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A warning from Copenhagen

Filed under: — stefan @ 21 June 2009 - (Deutsch) (Chinese (simplified)) (Español)

In March the biggest climate conference of the year took place in Copenhagen: 2500 participants from 80 countries, 1400 scientific presentations. Last week, the Synthesis Report of the Copenhagen Congress was handed over to the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen in Brussels. Denmark will host the decisive round of negotiations on the new climate protection agreement this coming December.

The climate congress was organised by a “star alliance” of research universities: Copenhagen, Yale, Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, Tokyo, Beijing – to name a few. The Synthesis Report is the most important update of climate science since the 2007 IPCC report.

So what does it say? Our regular readers will hardly be surprised by the key findings from physical climate science, most of which we have already discussed here. Some aspects of climate change are progressing faster than was expected a few years ago – such as rising sea levels, the increase of heat stored in the ocean and the shrinking Arctic sea ice. “The updated estimates of the future global mean sea level rise are about double the IPCC projections from 2007″, says the new report. And it points out that any warming caused will be virtually irreversible for at least a thousand years – because of the long residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere.


Perhaps more interestingly, the congress also brought together economists and social scientists researching the consequences of climate change and analysing possible solutions. Here, the report emphasizes once again that a warming beyond 2ºC is a dangerous thing:

Temperature rises above 2ºC will be difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and are likely to cause major societal and environmental disruptions through the rest of the century and beyond.

(Incidentally, by now 124 nations have officially declared their support for the goal of limiting warming to 2ºC or less, including the EU – but unfortunately not yet the US.)

Some media representatives got confused over whether this 2ºC-guardrail can still be met. The report’s answer is a clear yes – if rapid and decisive action is taken:

The conclusion from both the IPCC and later analyses is simple – immediate and dramatic emission reductions of all greenhouse gases are needed if the 2ºC guardrail is to be respected.

Cause of the confusion was apparently that the report finds that it is inevitable by now that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will overshoot the future stabilization level that would keep us below 2ºC warming. But this overshooting of greenhouse gas concentrations need not lead temperatures to overshoot the 2ºC mark, provided it is only temporary. It is like a pot of water on the stove – assume we set it to a small flame which will make the temperature in the pot gradually rise up to 70ºC and then no further. Currently, the water is at 40ºC. When I turn up the flame for a minute and then back down, this does not mean the water temperature will exceed 70ºC, due to the inertia in the system. So it is with climate – the inertia here is in the heat capacity of the oceans.

From a natural science perspective, nothing stops us from limiting warming to 2ºC. Even from an economic and technological point of view this is entirely feasible, as the report clearly shows. The ball is squarely in the field of politics, where in December in Copenhagen the crucial decisions must be taken. The synthesis report puts it like this: Inaction is inexcusable.

Related links

Press release of PIK about the release of the synthesis report

Copenhagen Climate Congress – with webcasts of the plenary lectures (link on bottom right – my talk is in the opening session part 2, just after IPCC chairman Pachauri)

Nobel Laureate Meeting in London – a high caliber gathering in May that agreed on a remarkable memorandum which calls for immediate policy intervention: “We know what needs to be done. We can not wait until it is too late.” The new U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu participated over the full three days in the scientific discussions – how many politicians would have done that?


416 Responses to “A warning from Copenhagen”

  1. 201

    OT, but a number of readers here have kindly taken an interest in my “Life & Times” articles on classic GW science. This latest is now available:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-In-The-Age-Of-Queen-Victoria

    The astute will immediately infer that I’m talking about Tyndall, and they’d be right, of course.

    I’m particularly interested in feedback from the knowledgeable, as Tyndall biography, like the whole subject area of climate science, has a good deal of information readily available, but it is not all mutually consistent.

    Also like the science, certain sources I’d love to consult have economic or availability access issues.

    (Captcha is playing Red Queen today: “behead all.”)
    So fact checks would be very welcome!

  2. 202

    Re #197: The first sentence of my post about decriminalizing wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, the remainder was.

  3. 203
    steve says:

    Reading on the calibration methods for satellite altimeters from the Univeristy of Colorado at Boulder it states that the calibration method cannot detect a bias it can only detect a change in bias. This would lead me to believe that it is the change from the trend that is the important feature at this point as opposed to the trend itself. Am I totally off base? I am just trying to understand the system. thanks

  4. 204
    Mark says:

    #197: “I wasn’t aware they “criminalized” climate science in the first place.”

    WHOOOSH!

  5. 205
    bobberger says:

    #199 Barton

    “and will result in more sex and better sex”

    I knew it was something like that – and at first I thought it was me and my wife becoming old, but it MUST be our government slowly abandoning nuclear. ;)

  6. 206
    MIke says:

    Could someone explain the figure on page 11 of the report? How is A1F1 the largest growth scenario for 2000-2010? None of the numbers match what is in the TAR Appendix.

  7. 207
    tommy says:

    Stefan, RE#128 and Hank Roberts
    Fair enough, I may have assumed incorrectly that chart was referring to the whole ARGO data set. However, my point that ARGO shows a cooling is correct…at least according to NASA:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88520025

  8. 208
    Wili says:

    #164 Ike said:

    “The final conclusion is that fossil fuels must eventually be eliminated from the energy mix, and the sooner the better. That’s the only way to slow global warming while keeping human civilization intact, and politicians should just admit it.”

    Very well put. Doesn’t this mean that we have to move quickly to a moratorium on fossil fuel prospecting and extraction–coal mining as well as oil natural gas “production, roughly in that order (with tar sands up there with coal). Is anyone of note other than George Monbiot suggesting this obvious necessity?

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/05/06/how-much-should-we-leave-in-the-ground/

  9. 209
    Stuart says:

    “The updated estimates of the future global mean sea level rise are about double the IPCC projections from 2007″, says the new report.

    Is this mainly by bringing back land ice melt figures that were left out from IPCC R4 because of the too large uncertainty at the time, or is the big change here because of something else?

  10. 210
    pete best says:

    Re #207, Natural gas is not that Co2 intensive relative to oil and coal. I doubt human will not use that, oil will phase itself out more than likely but it is coal that must be stopped hence Hansen getting arrested I am presuming, trains of death as he puts it.

  11. 211
    Hank Roberts says:

    > … You could have looked it all up in the report. -stefan]

    That’s been a recurring problem, e.g.

    http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=109#comment-910
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=221#comment-6096

  12. 212

    Re #20 response by Stefan to my comment

    Stefan, thanks for the help with the one minute Google search in finding the detailed McKinsey report on abatement costs. I had spent a lot of time trying to track that report down through the McKinsey site and by following a lot of links by others. There seem to be several summary versions floating around that fail to provide the details. But what can I say? Oops.

  13. 213
    Wilmot McCutchen says:

    Edward Greisch #139 and #198 — I see your point about nuclear being the only alternative to coal. For baseload power, at least, which is what the world will increasingly require to keep the lights on.

    As most people know by now, wind and solar are unreliable for baseload power because they are intermittent and have no storage. Biofuels are inadequate, and mainly a solution to energy dependency, not CO2 emissions. Natural gas is expensive and we may be running out soon, so it’s best conserved for use as vehicle fuel. So what does that leave for baseload power but coal and nuclear (and MAYBE concentrating solar)?

    Nuclear appears to be a very attractive option, but I don’t know enough to have a settled opinion on it. I’m glad to hear that nuclear power is now safe and cheap and that only unreasonable prejudice (I guess based on Chernobyl and Three Mile Island) stands in the way of its wide deployment in time (20 years) to substitute for coal and save the planet. I’d be grateful if you would direct me to some reference which presents the best case for nuclear (especially 4th generation and thorium reactors).

  14. 214
    colin Aldridge says:

    Its not good science for this report to use different baselines for different metrics and odd that they use IPCC 1990. It does allow the “Upper end” headline to be used but it also allows a lot of sniping on data integrity to what is otherwise a thoughtful report on what needs to be done… A shame in my view

  15. 215

    Tesla Motors will receive $465 million —- The all-electric sedan consumes no gasoline and runs entirely on electricity from any conventional 120V or 220V outlet. It will get the equivalent of more than 250 miles per gallon, far exceeding the 32.7 mpg minimum efficiency required for large sedans.

    What do folks here think about this?

  16. 216

    Re #203 where steve said:

    … the calibration method cannot detect a bias it can only detect a change in bias. This would lead me to believe that it is the change from the trend that is the important feature …

    No, the change in bias is the trend. The bias is a fixed unknown number and what is being recorded is the change from a fixed value viz. the trend.

    HTH,

    Cheers, Alastair.

  17. 217

    Jim Bullis #214 — Re Tesla Motors: it’s great to see the US auto industry still has a pulse. Plug-in cars may be a solution to the energy dependency problem, but as for the CO2 problem we need to remember that the batteries they run on are charged by coal power.

  18. 218
    Hank Roberts says:

    Current data packaged for bloggers to present as a widget:
    http://co2now.org/

    Also some good video logs from scientists. A reminder that pictures and videos may reach more young people than ASCII text.

  19. 219
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #214 Jim:

    “What do folks here think about this?”

    It makes me cry to think that all those batteries (probably the motors and most of the semiconductors as well) will be made somewhere else, adding to “our” trade deficit. All the same, if Tesla pulls this off it’ll be an object lesson.

    I also think there will be a lot of quibbling about exactly what the mileage equivalent actually is, though it’s surely an improvement.

  20. 220
    James says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. Says (24 June 2009 at 12:50 PM):

    “What do folks here think about this?”

    I’m of two minds. On the one hand, if the money has to be spent, I’d rather see it go to fairly innovative new companies than flushed down the Detroit rathole.

    On the other hand, two words make me unhappy: “large sedan”. That’s been the problem all along, this navel-gazing belief that Americans only want big cars. They’d get better results (that is, more CO2 reductions sooner) by building a version of the Roadster that’d weigh half as much as their sedan, use half the batteries, and sell for half the price.

  21. 221
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “Nuclear is 30% cheaper than its nearest competitor, which is coal … If you are agains nuclear, you are avocating coal. No other source can compete.”

    Absolute, one hundred percent rubbish.

    I cited this study in the “Groundhog Day” thread:

    The likely cost of electricity for a new generation of nuclear reactors would be 12-20 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh), considerably more expensive than the average cost of increased use of energy efficiency and renewable energies at 6 cents per kilowatt hour, according to a major new study by economist Dr. Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. The report finds that it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than it would to generate the same electricity from a combination of more energy efficiency and renewables.

    Nuclear power is by far the most expensive and least effective way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation. Renewables and efficiency can do the job faster, better and cheaper and with none of the very real, very serious dangers and harms of nuclear power.

    Concentrating solar thermal power plants with thermal storage can provide baseload power. Numerous other storage technologies already exist including batteries, fuel cells, flywheels, compressed air and pumped hydro. Nor is storage essential to providing baseload power from renewables. Multiple studies have shown that a diversified, regional portfolio of renewable energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass can provide 24×7 power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear.

    The claim that the only choices are coal or nuclear is, to be blunt, a lie.

  22. 222
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #183 Mark:

    “PROVE that a per-capita CO2 load being less than the US means a worse lifestyle.”

    Actually I did not propose that hypothesis so I’ll give your invitation a pass. I’m sure we could find something to actually disagree about if we try. How about if I hypothesize that Earth can support a boundless number of humans thereby allowing allowing infinitely large compound growth of capital thanks to an endlessly growing market?

  23. 223
    Wili says:

    From the original post: “From a natural science perspective, nothing stops us from limiting warming to 2ºC.”

    Is this really the case, given that methane from melting tundra is on the rise and the Arctic ice cap is set to totally collapse any year now? These are just two of the huge positive feedbacks that are now starting to drive gw independent of and on top of what humans are directly contributing. Is there some reason to think such feedbacks will stop by themselves when or if we reduce our ghg emissions?

    For the record, I do not see these as reasons for inaction. I work hard to minimize my personal footprint and to stop new coal plants…

    But I like to have as clear an idea of our true situation as I can get, no matter how dire.

    Thanks ahead of time for any clarification.

  24. 224
    Hank Roberts says:

    > colin Aldridge Says: 24 June 2009 at 12:40 PM
    > … bad science… odd that they use IPCC 1990…. A shame in my view …

    Asked and answered.

    22 June 2009 at 1:21 PM

  25. 225

    Re #209 “, Natural gas is not that Co2 intensive relative to oil and coal.”

    According to the below listed link,natural gas emits 117,000 pounds of CO2 per Billion BTU of energy input,Oil-164.000 pounds and coal-208,000 pounds. NOX emissions are significantly lower as well.If the CO2 numbers are true,coal emits almost 1.8(208/117) times as much CO2 as natural gas.

    http://www.naturalgas.org/environment/naturalgas.asp

  26. 226
    steve says:

    thanks Alastair. Just to make sure I understand it is the initial data point that has the bias and each data point after that would have the same bias thus the trend would be accurate. Also, what is HTH?

  27. 227
    canbanjo says:

    the argument can go ‘we (scientists) know that potentially dangerous global warming is just around the corner, but by continuing to do endless research into the magnitude, side effects, feedbacks etc. etc. (and so further our careers) we are actually just distracting the politicians/public from the key message which is that something needs to be done now to drastically cut emissions. Consequently we should all quit until the world gets it’s act in order and starts taking things seriously, which they clearly aren’t at the moment’.

  28. 228
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#222, Will: This is a very curious phrase that the authors use, it is true:

    “Cause of the confusion was apparently that the report finds that it is inevitable by now that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will overshoot the future stabilization level that would keep us below 2ºC warming. But this overshooting of greenhouse gas concentrations need not lead temperatures to overshoot the 2ºC mark, provided it is only temporary.” (italics added)

    This is where the carbon cycle comes in, and by ‘carbon cycle’ we really mean an understanding of the rates that carbon is transferred to and from the atmosphere, to and from the oceans, to and from the soil pool, to and from sediments, and to and from biomass.

    There’s no reason to assume that changes in atmospheric CO2 will be temporary, as all predictions point towards a decreasing capacity of many carbon cycle components when it comes to CO2 uptake. Technological efforts to draw down CO2 would likely take several centuries to have any impact (it took a century to put it all up there). There is also the high likelihood of permafrost methane pulse to take into account, plus loss of standing biomass to deforestation, drought, and insect infestations (Canadian pine beetle, for example). There are many such effects, for example:

    Sinking feeling: Hot year damages carbon uptake by plants
    PARIS, Sept 17 (AFP) Sep 17, 2008

    Plant and soil can take up to two years to recover from an exceptionally hot year, a finding that has implications for the combat against global warming, according to research published on Wednesday.

    The general theme put forth by U.S. government officials seems to be that we’re just going to have to live with it:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-roberts/why-im-not-freaked-out-ab_b_220268.html

    “The fact is, we’re not going to level out at 450 ppm,” [Chu] says. “We’re going to go over 450 ppm. So what will we do? I’m not in favor of deploying geoengineering. But thinking about it is OK.”

    There are no viable geoengineering strategies that don’t take centuries to implement – it took a century to raise the CO2 level to what it is now, didn’t it? Similarly, claims that we can burn coal and bury the emissions are nonsense.

    The real solution can be seen in the recent Time article:

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1906704,00.html

    “Asia Challenges the U.S. for Green Tech Supremacy, June 24 2009″

    That article is well worth reading, but it also shows the clear reluctance of the U.S. government to even think about replacing coal with renewable energy. It does however firmly put to rest the notion that Asian economies are not moving towards renewables – but is the same true in the U.S.?

    U.S. President Barack Obama appears to recognize the tectonic shift. Part of the $787 billion stimulus spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is meant for green initiatives: $2 billion to support lithium-ion batteries and hybrid electric systems, $800 million for a biomass program, $400 million to add electric technologies to vehicles, another $400 million for geothermal technologies. But with public debt now equal to 82% of GDP and the budget deficit forecast to hit $1.4 trillion next year, the U.S. is in no position to spend more.

    That’s not really true – you could strip away the billions given to ludicrous coal projects, and implement a feed-in tariff to finance renewable expansion, as most nations around the world are doing. Notice also the lack of subsidies and initiatives for solar and wind, which really could replace coal and thus possibly limit CO2 levels to under 450 ppm – but only if a crash program was implemented on a massive scale.

    If we continue in this course, we’ll end up with an even more severe economic crash and trade deficit – because believe me, no one is going to be buying our “clean coal technology” – instead, they’ll buy electric cars and solar panels manufactured in China.

  29. 229
    Wili says:

    “According to the below listed link,natural gas emits 117,000 pounds of CO2 per Billion BTU of energy input,Oil-164.000 pounds and coal-208,000 pounds. NOX emissions are significantly lower as well.If the CO2 numbers are true,coal emits almost 1.8(208/117) times as much CO2 as natural gas.”

    Good stat, and of course coal is the really bad guy here.

    But it should be kept in mind that whenever any of that natural gas escapes unburned, it acts as a ghg more than 70 times more powerful than CO2 over the average time that CH4 persists in the atmosphere. Since it is difficult to quantify how much gas escapes this way, it would be difficult to estimate how much closer this brings it to oil and coal in total global warming effect. But just because it can’t be easily measured doesn’t mean the effect is zero.

  30. 230
    Mark says:

    I dunno, AD&D uses it for “Hand to Hand” combat.

    Maybe it’s that… :-^

  31. 231
    Mark says:

    221:

    “#183 Mark:

    “PROVE that a per-capita CO2 load being less than the US means a worse lifestyle.”

    Actually I did not propose that hypothesis so I’ll give your invitation a pass.

    Well can you stop saying it then?

    Deal?

  32. 232
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    Once again… we can buy some time if we get Cheap Access To Space, build mirrors and power stations out there and let the earth become, basically, a garden home for the species. That is probably a minimum requirement in any case, if we are going to survive for another 100,000 years as a species.

    The economics of growth is driven by the debt-based fractional-reserve fiat currency we use. This is purely a construct of the bankers for the bankers. It actually ensures that we MUST grow at a certain percentage rate year after year forever. It needs to end.

    The costs of the social and economic upheaval required ensure that only the first suggestion is likely to be possible in the near term.

    respectfully
    BJ

  33. 233

    Re#228. “Since it is difficult to quantify how much gas escapes this way, it would be difficult to estimate how much closer this brings it to oil and coal in total global warming effect.”

    The same link that I cited from NaturalGas.org claims the following wrt methane emissions from the use of natural gas:

    “One issue that has arisen with respect to natural gas and the greenhouse effect is the fact that methane, the principle component of natural gas, is itself a very potent greenhouse gas. In fact, methane has an ability to trap heat almost 21 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. According to the Energy Information Administration, although methane emissions account for only 1.1 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, they account for 8.5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions based on global warming potential. Sources of methane emissions in the U.S. include the waste management and operations industry, the agricultural industry, as well as leaks and emissions from the oil and gas industry itself. A major study performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Gas Research Institute (GRI) in 1997 sought to discover whether the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from increased natural gas use would be offset by a possible increased level of methane emissions. The study concluded that the reduction in emissions from increased natural gas use strongly outweighs the detrimental effects of increased methane emissions. Thus the increased use of natural gas in the place of other, dirtier fossil fuels can serve to lessen the emission of greenhouse gases in the United States.”
    http://www.naturalgas.org/environment/naturalgas.asp

    The study they refer to maybe dated, but at the time they concluded that natural gas was a net positive as far as emission of greenhouse gases are concerned.

  34. 234
    James says:

    SecularAnimist Says (24 June 2009 at 3:17 PM):

    “Nuclear power is by far the most expensive and least effective way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation.”

    Expensive? Humm… Electricity prices in (mostly nuclear) France: http://particuliers.edf.fr/rubrique112.html
    (prices varying by time & day of use, at current exchange low hours are at $0.065/KWh, normal hours at $0.133/KWh). Compare to my flat residential rate here (northern Nevada, sourced mostly from mixed gas/coal/geothermal and imported hydroelectric) $0.135/KWh.

  35. 235
    dhogaza says:

    Expensive? Humm… Electricity prices in (mostly nuclear) France…

    Prices don’t necessarily reflect the cost of production in France’s heavily subsidized nuclear power industry.

  36. 236
    RichardC says:

    74 Jim Bouldin, the paper compares undisturbed forest to clear-cut and burn-the-slash management. Selective-cut to log homes and bermed-slash gives an entirely different answer.

  37. 237
    RichardC says:

    233 James says, “prices varying … $0.065/KWh, normal hours at $0.133/KWh”

    I’m looking at the site and their top tariff is $0.69/KWh from 6AM thru 10PM on red (weekday?) days.

  38. 238
    RichardC says:

    236+ I don’t speak French so this is sleuthing… It looks like most days (300) are blue, which is what James reported. The expensive days are days of high demand. Nukes cost essentially the same whether run flat-out or left off the grid, so that makes sense. Anybody know the subsidy-rate of French electricity? French nuclear is cookie-cutter nukes, so it is the cheapest we can rationally hope for. My first guess is that the cost of nukes is double other sources NOT counting liability and waste.

  39. 239
    Hank Roberts says:

    RichardC Says: 24 June 2009 at 8:1 PM … selective … berm …
    Where did you find this completely different answer, RichardC, and what is it? Do they claim more carbon capture with that method than either of the others? Less? Something in between?

  40. 240
    barry says:

    Chris C @ 184

    Apparently Lindzen has absorbed the revised Wong paper (2006) into his Iris hypothesis.

    http://www.heartland.org/events/WashingtonDC09/PDFs/lindzen.pdf

    I don’t see anything quantitively different, though, but you may want to update your post.

  41. 241
    RichardC says:

    238 Hank… It’s the technique I use for my land on Vancouver Island. Cut down the mature trees and sell them to log home builders, then take the resulting slash and mound it up and cover with some dirt. Makes nice berms which sequester carbon. I don’t know of any other folks using this particular technique, but it seems to work. The idea is to keep the buried slash above the water table so it doesn’t rot and produce methane.

  42. 242
    Tim L says:

    # James Says:
    24 June 2009 at 6:54 PM

    SecularAnimist Says (24 June 2009 at 3:17 PM):

    “Nuclear power is by far the most expensive and least effective way to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation.”

    Expensive? Humm… Electricity prices in (mostly nuclear) France: http://particuliers.edf.fr/rubrique112.html
    (prices varying by time & day of use, at current exchange low hours are at $0.065/KWh, normal hours at $0.133/KWh). Compare to my flat residential rate here (northern Nevada, sourced mostly from mixed gas/coal/geothermal and imported hydroelectric) $0.135/KWh.

    If we have more electric power WE could have more electric cars.

    no oil burning ie no co2 output.

  43. 243
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #230 Mark:

    A case of mistaken identity, apparently? Can you cite a quote of any Doug Bostrom (particularly the Me Doug Bostrom) claiming that reducing C02 emissions will result in a decline in US living standards? I can’t find such a reference, I myself never said it and I certainly don’t agree with such an idea.

    What I do believe is that an unbounded increase in the number of U.S. residents will cause an inevitable decrease in U.S living standards, with the same limitation applying to the overall human population of the planet. I also think that because human history is so short and is concentrated largely during a period of relatively low population, we’ve accidentally modeled our economics on a perpetual growth model without due consideration of scaling outcomes.

    Or, don’t bother replying; what you or I think is not really important or significant in the grand scheme of things and the topic of growth while connected to climate change is not really centrally germane here, after all.

  44. 244

    Re 214 me, 216 Wilmot, 218 Doug, 219 James

    You guys seem to be the only ones reading.

    But it seems that even you are not paying attention to the fact that Tesla is running a “250 equivalent MPG” con on our government.

    This is worthy of Bernie Madoff. Maybe ENRON is looking at restarting themselves and getting into this line of business.

  45. 245
    dhogaza says:

    It’s the technique I use for my land on Vancouver Island. Cut down the mature trees and sell them to log home builders, then take the resulting slash and mound it up and cover with some dirt. Makes nice berms which sequester carbon. I don’t know of any other folks using this particular technique, but it seems to work. The idea is to keep the buried slash above the water table so it doesn’t rot and produce methane.

    I’m starting to understand how RichardC uses terms like “biodiversity” and “pristine” …

  46. 246
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #243 Jim:

    Zap, you got me, I completely missed that. Exaggeration is standard in the tech sector; 50% hyperbolic adulteration of claims seems tacitly permitted but 100% rose-tinting is typically not considered cricket. I wonder where on the continuum from sober realism to wild-eyed optimism 250MPG falls? Perhaps if the car is driven downhill, in a vacuum, with the radio turned down?

  47. 247
    Ike Solem says:

    Richard C says:

    “Nukes cost essentially the same whether run flat-out or left off the grid, so that makes sense.”

    Not the case. Nuclear power plants have an optimal baseline performance that maximizes fuel conversion, so you get the maximum amount of power out per fuel rod. Ramping them up and down is bad for the fuel rods.

    Unlike wind and solar, nuclear also requires massive amounts of cooling water, more than an equivalently sized coal plant – but they don’t produce CO2 emissions:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22804065/

    “Drought could shut down nuclear power plants, Jan 23 2008
    Southeast water shortage a factor in huge cooling requirements”

    Another interesting thing is that the developing El Nino has not brought much relief to the Southeast – Florida has also been breaking temperature records lately, sometimes by as much as 4 degrees (F) – but May also produced record rainfall across South Florida.

  48. 248
    Ike Solem says:

    Note to Jim Bullis: consider that a new Tesla EV has an optimal range of 250 – 300 miles on one single charge, and the electric motor operates at 85-95% efficiency.

    For the Tesla, “A fully charged ESS stores approximately 53 kWh of electrical energy at a nominal 375 volts and weighs 992 lb (450 kg).”

    53 kWh is the same as 1.91 X 10^8 joules, and that’s the fully charged battery.

    One gallon of gasoline is the same as 1.3 X 10^8 joules, so if your gasoline engine was anywhere near as efficient as an electrical motor, you would get roughly 160 mpg in a similar size car.

    However, gasoline engines are lucky to hit 20% efficiency in energy conversion – most of the energy is just wasted. You can see, however, that the combination of an electrical motor and a gasoline engine can easily hit 100+ mpg – but it still is not as efficient as a purely electrical system. However, since hydrocarbon fuel has much greater energy density, the best approach might be to use a small biofuel-IC engine to help charge the battery, for longer trips.

    That, by the way, is another example of how economic utility is not the same thing as physical energy – the electrical vehicle provides the same utility as a gasoline vehicle, but at much lower energy consumption.

  49. 249
    James says:

    RichardC Says (24 June 2009 at 8:57 PM):

    “236+ I don’t speak French so this is sleuthing…”

    Sorry. I hunted around a bit, and found a link to an English explanation: http://www.frenchentree.com/france-lot-quercy-services-contacts/DisplayArticle.asp?ID=10263

    dhogaza Says (24 June 2009 at 7:42 PM):

    “Prices don’t necessarily reflect the cost of production in France’s heavily subsidized nuclear power industry.”

    Perhaps not, but when considering the cost of a technology, the price actually charged to consumers is surely something worth looking at, isn’t it?

    Now French electricity may be subsidized, but I’d expect that many other EU countries have similar subsidies. I haven’t managed to find a nice table of residential electric prices for those countries (as I’ve mentioned before, Google is not MY friend :-(), but FWIW here’s a news article comparing prices in different countries:
    http://www.finfacts.ie/irelandbusinessnews/publish/article_10006575.shtml

    If nuclear-heavy France is among the cheapest, and lots-of-wind Denmark among the most expensive… Well, I’d say that ought to be cause for some thought.

  50. 250
    Mark says:

    In 179, Doug.

    “We can’t grow forever; we have to stop eventually so we may as well begin learning the economics of how that will work right now”.

    This aim has NOTHING to do with climate change. It has NOTHING to do with mitigation strategies on AGW.

    But it is placed where such inference can be drawn (like Alistair keeps doing, except he’s explicitly saying it).


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