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Start here

Filed under: — group @ 22 May 2007 - (Slovenčina) (Polski)

We’ve often been asked to provide a one stop link for resources that people can use to get up to speed on the issue of climate change, and so here is a first cut. Unlike our other postings, we’ll amend this as we discover or are pointed to new resources. Different people have different needs and so we will group resources according to the level people start at.

For complete beginners:

NCAR: Weather and climate basics
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions: Global Warming basics
Wikipedia: Global Warming
NASA: Global Warming update
National Academy of Science: America’s Climate Choices (2011)
Encyclopedia of Earth: Climate Change Collection
Global Warming FAQ (Tom Rees)
Global Warming: Man or Myth? (Scott Mandia, SUNY Suffolk)
Oxford Begbrooke: Climate Basics

There is a new booklet on Climate Literacy from multiple agencies (NOAA, NSF, AAAS) available here (pdf).

The UK Govt. has a good site on The Science of Climate Change (added Sep 2010).

The portal for climate and climate change of the ZAMG (Zentralaanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik, Vienna, Austria). (In German) (added Jan 2011)

Those with some knowledge:

The IPCC AR4 Frequently Asked Questions (here (pdf)) are an excellent start. These cover:

RealClimate: Start with our index

Informed, but in need of more detail:

Science: You can’t do better than the IPCC reports themselves (AR4 2007, TAR 2001).

History: Spencer Weart’s “Discovery of Global Warming” (AIP)

Art: Robert Rohde’s “Global Warming Art

Informed, but seeking serious discussion of common contrarian talking points:

All of the below links have indexed debunks of most of the common points of confusion:

Please feel free to suggest other suitable resources, particularly in different languages, and we’ll try to keep this list up to date.


293 Responses to “Start here”

  1. 151

    Re: Ike Solem,
    you seem to be like me, you’re a realist but still desperatly holding on to your optimist badge..haha! Instead of people (and ther are millions)saying how things cannot work why don’t they invest their energies into thinking how things could just be make to work or even coming up with innovations and ideas of their own. I have always held botony as the gold standard as to how to make photovoltaics work. Sliver cell comes a huge step forward in making the PVarray 3D instead of 2.Many other refinements are in the pipeine when microscopic chip/solar cell fabrication processes are modernised and automated.
    This may throw the cat amongst the pigeons I’m afriad but I do support at least for the medium term the use of nuclear power as a clean/green (look at france) source of electricity until the CO2 concentrations have stabilised. In the meantime I still believe solar cell tech is our primary future. It’s so versatile! The vast majority of domestic house roofing is suitable for it. I’m installing a 2.4kw system on our new house in the next few months. Only costs $13,000(incl $10,000 of rebates). Feedback tarrifs should also be thought of by governments as a most reliable future investment. Why Nuclear?..coz we’ve got no time to mess about with windmills or hydro plants. France reprocesses it’s spent uranium fuel rods within france..and no it doesn’t produce or will not produce plutonim in the future coz the design of the reprocessing plant is that that plutonim is not one of the chemical steps.
    As I’ve said before te climate is still in control but it wont be for much longer as long as we stretch the envelope to breaking point. Thousands of global exaples of this strain is obvious and availiable for scrutiny for anyone who isn’t so blind that he cannot see.

  2. 152

    [[Can we maintain a baseload on the national grid systems free from fossil fuels ? ]]

    At the moment? No, we can’t. Eventually? Yes, we can.

  3. 153

    [[Nothing magical about it: it's simply that nuclear works, right now. Show me another power source that does: that's CO2-free; that can provide throttable power; that (unlike hydro or current geothermal) has available resources; that doesn't require years of R&D and prototyping before going into production. ]]

    Solar thermal power plants and windmills are in production now. Biomass works now (take a look at Brazil some time). They don’t need new technology. You keep repeating the idea that renewables can’t work until they achieve some sort of technological breakthrough, like fusion is waiting for. It’s the Big Lie. Some renewables work already.

    No doubt if we make a big switch to renewables now we will still need fossil fuels to maintain even power distribution. I’m all right with that; we’ll still be reducing the amount of fossil fuels used. And that mix — renewables plus residual fossil fuels — will buy us the time we need to set up the national grid and substitute biomass burning for coal or oil or natural gas burning. We can do it without nuclear. You can argue that we shouldn’t do it without nuclear, or that we could do it better with nuclear, but your argument that we can’t do it without nuclear are just plain wrong.

  4. 154
    SecularAnimist says:

    Lawrence Coleman wrote: “Why Nuclear?..coz we’ve got no time to mess about with windmills or hydro plants.”

    That’s a non sequitur. A given amount of wind turbine generation capacity can be deployed much more quickly than the same amount of nuclear capacity. Wind power generation capacity is growing at something like 25 to 30 percent a year globally, in contrast to nuclear which is barely growing at all.

    One of the drawbacks of nuclear as a “solution” to global warming is the very long lead time to get new nuclear power plants up and running, whereas wind power — even very large-scale wind turbine “farms” — can be deployed pretty quickly.

    If what you are looking for is to bring the largest amount of “emissions-free” electrical generation capacity online as quickly as possible, wind is the way to to do it, not nuclear. So it would be more appropriate to say “Why wind? Because we don’t have time to mess around with building nuclear power plants.”

  5. 155

    Re: James 140, Nuclear’s base load is extremely high, so who cares about peak load to answer Eli Rabett’s comment. Some problems about placement of nuclear power stations, must be near extremely reliable water sources, must be on geologically stable terrain, not in tornado belts or the usual path of hurricanes. Must be made by countries that can affard the high cost of manufacture and maintainence and politically stable. All countries or regions of countries that pass that test should go ahead ASAP. We have enough uranium in the ground for 1000′s years..no problem there and the waste can be reprocessed on site..the reprocessing plant draws energy naturally from the reactor. One more thing..must be made terrorist proof..might be tricky? Still I’m a great believer in the intelligent use of nuclear. It’s not all things to all countries but it’s easily the most effective means of non polluting power at present. David Suzuki is a great man but I can’t fathom his stance against nuclear; he espouses all other forms of fringe power generation..to get governments or corporations to pump huge amounts on money in fringe power (wind turbine etc.) is still not going to get us about maybe at the most more than 20-30% world power supply from renewables. The more energy variables the slower the uptake and logistics problems and everything gets very messy. Having 2 or mabe 3 main energy producing sources per global region which kick ass is to me the better option. For counries having seafront has anyone considered using the rise and fall motion of tides to power huge electric turbines? Like to know what people think about that one?.

  6. 156
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lawrence, see for example:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_energy

    I think that what people need to understand is that it is not a matter of deciding on an energy source and pursuing that source exclusively. Energy demand in the coming century will likely outstrip the ability of any single solution to meet demand–unless civilization crashes and burns, in which case we’ll just burn whatever we can get our hands on in an effort to survive. We need a realistic assessment of how much we can expect global energy demand to increase and how much of a dent conservation can make in that total. We then need to cover the demand with the pieces of the energy jigsaw puzzle. If we can do it with renewables, I’m all for it.
    However, to say that we will rely on renewables and if they can’t cover demand in the third world “tant pis” is not a reasonable strategy. It is also not a reasonable strategy to say, as Oxfam has, that the rich must cover the cost. This might be the just solution, but it places a lot more faith in the wealthy than I possess. In the end, why should they keep the oceans from rising when it is simply cheaper to buy up all the high ground?

  7. 157
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Re #150:

    James,

    Batteries deployed in solar power installations last considerably longer than a car battery. The very things that kill flooded cell batteries exist in abundance in your car — shock, vibration, wide variations in temperature, excessively high loads (check out that starter current some day). My Stingray batteries last about 2 years, my Pontiac batteries last about 4. Guess which car is more fun to drive?

    Solar arrays are fed to batteries by charge controllers which limit overcharging, they are in more environmentally stable locations, not subject to jarring movements (except in parts of California …), and have much lower peak loads and discharge rates.

    A PV installation is a flooded cell battery’s dream come true. A car is a flooded cell battery’s worst nightmare.

    To answer “cost”, for the prices I’m seeing — 105AH, 12V, AGM PbSO4 batteries — 10kWH of storage is approximate $1,300. Assuming a life expectancy of approximately 8 years (which seems to be supported by industry experience), that’s $13 / month. Beyond small amounts of battery storage, you’re starting to design a system that is completely off-the-grid. The system I’m having installed is grid-tied with 5kWH of battery capacity for when the power company is out and the sun isn’t shining. If the sun is shining, I should have power enough for my house and my two closest neighbors. Sadly, they won’t be able to benefit because IEEE and NEC regulations require my inverters to disconnect from the grid when the power goes out. Poor neighbors. Too bad, so sad. Shoulda bought solar!

    As for all the waste, flooded cell lead-acid batteries are 100% recyclable.

  8. 158
    Hank Roberts says:

    > every building can store as well as use energy
    Even at low levels this can be improved.
    For the ‘start here’ thread I’m just suggesting we need not have yet another in the unending exchange between the “nukes now” and the “no nukes” partisans — but add pointers to successful ways of addressing the issue.

  9. 159
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    John, FurryCatHerder
    A larger grid can do a lot to alleviate the problems of intermittent generation. That said, when you start talking about a potential intermittent renewable penetration of, say, over 30%, some of these problems start creeping up even in larger grids. Utilities have to have capacity in place to meet the worst case scenario, and while it is unlikely that all intermittent sources would not be generating over a large geographic area, its not impossible.

    If we are really serious about replacing the majority of current fossil fuel-based generation capacity with renewables over the next 40 years, “firming” up intermittent renewables will be critical.

  10. 160
    James says:

    Re #153: [You keep repeating the idea that renewables can't work until they achieve some sort of technological breakthrough, like fusion is waiting for. It's the Big Lie. Some renewables work already.]

    The problem is that we’re defining the word “work” differently. You’re saying that a technology “works” if it produces some power under ideal conditions. That’s quite far from my definition, which is that the technology (or group of technologies) works if it can replace essentially all fossil-fuel sourced energy in a national grid.

    You’re assuming, or maybe hoping is a better word, that a mix of various renewable technologies will be able to do the latter. I’d rather bet on a certainty. We know that nuclear can run a national grid: we need look no further than France for a practical example. Why go on ignoring it?

  11. 161
    Rod B says:

    I heartily agree with James’ (150) analysis, with one clarification/exception. For some more $$$ one can get lead acid or equivalent wet cell batteries that last a long time, provided they don’t shake, rattle and roll like car batteries. Telephone companies have backup batteries that have lasted decades with nary a hitch.

  12. 162
    Hank Roberts says:

    You don’t need to imagine everyone installing lead-acid batteries.
    Plug your hybrid into a smarter interface; rent out its storage capacity.
    Insulate deeper foundations and use the thermal mass under the house to store heat or cold or both, whether direct from the environment or via electric power.
    The next time your city/utility plans to dig up the block, use the opportunity to dig deep enough to install a geothermal loop for the neighborhood. Meter the heat exchange.
    Route the condenser drip water from your refrigerator, instead of into the moldy pan under it, with a 1/4″ tube running down below the floor and outside, rather than just condensing the humidity and evaporating it into the house again, for summertime use.
    Got a 4′ attic and no attic vents, but an old chimney or plumbing vent you aren’t using? Put a computer box fan in there on a switch. You’ll be amazed how moving 30 cu. ft./minute of hot attic air reduces the evening temperature under the living space ceiling.

  13. 163
    James says:

    Re #162: [Plug your hybrid into a smarter interface; rent out its storage capacity.]

    Humm… Priced a hybrid battery pack lately? About $2K for the tiny Insight one, $3K for the larger Prius, both of which have much smaller capacity than you’d need for a house. Then remember that the lifetime of these batteries depends on (among other factors) the number of charge/discharge cycles. Could get expensive :-)

    The rest are good ideas for saving energy in particular applications (just as I’ve avoided the need for A/C through good insulation and opening windows at night), but once again, they just don’t get you down to zero use. Even if we could get most of the houses in the country on to 100% renewable energy (which I think is technically feasible now, if a bit expensive), domestic electric use is only about 1/3 of the total. The problem is how to run industry.

  14. 164

    FurryCatHerders comment has got me re-evaualting my bank statements again. I was to have a solararray plus lead-acid batteries on the new house I’m building but the initial price kinda put me off. Not sure if queensland Australia recycles it’s lead-acid batteries? if so I’m all for it. Just got word that the price of electricy here is about to take a quantum leap in a skyward direction..ouch! 8 years life expectancy? is that still within 90% storage capacity?..you could probably get a good 10-11 years without noticing much drop-off. How many of us here live in small towns? I live in Beerwah Qld..may have heard of the late Steve Irwin ‘Croc hunter’. I’m trying to organise action groups here to switch to low wattage lighting etc. But still the misinformation peddled by bloody vested interest skeptics keeps haunting me. Conservation and local environmental issues must be kept on the front burner..but there seems to be more apathy creeping in..my perception. Has any of you had similar experiences and if so how do you keep our message fresh, hopeful and exiting?

  15. 165

    [[The problem is that we're defining the word "work" differently. You're saying that a technology "works" if it produces some power under ideal conditions.]]

    “Ideal conditions?” Wind power is generating large-scale power now. Biomass is fueling a hundred million cars in Brazil now. Again you’re misrepresenting renewables by implying they’re all laboratory curiosities. It’s not true.

  16. 166
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #156 [We need a realistic assessment of how much we can expect global energy demand to increase and how much of a dent conservation can make in that total.]

    The future trajectory of energy demand depends in large part on political and socio-cultural developments which we can affect – it’s not a given.

    [We then need to cover the demand with the pieces of the energy jigsaw puzzle. If we can do it with renewables, I'm all for it.
    However, to say that we will rely on renewables and if they can't cover demand in the third world "tant pis" is not a reasonable strategy.]

    Agreed

    [It is also not a reasonable strategy to say, as Oxfam has, that the rich must cover the cost. This might be the just solution, but it places a lot more faith in the wealthy than I possess. In the end, why should they keep the oceans from rising when it is simply cheaper to buy up all the high ground?]

    At least three reasons, other than altruism:
    1) A lot of attractive coastline, where they like to go for vacations (or even live) will disappear. More broadly, so will a lot of natural beauty and sporting facilities (coral reefs, ski slopes…).
    3) Those with stakes in some economic sectors e.g. insurance, agriculture, tourism, could find themselves $Ms out of pocket with little warning.
    2) A world with billions of people suffering the consequences of climate change will be an unstable world, where even the rich will not be safe. For evidence that some of the rich (or at least, those charged with defending their interests) are concerned about this, see for example the Pentagon report available at http://www.climate.org/PDF/clim_change_scenario.pdf
    (yes, I know the climate change scenario in it is extreme, but the instability posited could follow just as easily from slower but sustained change).

  17. 167
    FurryCatHerder says:

    In Re 164:

    I’m just a single cat herder. Single in that I’m just me, unmarried, and only have one (live) cat. I guess that makes me a multiple singularity ;)

    The most cost-effective solar solution for an individual, by far, is the biggest solar array you can park on your roof and inverters with sufficient capacity to produce electricity and peak wattage. Skip the batteries completely — you’ll save maintenance and the expense of charge controllers and the like. That assumes your utility will do something called “net-metering”, where the meter runs backwards when the sun and shining, and forwards when not.

    The only reason I have batteries and charge controllers in my proposal is because I want to have power when the utility is off-line. The original plan was for a 13kW natural gas powered backup generator. Choosing solar instead was an afterthought when I realized a solar powered backup system was going to be cheaper than the natural gas one. Prices were significantly higher the last time I’d looked. Now they are low enough that I wouldn’t live in a house that didn’t have enough solar power to keep the fridge, TV, radio and computers running.

  18. 168

    In re #156:

    Ray writes:

    However, to say that we will rely on renewables and if they can’t cover demand in the third world “tant pis” is not a reasonable strategy.

    The documentaries (and including direct reports from people who’ve installed power in those countries) I’ve seen show more that renewable energy isn’t deployed properly in those Third World locales. The Great Global Warming Swindle, as I recall, showed some poor sop with a very, very small array, a single inverter, and I think a car battery, trying to run a medical clinic. That installation is an example of criminal neglect.

    I have a toy system in my back yard that probably puts out more. For fun I sometimes plug major appliances into it — yesterday I had the much of the entertainment center plugged into it. I’m planning a BBQ once summer gets here and will probably put some entertainment equipment and a fridge on it. This weekend I trimmed the hedges with it, and even posted here some. And this is a toy system — just some 15w panels I threw together, a small charge controller, some 33AH 12V batteries. I could put it in the trunk of my car, which is why it’s small — after reading so many skeptics here I decided I’ve got to take solar power on the road. I’ll probably even pack my little bar fridge so I can have cold drinks while I do my pitch, assuming I can find groups that will listen.

    The problem with renewables isn’t the renewables. As people have pointed out over and over and over again, there are already very large — utility scale — renewable power installations. The problem is the skeptics who flat out refuse to recognize those realities.

  19. 169
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick,
    You are presuming that the wealthy care about things like natural beauty–a lot of them don’t. And if natural beauty is lost, well they’ll still own what is left.
    And if some sectors of the economy are likely to be hurting–they’ll simply not invest in those sectors. They may not pay much attention to the world around them and how it is changing–they have “people for that.” And as to the instability–well there are plenty men and plenty of guns to provide security. Now that we’ve privatized defense, defense is available to the highest bidder. Hell the wealthy even fare pretty well in Baghdad–lot of money to be made, and even the militias wouldn’t dare touch some of the big fish. The wealthy in Bogota and Mexico City continue to live quite well there, despite the occasional kidnapping.

    The philosophy that most of the world’s wealthy have developed is that it is cheaper to buy a car with better suspension than it is to fix all the potholes. That is not to say that there are not altruistic wealthy individuals–Warren Buffet comes to mind. However, the proposition that those with money and power will willingly relinquish both is not one I would bet money on. Likewise, the poor will do what they need to survive and put food in the mouths of their children–today–regardless of its effects for tomorrow, let alone 50 years from now.
    George Washington adopted as his philosophy the assumption that people act in accord with their perceived interests. You may be able to change the incentives somewhat. You may even be able to broaden peoples’ perceptions of what their interests are, but for the vast majority, you won’t get them to act altruistically. They have to see that there is something in it for them, and if they think that they could do better acting against the common good, many if not most will do so, especially if they see others profiting by doing so. Somehow, we have to make this a situation where everybody has something they hope to gain.

  20. 170
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #169 Ray, we’ve had the argument over altruism already (and the evidence is that you’re overly pessimistic), but it’s enlightened self-interest I was talking about here. You say a lot of the wealthy don’t care about natural beauty. True – but a lot of them do. And a lot like to ski or whatever. You say the wealthy will disinvest from risky sectors. Two of the biggest are insurance and agriculture. If there’s any substantial disinvestment from either, capitalism will be in big trouble – and this will be quite evident to the rich. Their first thought may well be “Hmm, I’d better get out of insurance”, but not far behind will be “What if everyone does that? That could threaten my investments in construction, chemicals, transportation and oil [to name but a few sectors], because reliable insurance won’t be available – I’d better get out of those too”. Take a look at what SwissRe and MunichRe, for example, have been saying in the last few years. All the really rich will also have big investments that depend on low-lying cities like New York and London continuing to function without serious interruption. Suppose the Thames Barrier fails? As for “Hell the wealthy even fare pretty well in Baghdad” – really? Would you live there, for any money? Even if you can buy armed guards, how do you know they’ll stay bought? Mercenaries are not, on the whole, notably trustworthy. I’m not saying those with wealth and power will willingly relinquish both. They won’t. What they may be willing to do is trade some of their privileges for increased security.

  21. 171
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hi cat herder, You know, having lived in Africa for a couple of years, I can say that the guy with the single-inverter solar array is lucky. Most of the clinics in our area had no electricity or even access to clean water–and people often had to walk 20-30 miles just to reach such a clinic. Even the hospital didn’t have reliable electrical power–it’d lose power about once or twice a month.
    Hell, I even had a hard time getting hand tools for passive solar projects.
    I’d imagine things have progressed somewhat, but probably not all that much.

  22. 172
    James says:

    Re #165: ["Ideal conditions?" Wind power is generating large-scale power now.]

    Roughly 1% of the total in the US, if the number I got from a quick search is accurate. Which is fine, because if the wind happens not to be blowing, you can throttle up the fossil fuel, hydro, & nuclear plants that supply the other 99%. But as a thought experiment, let’s swap the numbers, and think about a system where 99% of the capacity is generated by wind. That’s a long way from being fine, since if the wind isn’t blowing hard enough, you don’t have enough power to meet demand.

    Think a bit about what it takes to run a dependable electric grid. Isn’t it obvious that it needs a base of reliable & controllable generation? Then you can also support some fraction of unreliable/uncontrollable generation such as wind & solar by throttling that base. (And if your unreliable generation is cheaper and/or greener, you’ll want to do this.)

    The power plants on an electric grid are operated according to many criteria, such as the cost of generation at each plant, load capacities of power lines, grid stability & reliability standards, etc. I used to work on power system planning & control software, so I know it’s not a simple problem to work out just what mixes are acceptable. You can’t add large amounts of any kind of generation, much less something as unreliable as wind or solar, just by waving your hands and saying “make it so”.

    [Biomass is fueling a hundred million cars in Brazil now.]

    Deforesting how much of the Amazon Basin (and the rest of Brazil) in the process? Now think about what would be needed to also run Brazil’s electric grid with biomass. What are the environmental consequences of this? How are they better than nuclear, where the worst case (as with Chernobyl) seems to be the creation of a new wildlife reserve?

    [Again you're misrepresenting renewables by implying they're all laboratory curiosities.]

    That’s not at all what I intended, so either my writing or your reading must be at fault. What I’ve been trying to say is that they fall in a range from lab curiousity (or sometimes not even that), to working in limited circumstances, but that there’s no practical experience of running a large fraction of a grid with them, and good reason to think that doing so would be far from simple, if it’s even possible. On the other hand, we know for sure that nuclear can run a grid, because it is doing it in France.

  23. 173
    SecularAnimist says:

    James wrote: “You can’t add large amounts of any kind of generation, much less something as unreliable as wind or solar …”

    You keep repeating, in one way or another, that wind and solar are “unreliable”. That is not true. Intermittent does not equal “unreliable”.

    On the other hand, according to David Lochbaum, who holds a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee and worked for 20 years in the commercial nuclear power industry, and is now director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Since the first [US] 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 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.”

    And the nuclear industry in France has certainly not been without reliability problems. Last August, the Christian Science Monitor reported that “The extended heat wave in July aggravated drought conditions across much of Europe, lowering water levels in the lakes and rivers that many nuclear plants depend on to cool their reactors. As a result, utility companies in France, Spain, and Germany were forced to take some plants offline and reduce operations at others. Across Western Europe, nuclear plants also had to secure exemptions from regulations in order to discharge overheated water into the environment. Even with an exemption to environmental rules this summer, the French electric company, Electricité de France (EDF), normally an energy exporter, had to buy electricity on European spot market, a way to meet electricity demand.”

    This was a continuation of the same problem which occurred in the lethal European heatwave of 2003, as reported by The Guardian newspaper in the UK in August 2003: “Ecologists warned yesterday that the ecosystems in France’s rivers were at grave risk after the government’s decision to relax environmental regulations governing the operation of nuclear stations in an attempt to avert power cuts caused by the heatwave. Nuclear plants were granted permission late on Monday to pump their cooling water into nearby rivers at a higher temperature than usual to allow them to continue generating electricity, as temperatures across France continued to hit 40C (104F) for a second week … Demand for electricity has soared as the population turns up air conditioning and fridges, but nuclear power stations, which generate around 75% of France’s electricity, have been operating at a much reduced capacity and several reactors have stopped working entirely … In another attempt to conserve energy for the nation, France, which is Europe’s main electricity exporter, cut its power exports by more than half yesterday.”

  24. 174
    FurryCatHerder says:

    In Re 172:

    James writes:

    That’s not at all what I intended, so either my writing or your reading must be at fault. What I’ve been trying to say is that they fall in a range from lab curiousity (or sometimes not even that), to working in limited circumstances, but that there’s no practical experience of running a large fraction of a grid with them, and good reason to think that doing so would be far from simple, if it’s even possible.

    I’m sorry, but that’s completely backwards — “unreliable” power sources become more reliable when combined. If the weather is sunny 80% of the time at my house, and 80% of the time at your house, and it’s not the same 80%, the weather is sunny 96% of the time at one of our homes, and only not sunny 4% of the time. If we start adding in the homes of all the other skeptics, pretty soon it’s sunny weather somewhere, all the time. It wouldn’t take too many more skeptics’ local weather conditions before we exceeded the reliability of the national grid.

    Probability works very well with distributed power production.

    What you seem to be doing, over and over, is confusing the probability of a single source, with the probabilty of multiple sources. We have the weather records to know where the weather is what it is, how often it is that way, and how much power can be generated from that weather.

    As for nuclear, nuclear has its own problems which can present challenges to the grid. And while it’s true that there are many reactors out there doing a fantastic job of churning out huge amounts of power, many of those reactors are now getting pretty old. Which raises another problem with centalized large-scale power production — what happens when a 1.2GW reactor goes off-line, or a cluster of 3 or 4 of them reach end-of-life, which they all do, sooner or later.

    The solution to power production problems with all sources of power — nuclear, fossil, hydro, geothermal, and renewables — is a careful understanding of all the risks. There’s nothing special about wind, solar, waste-stream biomass, or any other renewable source.

  25. 175
    Jim Eager says:

    Re 171 Ray Ladbury: “having lived in Africa for a couple of years, I can say that the guy with the single-inverter solar array is lucky.”

    What I’d like to know is did Martin Durkin donate another PV panel or two or an inverter to the clinic, or did he just shoot and run?

  26. 176
    Curt Schroeder says:

    Re: 66 Timothy Chase:

    I like to think that all scientists look for alternative explanations when conducting research. The problem is that most of that kind of thinking is not adequately reported in the scientific literature. It’s absence leaves gaps that non-scientists can exploit (for ideological purposes), as well as causing other scientists to unnecessarily explore dead ends (or maybe that’s a good thing). Increasing reliability in scientific literature is a worthy goal and I think scientists have dropped the ball on this and are paying the price, at least in some circles (like climate science). Discussion of efforts spent trying to disprove scientific conclusions in your own paper does not in any way legitimize opposing views as long as it is based on evidence. This is a practice that should be widespread among scientific disciplines, not just climate science. Discussions of alternative explanations must be based on facts. This tends to expose attempts of alternative explanations based on ideology for what they are. Reliability in scientific writing is an issue for scientists, not just the popular press.

  27. 177

    James: That was the main concern I have/had about nuclear, the reliablity of water sources, athough the modern types of reactor do indeed need considerably less water. Still to replace coal/oil and gas within the next 20 years Nuclear is a clear winner..if as I said only for ther medium term term. Readers might like to know that Australia has has just had it’s warmest autumn on record..hot on the heels (pardon the pun) of last year as well. How climate change appears to be affecting australia, is that the north is getting wetter and the latitudes south of capricorn are getting progressively drier and hotter. A number of major cities are runing out of water..dams 14-18% full and shrinking, namely Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. This has been a trend for at least the past 10 years. Also the El-nino which we have always relied upon is becomming so unreliable and unstable that farmers her dont have a clue what to do any more. In the past if the east coast of aussie was wetter than california on the other side of the pacific would be drier..now both sides are equally dry, you know all about the recent severe fires in LA. Australia is set for a fed gov change this year. The incumbant lib gov does not understand climate change and has wasted 10 precious years trying to deney it while alternative energy sources could have been promoted. When Labor wins hopefully this year, their plan is for Australia to go all out for solar..which I’m all for..and Geo-thermal..which they claim can replace completely our need for coal power stations. For those not clear about Geo-thermal energy..like i was till two days ago..it requires a hole to be dug about 3kms deep into the red hot volcanic rock and water to be sent down the hole..the resultant continued burst of superheated steam runs huge electric turbines, they say it’s 100% environmentally friendly..I presume they’re right? A robust and aggressive carbon trading scheme should also be incorporated to force factories to quickly address their emissions. What do you think about our opposition govs plans. To me is seems to make good sense.

  28. 178
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lawrence, Re: geothermal, you might want to look at the experience of your neighbors to the east on the North Island of N. Z. in Rotorua. It turns out that the geothermal resources they were sitting on were not nearly as large as they had thought, and once they started using it freely, the geysers stopped erupting and there went the tourist trade. They’ve backed way off. Now digging 3 km down may change things or it may not. The other issue they’ve found with geothermal is that the water 3 km down tends to be very caustic, so pipes have a tendency to fail–that’s the issue they’ve faced in California. Cheers.

  29. 179
    nicolas L. says:

    re: 160, James

    Just a little precision about situation in France…
    We have about 80% of our electricity production coming from nuclear power plants here. Seems big like this, and actually it allows us to enjoy a certain energetic independance . But when nuclear power generation is compared to our overall energy consumption, it represents only about 17% of it… And frankly speaking, I don’t see this proportion grow much during the next decades, knowing we already have 58 nuclear power plants and that our national territory is afterall not that big :)…
    So, I would agree to say nuclear is a part of the solution… a part only. And that leaves a lot of space for renewable energies to develop.

  30. 180
    James says:

    Re #173: [You keep repeating, in one way or another, that wind and solar are "unreliable". That is not true. Intermittent does not equal "unreliable".]

    I appreciate the point, but I think intermittent has its own problems as a descriptor. I don’t know a word that’s completely apt, and I don’t want to re-type the same couple of paragraphs of explanation every time the subject comes up. The point is that solar & wind work on nature’s schedule, and thus are not always available when & where we want them.

    [Since the first [US] commercial plant opened 40 years ago, reactor shutdowns of a year or longer have occurred a staggering 51 times at 41 different plants…]

    Well, that sounds terrible, but let’s do some math: 40 * 41 – 1640 plant-years. Say each shutdown was 2 years, that’s 102 plant-years, so 100 * (1 – 102 / 1640) = 93.8% availabilty. (That’s assuming that 41 is the total number of US nuclear plants, not just the number that had long shutdowns, so the actual number might be higher.)

    To put the numbers in perspective, how about doing similar availability statistics for other types of generation? I don’t have numbers to hand, but I don’t think it’s at all uncommon for fossil-fuel plants to be taken out of service for long periods of maintenance & refurbishment.

    Likewise, I’d bet that if you were to take all nuclear plant outages and plot them by date, you would find that the frequency was highest in the early years, and decreased with time. This just supports my arguments WRT depending on new & untried technologies: every new technology has its break-in period.

    The same principle applies to the problems WRT French nuclear plants in the heat wave. (Which would have applied equally to any heat engine based plant, be it fossil fuel, biomas, or solar thermal.) The cooling systems were designed using certain assumptions about temperature & system load, which experience proved were wrong. So you design better cooling systems.

  31. 181
    Rod B says:

    FurryCatHerder (174), simple math with the simple understandable scenario first off says you have no power a minimum of 4% of the time — a long way from industry reliability/availability. This might be alleviated as one grows to more than the two simple sources. Secondly, your math works for 96% of the time only if each of the two sources are sized to provide the total load. You can’t cover your neighbor’s blackout unless your system is large enough to cover both your and his loads. Finally, all of this glosses over the management problem that James mentioned, viz. cutting sources in and out (partially or wholly) — not terrible with two sources but horrendous with multiple sources.

    Not that all of this might be possible, as you say. But it ain’t easy or well understood as James contends. No magic wands, please.

  32. 182
    James says:

    Re #174: [If the weather is sunny 80% of the time at my house, and 80% of the time at your house, and it's not the same 80%, the weather is sunny 96% of the time at one of our homes, and only not sunny 4% of the time.]

    That’s only true if the probability of sun at your house isn’t correlated to the probability of sun at my house. However, few satellite weather pictures should serve to demonstrate that this isn’t so. A major weather system will bring cloudy weather to a large part of the country, and it’s not at all uncommon to have several such systems covering most of the continent. Much the same is true of wind.

    Of course you can use weather records to predict the the actual probabilities fairly accurately, and thus obtain a good idea of how much “other” generation you’ll need to cover for when wind & solar aren’t available. But that raises another problem: say you invest in one of those “other” plants. You make money by selling power, so you want to run it as much as you can. Only if a large part of your operating cost is fuel, or if you’re working off a storable resource such as hydro, will you be willing to run part time.

    [The solution to power production problems with all sources of power -- nuclear, fossil, hydro, geothermal, and renewables -- is a careful understanding of all the risks.]

    On that we agree: I’m just trying to point out some of the risks that the more evangelical renewable energy advocates seem to be overlooking in their enthusiasm.

  33. 183
    James says:

    Re #177: [For those not clear about Geo-thermal energy..like i was till two days ago..it requires a hole to be dug about 3kms deep into the red hot volcanic rock and water to be sent down the hole...]

    There are two kinds of geothermal. One relies on an existing resource such as a hot spring. These are pretty well developed – there’s one just up the road from my house – but are limited to places where there are hot springs & such. The other, as you describe, relies on drilling holes into hot, deep rocks. In principle these could be build anywhere, if you drill deep enough, but AFAIK they’re still experimental.

    In any case, both types are still heat engines, and require the same sort of cooling that nuclear & fossil fuel plants do.

  34. 184
    SecularAnimist says:

    James wrote: “There are two kinds of geothermal.”

    There is a third kind of geothermal, which is the geothermal heat pump. It is essentially similar to a regular heat pump except the external heat exchanger unit is underground instead of above ground. Because temperatures even a few feet underground are generally cooler than the air during summer, and warmer than the air during winter, a geothermal heat pump is more efficient and effective than a regular heat pump, although it is more expensive to install because of the need for excavating a hole in the ground to install the heat exchange coils. But the last time I looked, prices for residential geothermal heat pump systems were roughly in the same range as a conventional HVAC system. So this is a technology that has a lot of potential for reducing the amount of energy used for heating and cooling buildings.

    Particularly in the USA where we are profligate wasters of energy, there is VAST potential for reducing our energy consumption through eliminating waste and improving efficiency, while maintaining our standard of living (ie. the services that we derive from energy), and that is by far the fastest, cheapest way to reduce GHG emissions.

    The US Department of Energy has a program to develop zero-net-energy houses, which draw electricity from the grid when needed, but by incorporating photovoltaics, and solar water and space heating, geothermal heat pumps, super insulation, etc, overall produce all the energy they need for electricity, heating and cooling on site. And the DOE is designing these houses in collaboration with Habitat For Humanity so that they will be inexpensive and easy to build, rather than luxury homes for the rich.

    All of the discussion about the relative merits of nuclear or solar or wind generated electricity, and various biofuels to replace gasoline, are addressing the supply side. We can make much more progress faster and cheaper by addressing the demand side. And I believe we will need to do this anyway, because I think that folks like Richard Heinberg and James Howard Kunstler who write about “peak oil” are probably correct when they say that there is no “alternative source of energy” nor any combination of “alternatives” that is going to provide the abundant supply of cheap energy that soon-to-be-depleted fossil fuels have provided over the last century or so. We — people in the USA especially, and in the developed world generally — are going to have to adapt to having less energy available to power our civilization.

  35. 185

    James writes:

    That’s only true if the probability of sun at your house isn’t correlated to the probability of sun at my house. However, few satellite weather pictures should serve to demonstrate that this isn’t so. A major weather system will bring cloudy weather to a large part of the country, and it’s not at all uncommon to have several such systems covering most of the continent. Much the same is true of wind.

    Neither solar nor wind are so binary that cloudy skies and gentle breezes are going to result in zero power production.

    Values for insolation — 5 hours per day where I live — aren’t “we make power for 5 hours, and then we make nothing”, they are the number of hours, at full power production, that the entire day’s production would be equivalent to. That includes dawn and dusk when the first and last few watt-hours are being made, mid-day, clouds passing overhead, afternoon storms, and the entire mess. Even this image, which a nice low pressure system covering much of the midwest, eastern seaboard, and parts of southern Canada from the Maritines to the prairie provinces, is still good solar power weather.

    As for wind, weather systems are driven by differences in barometric pressure. Those differences are worked out by large masses of air moving from high pressure to low as … wind. The worst weather for wind is the big, fat high pressure system. Parked on your head. With crystal clear blue skies and little or no wind. Sooner or later that mass of air has to go somewhere, and even if it doesn’t get off your head, the guys down the road will have wind.

    Not sure if you know how to read this, but there’s a heck of a lot of wind on that map.

    As I said upthread, put solar and wind (and some biomass and …) on enough skeptic’s homes and pretty soon we’ve got a nice, reliable power supply. It just can’t be calm air and overcast everywhere, all at once.

  36. 186
    James says:

    Re #184: [There is a third kind of geothermal, which is the geothermal heat pump.]

    What you describe is a ground source heat pump. I’ve seen it called geothermal sometimes, but that seems tantamount to false advertising. The difference is that you use the standard geothermal to generate power, while with ground-source you’re using power to run it, and increasing efficiency by having one side of your loop in a place that’s generally warmer or colder than ambient air.

    [We can make much more progress faster and cheaper by addressing the demand side.]

    Initially, yes, but it doesn’t get you all the way down to zero CO2. But as I’ve said before, I think looking for a single “magic bullet” solution will only guarantee failure. We need to do everything: encourage conservation and build renewables and build nuclear and do revegetation and look seriously at whatever else people can think of. We have to deal with reality, which means rejecting both the exaggerated claims of renewable energy fans and the hysterical doomsaying of the anti-nuclear lobby.

  37. 187
    James says:

    Re #185: [Neither solar nor wind are so binary that cloudy skies and gentle breezes are going to result in zero power production.]

    Sure, but the criterion you need to meet isn’t avoiding zero power production, it’s providing sufficient power to meet demand. To do this (assuming it’s even possible, which is a question for metereologists, statisticians, and power systems engineers to answer) you’d have to significantly overbuild your system. Then when it’s both sunny and windier than average over a large part of the country, a lot of your solar panels & windmills would be sitting there doing nothing. That increases the total system cost and payback time for each individual installation, and makes investors more reluctant to put money into building them.

    In any case, I have a hard time seeing why it’s an either/or issue. There’s a lot of room to add more renewables to the grid – the numbers I see say it can accommodate about 30% of such intermittent generation without major problems – and that’s a long way from the 1% or so of today. So we diversify our investments (or hedge our bets, if you prefer that metaphor), instead of putting all our eggs in one basket.

  38. 188
    SecularAnimist says:

    James wrote: “We have to deal with reality, which means rejecting both the exaggerated claims of renewable energy fans …”

    How about rejecting the exaggerated claims of the nuclear energy fans that nuclear power is “THE ANSWER” to global warming, that no solution to global warming is possible without a massive buildup of nuclear power, that supplies of cheap high quality uranium will last forever given such an expansion of nuclear power, that the problems of the extreme toxicity of the nuclear fuel cycle, the energy-intensive (and GHG-intensive) nature of uranium mining and refining, the permanent sequestration of huge amounts of high-level nuclear waste, vulnerability of nuclear power plants, fuel and waste transport to terrorist attacks, and risks of weapons proliferation have all been solved or that solutions are trivial or cheap.

    James notes that addressing the demand side through conservation and efficiency “doesn’t get you all the way down to zero CO2.” Of course nuclear power doesn’t get you anywhere near “zero CO2″, since the lifecycle of nuclear power plants from construction to decomissioning and the nuclear fuel cycle from mining to refining to transport to permanent sequestration of waste all produce substantial amounts of CO2, and since even a massive buildup of nuclear electricity generation would only modestly reduce the GHG emissions from electricity generation, which are only a fraction of total GHG emissions.

  39. 189
    Jim says:

    Looks like the AR4 FAQ link has changed.

    http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Pub_FAQs.pdf

  40. 190
    peter says:

    Thanks again Gavin for replying, this time to 148. I am still very skeptical of even instrumental data, which after averaging, is proposed to accurately and precisely represent hemispherical temperature change to 0.1 deg C. I am no statistics expert, but I don’t see how the average of three temperature measurements 30, 30 and 31 can stated as anything but 30. That aside, if you accept that proxy data cannot be accurate and precise to 0.1 deg C, does that not invalidate the hockey stick?

  41. 191
    Hank Roberts says:

    The IPCC keeps a gateway page, with links that work for the FAQ reliably tho’ they change the actual filename for it:

    “Please access the Summary for Policymakers (SPM), the Technical Summary (TS), chapters and other material from the following table of links….” http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/wg1-report.html

  42. 192
    James says:

    Re 188: [How about rejecting the exaggerated claims of the nuclear energy fans...]

    Sure, if you see any exaggerated claims, reject them. But when I see that your list starts with exaggeration and runs on to just plain wrong… Well, as with AGW denialists, when people keep on citing arguments that have repeatedly (and trivially) been shown to be wrong, their credibility level goes way down.

    Take as an example your claim that “…the lifecycle of nuclear power plants from construction to decomissioning and the nuclear fuel cycle from mining to refining to transport to permanent sequestration of waste all produce substantial amounts of CO2…”. To me this seems so blatantly wrong that I have trouble understanding how anyone could take it seriously.

    Exactly where is this CO2 supposed to be coming from? Construction of the power plant? You think maybe wind turbines grow from seeds? They take concrete for the footings, aluminium & steel for the towers and generators, maybe some composites for the rotor blades, copper for the wiring, and so on. All this has to be mined, refined, transported, and erected, just as do the materials going into a nuclear plant. I don’t know if anyone has done a comparison of the materials required to build X amount of generation of different kinds (I couldn’t find anything, but I’m not good at web searches), but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the totals are similar. It’s just that a 1 GW nuclear plant sits there in one big lump, while 1 GW of wind generation will be scattered over many miles of landscape. Buf for either one, the amount of CO2 generated by building & running the plant is going to be absolutely trivial when set against the CO2 that’d be generated by the fossil-fuel plants they’d displace.

    Is the CO2 coming from mining of uranium ore? Doesn’t have to: many mines run most of their equipment on electicity. Have your mine do the equivalent of a green power purchase from an existing nuclear plant, and that goes to zero. From transport? There are going to be just a few truckloads of fuel per plant. If you insist, we can add a few soybean fields and a biodiesel plant to run the transport :-) And so on for all the other potential CO2 sources, except perhaps the concrete used in construction.

  43. 193
    James says:

    Re 188: OK, I did a little searching on the amount of raw material used in various forms of power plants. The article here

    http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/news/CEC/CEC_Nuclear_Workshop_PFP_8=051.pdf

    is a report to the California Energy Commission by Per F. Peterson of the Department of Nuclear Engineering, UC Berkeley. (Which in itself is rather startling: Nuclear Engineering at Berkeley, of all places?) I’ll quote the most relevant part:

    “To review, nuclear power plants built in the 1970â��s used 40 metric tons of steel,
    and 190 cubic meters of concrete, for each megawatt of average capacity. For
    comparison, modern wind energy systems, with good wind conditions, take 460 metric
    tons of steel and 870 cubic meters of concrete per megawatt.
    Modern central-station coal plants take 98 metric tons of steel 160 and cubic
    meters of concrete�almost double the material needed to build nuclear power plants.
    This is due to the massive size of coal plant boilers and pollution control equipment.”

    So it appears that building a nuclear plant actually uses considerably less resources than building the same amount of either wind or coal generation. (And since we would be decommissioning coal plants as nuclear are built, the steel and other materials could be recycled…) The report also mentions that the Japanese can build a plant in 52 months, so there goes the claim of unacceptably long construction times.

  44. 194

    [[We have to deal with reality, which means rejecting both the exaggerated claims of renewable energy fans and the hysterical doomsaying of the anti-nuclear lobby.]]

    And the exaggerated claims of nuclear energy fans and the hysterical doomsaying of the anti-renewables lobby.

  45. 195
    Ike Solem says:

    Re#193 – James, a far better Berkeley publication on the hidden costs of nuclear reactors is available at
    What History Can Teach Us about the Future Costs of U.S. Nuclear Power
    (may need a subscription, so here are some highlights)

    “In this article, we discuss the financial risks for new nuclear power to achieve its cost objectives, from a threedecade historical database of delivered costs from each of 99 individual U.S. nuclear reactors.”

    “One hundred and four nuclear reactors provided 19.3% of U.S. electricity generation in 2005, but no new reactors have been approved for construction by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) since 1978.”

    “From the start of commercial nuclear reactor construction in the mid-1960s through the 1980s, capital costs (dollars per kilowatt of capacity) for building nuclear reactors escalated dramatically.”

    “Even though the next generation of nuclear technology and public sharing of the risks of nuclear development and deployment will mitigate costs, the costs will remain prone to what we argue are likely surprises”

    Nuclear is a dead end technology, but solar technology is wide open. Rather than investing in schemes like new nuclear power stations or hypothetical ‘buried emissions’ coal-to-liquid conversion plants, we should be building solar panel manufacturing facilities and wind turbine facilities, and also investing in better energy storage technologies for these intermittent power sources (better batteries and hydrogen conversions systems, for example).

    In constrast to the escalating costs involved with nuclear and coal, solar manufacturing costs for existing technology are set to decline. See Photovoltaic costs to decline 40% by 2010, May 23 2007 . Furthermore, new solar technologies are set to double or triple the efficiency of existing solar panels. Obviously, solar, not nuclear, is the solution to carbon-emitting energy sources.

  46. 196
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Re #193 Energy for construction of power stations

    James, your figures for wind seem to be too pessimistic. See here for some actual numbers for a Vestas 3 MW turbine (= ca 1 MW effective power): http://www.vestas.com/vestas/global/en/Products/Wind_turbines/V90_3_0.htm
    We are talking 230 tons of steel for an 80 m high offshore turbine = 50% of the 460 you mention.

    Be that as it may, what you really should be looking at is CO2 emissions over a power station’s life. Wind turbines earn back the energy it took to produce them in 6-12 months, meaning that you have 19 years of CO2-free energy after that.

    With nuclear on the other hand, you’ll need a lot of energy to extract the ore – and this gets only worse as time goes by (naturally the richest ores are mined first). In my view nuclear is only a temporary option at best – especially if we really go for it, and double or tripe nuclear capacity.

  47. 197
    ray ladbury says:

    Dick, there is sufficient Uranium left over from recycled Russian warheads that we would probably never need to mine any more if we used breeder technology. We should be buying this stuff up for security and foreign policy reasons in any case.
    I don’t think we are in a position to be beggars when it comes to the power sources we replace fossil fuels with. Nuclear is clearly not dead or there would not be as much interest from the market as we now see.

  48. 198
    James says:

    Re 194: [... the hysterical doomsaying of the anti-renewables lobby.]

    Pointing out that the sun doesn’t shine at night, or that wind turbines don’t produce energy when the wind isn’t blowing counts as hysterical doomsaying? Analyses of the behavior of the electrical grid (made by power systems engineers), and the cost and performance of real-world technology, likewise?

    Come to that, where’s this anti-renewables lobby that’s supposedly doing the doomsaying? Has renewable energy become a religion, so that daring to think that it might not perform miracles counts as heresy?

  49. 199
    James says:

    Re 195: [Nuclear is a dead end technology...]

    I don’t understand what you mean by this. Nuclear works: it’s supplying about 20% of US electricity now, and something like 75% for France.

    [...but solar technology is wide open. Rather than investing in schemes like new nuclear power stations or hypothetical 'buried emissions' coal-to-liquid conversion plants, we should be building solar panel manufacturing facilities and wind turbine facilities...]

    Who’s “we”, here? Check your news, and you’ll discover that those things are being done now. But as I keep saying, they’re not magic. Like every technology, they have their limitations. Pretending those limits don’t exist is a recipe for failure.

    [...and also investing in better energy storage technologies for these intermittent power sources (better batteries and hydrogen conversions systems, for example)]

    You think the world isn’t investing lots of money in trying to discover how to do these things? I’d be the first to stand up and cheer when/if they are, but they don’t exist now. and AGW isn’t going to wait.

  50. 200
    James says:

    Re 196: [James, your figures for wind seem to be too pessimistic.]

    Not my figures – I’m just quoting a report. The point isn’t the exact numbers; it’s that similar amounts of material go into building both types of power plants, so that any claim that building a nuclear plant produces lots of CO2 this way is just plain wrong.

    [...what you really should be looking at is CO2 emissions over a power station's life.]

    Yes and no. You have two separate sources of CO2 here. There’s the CO2 produced by building a power plant, which is of the same order of magnitude for nuclear, wind, or coal. Then you have the CO2 produced by actually running the plant, which is effectively zero for both wind and nuclear, but very, very large for coal. Thus if you replace X MW of coal generation with either wind or nuclear, you get a large reduction in CO2 emitted.

    [With nuclear on the other hand, you'll need a lot of energy to extract the ore...]

    Oh, please! Think about it: where does the fuel for the current generation of plants come from? Where are those highly energy intensive uranium mines & refineries now?

    Quite aside from the fact that (as Ray points out) there’s enough already-refined uranium & plutonium sitting around to fuel a lot of plants for a long time (and the fuel can be reprocessed), the energy cost of producing the fuel is very much less than what’s produced by the fuel. Which is true for any type of energy: if you didn’t get more energy from a fuel than it takes to obtain the fuel, why would you bother?


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