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Hit the brakes hard

Filed under: — group @ 29 April 2009 - (Español)

There is a climate splash in Nature this week, including a cover showing a tera-tonne weight, presumably meant to be made of carbon (could it be graphite?), dangling by a thread over the planet, and containing two new articles (Allen et al and Meinshausen et al), a “News & Views” piece written by two of us, and a couple commentaries urging us to “prepare to adapt to at least 4° C” and to think about what the worst case scenario (at 1000 ppm CO2) might look like.

At the heart of it are the two papers which calculate the odds of exceeding a predefined threshold of 2°C as a function of CO2 emissions. Both find that the most directly relevant quantity is the total amount of CO2 ultimately released, rather than a target atmospheric CO2 concentration or emission rate. This is an extremely useful result, giving us a clear statement of how our policy goals should be framed. We have a total emission quota; if we keep going now, we will have to cut back more quickly later.

There is uncertainty in the climate sensitivity of the Earth and in the response of the carbon cycle, and the papers are extremely useful in the way that they propagate these uncertainties to the probabilities of different amounts of warming. Just looking at the median model results, many people conclude that a moderately optimistic but not terribly aggressive scenario such as IPCC B1 would avoid 2°C warming relative to pre-industrial. But when you take into account the uncertainty, you find that there is a disturbingly high likelihood (roughly even odds) that it won’t.

Schmidt and Archer N and V figureBoth papers come to the same broad conclusion, summarized in our figure, that unless humankind puts on the brakes very quickly and aggressively (i.e. global reductions of 80% by 2050), we face a high probability of driving climate beyond a 2°C threshold taken by both studies as a “danger limit”. Comparing the two papers is obscured by the different units; mass of carbon versus mass of CO2 (moles, anyone? Is there a chemist in the house?). But chugging through the math, we find the papers to be broadly consistent. Both papers conclude that humankind is already about half-way toward releasing enough carbon to probably reach 2°C, and that most of the fossil fuel carbon (the coal, in particular) will have to remain in the ground.

We feel compelled to note that even a “moderate” warming of 2°C stands a strong chance of provoking drought and storm responses that could challenge civilized society, leading potentially to the conflict and suffering that go with failed states and mass migrations. Global warming of 2°C would leave the Earth warmer than it has been in millions of years, a disruption of climate conditions that have been stable for longer than the history of human agriculture. Given the drought that already afflicts Australia, the crumbling of the sea ice in the Arctic, and the increasing storm damage after only 0.8°C of warming so far, calling 2°C a danger limit seems to us pretty cavalier.

Also, there are dangers to CO2 emission other than the peak, such as the long tail of the CO2 perturbation which will dominate the ultimate sea level response, and the acidification of the ocean. A building may be safe from earthquakes but if it is susceptible to fires it is still considered unsafe.

The sorts of emission cuts that are required are technologically feasible, if we were to build wind farms instead of coal plants, an integrated regional or global electrical power grid, and undertake a crash program in energy efficiency. But getting everybody to agree to this is the discouraging part. The commentary by Parry et al advises us to prepare to adapt to climate changes of at least 4°C, even though they recognize that it may not be possible to buy our way out of most of the damage (to natural systems, for example, including the irreversible loss of many plant and animal species). Anyway, how does one “adapt” to a train wreck? There is also the fairness issue, in that the beneficiaries of fossil energy (rich countries today) are not the ones who pay the costs (less-rich countries decades from now). We wonder why we were not advised to prepare to adapt to crash curtailing CO2 emissions, which sounds to us considerably less frightening.

p.s. For our German-speaking readers: Stefan’s commentary on the KlimaLounge blog.


604 Responses to “Hit the brakes hard”

  1. 501
    James says:

    Mark Says (4 May 2009 at 15:32):

    “How many tourists per head of population does Wyoming get?”

    Hawai’i gets about 5 million tourists per year. Yellowstone National Park, the great majority of which is in Wyoming, gets 2-3 million. Then off the top of my head, there’s Grand Teton NP, Flaming Gorge NRA, Devil’s Tower NM, parts of the Black Hills, the Wind River Mountains, several ski areas that draw winter visitors… Add to that two major east-west routes (I80 & I90, and north-south I25, and I think you might find Wyoming actually has more tourists than Hawai’i.

    Then figure Hawai’i's population is about 1.2 million, vs about 500K for Wyoming…

  2. 502
    James says:

    FurryCatHerder Says (4 May 2009 at 17:12):

    “The problem is that if Big Dirty Coal Generation can sell a MWH for even $0.01 less than Clean Solar Producers, the utility MUST buy from BDCG…”

    Not entirely true, depending of course on where you live. For instance, here (Northern Nevada) the local utility is required by law to try to buy a certain percentage of its power (currently 9%, IIRC) from renewable sources, regardless of whether it’s the lowest priced – and indeed, there was an article in the local news a few days ago noting that they’d actually met that 9% last year.

    Locally most of the renewable generation is actually geothermal, though a few people are starting to install grid-connected solar.

  3. 503
    Mark says:

    “Mark (486), well, I was in the industry about 25 years and had not heard of such tax breaks.”

    Ah, that’s why you deny their existence.

    “There were subsidizes to support minority enterprises in the 90s or so”

    Check those.

    These “minority enterprises” may have been fibre roll-out.

  4. 504
    Mark says:

    “To illustrate my point about values: assume the only effect of AGW is the extinction of polar bears, but GHG reduction is still very costly. It is a value judgment of whether the benefit is worth the cost.”

    Well, if you’re going to assume, assume that the extinction of the human race is the result and GHG reduction is cheap.

    Is it worth waiting around to find out how many will die?

    I take it you don’t bother with any insurance, then.

  5. 505
    Mark says:

    re #510.

    May.

    Ah.

    And resident population of Hawaii is what? Wyoming?

  6. 506
    Phillip Huggan says:

    It might be time to consider genetically engineering a farmable insect specifically designed to be a human food source in the face of future runaway AGW (devastating to crop yields). IDK much about fish farming and greenhouses and mushroom protein and stem-cell meat…
    Whatever survives whatever cheap growth medium available. I’m thinking these morsels shouldn’t be a problem escaping in the wild; be easy target as long as they don’t breed too fast. Alternative would be to include insect catching and cuisine in future school curriculums. It might even require higher education if you wanna avoid everyone regressing to foraging for food.

  7. 507
    Hank Roberts says:

    > genetically engineer

    Try _Caryatids_ (Bruce Sterling’s new novel). He contemplates improving gut bacteria, so people and their domestic animals all can eat grass and shit little dry crumbly charcoal pellets. Biochar done internally and economically.

    He also there has China producing a series of huge deep basins along the top of the Himalayas using underground thermonuclear explosions, ostensibly to increase capture of snowfall and make new glaciers.

    Remember Bradbury, who said he wrote not to predict the future but to prevent it.

  8. 508
    Jim Eager says:

    MikeN (479), it’s about time you woke up and smelled the roses in the real world.

    In the very near future CO2 emissions are going to be regulated, either by legislation or by EPA regulation.
    As a result, the business-as-usual burning of coal for the production of electricity without CO2 capture and sequestration is going to come to a halt, and thanks to the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy) CCS is going to add a very considerable cost to generating electricity by burning coal.

    Very soon, not only the fuel of wind and solar generation will be free, but so will the cost of capturing as sequestering non-existent CO2 emissions.

    Still think coal-fired electrical generation will remain cheaper than wind, solar, and other renewables?

  9. 509
    Hank Roberts says:

    Has anyone any news since this 2007 story?
    If it’s working out, they should be well along

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/0407-possible_fix_for_global_warming.htm

    —-excerpts follow—-
    … to capture the CO2 created from a power plant, algae would have to fill a building the size of Wal-Mart.

    “The size of these things would be … about an acre worth of land space. … the flu[e] gases would run through this huge building and the algae would be growing on the suspended vertical surfaces.” … what makes it cost effective? The algae can be harvested and made into biodiesel fuel and feed for animals.

    … a full-scale reactor with 1.25 million square meters of algae screens could be up and running by 2010.

    There are already some test facilities working right now …. Note: This story and accompanying video were originally produced for the American Institute of Physics series Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science

  10. 510
    Rod B says:

    James, it sticks in my mind that Texas is also dictating a certain percentage of generation from renewables, regardless of cost. Though if push gets to shove I’ll have to yield to FurryCH — she’s usually much more up on the local power situation.

  11. 511
    Rod B says:

    Jim Eager, you’re right, of course, but a bit unfair to MikeN’s point. He was talking in the normal course of events. Clearly the governmnet can price coal-fired producers out of existance with tax policies, as Obama has promised.

  12. 512
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #511 Rod B:

    “Clearly the governmnet can price coal-fired producers out of existance with tax policies, as Obama has promised.”

    Still waiting for that Obama quote. MikeN, can you provide it or post a link?

  13. 513
    Jim Eager says:

    Rod, that’s just it, pricing carbon emissions is now (or soon will be) part of the normal course of events.

    That’s the roses that MikeN is not smelling.

  14. 514
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Jim Eager: “In the very near future CO2 emissions are going to be regulated, either by legislation or by EPA regulation.
    As a result, the business-as-usual burning of coal for the production of electricity without CO2 capture and sequestration is going to come to a halt…”

    While that may eventually be a good thing, I have little confidence our politicians will let it happen uniformly:

    “…one little-noticed provision of the draft bill would give one of the coalition’s co-founders a lucrative exemption on a coal-fired project it is building.”

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/04/green-lobby-guides-democrats-on-climate-bill/

    If you want to stop the business-as-usual burning of coal, I suggest watching (and protesting if necessary) what they do here.

  15. 515
    Steve Reynolds says:

    John P. Reisman: “…CO2 is plant food, but what does that mean when the oxygen levels are dropping…

    We of sound mind…”

    Those statements do not seem to go together. Are you really concerned about oxygen levels dropping?

  16. 516
    SecularAnimist says:

    Rod B: “Clearly the governmnet can price coal-fired producers out of existance with tax policies, as Obama has promised.”

    You are misrepresenting Obama’s stated position as you have done before, and you have been corrected before. What Obama said was once the true costs of coal were internalized through taxation or cap-and-trade, that it would be uneconomical to build new coal-fired power plants and therefore no one would do so.

    Obama said nothing about taxing existing coal-fired power plants out of existence. Unfortunately.

    The plain fact is that the coal-industry and its close ally, the coal-fired electric utility industry, have had a free ride for a long, long time. Their days of enriching themselves while forcing everyone else to pay the cost of their toxic pollution and environmental destruction are coming to an end. And the plain fact is that the industry will be unwilling and unable to pay the costs of the damage that it causes, and will go out of business as it is displaced by newer, cleaner, less expensive alternatives.

  17. 517
    James says:

    Hank Roberts Says (5 May 2009 at 12:33):

    “Has anyone any news since this 2007 story?
    If it’s working out, they should be well along

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/0407-possible_fix_for_global_warming.htm

    —-excerpts follow—-
    … to capture the CO2 created from a power plant, algae would have to fill a building the size of Wal-Mart…”

    I see this idea come up every now and then, and it’s always appeared to have a glaringly obvious flaw. The power plant runs the reaction C + O2 = CO2 + energy. To capture the CO2, the algae essentially have to run the reverse reaction, putting energy in. They have to capture that energy from sunlight. There’s about 0.7 KW available per square meter of land at 45 degrees latitude (at noon, much less at sunrise & sunset), photosynthesis is less than 10% efficient. The upshot is that a 100 MWatt coal-fired plant would need something like 10 Km^2 of algae to capture the CO2.

    Have I overlooked something?

  18. 518
    Mark says:

    James, what you may have missed out is that sun penetrates to a depth in water. Even with algae in it.

  19. 519
    Wilmot McCutchen says:

    James #517 — Conversion of CO2 by photosynthesis may not be adequate to handle the emissions of coal-fired power plants. In addition to CO2, flue gas is mostly (75%) harmless N2, which vastly adds to the volume to be treated. Coal smoke is polluted with acid-forming NOx and SOx, which might kill the algae. Aerosols would become toxic sludge. And the time necessary to process the CO2, even if you could capture a pure stream of it, would probably be overwhelming.

    These are just first thoughts, without research, but they are my questions that have to be answered before I become a believer in photosynthetic coal smoke processing.

    However, CO2 conversion by cracking (electrolytic dissociation to form carbon monoxide) might be feasible. The energy required is 5.5 eV. Of course, using fossil fuels to supply the cracking energy would be foolish, because they emit more CO2 than they can possibly crack. But wind and solar and the other renewable intermittent energy sources could be used for cracking. They would otherwise go to waste because they are not suitable for baseload power. For example, wind is abundant at night, but there is already a lot of spinning reserve for the grid at night, so wind is not needed.

    Cracking CO2 could be a form of energy storage for renewables. Simultaneous cracking of CO2 and water would produce syngas (H2 + CO) which can be fuel itself or can be processed easily into vehicle fuel. The process is called “syntrolysis” and the Stoots team at Idaho National Lab has proved it.

  20. 520

    #515 Steve Reynolds

    C + O2 = CO2

    It’s the law of economics, nothing is free. This also follows a Newtonian rule, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, it seems to apply.

  21. 521
    James says:

    Mark Says (5 May 2009 at 15:43):

    “James, what you may have missed out is that sun penetrates to a depth in water. Even with algae in it.”

    No, I didn’t overlook that. Depth is irrelevant, since incoming energy is per surface area. That is, there are X number of photons. Each photon captured by an alga subtracts one from that total, and so on until all are consumed. If your algae is densely concentrated, that happens within a few inches; if it’s less dense, it may take more depth (but then some photons are captured by water & sediment instead), but at best only that 700 or so watts/m^2 are there.

    What it amounts to is that this is not really any different in principle from growing crops for ethanol or biodiesel. Might be somewhat more efficient, or easier to scale up – I’m not familiar enough with the various technologies to have an opinion – but it’s not magic carbon-capture, as the reports I’ve seen make it out to be.

  22. 522
    Steve Reynolds says:

    John P. Reisman: “C + O2 = CO2″

    How about the following math challenge:

    What increase in altitude will give the same reduction in O2 partial pressure as atmospheric CO2 increasing to 1000 ppm?

    Extra credit: Is it more or less that the change in sea level under those conditions?

  23. 523
    Rod B says:

    SecularAnimist(516), so you’ve parsed his syntax in excruciating detail and are completely assured that Obama is going to carbon tax the hell out of new coal-fired plants but not lay a glove on current ones. Right. I got this bridge….

  24. 524
    Rod B says:

    PS Oops. I spoke too soon. It seems in the first half of your post you solidly aver that Obama will not hurt current coal plants. But in the second half you say, “…the coal-industry and its close ally, the coal-fired electric utility industry’s… days… are coming to an end.” By what process and whose hand I wonder… Or, which is it?

  25. 525
    Bill DeMott says:

    As someone who grows algae for experiments and measures its production in lakes, the notion that an area the size of a Walmart would take care of CO2 from a power plant seems many orders of magnitude off. You would need to produce a dry mass of algae on the same scale of the mass of coal that was burned. Production of algae would be on the scale of grams/m^2/day which does not seem like much compared to train loads of coal.

  26. 526
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oxygen?

    http://zapatopi.net/kelvin/papers/end_of_free_oxygen.html

    But we know better now. As long as primary productivity and photosynthesis works, oxygen’s no problem.

    Until Peter Ward comes back from that field trip anyhow.

  27. 527

    Extra credit: Is it more or less that the change in sea level under those conditions?

    On what time scale?

  28. 528

    #502 James,

    The concept that the power system responds to a new increment of load with the least cost option is lost in your statement.

    Whatever power source that the government requires the utility to use, that will be used. Once it is in use, the addition of a new load will be handled by available capacity. If that is coal and coal is not heavily handicapped by some government imposed penalty, coal will be burned in response.

    Whether there is a huge penalty or an outright ban on coal use, another fuel would have to be bought on the market. That action will indirectly result in price pressure on that other fuel which will be compensated for by greater coal use somewhere else.

    It will be a long time before new electric loads will not have this effect. In the meantime, it will be far better to simply not use so much energy.

  29. 529
    Mark says:

    “Depth is irrelevant, since incoming energy is per surface area.”

    But efficiency is per algal entity.

    And a lower level recieving light will add to it.

    Now, what you have to ask yourself is is that 10% efficiency taking into account the depth factor? Or is it a thin film of algal bloom?

  30. 530
    Mark says:

    ““…the coal-industry and its close ally, the coal-fired electric utility industry’s… days… are coming to an end.” By what process and whose hand I wonder… Or, which is it?”

    By virtue of Peak Oil having been passed (where supply cannot raise in response to demand) and coal being a terrible source of energy.

    By greater intelligence about how to USE energy to attain the result we want reducing the need for power.

    By renewables being commercially exploitable and in a competitive market replacing some of the current fossil fuel techniques.

    For the last one, see the history of the Buggy Whip makers. No government edict banning them but they are now a niche market when once they were dominant.

    Do you see conspiracy theories everywhere you look?

  31. 531
    Mark says:

    ” That action will indirectly result in price pressure on that other fuel which will be compensated for by greater coal use somewhere else.”

    Please prove that assertion.

    The raw material for operating a Wind Turbine doesn’t respond to supply/demand curves. The wind blows.

    And have you seen the price of crude? It didn’t need alternative fuels to make it happen.

    And what happens in a competitive market? The price falls to ensure at least costs are made. If you lose sales to a competitor, you make no money.

  32. 532
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    Re: 447… I don’t actually know EVERYYTHING.. but do I know the people who know. SSPS has only been studied for what, half a century now? The only obstacle is the cost to orbit. No, you’d not position them at a LaGrange point and you might do better with a larger number of smaller units than a couple of giants. The point to cheap access to space is that it is then NOT hard to have people or robots up there fixing things, topping up attitude control systems and basically keeping the system stable.

    It beats the hell out of getting four degrees of change here, and it would, if there were actually cheap access available, open up a lot more than just cheap-fixing the warming part of the CO2 problem. Once you get cheap access you own the solar system, you can mine the asteroids and you can scoop methane off the atmosphere of Jupiter.

    I am only a former Engineer at NASA JPL, with a clear understanding of the margins that Lockheed-Martin gets on its disposable vehicles a reasonable understanding of what happened to the reusable program and a nasty cynical streak.

    In answer to your question, no I don’t BELIEVE it, incompetence is a far more likely explanation than massive conspiracy. However, there’s plenty of room for one or two profit-first managerial types to have done the deed. Or just one guy with some unknown motivation…

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2006/01/x-33venturestar-what-really-happened/

    However, with respect to your objections they are ENGINEERING problems and NOT hard compared to further altering our atmosphere, or seeding our oceans with iron and otherwise permanently and irrevocably committing us to a course that if it should go wrong is the equivalent of ecological seppuku.

    People who don’t understand space think that the problem is space is hostile. It is, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that we have to use the lightest and flimsiest possible materials to deal with the hostility… and we can’t go back up to fix stuff except at a price we can’t afford.

    I know this turf. It isn’t wishful thinking except the part where NASA and Congress figure out that this is a helluva a lot cheaper than bailing out Citibank, and in the long run pays us back at least 10000% Expecting them to do the smart thing, THAT is wishful thinking.

    BJ

  33. 533
    pete best says:

    There have been many investigations into present and future energy needs out to about 2030 from the IEA (Based in Europe).

    A quote from their 2008 Energy Outlook study states this:

    •The 2008 global credit crisis will slow energy demand but only temporarily. Fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) will still dominate the energy landscape through 2030. Fossil fuels will account for 80% of the energy mix, barely down from what it is today. Industrialized countries will continue to rely disproportionately on those fuels.

    from this site: http://middleeast.about.com/od/oilenergy/a/me081113a.htm

    The situation is grim for several scenarios could arise both of which require the same solution. Renewable energy and large scale energy efficiency gains and even then we might not be able to put off climate change, only the demand energy situation although if the programs are ramped up then anything is possible but $1 trillion per annum for 25 years globally is a lot to ask for.

    As the world seeks 50% more energy come 2030 then renewables can only be expected to fill this need unless energy efficiency gains are significant, 50% or more. 25% is relatively cheap to achieve but 50% is expensive. Your car needs to do 50% more MPG, thats achieveable if you want to drive a smaller car but can vans and HGV’s achieve double energy increase? Houses need 50% more efficent insulation, thats a lot an will require great expense to keep houses in keeping and achieve that. Massive program. Aircraft double MPG and cooking uses less gas, unlikely. Industry needs 50% gains to, how hard is that I wonder.

    The massive renewables program also required is replace existing demand but only coal is really feasible in terms of suitable replacement, nuclear, wind and solar. Oil and gas are unlikely to be reaplced but maybe usage will be lessened, oil more likely than gas due to transport gains.

    Its a scary future for the arguments over peak oil still rage although the IEA push out peak production to 2030 but not PEak reserves.

  34. 534
    Mark says:

    “Your car needs to do 50% more MPG, thats achieveable if you want to drive a smaller car ”

    The average trip distance of a car journey in the UK is 2 miles.

    Walking if it’s less than 1.5 miles would save half your petrol.

    When the truckers strike for petrol truck drivers, people drove slower and found:

    a) they got to work only a few minutes later
    b) they used MUCH less petrol (maybe not half, but at least a third off)

    Then again the UK uses road transport for haulage and took all that off the railways.

    Putting them back on trains at least for the well connected routes would save half or more for HGV bulk transport.

    Etc.

  35. 535
    Ray Ladbury says:

    B. J Chippindale, I assume that it is safe to conclude that your duties at JPL didn’t include propulsion systems. If you understand anything about space, you know that high launch costs are one of the most significant barriers putting the desired number of satellites into orbit. If you have any insight into lauch systems, you will know that one of the biggest problems with the business model is proportion of nonrecurring expenses. A satellite launcher that cracked the cost barrier, would be in gravy. Do you seriously contend that Lockmart, Boeing, the Russians, and the Europeans don’t understand this?

    You are awfully eager to dismiss all the unsolved problems of your solution as “engineering problems”. Do you think that maybe you might be underestimating the difficulties just a wee bit? I mean, do you really think that nobody smart has ever thought, “Gee, it’d sure be nice if we could launch a satellite for $1 million rather than $15 million. I wonder if we could come up with a cheap launch vehicle?”

    YOu are also awfully dismissive of the hostility of the space environment. Depending on the orbit, radiation, atomic oxygen, micrometeors, UV, friction and extremes of temperature all limit useful life of assets in space.

    Sorry, you’d have to think this through a whole lot more carefully than you have for it to pass the straight-face test.

  36. 536
    Hank Roberts says:

    BJ_C, thanks for the pointer. I recall watching that decision as it when it was reported in public. Doesn’t seem any smarter in hindsight.

    Ray, if you haven’t read more than just that one linked story, do look back into the history a bit. To me, an amateur reader, at the time, that engine-weight and fuel tank choice, as reported publicly, did seem like case of management-by-demand overruling design-with-reality.

    —-
    Those wanting to bang on tobacco issues can find plenty elsewhere.
    PRWatch.org does a good job of pointing out the manipulation going on.
    E.g. http://www.prwatch.org/node/8298

  37. 537
    pete best says:

    Re #534, Sure, but as people do not walk them at the moment what makes you think they (all of them) will walk?

    Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions.

  38. 538
    Rod B says:

    Mark (530), my mistake, I guess. When SecularAnimist said the coal industry was coming to an end, I assumed he meant this century.

  39. 539
    Mark says:

    The point wasn’t to say people would walk but that saying that reduction to 50% demand would be expensive.

    People don’t decide not to walk the distance because it would be expensive to do so. It costs more to drive there than to walk.

    50% reduction IS NOT EXPENSIVE.

    It is just ignored.

  40. 540
    MikeN says:

    “But the essential underlying requirement is a substantial rising carbon price. … The carbon price must be sufficient to affect lifestyle choices.”
    Jim Hansen
    Anyone still claiming this will be no major inconvenience?

    [Response: The fact of the matter is that business-as-usual will be a 'major inconvenience'. Why aren't you concerned about that? - gavin]

  41. 541
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hank, You’re not telling me anything I don’t know when you say there is incompetence and corruption in aerospace. That is a given. The thing is that everybody who has ever been involved in space has been calling for lower-cost launch vehicles since Robert Goddard. The problem is that lowering costs in one dimension (e.g. fuel/propulsion) raises them in another (e.g. materials and engineering). It’s technological Whack-a-Mole on steroids! There are a lot of very smart cookies working on launch vehicles. If this were a tractable problem, they probably would have made progress on it. If some VP of marketing had blocked them at Lockmart, they could have gone to Boeing or the Europeans. And keep in mind that the Russians and now even the Chinese and Indians are in the Biz–nobody is going to hold back in the face of competition that could eat your lunch. Instead, launch costa have pretty much stayed where they were. The reason is that it’s a very hard problem with a lot of moving parts.

  42. 542
    MikeN says:

    >fact of the matter is that business-as-usual will be a ‘major inconvenience’. Why aren’t you concerned about that?

    I am concerned about that. It’s the reason I read your blog. I don’ like the general dishonesty about how easy solutions will be, pretending like it’s free or not a major inconvenience. My whole line of ‘loss of comfort’ started when you spoke of a richer world, but you’ve lost Florida and Bangladesh(I wouldn’t count global warming at tops of their list of concerns). I responded somewhat tongue-in-cheek that you lose a lot with the current proposals.

  43. 543
    Mark says:

    “I don’ like the general dishonesty about how easy solutions will be, pretending like it’s free or not a major inconvenience.”

    How much of an inconvenience is it to be dead?

    If someone from a less law abiding area is driven out of their home, they’ll go looking for one. And they’ll not be in a good mood looking for it.

    And why the “Oh noes! I’m gonna haveta WALK!!!” how much money is spent and how much time in the gyms keeping fit.

  44. 544
    Mark says:

    RodB, why? And why will that not happen this century?

    Oil is up to near $100/barrel, Saudi Arabia refuse to prove their reserves (and the amount you are allowed to sell as a member of OPEC is a proportion of how much you say you have left) and oddly state that they have found yet more oil but aren’t deploying to those new areas.

    Renewables are and have been for a decade or so (so recently as far as the behemoth of bulk power generation is concerned) commercially viable.

    Why do you think they have 90 years left to go?

  45. 545
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    The cost of mitigating CO2 and CH4 would be substantially less than the amount we’re spending to prop up our benighted financial institutions. It wouldn’t require people to wear a barrel and sell apples on a street corner.

  46. 546
    Rod B says:

    Mark, then, out of curiosity, why do you, et al, care so much about taxing the hell out of new coal-fired plants? By your analysis, won’t they go down the chutes in 10-20 years anyway? Or what is your timeframe?

  47. 547
    Rod B says:

    Mark, Gavin, et al: if AGW will be a major disruption for people, why does it logically follow then that mitigation will be no disruption or inconvenience

    [Response: It doesn't, and I never claimed it would be. Neither is it the end of the world. - gavin]

  48. 548
    SecularAnimist says:

    Rod B wrote: “Mark, then, out of curiosity, why do you, et al, care so much about taxing the hell out of new coal-fired plants? By your analysis, won’t they go down the chutes in 10-20 years anyway? Or what is your timeframe?”

    Not to answer for Mark, but the sooner we stop burning coal the better. My preferred time frame for ending the use of coal would be thirty years ago.

    Putting an appropriate price on carbon pollution will force the coal industry and the coal-fired electric utility industry to internalize the cost of that pollution, which they are now allowed to foist off on everyone else. Once the price of coal includes all of its true costs, it will no longer be economically competitive with clean sources of energy, and the market will do what it does, and coal will be phased out.

    Having said that, I think we should go beyond market mechanisms, and institute an immediate, outright ban on the construction of any new coal-fired power plants and any new coal mines, and also announce a deadline within no more than ten years at which time the burning of coal to generate electricity will be illegal and all coal-fired power plants, and coal mines, will be shut down.

    The coal industry does not have the “right” to profit by causing massive death and destruction to the rest of us. They have no more “right” to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 emissions than they do to dump toxic chemicals into our drinking water supply (which, of course, they also do).

  49. 549
    Mark says:

    re 546:

    Where did I say that coal fired plants should be taxed?

    Your demon on your left shoulder has been whispering in your ear again.

    DO NOT listen to the voices. They are only in your head. (which explains 547 too)

  50. 550
    MikeN says:

    >but 50% is expensive. Your car needs to do 50% more MPG,

    How is efficiency defined? TO reduce fuel use by 50%, you have to do 100% more MPG. A 50%increase only reduces use by one third.


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