RealClimate logo

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. 251
    Rajesh Rawat says:

    Reply #243
    To wean the world off of cheap fossil fuel energy, a true price must be charged by taxing the carbon emissions reflecting the cost of its cleanup. This will provide economic incentives to develop clean alternative energy technologies which currently are too expensive compared to highly subsidized fossil fuels. In addition, this will motivate coal-power industry to develop more efficient power plants and develop technologies for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Recent report from MIT on the ‘Future of Coal’ available from argues that more aggressive policy of the US government towards carbon emissions will lead to development of the CCS that will actually help increase the coal consumption. By 2050, the coal will be able to meet more than 50% of the world energy demands by keeping the carbon emissions at the present level.

    The key is to engage developing countries by providing both technological and economic incentives to switch to clean and more efficient energy. Revenues from carbon taxes should be able to pay for some of these efforts.

    As for poor, most of them live off grid and without electricity. They rely on burning biomass to meet their energy requirements. But most of the time it is inefficient and environmentally hazardous. They need to be empowered by providing technologies and economic incentives to develop and utilize bio-mass energy (bio-fuel crops, bio-diesel, cellulosic ethanol) in an environment-friendly manner.

    We can’t afford to wait and must act now with a sense of urgency to help save the planet.


  2. 252
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #248 James, you’re forgetting to distinguish electricity demand from energy demand.

  3. 253

    221. Stroebel, Dont know if this really explains your question, but in the past, pre-industrial times or before, the bulk of the CO2 came from natually occurring burnoffs, volcanos, the waste products of domesticated animals, and wild animals and the natural rotting of vegetation on land (peatbogs, forests, grasslands) and by the oceans by seaweed and planckton etc. The ratio of CO2 and O2 was very constant for at least the last 1M years. Now everything that industrialised machinery and modern transportation does is pull copius quantities the O2 of the air and convert it to CO2 or CO or raw airborne carbon. O2 makes up only a very small percentage of our atmosphere, less than 10% if my memory is holding up. Nitrogen makes up the bulk but is largely inert and that leaves CO2. Many other catylising chemicals such as ozone , methane and CFC’s etc found in much smaller quantities but have major effects on the balance of the primany macro gases. So that is one reason why O2 is on the downward slope and CO2 on the upward. The main producer of O2 is of course your humble tree and sea grasses that pumps out heaps of O2 especially conifers and during it’s average lifetime sucks out of the air 1 tonne of CO2. From this you can realize just how many trees need to be planted to bring CO2 down–billions and billions on them! From this and the info from other readers I hope this answers your question.

  4. 254

    [[Unrealistically high, I think. The 100 or so (104, IIRC) nuclear plants currently operating in the US provide ~20% of current electricity consumption. Doesn't take really complicated math to figure out that providing 40% would require an additional 100 plants, 60% would require 200, and so on. (Might take less, since some of the current 100 are older, smaller, and presumably less efficient.)]]

    You’re right, although I could reclaim a little by noting that we were talking total energy consumption and not just electrical. My estimate was way too high.

    [[There's just no getting around the fact that reducing CO2 output will take a massive construction effort, no matter how it's done. ]]

    True. I’d just like to see it go to conservation (home/office/vehicle), solar, wind, geothermal, a new national grid, and biomass production of vehicle and industrial fuels.

  5. 255
    James says:

    Re 247: [You're saying if they had high-grade fissionable material, they could only use it to cause public hysteria? Is the phrase "nuclear bomb" one you're familiar with? They're not all that hard to build once you've got the fissionables.]

    The fuel used in a nuclear reactor isn’t high-grade material that could be used to build a bomb. Thus your terrorists would not only have to attack a nuclear reactor and get inside, they’d have to remove the fuel rods and transport them to a reprocessing plant to separate useful quantities of bomb-making material. Assuming they could pull off the attack and entry, what chance do you think they’d have of holding the reactor long enough to do the disassembly, then transporting the material for thousands of miles?

    [Then there are "dirty" bombs, which take even less engineering skill. Ten pounds of plutonium dust spread all over part of a city will result in quite a few cancers.]

    The taking & holding problem still applies, but now they have to somehow convert the fuel rods to a powder that can be dispersed, all the while holding the reactor against everything the US military can bring to bear.

    [But ignore that. Your assumption that terrorist attacks on nuclear targets would be directed at the plants is probably wrong. They would much more likely be directed at the transportation part of the cycle -- i.e., hijacking trucks or railroad cars.]

    But here we unavoidably get into politics. Why would our “terrorists” need to do that, when they have their own nuclear reactors & weapons already? Pakistan has nuclear weapons, North Korea would if they could get the design right, Iran is building them… To me it seems unreasonable to dismiss a possible major CO2-reducing technology because of a fear that “terrorists” might get what they already have?

  6. 256
    James says:

    Re 252: ['re forgetting to distinguish electricity demand from energy demand.]

    No, I’m not forgetting that. It’s what I’ve been saying all along (though perhaps I’d assumed it was obvious, rather than stating it explicitly). There’s no one single “magic bullet” solution to AGW. It will take many different technologies (Pacala & Socolow’s stabilization wedges), of which nuclear power is but one.

    I think nuclear power could reasonably replace most fossil-fuel generation in the US (and the rest of the 1st world) within a couple of decades, thus taking a big chunk out of CO2 emissions. I’m not saying it could do everything, or even that it should if it could. We need to work on all the other possible wedges too. Depending on any single one to do the job just exposes us to a risk of catastrophic failure. Diversification & redundancy are the way to go.

  7. 257

    [[The fuel used in a nuclear reactor isn't high-grade material that could be used to build a bomb.]]

    In order for the fuel not to run out quickly, you’d need to go to breeders, in which the fuel is high-grade material that could be used to build a bomb.

  8. 258

    James et-al, Nuclear has a part to play in the solution, that’s for sure, doesn’t take an einstein to see that..but! and here’s the big takes a long time to argue about the feasibility of nuclear power plants amonst the existing power generating framework..incl clean coal tech (geosequestration etc), then to allocate funding..most countries would need to borrow offshore..nuclear aint cheap! Then there’s the overall time frame to get these power satation up and running and paying their way. We are talking realistically 15-20 years..not sure we have 12-20 years before we have lost control of climate? Lets concentrate for now on readily available sources of energy..lets push for solar in countries with good sunlight, hydro in countries swimming in water. Geo-sequestration where geologically possible, bio-mass etc. Lets keep the goal towards steadily adding nuclear when we already have cut CO2 production down to say 50%, so that nuclear can still deliver 20-30% of a countries energy demands..but lets have all these other clean sources up and running and makig a difference NOW!!! All this talk about nuclear?..yes it’s important but it’s still a long way off..lets really put our investment dollars,yen,yuan,euros into ready to go technology whilst never taking our eye of nuclear to put the icing on the cake so to speak. We haven’t got the time to keep arguing!!!

  9. 259

    Re #257 and the dangers of breeders

    That’s not strictly true — the biggest issues with breeders and nuclear proliferation isn’t that they breed plutonium, it’s that breeders can be configured to breed more or less Pu239, relative to the other isotopes of Pu that are bred.

    It’s possible to make Pu unusuable for bomb purposes by mixing in Pu240 and Pu241, if there is an excess purity of Pu239 in the output from the reactor. It’s possible to perform chemical separation of U238 and Pu239, such as would be present in a breeder’s fuel elements, but separating isotopes of Pu from each other is much more complex and much more expensive, certainly well beyond the means of any but a large state. Indeed, all nuclear reactors “breed” Pu239 through neutron capture by U238 — the problem isn’t breeding, it’s reprocessing fuel.

  10. 260
    James says:

    Re 258: [ takes a long time to argue about the feasibility of nuclear power plants amonst the existing power generating framework..]

    No longer than it does to argue about the feasibility of wind, solar, conservation, etc, and to do the construction for them. (Though they do have the advantage that they can be done piecemeal, as it were.) The point you’re missing, I think, is that the sooner you start, the sooner you get something working. If we wait 15-20 years and only then start thinking about nuclear, that’s 15-20 years more before they start doing anything useful.

    [..most countries would need to borrow offshore..nuclear aint cheap!]

    Neither is solar, or wind, except when considered piecemeal. Add up the cost of all the solar panels or wind turbines needed to produce say 1 GWatt of power, and you’re in the same ballpark as nuclear.

    Also, in case this point didn’t get across before, I am not suggesting that most countries build nuclear plants, I’m suggesting that the US and a few other developed (or developing, in the case of China & India) countries do so.

    [...lets really put our investment dollars,yen,yuan,euros into ready to go technology...]

    Looks like another point that I didn’t manage to get across. Those other technologies aren’t ready to go, in the sense that you can expect to fully power an electric grid with them. They can add some capacity, but because of their intermittent nature they can’t fully displace baseload generation. Hydro is close to maxxed out, geothermal is limited (with current technology, anyway). That leaves nuclear or fossil fuels.

  11. 261

    Re #256:


    Nuclear is a far less diverse energy than several others that have been mentioned here. It produces thermal energy that is fairly local to the reactor, and electric energy that can be transmitted by wires.

    It does not produce anything comparable to natural gas or crude oil. It is imcompatible with developed areas. Most designs are incompatible with arid to semi-arid regions that otherwise don’t have any kind of water supply. It is incompatible with geologically active regions. It should not be encouraged in politically unstable or hostile regions. It is too expensive to deploy in undeveloped regions.

    If you can get past all those negatives, nuclear is great for producing bulk, base power.

    Other technologies that have been discussed here lack most of those problems –

    Solar: can be deployed anywhere that the sun shines, which is the entire planet, excepting areas north of the arctic circle, and south of the antarctic circle at various times of the year. Solar produces both thermal and electric energy, the same as nuclear.

    Wind: can be deployed anywhere that the wind is of sufficient power and constancy, which is also large parts of the planet, include near offshore regions. It produces electric power only (never heard of a wind power thermal energy system …)

    Biomass to liquids: produces high grade light crude oil suitable for refining into gasoline, aviation fuels, lubricants, and a most everything else that light sweet crude produces.

    Biomass to gas: produces gaseous fuels suitable for use as a replacement to natural gas, as well as feedstock for industrial processes.

    Biomass to solids: produces solid carbon fuels suitable for all but those industrial uses which require high quality carbon, such as steel production.

    None of those technologies are out of the economic reach of developing regions, none have proliferation problems, are subject to catestrophic failure due to a geological event, require massive amounts of water for cooling, cannot be deployed near developed areas, etc.

    Most of those technologies can be built in large scale factories, or constructed by people without the specialized skills required to construct a nuclear reactor. Back when Louisiana Power and Light (since bought out by Entergy, I believe) was building their nukes, I had friends who made a killing as nuclear certified welders. People like that don’t grow on trees. Neither do the machines that are required in wafer fabs or generator winding plants, but wafer fabs and generator winding plants can run 24/7 under the supervision of people who are much more plentiful than nuclear certified welders.

    Nuclear power is great stuff — I probably still have a letter I wrote Carter saying that we should build more nuclear power in the States. But nuclear power cannot “do it all”, even if we could build plenty of the stuff, because it is unsuitable and unfeasible for all but stable, “friendly”, developed, affluent nations that meet all the other requirements for stable locations on which to build and ready access to cooling water (for those designs which require it).

  12. 262

    In Re #260:

    Looks like another point that I didn’t manage to get across. Those other technologies aren’t ready to go, in the sense that you can expect to fully power an electric grid with them. They can add some capacity, but because of their intermittent nature they can’t fully displace baseload generation. Hydro is close to maxxed out, geothermal is limited (with current technology, anyway). That leaves nuclear or fossil fuels.

    Watching you continue to say this is very frustrating.

    Those “other technologies” have been deployed — past tense, as in “already been deployed” — in utility scale sizes. They are being deployed in growing amounts because they do work, and they are cost-effective.

    Several times myself and others have linked to articles detailing alread-been-deployed installations of these technologies you keep saying aren’t ready. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’ve linked to articles showing the growth rates in wind and solar installed capacity.

    On top of that, you flat out refuse to acknowlege that “intermittent” applies to individual installations, or portions of installations, and not to grid-scale availability. If I have 10 1MW installations, and at least 8 of those 10 are always producing power, that’s not “intermittent” when taken as a whole. Even if it’s 7 or 6 or 5. Statistics, as I’ve said countless times now, work very well with wind and solar. Statistically, the wind will blow and the sun will shine. When that stops happening, we’ve got some pretty big problems besides not having electricity — it’ll get awfully cold really fast if the sun goes out tomorrow …

    Here’s another way in which nuclear “can’t do it all” — daily fluctuations in power. The difference between base and peak load, over a 24 hour period, as well as over a 12 month period, would put nuclear’s capacity utilization well below the sorts of levels required for nuclear to be as profitable as it is. Imagine idling 25% of base load capacity during the 6 months of the year when monthly generation was at or below 300 petawatt-hours per month. Trying to do that with nuclear means an automatic 12% reduction in utilization. Tell a plant operator “You have to have a 12% reduction in utilization” and they are going to f’ing freak.

    I’ve not been able to find daily power consumption charts in the limited time I have today (I’m harvesting peaches these days — and running the fridge that stores them prior to processing on solar power …), but daily demand fluctuation is similarly large, which means that nuclear is even more constrained as a source of power — one doesn’t just “turn up” a nuclear reactor when the 15 minute demand rises or falls, and dumping power from a nuke into the ground (you can’t put more power onto the grid than the existing demand — if demand drops, the generation can’t be put onto the grid, and the only place to send it is into the ground so it can be dissipated as heat), isn’t exactly my idea of how to use nuclear power. Solar and wind can be “turned off” much more easily that either fossil fuels or nuclear, and unlike fossil fuels and nuclear, it doesn’t cost anything to not put the power on the grid — keeping those steam turbines running “just in case” costs money. Last time I checked, I don’t pay for the wind to blow or sun to shine.

  13. 263
    James says:

    Re #260: [Watching you continue to say this is very frustrating.]

    I imagine so, just as I imagine a certain pope must have gotten quite frustrated with that Galileo fellow. Doesn’t stop it from being true.

    [...I know I've linked to articles showing the growth rates in wind and solar installed capacity.]

    Certainly. What you’re glossing over there is that it’s easy to have a high growth rate when you’re starting from a very small base.

    [On top of that, you flat out refuse to acknowlege that "intermittent" applies to individual installations, or portions of installations, and not to grid-scale availability.]

    Because it’s flat-out not so, because those installations are not independent. When the sun goes down, all your solar panels will stop generating electricity. Wind is likewise caused in part by weather systems that act over wide regions. There are IIRC something like 6000 individual turbines at the Altamont Pass: do you think the wind blows independently for each?

    [Here's another way in which nuclear "can't do it all" -- daily fluctuations in power.]

    And once again, I’ve never claimed that nuclear can do it all. But for what I’m suggesting that it can do, replacing existing coal-fired generation, the response curves aren’t all that different. It takes time to ramp up a coal plant, too. There’s also quite a bit of inertia in the grid, and other generation such as hydro.

    [Tell a plant operator "You have to have a 12% reduction in utilization" and they are going to f'ing freak.]

    Sorry, but plant operators (at least the ones I’ve known) don’t freak all that easily :-) From the viewpoint of system control, there’d be little difference in system operation if all coal-fired plants were replaced with nuclear. Each individual plant has its own efficiency curve (by which I mean how much it costs each one to generate electricity, which is not nearly as simple as you might think): system control varies the outputs of each to generate at minimum cost while remaining within safe operating constraints. Fitting nuclear into that system is not a problem.

    [ doesn't just "turn up" a nuclear reactor when the 15 minute demand rises or falls, and dumping power from a nuke into the ground (you can't put more power onto the grid than the existing demand -- if demand drops, the generation can't be put onto the grid, and the only place to send it is into the ground so it can be dissipated as heat)...]

    You can “turn up” a nuclear reactor fairly easily. I don’t know the response time off the top of my head, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as slow as you seem to imagine. The plant is heating water to produce steam that drives turbines, and you have valving that controls how much steam gets to those turbines to generate power. (The only difference from a coal-fired plant is the source of heat.)

    Furthermore, you can put a certain amount of excess generation into the grid (or take a bit extra out to meet sudden demands). The system has inertia, both the real inertia of spinning generators and its electrical equivalent. Changes in energy demand, even something as small as turning on a light bulb, react against this inertia, not directly into generation, and so the generation can respond more slowly to changes because they’re smoothed out. (I know I don’t explain it well. Find a good book on power systems, if you really want to know.)

    I’m not a power systems engineer, but I worked in the field for a decade or so, and I never heard of “sending power into the ground” if too much is being generated. I expect something like opening a waste valve in a steam line would be a more likely response, but part of the art of designing & running a power grid is making sure things like this won’t happen.

    [...and unlike fossil fuels and nuclear, it doesn't cost anything to not put the power on the grid...]

    But it does cost: ask your investors. The cost is the loss of the money you didn’t get because you weren’t generating electricity. Indeed, this loss is greater than with fossil fuel or nuclear, because there you’re at least not paying the cost of fuel. With wind and solar, most of your operating cost is up-front capital.

  14. 264

    James/Furry cat herder…just goes to show how our tunnel vision over the last hundred (well actually only 50-60 years) has basically ignored taking all these other forms of energy seriously. Putting ALL our eggs into the fossil fuel basket. We should have exploited the other forms decades earlier. All that time we could have been improving the others efficiency to the point where there wouldn’t be this Oh shit! reaction today. As I said earlier..the WW2 years had the fastest roll-out of new technologies ever..simply because we had to! We have to now! We can’t wait for the likes of the Bush’s in the world to get the point. What I said was dont put nuclear on the back burner..but include it into a balanced energy production all means ramp up the productoin of nuclear power plants but at the same time invest just as much on greener techs that are working etc. If we have learnt anything from out colossal blunder of the past..that is that we should never put all our eggs in the one basket!!

  15. 265

    [[Re 258: [ takes a long time to argue about the feasibility of nuclear power plants amonst the existing power generating framework..]
    No longer than it does to argue about the feasibility of wind, solar, conservation, etc, and to do the construction for them.

    Wind and solar power facilities can be constructed and brought on line a lot faster than nuclear power plants. Especially wind.

  16. 266

    James, look I support your raptures over nuclear, but the time it takes for previously nuclear free countries to get their flegling nuclear industry up and running is way too lengthy. Ok so you say that a few countries should be given the right to provide power for the rest of the world..sounds great in theory..actually the theory is also full of get disparate countries to work together in the near future is just fiction–christian/muslim etc..The have’s and the have nots. Most world leaders are not mature enough to put the gloal situation before their own..they’re just not! America I strongly assume will demand that it gets it’s lions share of the power it generates. The poorer countries will still have to do with candles. You get the point. ‘Western’ Nuclear (which is what you probably mean) sounds very good on paper..but will be a nightmare to govern and contstrained by economic/religeous/logistical/ideological brick walls at every turn. Unless we get high quality world leaders with guts, equanimity and wisdom you can kiss that dream goodbye.

  17. 267

    Re #263:

    Well, unlike that pope, I seem to grasp the difference between base and peak production :)

    Nukes and coal are very good, as I’ve repeatedly stated, at providing very large amounts of base production. They do it at incredibly low prices, on the orders of $20 to $40 per megawatt-hour. What they cannot respond to, and this is borne out by the way the power grid and power production is managed, is peak loads. It takes on the order of hours to days for both of those plant types — nukes and coal — to reach thermal equilibrium. You don’t just turn them up or down every couple of minutes, which is how the grid is managed. That “turning up” and “turning down” is handled by an entirely different class of plants that produce power at entirely different cost structures — as high as $400 to $600 per megawatt-hour.

    If you go back to the base load plant article, you’ll see that base load is not but 35 to 40 percent of peak load — so that’s what you can generate with nukes. That’s it — if you could generate more with nukes, capitalism would have found a way, based on the production prices I quoted, and those are fairly accurate figures.

    So, that’s the first problem with what you’re saying. It’s the difference between base (where nukes are great, and I’ve said that repeatedly) and peak (where nukes don’t work).

    The second problem, and you’ve not said this in a while now, so maybe you’ve learned something, is that wind and solar aren’t so unreliable that they cannot be added to the grid without a 1-for-1 backup with fossil fuels. Yes, of course, things like wind and solar have their issues, but then so does a gas turbine plant that’s being used to generate power for the next 30 minutes as everyone starts turning on their computers and lights at work. There are, however, solutions to these problems. Distributed wind and solar is one, and there are others I’m not at liberty to discuss. Distributing wind and solar works because if the wind isn’t blowing through Altamont Pass, its likely blowing somewhere else. And if that doesn’t happen, something else that’s well understood and exploitable somewhere else is happening. Obviously, various forms of storage are ways, and this is done on a small scale with people who go completely off the grid — they determine how many days they need to “ride out” a lack of wind or solar, and they keep that many days worth of kilowatt-hours sitting in batteries. Solar can be stored — I do it every day. I’m doing it right now, even ;) What this means is that the 60 to 65 percent of power that is peak load production is fair game for wind and solar. Which, based on how much is being installed, people seem to be out to do.

  18. 268
    James says:

    Re #265: [Wind and solar power facilities can be constructed and brought on line a lot faster than nuclear power plants. Especially wind.]

    That depends. You can build 1 MWatt of solar or wind faster than you can build a 1 GWatt nuclear plant, but how long is it going to take to build 1000 of those 1 MWatt wind/solar plants.

    In any case, the best course of action isn’t to futz around debating either/or for the next couple of decades, it’s to start doing both, now.

  19. 269
    James says:

    Re #266: This is all politics, which we don’t discuss here. But the one thing I think I can say within the limits is that we need to deal with the world as it is. You have the US and a few other countries producing the majority of CO2 emissions, so those are the countries that most need to put some alternative in place in order to stop.

    As for the countries that currently aren’t producing a lot of CO2, they have choices as well. They can, for instance, go on as they are. They can pursue other paths to prosperity that don’t include CO2-intensive energy sources, because they haven’t become dependent on them.

  20. 270
    James says:

    Re #266: [t takes on the order of hours to days for both of those plant types -- nukes and coal -- to reach thermal equilibrium. You don't just turn them up or down every couple of minutes, which is how the grid is managed.]

    Yes, you do – or can, at least. I used to write software that would present system control operators with various options & constraints for doing just that. Now it’s true that you generally don’t want to change your coal-fired plant’s output that fast, but that’s because the electricity it produces is cheaper, and you want to run everything at the lowest overall cost you can while staying within safe operating criteria.

    [...if you could generate more with nukes, capitalism would have found a way...]

    Capitalism did find a way. That way was to use coal instead, since it avoided expensive litigation, and they got to dump their trash into the air for free :-)

    [So, that's the first problem with what you're saying. It's the difference between base (where nukes are great, and I've said that repeatedly) and peak (where nukes don't work).]

    Strange, I thought that was pretty much what I’ve been saying: replace the base load generation that’s currently provided by coal with nuclear, and add as much renewable of whatever sort as you can build and put on the grid without causing system stability problems.

    [Distributing wind and solar works because if the wind isn't blowing through Altamont Pass, its likely blowing somewhere else.]

    A bit of study of west coast weather systems would be of benefit here. I think you’ll find that there’s actually quite a bit of correlation in winds, and of course that’s even more true of solar. I mean, when the sun goes down at your place, it goes down at your neighbors’, too, doesn’t it?

    But you aren’t completely wrong, just I think too optimistic in thinking you can run the grid with 60-65% of this sort of intermittent renewable generation. The numbers I’ve seen (from studies by engineers and such) say the number’s more like 30%. Which, when you stop to consider that the current amount is in the neighborhood of 1%, gives a lot of room for expansion before it starts becoming an issue. So why not start from both ends and work towards the middle, in the process learning just how far each can go?

    The important point is that we need to start replacing that coal-fired generation now.

  21. 271
    Hank Roberts says:

    CDIAC has a FAQ page:

    Many of the questions frequently reposted here are addressed there.

    They number them and have a HTML page for each, simplifying pointers.

    If they’re going to keep the numbers consistent (I can only wish)
    this would be an excellent way to avoid retyping, and a good reference for bingo card users as well.

  22. 272

    Just saw a doco on tv yesterday about the state of solar power. They highlighted Germany as the country that’s done the most to push this technology. About 25-30% of power is derived from CO2 free sources..mainly solar. The energy commissioner says solar uptake (due in part to feedback tarrif) is still growing at a massive rate and will into the forseeable future..His plan is to make Germany fossil fuel independant by 2050..he says that they are easily exceeding their forcasts. The debate about solar’s viablity in sun-poor countries it seems has been answered..having lived in Germany for 2 years I can say with first hand experience that germany isn’t a very sunny place and yet solar seems to work fine. The cost of production is rapidly coming down as well. They have also developed a way for the solar cells to utilze the full spectrum of sunlight..not just the red band, greatly increasing efficiency..couple that with sliver cell tech which australia has invented and you’ve got a pretty rosy picture of the future. That’s the way I see our tech–taken up by most countries en-masse. Would you rather see ugly windmills defacing the look of the countryside..or virtually invisable quiet solar cells on most houses each doing their bit for their respective country’s power grid.

  23. 273
    Dylan says:

    Not sure if this is the best place to ask…but why is it that the emissions scenarios from the 2007 IPCC AR4 report are still based on the 2000 SRES report? Significant research since 2000 has been done on the availability and economics of extracting and using fossil fuels in the next 50-100 years, and it strikes me that least the SRES’s “A1″ scenario can be more or less ruled out entirely, and a new one based on the assumption that fossil fuel production (even coal) will peak much sooner than previously anticipated is worth considering.

  24. 274
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dylan, this may help. “A1″ is not a single scenario, it’s a large group sharing one kind of assumption.
    There are four such groups and forty scenarios total.

    I doubt we can rule out anything on the basis of the past five years’ experience, that might happen over the next 50-100.
    People don’t necessarily act wisely — look at all the good advice in the past 50 years that was ignored.

  25. 275

    Re #273


    The scenario is not a prediction of what will happen. That would be impossible to produce. So what is done is to have several scenarios, and hopefully one of them will be close to what really happens. Then the performance of the models can be compared against that one, but since we don’t know which will be correct, at present the models have to be run against them all the scenarios.

    You may be correct, that the A1 scenario can be ruled out, but who knows what will happen in the future. A Middle East war might breakout and shutdown most of the OPEC production. Then the A1 scenario might suddenly be found to be closer to the truth than any other.

  26. 276
    Chris Fostel says:

    I couldn’t find a link to post to the article regarding the Martian warming stories.

    I propose a method to answer the question of solar heating impacting global arming without animosity or undo debate.

    Study the surface temperature of the Moon. Apollo 15 left behind instruments that gave very high fidelity surface temperature readings for nearly 15 years (1975-1990). Regrettably the instruments left behind by the Apollo program have ceased to function, but there must be other observatories where the lunar temperatures were monitored concurently with the Apollo instruments, and are still in use today. I’ve read a study demonstrating that the nighttime surface temperature of the Moon can provide an indicator of the extent of global warming on Earth; due to the increase in radiation from the Earth heating the surface of the Moon. Similarly the daytime temperature on the Moon would be a composite of the radiation striking the Moon from the Sun and Earth combined. Subtract the observed increase of the nighttime temperature from any observed increase in daytime temperatures and you should have the effect of solar heating. There may be second or third order effects, from other planets and cosmic radiation. I suspect they would result in temperature changes too small to measure. After establishing whether or not there is lunar warming that cannot be explained by terrestrial warming what is left is almost entirely a measure of solar warming. Luminosity alone is not a complete measure of solar energy impacting the Earth and the number of sunspots do not provide any insight into solar activity levels. The Moon is close enough to Earth to be impacted by nearly the same energy levels from the Sun. As yet, I haven’t seen any such studies.

    To answer a question posted by one of the bloggers. The Earth exists at an average temperature of roughly 525 degrees Kelvin (measured from absolute zero in degrees Fahrenheit). A 1% increase in solar heating could lead to a global temperature increase of roughly 5 degrees Fahrenheit, IF there were no other factors. That is a very big IF. There are of course MANY other factors. It is very unclear whether a 1% increase in solar heating would cause Earth’s temperature rise to be higher or lower then 5 F. And, as I point out above it has yet to be established whether there has been a significant change in solar heating.

    A secondary issue:

    Solar heating is due to many emissions from the Sun, the most obvious being visible light. The Sun irradiates the Earth with nearly the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Different parts of the spectrum are either blocked, or absorbed by different portions of the Earth’s atmosphere and surface. In addition, all of the particles of the solar wind carry energy/heat away from the Sun. The Moon is outside of the Earth’s magnetosphere. It would experience different solar heating then the Earth because the Earth is shielded from the bulk of the solar wind by the magnetosphere. Unfortunately, very few in the media, political arena and a surprising number in the scientific community seem aware that the Earth’s magnetosphere is collapsing in response to a general decline in field strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. NASA has been tracking the decline since the beginning of the space age. The British Navy led the efforts previously due to magnetic anomalies affecting compass headings for the past 300-400 years. The declining field strength results in a higher fraction of the solar wind striking the upper atmosphere, and striking at lower latitudes then in the past 300 years. I haven’t seen the magnetic field strength decline effect reflected in global warming studies as yet.

  27. 277
    Robert Alson says:

    Searching by Internet, I have seen with this initiative:

    I have found it original, since the effort needs to us of all.
    Good luck.

  28. 278
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 276. Chris Fostel, do you even have the foggiest notion what you are talking about. First, if Earth were at 525 Kelvins, we would not be exchanging these missives. Second: Do the math. The energy of solar particles reaching Earth is negligible. Not only is the fluence not that large, most never penetrate the geomagnetic field. Third: We’ve already measured solar irradiance. It hasn’t changed in 30-70 years. Fourth, the Martian climate models explian the warming on Mars quite well. Now go get educated.

  29. 279
    Hank Roberts says:

    Again! link spam, I think. Possibly a bot?

  30. 280
    Dylan says:

    Re: 275

    Of course the scenarios aren’t predictions, but to be useful in policymaking they have to at least be reasonably likely to occur. No-one is going to plan for a possible future that only has a .5% chance of eventuating. But the point of the scenarios is that they “business of usual” cases, where no explicit action is taken to mitigate emissions. My personal opinion is that the most likely scenario for the next 50-100 years is that the sheer economics of extracting and using fossil fuels will force us to burn considerably less of them, and switch to alternative energy sources naturally. I strongly doubt this path of action would allow us to keep CO2 levels under 450 ppm, but it might give us a better idea of just how much an explicit effort to do so will cost relative to a realistic “business as usual” scenario.

  31. 281
    Greg Simpson says:

    Ray Ladbury, I think Chris Fostel was trying to use degrees Rankine but didn’t know the proper term. Not that I would encourage anyone to use them.

  32. 282
    Joan says:

    Please send me this website in
    Spanish. I want to give it to my friends who only read Spanish.



  33. 283
    Walter Kilis says: should be added – great resource for global warming news.

  34. 284
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #282: Joan — See the top right corner for a link to a Spanish version.

  35. 285
    David B. Benson says:

    The Shimbir Demon site has come up 404 (Page not found) for two days now. Here are two links regarding biochar sequestration which may be more stable:

  36. 286
    David B. Benson says:

    Re previous post — The following link is more thorough than the previous two:

    The two comments are also worth reading.

  37. 287
    Dylan says:

    Re 286, has anyone considered whether changes in agricultural techniques such as this could result in significant changes to the Earth’s albedo? When I saw the phrase “dark earth”, I immediately thought that surely you’d want to be sure that any warming held in check by sequestering carbon wasn’t offset by a loss of albedo. In fact, it’s tempting to think that the quickest way we could keep the Earth’s temperature stable is look at what we can do to increase its average albedo (and note that quickest != easiest or cheapest).

  38. 288
    Chris Fostel says:

    Correction and apology:

    In my previous post I said degrees Kelvin, when I meant degrees Rankin.

    Rankin measures temperature from absolute zero in Fahrenheit degrees; making zero about minus 460 degree F.

    Kelvin measures temperature from absolute zero in degrees centigrade (or Celsius); making zero about minus 273 Celsius.

    The Earthâ��s average temperature would be about 525 degrees RANKIN and 291 degrees Kelvin. With out proper global warming the Earth’s average temperature would be the same as the Moon, about minus 40 Fahrenheit, which is coincidentally also minus 40 Celsius.

    Sorry if the goof caused confusion. Dyslexia does not improve with age �.

    Note for the moderators:

    You could delete the entire response to the poster. It dilutes the theme of the first post, and uncorrected could cause confusion.

  39. 289

    [[With out proper global warming the Earth's average temperature would be the same as the Moon, about minus 40 Fahrenheit, which is coincidentally also minus 40 Celsius.]]

    The Moon has a different bolometric Bond albedo — about 0.11 according to Bonnie Buratti and her colleagues, compared to 0.306 for Earth. For the Solar constant at Earth’s orbit (1367.6 w/m^2), I get a Lunar temperature of 271 K — -2 C, not -40. To get down to -40 (233 K), you’d need an albedo of 0.51, brighter than any major planet.

    The Earth’s equilibrium temperature, with its known albedo, would be 254 K (255 K if you use 0.3).

  40. 290
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #287: Dylan — According to Wikipedia, crops have about twice the albedo of dark, wet soils. Actually, soils with added agrichar look about the same on the top. It’s only when one digs into the soil that the added cardon is apparent. A strong advantage to agrichar is that it is to the farmer’s advantage to add the agrichar as it greatly enhances growth as well as improving soil quality…

  41. 291
    David B. Benson says:

    One more link about biochar sequestration:

  42. 292
    Pat says:

    I was looking at the “Climate and Weather” Macropedia entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and that seems to be a pretty good resource – though I haven’t yet seen what they have for climate change/global warming.

  43. 293
    Justin says:

    You guys should bring these guys:

    In on some GW conferences. They may have a multi-aspected may to combat the human elements of what is happening.

Switch to our mobile site