reject more heat to the environment for each kwhr produced than a fossil plant.”
Now this is something that has puzzled me, and since we have an experienced professional on board, I’ll risk getting off-topic. Shouldn’t the waste heat from a nuclear reactor be coming out of the turbines at roughly boiling point? I know that the geothermal power plant up the road from my place manages to generate useful quantities of electricity from such a low-temperature resource, so why can’t/don’t nuclear plants do the same?
Similarly, when I worked for an electric utility some years ago, there seemed to be quite an effort to find uses for the waste heat from its conventional generating stations. IIRC they had things like a vegtable processing plant, and were even raising tiliapa (sp?) fish in the warm waters of the cooling ponds. (One chap even wanted to start an alligator farm :-))
Seems to me that if such things can be done, the heat is no longer “waste”, but a useful secondary resource, yet my perception is that either very little of it is being done, or it is not widely known.
Some of the details below may be slightly off, because I am working from memory, which, as we all know, is the first to go — or is it the second?
Responding to James:
The steam that makes it all of the way to a nuclear plant or fossil plant condenser is, in fact, near the boiling point, but at a temperature of around 70-80 deg F, the boiling point of water at the low vacuum of the condenser (1-2 psi absolute). The steam cycle side of nuclear and fossil plants is marvelously complicated, designed so in the pursuit of the last few fractions of a percent of overall plant efficiency and plant reliability. Steam is bled off at various points in the cycle at various temperatures and pressures and routed to reheaters, which take the low temperature condensate being pumped toward the reactor vessel or the fossil steam generator and cumulatively heat it up to an inlet temperature that is only 20-40 degrees cooler than the eventual steam/water outlet temperature. Doing this increases the thermodynamic efficiency of the steam cycle and reduces the thermal stresses in thick metal components that would result if they were heated or cooled rapidly.
This last bit also indicates that some of the factors that limit the load following of nuclear plants to relatively low frequency load variations are also operating in fossil plants, in order to keep thermal stresses in the large steam turbine components within acceptable limits.
Responding to Chris:
Peaking plants or what utilities refer to as spinning reserve are required to compensate for load (that is, demand) fluctuations and to compensate for fluctuations in generation. However, dealing with generation fluctuations from 400 one megawatt wind turbines spread over a large geographic area is a more difficult issue that dealing with larger generating facilities that may go offline at unpredictable times. My understanding is that careful studies of grid dynamics have led to the general conclusion that up to 20% of grid generation from wind/solar can be reasonably accomodated, but above that grid stability becomes a problem.
The grids most able to accomodate lots of wind generation are those, like Bonneville, in the Pacific NW, that have lots of hydropower, in effect lots of energy storage, that can be used for rapid dispatch and spinning reserve.
Jim, your contributions to the discussion of intermittant power sources and need for backup to provide stability to the grid are superb.
I hope readers are beginning to understand [that up to 20% of grid generation from wind/solar can be reasonably accomodated, but above that grid stability becomes a problem.]
That is the fact and renewables advocates have to accept it. Then, we can open the discussion to the remaining additional 60 percent (+???) decarbonization challenge ahead of us. At least we should be playing with a full deck.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 5 Oct 2006 @ 5:53 PM
In an efficient turbine or reciprocating engine, the waste heat is at room temperature (or even lower if you have a cooler sink to dump into). They’re called condensing steam turbines, and the steam is condensed at pressures and temperatures well below 1 bar/100C in a heat exchanger. If you want to use the waste heat for heating (co-generation), you need to increase the outlet temperature/pressure (maybe to 2 bar/110C for district heating, or even higher for some industrial uses), which will reduce the efficiency of the turbine.
Steam engines/turbines have even been run using water at around 25C (with the sink being 4C) by operating at sub-atmospheric pressures.
The grid is as inflexible as it is because it saves capital. If we’re willing to add extra capital, we can push far beyond that 20% boundary.
As an example, reciprocating (piston) engines in the MW range can be started and stopped in a matter of seconds when warm and are about as tolerant to changes in load as diesel or gasoline internal combustion engines. The main reason they’re not used in modern power plants and vehicles is cost – about five times the price of an equivalently efficient and powerful steam turbine. One can also make more tolerant steam turbines at the cost of efficiency (somewhat compensated by the more tolerant turbines being cheaper).
Of course, if the source is coal (as opposed to nuclear), one can always gasify the coal and burn it in the very flexible and efficient gas turbine (which is more efficient and less polluting, as well as more flexible to the grid).
Another alternative is to use energy beyond what the grid can handle for manufacturing ammonia using water and air as feedstocks, replacing natural gas.
That said, we’re nowhere near reaching even that modest 20% level.
>I hope readers are beginning to understand [that up to 20% of grid generation from wind/solar can be reasonably accomodated, but above that grid stability becomes a problem.]
>That is the fact and renewables advocates have to accept it
Until you add storage.
We can use expensive methods such as flow batteries to provide small amounts of storage. They can help pay for their additional cost by replacing spinning (though not operating) reserves.
We can provide massive amounts of comparatively inexpensive storage by using thermal storage – which is suitable mainly for solar thermal. (I’ve already documented the feasibility of both solar thermal electricity and molten salt storage up thread so I’m not going to post links again. Scroll up if you missed them.)
It is more expensive than conventional sources; but solar thermal with storage is less expensive than photvoltatic without. It is interesting that without cash subsidy, solar thermal electric generators are providing peak power to California electric utilties on a commerical basis. California utilites are saving money by using these since they match peak load. and cost less than the natural gas generators currently used for peaking. Add 1.8 cents per kWh subsidy now available to new nuclear power plants in the U.S., and the capital subsidy also available and you can pay for the cost of additional storage. – providing fully dispatchable energy – suitable for base, intermeidate, peaking and load following. So if you are going to keep saying the renewable energy for more that 20% of the grid is a fantasy, you are going to have to explain why solar thermal with storage cannot greatly exceed that percentage.
Yartrebo, you seem to be missing a very salient point regarding grid stability and renewables.
If a wind farm – say, 50 towers each 1.5 MW – goes off line for reasons of intolerable wind gusts, the grid will have to instantaneously make up the 75 MW of lost power. The wind generator operator contracts with standby generators, at a cost to wind customers, to kick in the alternative sources to make up the loss. Those sources are in a constant standby mode if they are paid to play that role otherwise the operator would have them in a shut down mode.
There appears to be adequate standby peaking equipment available to the grid in these autumn months but not as much so in the hot summer. If the peak demand increases in a control area there would be reason to add new peakers because their payback looks good. Gas turbines are still first choice because gas contracts are still easy to acquire.
There is no advantage for a private power generator to build standby for renewables and I have no doubt a public utility commission would NOT grant a rate increase for a regulated utility to build the standby for renewables.
I see your comment as an idea but not a business plan.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 6 Oct 2006 @ 6:55 AM
A problem that has been noted in this discussion is technical difficulties with the existing electrical grid’s ability to integrate renewable electricity generation — e.g. wind turbines and photovoltaics — particularly distributed and variable renewable electricity generation. The existing grid was and is designed to distribute power from large, centralized electricity generators such as coal, gas and uranium fired power plants and large hydropower plants. Only recently have state-level “net metering” laws required utilities to integrate power produced by small-scale renewable generation, e.g. residential photovoltaics.
I believe what is needed is a next-generation “smart grid” that is designed, or re-designed, to handle distributed, variable, small-scale electrical generation — an electricity “internet”.
There is yet another lesson we can learn from America’s success in the information revolution. When the Internet was invented – and I assure you I intend to choose my words carefully here – it was because defense planners in the Pentagon forty years ago were searching for a way to protect America’s command and communication infrastructure from being disrupted in a nuclear attack. The network they created – known as ARPANET – was based on “distributed communication” that allowed it to continue functioning even if part of it was destroyed.
Today, our nation faces threats very different from those we countered during the Cold War. We worry today that terrorists might try to inflict great damage on America’s energy infrastructure by attacking a single vulnerable part of the oil distribution or electricity distribution network. So, taking a page from the early pioneers of ARPANET, we should develop a distributed electricity and liquid fuels distribution network that is less dependent on large coal-fired generating plants and vulnerable oil ports and refineries.
Small windmills and photovoltaic solar cells distributed widely throughout the electricity grid would sharply reduce CO2 emissions and at the same time increase our energy security. Likewise, widely dispersed ethanol and biodiesel production facilities would shift our transportation fuel stocks to renewable forms of energy while making us less dependent on and vulnerable to disruptions in the supply of expensive crude oil from the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Nigeria, all of which are extremely unreliable sources upon which to base our future economic vitality. It would also make us less vulnerable to the impact of a category 5 hurricane hitting coastal refineries or to a terrorist attack on ports or key parts of our current energy infrastructure.
Just as a robust information economy was triggered by the introduction of the Internet, a dynamic new renewable energy economy can be stimulated by the development of an “electranet,” or smart grid, that allows individual homeowners and business-owners anywhere in America to use their own renewable sources of energy to sell electricity into the grid when they have a surplus and purchase it from the grid when they don’t. The same electranet could give homeowners and business-owners accurate and powerful tools with which to precisely measure how much energy they are using where and when, and identify opportunities for eliminating unnecessary costs and wasteful usage patterns.
I think this is a crucial component of the path forward.
SecularAnimist, any informed person with knowledge of the facts regarding global average temperature increase, Arctic sea ice and glacial melt, etc., etc. will salute Vice President Gore’s challenge to rewire the US electric grid, plow more acres to grow ethanol feedstock, commit land to build wind and solar….and add your favorites here.
My trouble with VP Gore, you, Amory, Jeremy Rivkin and others with long lists of solutions is fundamental. But, I heartedly agree their proposals would make this world a cleaner, less strip mined planet. That said, my problem is none of those persons, and you, ever tell the audience how expensive these proposals are and how they can be financed.
AGW is the bill we are handing our children and grand children for the marvelous ride we have had on the post-industrial revolution rocket.
Debt is the other bill we hand off to our offspring.
Monthly payments to the institutions that rent our homes to us (a non-spam way of saying the M-word), personal magic card (non-spam) and federal debt total about $13 trillion or slightly more than total US GDP. Add the near $46 trillion the US gov will borrow to pay entitlements (SS, medicare, medicade, more debt service) and you begin to see how UNCLE does not, will not have two boards to rub together to underwrite much more than energy R&D programs.
Take a moment and reflect on how electic utility deregulation turned about half of our once-regulated utility industry over to WS (non-spam for that place in downtown NYC) traders and investors. How will the private sector decide it is in their short term (day-trading) interest to float tens of billions of dollars of bonds and equity to rewire the US grid to make it smart — put aside the need to just add more wire to make it reliable.
Ethanol floats on the lobbying strength of ADMand the Iowa politicians and voters. Congress members feed ethanol its subsidies out of sheer ambition — not common sense. What will an ice-free Arctic mean to temp and precip in the western North American grain-growing states in mid century?
Ideas are not business plans and without capital to invest (hundreds of billions) they are words on paper. ****side note**** beware inflation rate increases; they will wipe out the US taxpayer.
My wife keeps telling me the world needs hope to begin to get a handle on AGW. I agree. It also needs about a trillion dollars investors will hand over to (some speculative) plans to reconfigure the developed worlds electricity grid, transportation infrastructure and cruise line/pleasure flying industry DURING THE NEXT THREE DECADES.
Adaptation is not a dirty word and I am highly critical of VP Gore’s dismissal of adaptation as a diversion from his vision to replace our everything with his everythings.
The developed world has to do both and the developing world has a right to demand we help them adapt. That last item – alone – will max out your account.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 9 Oct 2006 @ 9:32 AM
[Response: Injecting sulphates is obviously not an ideal solution – in fact its probably a bad idea unless you’re really desperate. But it may not be quite so bad for acid rain as you think – in the stratosphere the fall-out would be much slower (I’m guessing) – William]
The rate of fallout is the same as the rate of injection. I’ve seen studies suggesting 5-10 million tons of sulfate aerosols will be needed. Spread over the entire planet, this isn’t that big of a deal by itself. It’s simply like adding another US to the planet. However, this will probably occur when the nations of the world have ramped up their coal use and acid rain is a huge problem anyway. This is especially true considering the EPA’s current numbers on acid rain and the acidification of the ocean. Then there is this little thing called China that is growing at very high speeds. Lets not forget the people at the oildrum who are saying energy is going to get expensive and pollution controls will likely take a hit if they are right. So adding another artificial US to the equation doesn’t seem like a great idea to me. Sulfate’s certainly are better than rising sea levels, but it’s not a panacea. I have the utmost respect for you William, but I’d have to see some raw numbers before I can believe it’s “not quite so bad”.
You said: [Then there is this little thing called China that is growing at very high speeds.] I understand the sentiment within which you used the phrase.
It would help readers to know that China emitted about 26 million tons of SO2 in 2005 and no end in sight. That is like adding nearly three USs to the planet without much improvement in the radiative forcings department. How much is enough and does any sulfate injection have anything to do with slowing the acidification of the oceans? Nope.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 10 Oct 2006 @ 9:56 AM
RE: 283 and 284. The fallout of sulfate aerosol from the stratosphere would take much longer than from the troposphere. Most of the sulfur dioxide gas emitted from coal fired power stations rains out in a few days to weeks as sulfuric acid or ammonium sulfate depending on the location, while that from sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere either from volcanic eruptions, from jet fuel exhaust or a hypothetical deliberate injection strategy takes 1-2 years.
The quantities needed to offset given levels of current and future forcings can be calculated. My own estimates required 0.572 Tg S injected into the stratosphere per year in 2010 rising to 2.65 Tg sulfur in 2050 to hold forcing at the 2000 level. One teragram is one million metric tons. This is far less than present day industrial emissions. Also, since flue gas desulfurization technology will eventually be installed on Chinese power plants, their total emissions, like those from the U.S. will decline over the coming decades.
While it is true that attempting to cool the troposphere with aerosol injections does nothing to reverse or slow down the acidification of the surface waters of the ocean, that acidification is almost entirely due to carbon dioxide. Sulfur oxides, either from industrial or aircraft emissions or a deliberate attempt to add them to the stratosphere will have little impact on ocean pH.
[While it is true that attempting to cool the troposphere with aerosol injections does nothing to reverse or slow down the acidification of the surface waters of the ocean, that acidification is almost entirely due to carbon dioxide. Sulfur oxides, either from industrial or aircraft emissions or a deliberate attempt to add them to the stratosphere will have little impact on ocean pH.]
That was my point. Injecting sulphates into the wherever does nothing to diminish the acidification of the oceans. I realize the sulphates would not be a major contributor — simply an attempt (with gareat risk) to mask the problem of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 11 Oct 2006 @ 2:58 PM