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Groundhog day

Filed under: — gavin @ 7 June 2009

Alert readers will have noticed the fewer-than-normal postings over the last couple of weeks. This is related mostly to pressures associated with real work (remember that we do have day jobs). In my case, it is because of the preparations for the next IPCC assessment and the need for our group to have a functioning and reasonably realistic climate model with which to start the new round of simulations. These all need to be up and running very quickly if we are going to make the early 2010 deadlines.

But, to be frank, there has been another reason. When we started this blog, there was a lot of ground to cover – how climate models worked, the difference between short term noise and long term signal, how the carbon cycle worked, connections between climate change and air quality, aerosol effects, the relevance of paleo-climate, the nature of rapid climate change etc. These things were/are fun to talk about and it was/is easy for us to share our enthusiasm for the science and, more importantly, the scientific process.

However, recently there has been more of a sense that the issues being discussed (in the media or online) have a bit of a groundhog day quality to them. The same nonsense, the same logical fallacies, the same confusions – all seem to be endlessly repeated. The same strawmen are being constructed and demolished as if they were part of a make-work scheme for the building industry attached to the stimulus proposal. Indeed, the enthusiastic recycling of talking points long thought to have been dead and buried has been given a huge boost by the publication of a new book by Ian Plimer who seems to have been collecting them for years. Given the number of simply made-up ‘facts’ in that tome, one soon realises that the concept of an objective reality against which one should measure claims and judge arguments is not something that is universally shared. This is troubling – and although there is certainly a role for some to point out the incoherence of such arguments (which in that case Tim Lambert and Ian Enting are doing very well), it isn’t something that requires much in the way of physical understanding or scientific background. (As an aside this is a good video description of the now-classic Dunning and Kruger papers on how the people who are most wrong are the least able to perceive it).

The Onion had a great piece last week that encapsulates the trajectory of these discussions very well. This will of course be familiar to anyone who has followed a comment thread too far into the weeds, and is one of the main reasons why people with actual, constructive things to add to a discourse get discouraged from wading into wikipedia, blogs or the media. One has to hope that there is the possibility of progress before one engages.

However there is still cause to engage – not out of the hope that the people who make idiotic statements can be educated – but because bystanders deserve to know where better information can be found. Still, it can sometimes be hard to find the enthusiasm. A case in point is a 100+ comment thread criticising my recent book in which it was clear that not a single critic had read a word of it (you can find the thread easily enough if you need to – it’s too stupid to link to). Not only had no-one read it, none of the commenters even seemed to think they needed to – most found it easier to imagine what was contained within and criticise that instead. It is vaguely amusing in a somewhat uncomfortable way.

Communicating with people who won’t open the book, read the blog post or watch the program because they already ‘know’ what must be in it, is tough and probably not worth one’s time. But communication in general is worthwhile and finding ways to get even a few people to turn the page and allow themselves to be engaged by what is actually a fantastic human and scientific story, is something worth a lot of our time.

Along those lines, Randy Olson (a scientist-turned-filmmaker-and-author) has a new book coming out called “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style” which could potentially be a useful addition to that discussion. There is a nice post over at Chris Mooney’s blog here, though read Bob Grumbine’s comments as well. (For those of you unfamiliar the Bob’s name, he was one of the stalwarts of the Usenet sci.environment discussions back in the ‘old’ days, along with Michael Tobis, Eli Rabett and our own William Connolley. He too has his own blog now).

All of this is really just an introduction to these questions: What is it that you feel needs more explaining? What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about? Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing? Let us know in the comments and we’ll take a look. Thanks.


1,071 Responses to “Groundhog day”

  1. 451
    bobberger says:

    Mark #448

    Read again. I never said nor implied that we must use the same amount of energy. Here in Germany we produce about 10 metric tons per capita as opposed to the 20 or so used in the US – and as you say, it doesn’t exactly feel 3rd world. All I’m saying (again) is that the discussion about what is necessary and what isn’t just doesn’t make any kind of sense. There are people who believe surfing the web and commenting on blogs is an unnecessary waste of energy (and as far as this thread is concerned, they may have a point ;) ), there are people who don’t understand that almost every building in Arizona has an airconditioner, that people drive around in bullet trains when walking works just as well, that people watch television and that they use tumble dryers, dishwashers and what have you. I do have a tumble dryer because I don’t have the time and nerve to parade my lingery to the neighbors. I have an awfull personal CO2 balance sheet because my job requires flying a lot. Is that necessary? For me, yes. The point is that everybody will have rather different things on a list of really necessary things and that’s not only true for individuals but for economies, too. There’s quite a lot of industry in the UK or Germany, for example, and we therefore certainly require more energy than Switzerland.
    I see your point that becoming overall more efficient is important – I just don’t believe that the question whether or not something is necessary is a question that should be asked. Let people and economies figure out for themselves what they find important. Politics should set the frame and create the conditions leading to the desired results – but no more.

  2. 452
    James says:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (16 June 2009 at 5:31 AM):

    “You need, at most, about 0.1% of the solar input.”

    But how do you get that out of the incoming solar without blocking it from some area of the underlying surface?

    “How much of the world is covered with crops and rangeland and forest? Can none of that be used for biofuels?”

    Ah, but now you’re shifting your ground, and in fact trying to occupy one of my positions. If you will recall past threads, you’ll find that I have often suggested mixed-prairie biofuel production as a way to capture some solar energy while at the same time improving the health of the local ecosystem, by replacing monocultured, fertilized, & chemically-treated industrial farming with something closer to a natural landscape. Though that gets us into the food vs fuel issue: something else that strongly suggests that the current population can’t be supported by renewables.

    I doubt that this could provide sufficient biofuel to replace anything close to current use (though I don’t have figures, and would be happy to be proved wrong), but it could also, if political obstacles could be removed, be extended to revegetating parts of the world (North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the US west, etc) that have become desertified though thoughtless human action. I hope you can see that working with the biosphere like this is very different from the “scrape it bare, cover with mirrors, and spray herbicde in the cracks” solar-power approach?

    “Is none of the world covered with rock, desert, ocean? Would setting up wind turbines there kill the ecosystem?”

    Shifting ground again :-) Remember that we were talking about covering those areas with solar panels or mirrors? Which would, as discussed, kill the ecosystem there. Even those “bare” areas of rock have their ecosystems.

    Wind turbines in appropriate places (not everywhere) can, as I’ve been saying all along, can provide useful amounts of power, just as solar in appropriate places can. The question is first, how to restrict them to such places, and second whether, if you do so, they can still supply whatever you consider an acceptable level of energy for the current world population.

    “You are using a qualitative argument (sunlight is need for plants) to disguise a quantitative fallacy (getting all our power from renewables will destroy the ecosystem).”

    The fallacy is yours. It’s the fallacy of believing that everything is linear; that because a little bit does no observable harm, then a little bit more won’t either, nor any of the little bits you keep adding. It’s really not all that different from fossil fuels: mining a little bit of coal or pumping a little bit of oil had no observable effect on the world, and offered great economic benefits, so why not use a little bit more? Add a bit more, and more after that, and here we are.

  3. 453
    Mark says:

    bob 451, read what you said again:

    “Mark #396
    > “So is using the same power as the average USian a good or bad thing? It’s certainly not necessary.”

    A dangerous path to go. ”

    Sou you demand that we don’t talk about using less power than the US.

    What was misread about that?

    I’m not talking about what’s *necessary*, I’m talking about what is *unnecessary*.

    It isn’t necessary to drive a car that only gets 10mpg when you can buy a car that does 20mpg.

    It isn’t necessary to build houses with bad insulation so that you have to spend 4x the costs on heating.

    It isn’t necessary to do so much waste with energy that means that the US uses twice what the UK and Germany does. It isn’t necessary to waste so much energy that the UK and Germany does that Sweden doesn’t.

    So ANY calculation that requires we give everyone the same power needs as the US is to make that we SHOULD NOT consider using less power.

    And that is WRONG.

    You may not be thinking you’re saying it, but you are.

    Thinking about using LESS POWER than the US is NOT a “dangerous road to take”. It is a NECESSARY road to take. EVEN if you have abundant cheap energy. If you use less energy, you have energy left to do MORE, even if it saves you nothing monetarily.

    So if you have changed your mind, say so.

    But I’ve always been arguing about that message of yours and you still haven’t retracted it, so I CONTINUE to argue against it.

  4. 454
    bluetwink says:

    Dear Gavin and Company,

    A detailed discussion of the physics of greenhouse gases with particular attention given to how the various gases interact with one another in terms of blocking or re-enforcing one anothers influence would be welcome. In particular a discusion of the extent to which modern lab technique demonstrates or repeats the action of the various gases in the atmosphere. I have seen the mathematical or formulaic statement that CO2 has a logarithic effct, but I have not seen any discusion except the very shortest of statements of how this is confirmed. I have read John Tyndale’s paper from 1861 which was a great deal of fun. His language is quite different from today’s, although perfectly understandable without an excess of effort. But things have moved on from the day when more likely than not a scientist would have to invent the tools to do his work. Or so I imagine. Examples of good discusions of the physics as it currently stands that are understandable to an intelligent layman or laywoman would be very welcome. And examples of reputable scientific papers which would give a view of the current state of the art would be of interest (perhaps even anotated versions of landmark papers?) What is most interesting to me is how the theory is confirmed both in the labratory and the field.

    Skeptics like to make the claim that climatologists can not predict the future. And then go on to say that climatologists can not even predict the past. A discusion of the extent to which the past can be accurately modeled and examples of how well the past thirty years of work have held up would be very interesting. I have seen graphs compairing James Hansen’s 1988 paper which was part of his testamony with the temperature record up to the near present. There certainly were more models between then and now, were there not?

    On a subject like this clarity for clarities sake, making something not merely clear but palpably explicit is very desirable.

  5. 455
    bobberger says:

    Mark

    Since you “asked”, I tried making my point more clear in #414. I do stand by that and of course it does not imply, that everybody must or should use the same amounts of energy as the average US citizen does. And yes, I strongly disagree with your ideas about “necessary” or “unnecessary”. Who are you to decide or even judge? I lived in a society where some people had the arrogance to believe they could decide what you need and what you don’t need, what is waste and what is a sensible use of resources, how big your car should be and whether you need a washing machine, how much meat you can eat and how many potatoes. Not only was it no fun but it simply didn’t work. So who are you to decide? Well, as I said, fortunately you aren’t in charge – so just rant on about the Americans and maybe you can put in some guilt about yourself doing things the average African or Asian will probably find highly unnecessary.

  6. 456
    SecularAnimist says:

    James wrote: “Remember that we were talking about covering those areas with solar panels or mirrors?”

    What I “remember” about your “talking” is that when someone suggests that installing concentrating solar thermal power plants on “less than one percent of America’s deserts, less land than currently in use in the U.S. for coal mines, and a tiny fraction of the land currently in agricultural use” could power 90 percent (and more) of the US grid, you immediately convert this into a hyperbolic nightmare scenario of turning the USA into nothing but cities surrounded by a continent full of solar panels, and say that it would be preferable to destroy every city in the USA with nuclear weapons.

  7. 457
    Richard C says:

    Okay Alastair, you’ve lost me. Back in 392, you gave us “Therefore for everyone to reach US 2005 standards”, an implicit assumption that to raise everybodys standard of living to that of the developed world, a US level of power consumption for all is necessary. You also said that it would require 6 times current global consumption.

    I think I showed that standard of living does not directly translate into power consumption, and halved your hypothetical target. Somehow that reduced level of power consumption now requires ten times current global consumption in your 432, and you claim that for the US to consume our per capita rate would halve their standard of living. Why? If Europe can do it, why can’t they?

    “If there was a fair global system then we Brits would have to cut our standard of living to a tenth of what it is now”. Piffle! Standard of living does not directly translate into energy consumption. It depends on what you do with the energy.

    As for being smug follow the link Anne gave in 433 and see how much we consume just in domestic natural gas, and remember that we have national legislation for all of our new builds to be zero carbon homes, (that’s living not building), in less than seven years. The other Europeans are doing things their own way, but they are all either trying to reduce consumption, replace fossil fuels or both, and not one is suggesting we return to the Dark Ages to do it.

    So from your first calculation we are down to three times current consumption and reducing. Now look at the header picture at the top of this page.
    http://www.desertec.org/
    Couldn’t we put one of those red squares in the Sahara, one in the Gobi, one in the Outback, one in the US southwest? Suddenly we have energy to spare.

  8. 458
    Richard C says:

    And for my Groundhog Day questions. Is the fresh water flooding into the Arctic changing the salinity significantly? Will it affect the Thermohaline? How long does it take to flush out? Will the heat it carries into the Arctic affect ice melt, will the lower salinity affect ice regrowth?

  9. 459
    Phil Scadden says:

    I would like to see some sources for what the energy use in the US is, just to see where the huge energy per capita comes from. Googling around, it looks a couple of big differences. One is the energy use by industry in US is huge compared to say Sweden. Second, the transport energy use is enormous. Tumble-dryers dont really seems that important. A fairer comparison between say US, UK, and Germany would need to look at embodied energy as well. I would suspect that the US (like China) exports a great deal of energy in goods and that Sweden imports a great deal.

  10. 460
    Mark says:

    “And yes, I strongly disagree with your ideas about “necessary” or “unnecessary”. Who are you to decide or even judge?”

    OK, so should everyone use tumble dryers as a matter of course or a clothes line and a clothes horse for when it’s raining?

    Guess.

    How about 10mpg cars vs 20mpg cars?

    How about insulating new houses PROPERLY or not?

    Go on, which should be done?

    “But we’ve always done it that way” is why they’re being done now.

    But they aren’t necessary.

    If you’re just hamming down that road “you can’t tell me what to do” then you can’t tell me what I can tell you to do either.

  11. 461
    Mark says:

    “I would suspect that the US (like China) exports a great deal of energy in goods and that Sweden imports a great deal.”

    Well, Phil, the first link from Google on trade deficit Sweden per capita shows that the US has a negative trade deficit with Sweden. Sweden sells the US more than the US sells to Sweden.

    Would you like to try again?

  12. 462
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Gavin, show me one model that generates the PDO:

    Well, according to Barnett et al (2008), Bonfils et al (2008) and/or Pierce et al (2008), the NCAR CCSM3 and PCM models both do so, as well as the Japanese MIROC model.

    Barnett et al (2008) Science 319:1080-
    Bonfils et al (2008). J Climate 21:6404-
    Pierce et al (2008). J Climate 21:6425-

  13. 463
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 453,451,455 (bobberger, Mark):
    Yes, I think Mark may have misunderstood bobberger, but then… I am not a Free Market purist, but for what it’s worth: A free market is a form of rationing. We have to put in something to get something out. Which sounds fair. Of course, it is only fair if everyone starts in the same place and there is no ‘luck’ (that’s what insurance is for)… but anyway, it is a desirable rationing system because it tends to (with a learning curve and some caveats – negative sum games, negotiating power, externalities, the benifit of public planning) increase the total value that can be had or realized using a finite set of resources. (Other interesting points – even the free market doen’t always believe in itself – what’s with buy one get one free – isn’t that soci-alism? :) – (and at least some businesses are run successfully by people making decisions about how to allocate resources) – well, apparently people see fit to off apparently irrational services when taken in isolation because of the rationality of the benifits as seen in the context of the big picture – and also, there is a cost-benifit trade-off for any given level of accuracy, so sometimes we get free breadsticks and pennies… But there are some things that just don’t make any sense, like why CEOs get paid more than they are worth or why people get paid to fly from Madison to Minneapolis…)

    It is a rationing system that allows people to pursue wants (their own individual wants) as well as needs (their own individual needs). And what is a need anyway – in elementary school, the three needs were food, clothing, and shelter – well we don’t need clothes, but we need water… but we only need these things in order to live. We don’t need to live – we just want to live (most of us, I hope).

    Having things we want is all well and good, but we can’t have everything we want, hence the need to ration. Aside from international complexities, the most simple solution is to enact a global flat rate emissions tax (per unit global warming potential – time horizon to be specified).

    And then the market response would ration accordingly. Some people would choose not to use tumble dryers. Other people would choose to use tumble dryers but drive less – perhaps move closer to work or buy a more energy efficient home. Others might choose to move to the sunbelt for more affordable solar energy. Others might prefer to pay somewhat more for energy so that they can continue to enjoy snow and fall colors, and maple syrup (and not worry about Malaria, Dengue fever, Black Widow spiders, various snakes, alligators, etc.) Etc. But, aside for the unfairness inherent in life (not that we should give up on all efforts to change that), it would be fair.

    However, some other additional climate policies may make good sense because of market learning curves and the fact that there is knowledge out there that could be used. It is especially important to build buildings right at the outset, so I think a first order of business is to update some building codes (not a one size fits all, but as a function of local climate and landscaping (ie you don’t need to put solar cells on your roof if you’ve got a lot of tall trees around or if there is not enough solar energy as a function of current PV technology costs, but then you should at least have passive solar design)…

    ——-

    Re 406 – Certainly the U.S. is less efficient than some other countries; however: Aside from the energy intensities of exports and imports (see 459 Phil Scadden’s point – although I’m a bit concerned that the U.S. might use more energy than it does domestically due to imports from China??), different regions will have different energy requirements per capita for the same standard of living and lifestyle, and level of technologybecause of climate. People in tropical climates would likely use less heat and light; people in some other locations would not use much air conditioning. People in arid regions would not use as much air conditioning for the same hot temperature as in a humid region. People in some coastal regions might not use much heating or cooling.

    ——-

    Re 425 (Jim Satterfield): – try looking for the spectrum of radiation emitted to space from the Earth – at wavelengths of greater opacity, the brightness temperature is less because the colder atmosphere blocks radiation from warmer levels below – except in some very narrow wavelength intervals where the atmosphere is so opaque that one can’t see much beyond the stratosphere looking down from space.

    Increasing the opacity makes the Earth look colder from space; aside from feedbacks, there has to be warming somewhere in order to restored balance between solar heating and radiant cooling to space. Convection tends to make the various levels of troposphere and surface warm and cool together, so the tropopause-level radiative forcing (changes in the balance between solar heating below the tropopause and net upward surface+atmospheric emissions) is of particular importance.

    See also my comments 370-372 above.

    Re 454 – see my re 425 (including links in the referenced comments); the logarithmic proportionality is due to the shape of the CO2 absorption spectrum and with the present concentration, the present saturation at tropopause level in the central portion of the band; thus with each doubling of concentration, the effect is more to block radiation over a wider interval of wavelengths.

    ————-

    Re 433 – “It shows the heating requirements by normal fossils-based space heating at 1970 therms (~57000 kWh).” – OMG – Thank You! I’ve always wondered what the heck a therm was.

    – these heat pumps – I am used to thinking of a heat pump as a heat engine in reverse, where some amount of work pumps a potentially larger amount of heat energy. COP depends on whether one uses the cold or the hot end.

    However, I have gotten the impression that the term heat pump can also refer to any pump for a fluid that carries heat from point A to point B. Obviously the work input can also be much less than the heat energy being transported, but it is not the reverse of a heat engine.

    So I wanted to clarify that you were refering to a ‘reverse heat engine’ – although I could just check the website (I will in a while)…

    ————-

    From 435 (Barton Paul Levenson): urban areas 2 % of land surface.

    Is that U.S., global, or both? Well, I did some calculations:

    U.S. is a bit over 9 M(km2) (not technically correct usage of the metric prefix Mega (M), but you get what I mean), so
    2 % of 9 M(km2) is 0.18 M(km2).

    Assuming 150 to 200 W/m2 horizontal surface (less than what would be on solar collectors since they would be tilted toward the sun in some way), and 15% to 20% efficiency ( a bit high now but the technology will progress)… Expect about 30 W/m2 power production:

    5.4 TW. (in fuel equivalent, over 5 times U.S. primary energy)

    If roof space (and the occasional covered parking lot) is 10% of urban area, then:

    0.54 TW. (just over U.S. electric power; in fuel equivalent, roughly half of U.S. primary energy)

    Now it would probably be tricky to actually use all roof space – maybe half of roof space, but then we’d only need another 0.009 M(km2) = 9000 km2 somewhere else to make up for it…

    300 M people in 0.18 M(km2) is = 1666.7 people/km2, is 600 m2/person – that’s about what I’d expect for suburban/urban population density – not that I’d know.

    WORLD LAND
    Approx. 150 M(km2)

    2 % is 3 M(km2). Multiply by 30 W/m2: 90 TW. Div by 10 (roof space factor): 9 TW.

    That’s almost what the world uses now in primary energy use. Converting to fuel equivalent, this would thus be almost 3 times current world primary energy use.

    3500 M people (half world population) in 3 M(km2) is 1167 people / km2.

    ————-

    Re 407,422,452 James
    “The question is first, how to restrict them to such places”

    Easy. You restrict them to such places. :)

    “No, I don’t think so. First, because the mistake was in leaving out a very significant factor from those sums. Most of the incoming solar energy goes towards powering the biosphere. Take away some of that energy by intercepting the sunlight, and you kill off the part of the biosphere that depended on it.”

    See what others have said, but for my part (this is some rough back-of-the-envelope work):

    Land surface approx. 150 M(km2) The greenest parts will be cloudier – assume average 150 W/m2.

    Annual cycling of C from the atmosphere through land vegetation and back – about 100 Gt (gigaton) of C.

    Energy in carbohydrates (sugar is the initial product (well, after the whole NADPH (?), whatever stuff) of photosynthesis) about 4 kilocalories per g (ah, my 7th grade health class helps me in climatology and energy analysis – awesome!), or about 16 kJ/g (and that’s the differene in energy between carbohydrates and CO2+H2O). Roughly 1/2 of carbohydrate mass is C. So Roughly 32 kJ/g C.

    So 32 MJ/kg C * 100 Gt C = 3200 million trillion J.

    Almost 32 million s per year.

    So 100 TW.

    Conclusion: Land-based photosynthesis provides 100 TW of power.

    IF this is concentrated onto 1/2 of land area, then 100 TW/75 M(km2) = 1.33 W/m2.

    1.33 W/m2 divided by 150 W/m2 is about 0.89 %.

    Albedo of vegetated land – maybe 15 % (it varies). So photosyntheis is just over 1 % efficient on average (??) BUT to really be ‘fair’ to photosynthesis, we should factor in the dormant times of the year. Suppose on average 2/3 of land vegetation is actually photosynthesizing; then we get 1.33 % of incident solar energy, or 1.56 % of absorbed solar energy. But not all absorption is actually by the plants – some reaches the soil. Not all absorption by plants is by chlorophyll.

    Obviously I made some number of guestimates above, so…

    Aside from photosynthesis, the ecosystem uses the rest of the solar energy via the climate system. If we take some, convert to electricity, and use it, we produce heat, which is what it would have become in the first place – except for changes we make to albedo in the process, which will be a minor issue (the heating that occurs on site is the reduction of albedo minus the fraction of incident solar energy that is converted to usable energy; the usable energy is converted back to heat upon use, which happens to energy we use from fossil fuels anyway. High efficiency devices in low-albedo areas could actually have a local cooling effect, which perhaps might reduce local boundary-layer cloud cover on average, boosting performance ???).

  14. 464

    Re #457 Where Richard C Says:

    Okay Alastair, you’ve lost me. Back in 392, you gave us “Therefore for everyone to reach US 2005 standards”, …

    You have to look at my previous post #383 to see my point of view.

    There, I was going a step further than James who wrote in #359

    renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live near western levels of consumption (or possibly at any level), without the side-effects causing significant environmental destruction.

    Barton had replied in #375:

    Garbage.

    And I had replied:

    It’s not garbage. Even non-renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live at western levels of consumption!

    What I am trying to say is that western levels of consumption cannot be provided to the whole world. Current levels of consumption are unsustainable, and are about to cause dangerous climate (assuming that they have not done so already.) If we are going to prevent that we must cut back globally. Even if the western world switches to renewables, the developing countries will still continue to burn coal and oil. We are finding it difficult to switch to renewables. How much more difficult will it be for the and at the levels needed then the western world it is going to be hurt.

    American (Canadians and US citizens) consume twice the energy of that used by the typical European, and that is unsustainable. Are they willing to cut their living standards by a half and join the Europeans. Or are they going to blame the Chinese, expecting them to remain poor so the US can remain as the richest country in the world?

    You suggest building a solar array in the Sahara Desert to solve all our problems. If that is so easy why has it not been done already? The cost of solar panels is extortionate because of the energy needed to manufacture them. Remember you have to include the cost of the raw materials and their processing. And having built them how long would they last being sandblasted in the desert? How are you going to get the energy from Africa to Europe, Asia, and the US?

    I am afraid your idea of using solar energy is just pie in the sky! and you have no intention of making sacrifices to save the world :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

  15. 465
    Phil Scadden says:

    Relative trade between US and Sweden isnt relevant here. What matters is energy flows in within goods. How much of what Sweden consumes is produced using local energy versus what is imported using somebody elses energy. Industrial energy use in US is high and I suspect a fair bit is exported. Ditto on food front. However, I dont have anything like the necessary data to judge this and it would be extremely interesting to see what the break down of consumer energy use for a US citizen versus rest of world rather than just gross primary energy per capita. Primary energy per capita for a citizen of UAE or Kuwait is really extreme but a lot easier to account for.

    At other end of scale, China’s already modest energy per capita would resolve to something even smaller when you consider how much energy goes into industrial goods, much of which is then exported.

    If our consumer energy use here in NZ is anything to go by, then you need to worry about transport before you worry too much about household electrical use.

  16. 466
    Patrick 027 says:

    continued from 408 above:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/ja#comment-127040

    (Discussion of solar resource maps thus far based on maps found here: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html, 1998-2005 data)

    Geometric concentrator (only direct solar radiation, no diffuse radiation), two-axis tracking, annual average insolation:

    Most of Maine, most of Wisconsin and northern Michigan, and most of Kentucky and Tennessee get at least 145.8 W/m2. Within that triangle, it is at least 125 W/m2.

    Most of the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama, and Georgia, parts of the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, and Most of North Dakota, and parts of the states Washington and Oregon, recieve at least 1000/6 ~= 166.7 W/m2. Most of the West – except Canadian border states – gets over 208.3 W/m2.

    Most of the Southwest, including parts of western Texas, Southern portions of Colorado and Utah, part of California, most of Nevada and all of Arizona and New Mexico get at least 1000/4 = 250 W/m2.

    Most of Arizona and parts of Nevada, California, and New Mexico get at or over 291.7 W/m2

    —-
    Seasonal: December:

    Flat plate titled at latitude:
    Most of Wisconsin and Illinois, and most of Maine and Kentucky, get more than 104.2 W/m2. Most of New Jersey and Tennessee get over 125 W/m2. Most of the Southwest and a fraction of the Southeast get more than 166.7 W/m2. Parts of the Southwest (including southern Nevada and most of Arizona and New Mexico) still get more than 208.3 W/m2.

    Geometric concentrating, Two axis tracking:
    A majority of Wisconsin and most of Illinois, and most of Maine and Kentucky, get more than 83.3 W/m2. Parts of the Southwest (including southern Nevada and majorities of Arizona and New Mexico) still get more than 208.3 W/m2.

    —-
    How does older data (1961 – 1990, http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/ ) compare to the new data:

    Annual averages:

    Flat plate tilted at latitude:
    similar.

    Geometric concentrating, Two axis tracking:
    similar, but in the older data, parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania get less than 125 W/m2 and the area in the Southwest reaching 291.7 W/m2 is much smaller; also, portions of the Gulf Coast get less than 166.7 W/m2, as does a longer portion of the Pacific coast.

    The change doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend because the two datasets may be different (one is reconstructed from satellites)

    See for more info:

    http://www.nrel.gov/solar/
    http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/
    http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/solar_data.html
    http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/publications.html
    ——————-

    Most of the contiguous 48 states is at latitudes less than 45 deg latitude. Panels tilted to face south at a 45 deg angle (PS if mornings are cloudier than afternoons or if there are tall trees on the east side of the lot, the panels should actually face somewhat southwest. Etc.) would vertically project onto a horizontal area 70.71 % of the panel area. At the equinox, the shadows cast by such panels at 45 deg latitude would completely cover the horizontal area without covering each other if the panels were spaced to occupy a horizontal area 1.41 times the panel area. However, one would want to prevent panels shading other panels most of the year; one would want to go by the shadow cast by the sun at the winter solstice. But the shadow will be longer later in the day. However, most of the energy over the year will not come from when the sun is within some angle of the horizon, so there is some tradeoff between efficiency of land use and efficiency of panel use that may allow some shading of devices (but because of issues related to photovoltaic behavior, shaded portions should be disconnected or… etc. Many photovoltaic panels are around 9 to 12 % efficient. That should increase over time. Concentrating devices might be around 30 % efficient, I’m not sure offhand – but that could also increase over time – especially for concentrating PV technology.

    In response to Barton Paul Levenson above, I figured that maybe, of 180,000 km2 of urban (and suburban, I presume) area, mabye 10% (that’s a bit of a guess on my part, though) is roof space, and maybe half of that could be used for solar power – 9000 km2 (we wouldn’t want to use the parts of sloping roofs that face poleward (except for passive solar – skylights – with a shade to block in summer to reduce heating needs), and also, some residential building roofs would be shaded by trees (but skylights could still be used there). I’m going to adjust the numbers a bit now: at 180 W/m2 and 10 % efficiency, that would be 0.162 TW. But skylights would be nearly 50 % efficient (visible fraction of solar power), and the photovoltaic panels could be paired with water heating panels to use the waste heat, so we might get 0.15 TW plus 0.012 * 5 = 0.06 TW of lighting (which would displace 0.6 TW of electricity – wait, I don’t think we use anywhere near that much on lighting (at least not in daytime) – well, I guess we don’t need all that much in skylights – except that the 0.06 TW of visible light let into the building would turn into heat after absorption, so maybe we use a shade in the summer and let it in in the winter (at which point it might only be 0.03 TW, annually averaged to maybe 0.015 TW, depending on location. So we displace 0.015 TW of heating and 0.045 TW of lighting in fuel equivalent. Now for the 0.15 TW of electricity produced, that displaces about 0.45 TW of fuel equivalent, plus, with – let’s suppose 0.45 TW of waste heat used from the same area, for a total of 0.9 TW fuel equivalent + the skylight heating and lighting 0.06 TW.

    We’ve displaced 0.96 TW fuel equivalent now, almost 1/3 U.S. usage, and we’ve got roughly 1/3 of the electricity.


    Bear in mind that the solar panels need not heat water up to the desired temperature – that might not be desirable if the heater is pressed against a photovoltaic layer. But it could get close, so that only some small additional heat is needed to get to the desired temperature.

    In general, low temperature waste heat can be collected first, then higher temperature. For cooling, higher temperature heat sinks should be used first, then lower temperature.

    At combined geothermal-solar-biofuel plants, solar energy could raise the temperature of the fluid heated by geothermal energy, and then there could be an extra boost from biofuels, especially in winter. The higher temperature would then increase the efficiency of electricity generation of all the heat.

    Now for the other 2 TW primary energy, which in electrical equivalent would be about 0.67 TW:

    0.4 TW of power from concentrating devices in the desert Southwest, 250 W/m2 after accounting for shading by overlap near sunrise and sunset, 30 % efficiency (it could be more, though). 75 W/m2 of device, maybe 15 W/m2 of land area. 20,000 km2

    0.3 TW from devices distributed among rangelands and croplands. Spacing is less of an issue because immediately behind each row are some shade-grown crops, or plants that are dormant when the sun doesn’t reach them anyway – assume land area is only 2 times panel area. 15 % efficient on average, 180 W/m2 on average. 22,222 km2.

    But these requirements can be reduced because there will be some wind and some geothermal, some hydroelectric, and some nuclear (at least for awhile). And there will be efficiency improvements in both solar devices and in energy usage (aside from what was already mentioned: using heat pumps instead of direct heat from combustion. Also, some natural gas/biofuels could go through fuel cells to produce electricity, and waste heat could be used.)

  17. 467
    Chris Colose says:

    Ellis (357)– About your question concerning downwelling infrared energy with extra CO2 and the role of convection in removing the extra energy gain.

    This is good insight. I find it’s a bit better to think of the role of the extra CO2 as effecting what leaves the planet at the top of the atmosphere, not necessarily the energy gain at the surface. It’s even possible to add CO2 and not necessarily get extra IR going to the surface. The increased downwelling energy from the atmosphere to the surface is not just IR, but all the heat fluxes which interact between the atmosphere and surface, and the increase in downwelling energy is moreso due increased temperatures rather than extra CO2. In this way (loosely speaking), the whole troposphere is pretty much stirred by convection to stay on a moist adiabat and the surface is dragged along with the rest and warms and cools together.

    By the way, this all ties together with the post by Ray Pierrehumbert on “A Saturated Gassy Argument” which describes why throwing more CO2 in the atmosphere will essentially never result in further increases having no effect because all the radiation is already blocked.

  18. 468
    Patrick 027 says:

    Alastair – “The cost of solar panels is extortionate because of the energy needed to manufacture them. Remember you have to include the cost of the raw materials and their processing. And having built them how long would they last being sandblasted in the desert?”

    I too have wondered how solar devices would fair in sandstorms. For tracking devices, I would think there should be some way for them to track upside down and lower into the surface to hide the more sensitive/delicate optical surfaces… or maybe a lid could flip shut over them…

    The energy of mining and manufacturing, etc, is payed back in 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 years, depending (I have some more specific notes indicating in the range of 1.5 years, thought that might be just for CdTe). These numbers are in the range of less than 1 to around 7 % or so of the energy that would be supplied. This is comparable to the approximately 5 % of energy produced in a typical power plant that is fed back into the power plant ( http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec8_3.pdf ).

    Total U.S. spending (see related websites in comment 408) on energy is about $1 trillion, while either the GDP or GNP is about $11 trillion (well, it used to be).

    Solar photovoltaic prices are heading toward $10/average W and will probably get below that in time (at least one technology is actually priced at about $1/peak W now, which may be $4 – $6 per average W, depending on location).

    Suppose that once installed, performance degrades 1 % per year (including complete loss of some devices).

    Suppose we spend $50 billion this year (year 0) on solar PV power, and increase that spending by $10 billion each additional year, and assume that cummulative PV power displaces spending on its fuel equivalent. The total energy spending would peak in year six at 6.64 % above current spending, and it would drop below current spending ($1 trillion) in year 19. The time-average spending from year 0 would drop below current spending in year 30, at which point solar PV would supply over 0.5 TW. At year 44, total spending would be just under half what it is now, specifically, at $495 billion, and only $5 billion would be on non-solar power. The next year, all energy would be solar PV, an average power supply of 1 TW. Only $100 billion a year would be required to maintain the power supply. So what would we do with the other $390 billion in manufacturing capacity? Well, we could sell it to other countries. Of course, that transition would more likely be gradual – we’d maintain a little bit of other power while exporting some solar power devices.

    Granted, this doesn’t included ‘balance of system’ or inverter losses (maybe 5 %), but it also assumes solar PV modules/panels remain at $10/average W.

  19. 469
    Patrick 027 says:

    Yes, the total energy spending in that scenario would actually have to be some additional percentage higher in order to supply the energy to make the solar PV devices, but that’s a modest fudge factor, which could be alleviated in the near term by efficiency improvements – which we want anyway.

  20. 470
    James says:

    Patrick 027 Says (16 June 2009 at 7:14 PM):

    ““The question is first, how to restrict them to such places”

    Easy. You restrict them to such places.”

    But how do you do that? Consider the outcry from so-called “greens” when local residents & others object to dumping a wind farm on one of the US’s most scenic coastlines. Or the developers & government officials who are happy to build solar plants (or housing developments, industrial estates, etc) on what they call “undeveloped” land – as though it were of no value at all unless it has something built on it.

    “Conclusion: Land-based photosynthesis provides 100 TW of power.”

    OK. Now the other half of the equation: land-based animals, from bacteria & earthworms on up to you, me, and the buffalo, eat approximately how much of that? My guess would be about 99.999 TW – that is, all but the tiny fraction that would become coal & oil in a hundred million years or so.

    “Aside from photosynthesis, the ecosystem uses the rest of the solar energy via the climate system. If we take some, convert to electricity, and use it…”

    OK, but how can that be done in a way that doesn’t have destructive effects on the ecosystem? The scrape, cover, and herbicide approach seems favorite among the renewable-only believers here, and haven’t we discussed that enough? Biofuel gets you into things like food vs fuel, and cutting down rain forests to plant oil palms or sugar cane. Hydroelectric dams kill off the salmon…

    , we produce heat, which is what it would have become in the first place – except for changes we make to albedo in the process, which will be a minor issue (the heating that occurs on site is the reduction of albedo minus the fraction of incident solar energy that is converted to usable energy; the usable energy is converted back to heat upon use, which happens to energy we use from fossil fuels anyway. High efficiency devices in low-albedo areas could actually have a local cooling effect, which perhaps might reduce local boundary-layer cloud cover on average, boosting performance ???).

  21. 471
    Mark says:

    “# Phil Scadden Says:
    16 June 2009 at 7:31 PM

    Relative trade between US and Sweden isnt relevant here. What matters is energy flows in within goods.”

    It IS relevant when you say that you think it should be that Sweden is using less power because it’s importing stuff that others have spent energy creating.

    What does the US export nowadays? Movies?

    Sweden makes their savings from building appropriate buildings, rather than wooden playhouses for adults like the US. Public transport is better too.

    So rather than “I would guess” how about you put that effort you made for that post into looking into what’s really going on?

  22. 472
    Mark says:

    Alistair what we’re saying is garbage (and you have done nothing to show it isn’t except by repeating it again and again and again…) is this:

    “American (Canadians and US citizens) consume twice the energy of that used by the typical European, and that is unsustainable. Are they willing to cut their living standards by a half and join the Europeans.”

    That living standards equates to power consumption is garbage.

    Rot.

    Rubbish.

    Tommyrot.

    Sweden has if anything a better standard of living than the UK and much better than the US, but use about 1/4 the US energy per capita. And it can’t be because it is in a better location than the US since it’s farther north than the US population centre.

    Standard of living does NOT equate to power consumption.

  23. 473
    bobberger says:

    Mark #460

    “If you’re just hamming down that road “you can’t tell me what to do” then you can’t tell me what I can tell you to do either.”

    Yes, well, go ahead – just don’t expect me to follow.

    Here’s a graph showing the net-exports for the US, UK, Japan, Spain and Germany in billions of Euro.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/de/2/2d/Nettoexporte_Grafik.png
    As you can see, Japan and especially Germany export far more than they import, while the UK, Spain and the US import more than they export. This is just money. It doesn’t even give a clue about energy efficiency, let alone CO2 emissions. Germany shows huge net-exports because it focuses more and more on integrating and refining components originating more and more from other countries. We used to have a rather significant steel industry, for example, but nowadays most of the steel is being imported (a good thing for our emissions, though globally irrelevant) while the cars and stuff that’s made from the steel and adds most of the value to what would just be metal otherwise, is still being produced (or at least crops up on the export list) of our local industry. Its much the same development with the chemical industry, plant manufacturing and other major industries over here. So we export a lot more than we import plus we have relatively modest CO2 emisssions – does that make us more effective? Does that mean we’re not doing “unnecessary” things? No.

    Another metric: GDP in thousands of US Dollars per ton CO2:

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

    UK: 3.670 – Germany: 3.393 – Japan: 3.663 – US: 1.936 – Sweden 6.591

    Conclusion? Are the US wasting money on energy? Is energy “too cheap” in the US? Should we all live like the 20 million or so Swedes? Or maybe Sweden is simply blessed with a lot of area for very few people, enough streams and lakes to provide more than half of their electricity requirements from water and a handfull of nuclear plants providing the other half? I didn’t find any statistics about tumble dryers vs. clothes lines in Sweden, but I’d hazard a guess, that tumble dryers are pretty common. Are they necessary in a country to far up north? I don’t know, but I guess you can decide nevertheless.

  24. 474
    Thoughtful Tom says:

    I have to admit I have not ready the 467 above, but the last line of the original post touched on something I think is important.

    All the defense happens here, and on illconceived, and a few other science bases sites. But public opinion is formed and changed on other sites, like Politico and huffingtonpost. So I post there a few times a week and put in a plug for science.

    I have two bits of bad news. One is (at least at Politico), the posts run literally 9 to 1 against the planet (ie 9 denier, 1 fact based). So that sucks. But the scarier thing, to me, is that a climate post will get 100 replies (if I step in and create controversy by posting a few facts). But “Letterman apologizes to Palin” gets 1400. Or “Gingrich scratched his nose” gets 754 replies.

    The depth of apathy and old fashined denial (the I just won’t think about it kind) seem to rule the issue of climate change.

    Anyways my request is that a few other folks come over to these sites and show people that its ok to look at the facts and the science so I don’t look like a crank for pointing to the real science.

    thanks,
    Tom

  25. 475
    pete best says:

    Re #447, An excellent post Ike. Very realistic and unfortunately accurate. However our energy consumption can be split into primary and secondary considerations. Primary being that energy source/carrier that you can actually use directly (gasoline, gas, coal/charcoal and electricity) and secondary being all of the goods and services that you buy that have used energy in their production that you do not use directly. The secondary component is probably larger and to the consumer relatively unknowable and hence hidden from out consciousness. This energy could be more readily changed. The future can only be electric really, for everything but it is not without its issues:

    Cars can be elextric as an example but can tractors be, can combine harvesters and 18 wheelers be and large scale haulage?

    We can stop (in principal) from using masses of shipping to ship the goods of the world around the world and produce local stuff but can ships work at all without liquid fuel? Can aircraft or will they always need liquid fuel and hence can shipping and aircraft be run on biofuels, freight to and the farming industry etc.

    We all know that lobbyists will always try to defend and push fossil fuels as the only energy worth considering but their lifespan is finite and if we are close to half way usage they are going to get very expensive in the coming decades. Theefore all by themselves they will need replacing at some point regardless of AGW.

    Fossil fuels are used in massive numbers globally, 4.5 billion tonnes of oil per year (7 barrels = 1 tonne). Just replacing existing electricity generation from coal and gas is a big enough project but running all of the cars to this way is a daunting challenge. Maybe we will just have to consider using and doing a lot less in life and change our culture which is something that people are not wanting to think about it seems.

    The solutions to our issues are as much cultural as technological but most people seem to think that the issue is one of technology. how many times have I heard people say that after oil come the next thing and when you tell them there is presently no next thing they are dismayed and a little dismissive.

  26. 476

    Alastair writes:

    if we are going to tackle global warming then we must accept that we will become poorer.

    Garbage.

  27. 477

    Rod B asks:

    Barton (435), 5% of what? Land surface??

    Yes. If urban areas are 2%, and pure solar power requires 0.1%, the ratio of 0.1% to 2% is 5%.

  28. 478

    James writes:

    “You need, at most, about 0.1% of the solar input.”

    But how do you get that out of the incoming solar without blocking it from some area of the underlying surface?

    You can’t. But some of it is already blocked, like rooftops. And some is taken up by plants, and there’s no reason some of those plants can’t be used for biofuels. Which brings us to

    “How much of the world is covered with crops and rangeland and forest? Can none of that be used for biofuels?”

    Ah, but now you’re shifting your ground, and in fact trying to occupy one of my positions.

    Nope. Again, I’m talking about using solar energy.

    the food vs fuel issue: something else that strongly suggests that the current population can’t be supported by renewables.

    No, it doesn’t.

    I doubt that this could provide sufficient biofuel to replace anything close to current use (though I don’t have figures, and would be happy to be proved wrong), but it could also, if political obstacles could be removed, be extended to revegetating parts of the world (North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the US west, etc) that have become desertified though thoughtless human action. I hope you can see that working with the biosphere like this is very different from the “scrape it bare, cover with mirrors, and spray herbicde in the cracks” solar-power approach?

    It’s still using solar energy, isn’t it? You’re the one who insists solar power must rely on ecological destruction.

    “Is none of the world covered with rock, desert, ocean? Would setting up wind turbines there kill the ecosystem?”

    Shifting ground again

    No, I’m still talking about using solar power, since that’s what drives the wind.

    Wind turbines in appropriate places (not everywhere) can, as I’ve been saying all along, can provide useful amounts of power, just as solar in appropriate places can. The question is first, how to restrict them to such places, and second whether, if you do so, they can still supply whatever you consider an acceptable level of energy for the current world population.

    Yep. They can. Easily.

    “You are using a qualitative argument (sunlight is need for plants) to disguise a quantitative fallacy (getting all our power from renewables will destroy the ecosystem).”

    The fallacy is yours. It’s the fallacy of believing that everything is linear; that because a little bit does no observable harm, then a little bit more won’t either, nor any of the little bits you keep adding. It’s really not all that different from fossil fuels: mining a little bit of coal or pumping a little bit of oil had no observable effect on the world, and offered great economic benefits, so why not use a little bit more? Add a bit more, and more after that, and here we are.

    Your idea that renewables are just as destructive of the ecosystem as fossil fuels or nuclear is a fantasy designed to support your pro-nuke environment. I’m sure renewables cause some ecological damage, but nowhere near the amount the present mix does, and switching to all renewables would be a distinct improvement, not a setback.

  29. 479
    Mark says:

    re 447, you mean “5% of what we already pave over”. I.e. if that extra land is damaged by the placement of solar power, then we MUST reduce our land use, since it is 20x that value.

  30. 480
    bobberger says:

    One more thing. If we assume for a second that it doesn’t matter at all, how much CO2 was produced by whatever we do but that energy consumption in itself was the yardstick, we get the following, rather interesting picture:

    Energy consumption per capita in metric tons of oil equivalent, change to 1990, metric ton of oil equivalent per million US$ GDP, change to 1990 (all based on 1999):

    Sweden: 6, +4%, 261, -4%
    Germany: 4, -6%, 182, -17% (the GDR breakdown included)
    UK: 3, +5%, 189, -10%
    US: 8, +5%, 264, -10%

    Energy usage per sector (Industry, Transportation, Agriculture, Commercial Services, Residential, Other) in %
    Sweden: 36, 23, 1, 14, 23, 3
    Germany: 30, 38, 1, 10, 26, 5
    UK: 26, 32, 1, 10, 27, 4
    US: 24, 42, 1, 12, 17, 4

  31. 481
    Douglas Wise says:

    There has been much discussion here upon whether or not a renewables only solution can be made to work on a global scale. It has largely been conducted at a technological level and such economics as have been discussed have been focussed on the developed world.

    The citation below, which I found on BraveNewClimate, considers renewables from a different perspective. It argues that, unless an energy solution cheaper than that of fossil fuels can be found, 80% of the world’s population won’t adopt it. If the developed world does, it will make fossil fuels cheaper for everyone else and exacerbate the global problem. The author suggests that our only recourse is to increase the rate of natural carbon sequestration with improved land and forestry practices.

    The citation is as follows:
    http:/www.city-journal.org/2009/19_2_carbon.html

    I think that the only carbon free sustainable energy source that might end up cheaper than coal could be 4th generation nuclear. I have found that most correspondents here don’t agree and are unwilling even to address the differences between this technology and that provided in the second and third generation nuclear reactors with which they are more familiar.

    Regardless of the above, I would be interested in the reactions of renewable energy proponents here as exemplified by Barton Paul Levenson, SecularAnimist and Anne van der Bom to the link given. I think it might serve to move the debate forward as it currently appears to have entered an eddy. I am not necessarily agreeing with the article and would like to hear other points of view. Please do not comment on the basis of my rather inadequate summary but read the article first (it’s quite short). I guess that Mark might shoot from the hip because he knows everything about everything already but I have no interest in his views anyway.

  32. 482
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Ike Solem (447):

    Thanks, but I’m well aware of the basic facts of the carbon cycle and it’s relationship to global and local climate. And I’m as against the large scale burning of coal as anyone–with CCS or not–although if it’s done, effective CCS is certainly far better than no CCS.

    But that’s not the point. However important present energy policy may be to future climates, this blog’s central focus is climate science per se. If you want to discuss the ins and outs of the carbon cycle, great I’m all for it, but re-hashing the same old “my energy use numbers and policies are better than yours” type arguments, in spite of having just done so to the tune of 1400 comments, and Gavin’s request that you please not do so again, has gotten exceedingly tiresome to a number of us.

    Then there are a number of insinuations about scientists in the buy of the fossil fuel industry and/or lacking integrity, and the trashing of Gavin’s book because you don’t like the CCS discussion therein, not to mention faulty and derogatory claims about the skill of climate models/modelers in respect to the capturing of natural variability.

    I get the feeling that after being invited to a free dinner in a nice house, you’d complain that the food was no good because it was prepared all wrong and that the house construction and decor was entirely sub-standard.

  33. 483
    bobberger says:

    Douglas #481

    This is pretty much the same string of arguments Huber and Mills already used in their book “The Bottomless Well” – and I can’t really find anything wrong with it. It has been argued a lot, that especially developing countries should in theory have a higher future demand for renewables like solar or wind, because they don’t have any infrastructure to make electricity from coal or oil. That is certainly a problem in terms of aiding development but of course, once that development is under way and energy demands rise (take India as an example), the cheapest energy will kick in again and not even the hardcore renewable-proponents will at this stage argue against the fact that that’s coal.

    I think, besides Huber’s proposal about natural sequestration, the best way would be to lease out or sell cheap G IV generators. Once in serial production, they could eventually beat coal on price and could solve the development problem for customer countries. Simply ordering a G IV to be delivered to your doorstep is probably faster than building your own coal plant(s) – however that entire idea is probably carried mostly on the shoulders of political naivete.

  34. 484
    James says:

    pete best Says (17 June 2009 at 4:43 AM):

    “Cars can be elextric as an example but can tractors be, can combine harvesters and 18 wheelers be and large scale haulage?”

    Wouldn’t be all that difficult? For farming, are you familiar with center-pivot irrigation? Use the same principle, but with an electric cable. Large scale hauling can be done with railroads, which can easily be electrified. (They already are in much of Europe.) Ships could have sails… You might have to give up having your new laptop custom-assembled in China and delivered by air the next day, but that seems like a fairly minor sacrifice :-)

  35. 485
    Deep Climate says:

    Getting back to requests for RC, I’d like to see a “big picture” post on modelling focusing on the CMIP5 round and the effort to provide more detailed modelling in the medium term (to 2035).

    I’d also appreciate a treatment of smoothed AR4 projections in the style of Rahmstorf et al 2007 “brief” on TAR. My own admittedly simplistic attempt is here:
    http://deepclimate.org/2009/06/03/ipcc-ar4-projections-and-observations-part-1/

  36. 486
    James says:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (17 June 2009 at 5:35 AM):

    “You can’t. But some of it is already blocked, like rooftops. And some is taken up by plants, and there’s no reason some of those plants can’t be used for biofuels.”

    (Sigh) Which, as you might remember if you’d been paying attention at all, is what I’ve been saying all along. How many times have I written that putting solar on existing rooftops would be a great thing? And on the biofuels, aren’t you fer gawdsakes QUOTING me? Do you bother to read at all, or do you just cut and paste for exercise?

    “the food vs fuel issue: something else that strongly suggests that the current population can’t be supported by renewables.

    No, it doesn’t.”

    Saying doesn’t make it so – or are you auditioning to take over the post of Sir Oracle? How about some facts and/or figures?

    “It’s still using solar energy, isn’t it? You’re the one who insists solar power must rely on ecological destruction.”

    Again, you really need to start reading for comprehension, because you’ve got things pretty much backwards. It’s not that solar power MUST rely on environmental destruction, it’s that most of the current & proposed projects DO. I don’t think you’ve even tried to disprove that, you just claim that the destruction doesn’t matter.

    Then there’s the associated issue of whether the Earth can continue to support its current population (much less predicted increases) at any standard of energy consumption…

    “Yep. They can. Easily.”

    Once again, saying doesn’t make it so. How about those facts & figures? Or just explain why, if it could be done, the developers instead choose to put some of their first projects (such as the aforementioned Cape Wind, or Maple Ridge http://www.wind-watch.org/news/2009/03/26/maple-ridge-wind-farm-has-been-a-disaster/ and others that can easily found with a little searching) in sensitive places?

    “Your idea that renewables are just as destructive of the ecosystem as fossil fuels or nuclear is a fantasy…”

    Humm… I use observed evidence, however controversial or unpalatable, and have at least tried (to the best of my admittedly limited ability & free time) to calculate some numbers. You seem to rely on asserting that your wishes are fact, and claim that I’m fantasizing…

  37. 487
    RichardC says:

    458 Richard C asks, “Is the fresh water flooding into the Arctic changing the salinity significantly? Will it affect the Thermohaline? How long does it take to flush out? Will the heat it carries into the Arctic affect ice melt, will the lower salinity affect ice regrowth?”

    A recent study suggests that the increased Greenland melt could alter ocean currents in a way to slow down the melting of arctic sea ice.

    Increased warmish fresh water will certainly lead to more stratification of the ocean. Reduced ice coverage and salinity will slow the thermohaline. I’d say that within ten years the Arctic will complete its switchover to a seasonal ice pack and we’ll end up with a whole new climate system in the northern hemisphere. I wonder if models are sophisticated enough to capture reasonable predictions as to what that would mean. “Fortunately” we won’t have long to wait to see, eh?

  38. 488
    Ike Solem says:

    Jim, if I was invited to a house party and served food that had been barbecued over coal, I’d probably refuse to eat it – and so would you. If you had a really high-grade anthracite barbecue, it might be tolerable – but probably not. Politeness does not extend to poisoning oneself in order to keep the host happy.

    This is not some academic argument – billions of dollars in funding and the energy future of the entire country are at stake. Now, why am I annoyed about how this whole issue has been treated by our media, academic and government institutions? Why do I complain about conflict of interest? I don’t know – why did James Hansen complain about being muzzled by junior administrative know-nothings when he wanted to discuss climate science with reporters?

    The history of ‘coal carbon capture sequestration’ goes right back to Lawrence Livermore and the DOE and their private contractors. Here is the first “technical report” on the issue, 2003:

    A Coal-Fired Power Plant with Zero Atmospheric Emissions

    Joel Martinez-Frias, Salvador M. Aceves, J. Ray Smith
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Description/Abstract: This paper presents the thermodynamic analysis of a coal-based zero-atmospheric emissions electric power plant. The approach involves an oxygen-blown coal gasification unit. The resulting synthetic gas (syngas) is combusted with oxygen in a gas generator to produce the working fluid for the turbines. The combustion produces a gas mixture composed almost entirely of steam and carbon dioxide. These gases drive multiple turbines to produce electricity. The turbine discharge gases pass to a condenser where water is captured. A stream of carbon dioxide then results that can be used for enhanced oil recovery, or for sequestration.

    Link

    That was March 2003, pub 2004, directly after the FutureGen proposal was made public (Feb 27, 2003). LLNL has been involved since day one, and the renewal of their DOE carbon capture funding relies on public acceptance of ‘clean coal’ claims. That’s hardly the only example of poor oversight at LLNL / DOE, but the conflict of interest here is pretty clear.

    Of course, the same argument applies to climate scientists and climate models – but here, we have extensive public scrutiny, including scrutiny by scientists hired by fossil fuel interests for no other purpose – pretty exhaustive scrutiny, as I’m sure the realclimate writers would agree. You also have the fact that accurate weather and climate data is of key importance to agricultural and shipping interests (and others), so data collection tends to be supported – although even that is under attack by people who think no news is good news.

    Notice also that similar problems are becoming pervasive across the entire spectrum of federal government-based science and engineering programs – and the root cause is the uncontrolled rise of public-private partnerships based on exclusive licensing of taxpayer-generated patents – which means, essentially, that anyone who gets a DOE partnership deal is getting a large public R&D subsidy – again, all based on exclusive control of any patents. Not only that, this system prevents the public from examining claims made by these public-private partnerships – which, unlike public institutions, are not subject to FOIA requests. For example, when you hear that NASA and Hewlett-Packard are involved in a $5 billion contracting deal, yet NASA can’t get weather and climate satellites launched (not even the $100 million Triana), you really have to wonder what exactly is going on. And yes, the public does have a right to know how these interior government-academic-industrial deals work in practice.

    If you read the fine print, it is pretty clear what is going on with DOE and FutureGen:

    http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/futuregen/

    The Alliance, with support from DOE, will pursue options to raise additional non-federal funds needed to build and operate the facility, including options for capturing the value of the facility that will remain after conclusion of the research project, potentially through an auction of the residual interests in the late fall.

    So, they’re going to build a big syngas converter as the first stage – that converts coal to a hydrogen-rich mixture of gases via the use of steam. This is also the first stage in a coal-to-gasoline plant, which also, surprise, costs about $1 billion. So, once the “research project” is over, the only likely use will be as a coal-to-gasoline plant, just like the one being built in Virgina.

    So, yes, it is pretty ridiculous – but I’ll try and switch my emotional state from furious irritation to amused incredulity – probably a more effective approach. ;)

    But really, the Emperor has no clothes.

  39. 489
    Ike Solem says:

    Getting back to approved climate science topics, any guesses as to why predictions of La Nina have flipped to a 50% chance of El Nino?

    La Nina is here — get ready for another dry year
    Published: Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009

    This year’s La Niña looks stronger and longer-lasting, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

    and also:

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/enso_disc_jan2008/ensodisc.html

    For the more recent links:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

    What’s up with that? Must be the PDO in action… or something. Oh well, don’t worry, Don Easterbrook has assured us that we are “locked into a cooling phase of the PDO” so there’s nothing to worry about.

    In April 2008, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that while the La Niña was weakening, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation—a larger-scale, slower-cycling ocean pattern—had shifted to its cool phase.

    Not very pretty at all.

  40. 490
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Douglas Wise
    17 June 2009 at 8:1 AM

    I think that the only carbon free sustainable energy source that might end up cheaper than coal could be 4th generation nuclear.

    When do you think the mass rollout of gen 4 reactors can start? Is a proven design ready for that? How much will it cost? Will they be cheaper or more expensive than current gen III reactors?

  41. 491
    bobberger says:

    According to the roadmap…

    http://www.gen-4.org/PDFs/GenIVRoadmap.pdf

    … G4 technology will be ready in 2030 with G III+ as an intermediate step starting from 2012. As almost everything concerning large scale energy, the “sooner or later” will depend mostly on political decisions.

  42. 492
    SecularAnimist says:

    bobberger wrote: “… G4 technology will be ready in 2030 …”

    If so, that rules it out as an option for reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation in the time frame those reductions must be made in order to avoid the worst outcomes of anthropogenic global warming. Not to mention that by 2030, we can (if we wish) be producing so much electricity from renewables that no one will bother to build any “G4″ nuclear power plants because they won’t be needed nor will they be competitive with renewables.

    The “third generation” nuclear power plants now being built — like the French AREVA power plants being built in Finland and France — are mired in the same delays, cost overruns and safety problems that have always afflicted nuclear power.

  43. 493
    Douglas Wise says:

    re 490: Anne van der Bom

    You ask highly relevant questions about 4th generation nuclear. You will appreciate that my reading has led me to be very inclined to support bobberger’s take on the subject of our future energy requirements and the manner in which they might be obtained.

    However, I don’t claim any expertise on the subject and most of the information I have gleaned on Generation IV reactors has been from BraveNewClimate where there have been several interesting discussions, including both supporters and opponents of the technology. If you want serious information, you would get a good and quick start by looking at the site and the detailed links given therein.

    Most of the correspondents there are backing the S-prism design of IFR though some prefer LFTRs, but these are further from commercial development. It would appear that a commercial IFR prototype could probably be up and running within 5 years because a “proven design” is already extant. If it proved itself economically, mass rollout could follow within 10 to 15 years (a modular design and factory built reactor vessels). There are excellent technological reasons to believe that they should produce electricity significantly more cheaply than existing gen 111 reactors and, more importantly, more cheaply than from newly constructed coal plants.. However, given that costs for nuclear are very sensitive to discount rates with high up front costs (as with wind), construction delays by protesters and regulators can totally alter the result.

    It may well that my enthusiasm is based on my naivity. I would be very interested to hear what your take on the subject is after you have looked further into the subject. However, until we have a commercial prototype to evaluate, nobody can really be certain. It seems to me that, at the very least, we need one as soon as possible.

  44. 494
    Phil Scadden says:

    Mark, I did the figures for NZ. It took me weeks and I knew where to find the figures. Accessible trade figures are mostly in $$ so a right pain to turn into energy values. This is a job for someone in Sweden or US to do for their country.

    However, with only about 20% of US energy use going into residential, you cant tell me that you get sweden-like figures by just better housing, personal conservation etc. The figure that stands out is energy use on transportation. More efficient transportation seems the high priority for US.

    The question as to how much each energy each imports/exports in good though takes more analysis than I have time to do.

  45. 495
    Anne van der Bom says:

    bobberger
    17 June 2009 at 2:1 PM

    The document you provided only outlines a roadmap with an indicative time schedule. Based on that document there is no way you can declare: “G4 technology will be ready in 2030″. Even the scientists themselves will not take such a strong position.

    Your document is from 2002. The 2007 annual report is very vague. I can not extract any serious achievements from it, but I think you are more knowledgeable on the subject than me. Are they still on schedule? Is 2030 still the target?

    Mind you, even if they make it, that is only the START of rollout. Taking the long planning and building time of nuclear reactors into account, before these gen IV reactors are ready to deliver their electricity it is easily 2050. Don’t you agree that that is far too late?

    What is the backup plan in case unexpected issues arise and the schedule starts slipping?

  46. 496
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Douglas Wise, You know that I am not particularly anti-nuke. However, ultimately sustainability demands that we be able to get by on what comes our way from the Sun. Nuclear power can only serve as a stopgap measure–at best–and that presumes that we can resolve the waste, proliferation and fuel supply issues. It also presumes we come up with a way to make the plants idiot proof, since idiots, arguably, have been the main cause of serious nuclear accidents.
    There is another reason why I’ve become a little less enthusiastic about nuclear power, though. It necessitates a second change of infrastructure in a few decades to a century down the road. Given the difficulty we are having with this one, I have my doubts about whether we’ll be able to make yet another such transition in the face of opposition from yet another group of entrenched interests. In many ways, I think it would be better to force through a renewable future as quickly as possible, relying as much as possible on conservation in the interim, perhaps with minor contributions by nuclear power and, possibly coal with CCS.

    The Oracle of ReCAPTCHA says: nonesuch Spencer. I have nothing to add.

  47. 497
    Phil Scadden says:

    On topic. Just had a talk from paleoclimate modeller using the NCAR CCSM. He talked a little about the problem of validation when someone changes the physics model, problems with different compilers and architectures. Now this is intriguing stuff (and somewhat relevant to problem I do at work which also have validation issues with initial value, non linear PDEs). Someone at RC want to discuss the processes?

  48. 498
    Michael Stefan says:

    Ike Solem
    17 June 2009 at 1:00 PM

    What’s up with that? Must be the PDO in action… or something. Oh well, don’t worry, Don Easterbrook has assured us that we are “locked into a cooling phase of the PDO” so there’s nothing to worry about.

    The latest SST anomaly charts look a lot like the positive PDO phase; e.g. http://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/sst/oper/global_anomaly_oper0.png, so I guess they were wrong about a long-term PDO phase shift.

    Also, I for one have never considered the PDO to have any significant influence on global temperatures (same for the AMO, though these need to be considered for regional climate variations); I recall seeing a reply from a RC contributor regarding the effect, a tenth of a degree C or less. In addition, some research shows that the PDO is entirely dependent on ENSO, so with La Nina ending and a likely El Nino, it isn’t surprising that it has shifted back:

    ENSO-Forced Variability of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation

    The article (from 2003, but same can apply now) ends with:

    For example, the recent long-term positive phase of the PDO may have simply resulted from the 1977–98 period being dominated by warm events in the Tropics, and the recent apparent “change” in phase of the PDO is an expected outcome of the cool tropical SST in the east Pacific of the last few years. Thus, with tropical SSTs having returned to warm conditions in 2002, the PDO has likewise become positive again. In the absence of a La Niña this year, the PDO may be expected to remain positive in 2004.

    And if the PDO is strongly correlated to ENSO, and ENSO is the dominant mode of short term variability, then it stands that the PDO will have some correlation with temperatures – but not necessarily being the cause. Also, consider 2008 and 2009 thus far, 2009 has been much warmer while the PDO was much more negative until recently; the AMO has also been negative every month so far.

  49. 499
    Patrick 027 says:

    463(free market as a rationing system)
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/jp#comment-127132

    Re James, Alistair, others…

    We will have to make sacrifices. We have always had to make sacrifices. But what do we get out of it? We will give something up but we will get something back – it makes sense if what we get back is better – and that is the whole point. Do we give A up (and get C in return) or do we give B up (and get D in return)? Consider how a free market would respond if the public costs of emissions were not public.

    James – Yes, we will lose some area that could be used for another purpose including wilderness/wildlife refuges, food production, etc. But what do we get back? What if the use of renewable energy prevents enough climate change to save some greater amoung of habitat, some greater amount of cropland – or in particular to save the quality of a much larger area?

    ——————————-
    466 (area requirements):
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/jp#comment-127140

    will get back to that…

    ——————————-
    468 (solar spending scenario):
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/jp#comment-127145

    I adjusted the solar investing scenario to include a 2 year energy payback for solar devices.

    In this scenario, I keep the power supplied to purposes other than producing solar power devices at a constant 1 TW of power ; the energy used to produce solar power devices in in addition to that 1 TW.

    Initially, the non-solar power supply rises, but it goes back below the initial value (1 TW) in just 3 years. Thus, year 3 is the first year to realize a reduction in non-solar power consumption.

    Total spending on energy (including solar) peaks at $1.0906 trillion, 9.06 % above the initial non-solar spending (before this plan starts), in year 8. It first falls below the initial value in year 24, at which point, solar energy supplies 0.36 TW. The average spending from year zero falls below $1 trillion in year 37, when solar energy supplies 0.74 TW.

    The last year in which there is some non-solar energy usage is year 45; in that year, total spending is $0.567 trillion, of which, $0.067 trillion is on non-solar energy. After that, a constant average solar power supply of about 1.020408163265306122… TW can be maintained by producing new devices at a rate of 0.01020408163265306122… TW per year; which uses the 0.020408163265306122… TW, leaving a net 1 TW power supply.

    (I actually used a numerical integration with a time step of 1 year, and to be conservative, additions to solar energy one year were from spending in the previous year and already degraded by 1 %, but figured out the rate of solar device production for maintaining a constant power supply analytically.)

    What happens if all spending above $1 trillion is paid with debt (deficit spending), with an annually-compounded interest of 5 % adjusted for inflation (would be just over 7 % in nominal terms with 2 % inflation): The first year without burrowing is year 24; at this point, the difference between $1 trillion per year and actual energy spending each year is used to pay off the debt. Because of interest, the debt continues to rise until it peaks in year 35 at $4.27 trillion. It drops to $3.04 trillion in year 45, when a payment of $0.433 trillion is made to pay down the debt. Keeping the same annual payments after that point (paymets could rise as solar energy spending drops to maintenance levels), the debt goes to zero in year 54. If payments continue beyond that point, earning the same interest, there would be an accumulation of $73.7 trillion in the account in the year 100.

    Now, what happens if the amount paid with debt or to pay down the debt is the difference between total energy spending and the $1 trillion plus a carbon tax of $50 per ton C – using a ratio of about 1.41 gigatons C per 1 TW of non-solar power (derived from the actual U.S. energy emissions in 2006, using a 1.139 TW electrical equivalent for all primary energy). In that case, the debt actuall starts out negative and remains until year 4. It peaks in year 19 at just $0.328 trillion, and goes to zero in year 27. IF payments continue to made and earn interest, the account would reach $6.74 trillion in year 45. The total emissions in that time are just over 2/3 of the business as usual scenario with constant 1 TW electrical equivalent, and emissions are zero after year 45.

    What happens if solar power device manufacturing continues at constant year 45 rates after year 45 instead of going down to power-supply maintenance levels? In that case, spending half of what is now spent on energy, the power supply increases to 1.58 TW in year 60, goes over 2 TW in year 74, and passes 3 TW in year 115. The accumulated additional reductions in emissions if that displaces more emitting energy sources elsewhere of the same mix as in the U.S. would balance out all emissions from the U.S. since year 0 by year 89.

    Caveats:

    0. Over time, depending on how much device degradation is total loss of solar collector area (which would be recycled if it is by breakage – although in some cases, pieces can still be used, but with some reduced efficiency) or through gradual efficiency decay of functioning devices, it may make economic sense to retire some devices past some age, because of a need to produce enough energy from a given area, and/or because of area-proportional costs. There could actually be a sequence of life stages as lower-efficiency devices might be useful in other settings. But some ultimate retirement age would increase the necessary power-supply-maintenance spending – but by a modest fraction. This effect probably wouldn’t be significant until sometime after all power is solar power in the scenario above.

    1. This doesn’t include balance of system costs and losses (besides transmission and distribution losses, which affect all electric power). However, it also assumes constant $10 per new average W.

    2. Obviously there is not a need to replace all hydroelectric power (some might need to be replaced, depending on climate changes, etc.) with solar power, and there can be contributions from different solar technologies, biofuels, geothermal, wind, waves, currents, etc. But these could all be lumped into something analogous to the above plan, except that spending on biofuels in particular would tend to involve less long-term investing.

    3. Electrical equivalent energy cannot actually replace all thermal energy. Devices cannot generally be expected to be nearly isentropic (perfect heat engines and heat pumps), so the same thermal energy at a high temperature cannot be expected to be produced by a heat pump using the electrical equivalent.

    However:

    In some residential and perhaps commercial applications, the same thermal energy could be supplied with significantly less than it’s electrical equivalent as defined for power plants, because the temperatures desired are moderate.

    Some moderate to low temperature thermal energy can also be supplied as waste heat from electrical power production.

    Passive solar design will reduce both lighting, heating energy needs.

    Waste heat at low temperature can be fed into a stream that is heated to higher temperatures by additional energy from other sources.

    Other types of solar energy and other energy resources can be involved in an analogous plan. Some types of solar energy might produce high temperature heat for direct use in industries. This might tend to have a higher efficiency of conversion from incident solar radiation than solar electricity generation.

    __________

  50. 500
    Mark says:

    Phil, 494, so can you at least agree that your original statement had nothing to back it, except hope?

    If you’re having so many problems with NZ (which wasn’t the one mentioned anyway) and cannot see a way forward with Sweden, you couldn’t have had anything other than a desire for power and quality of life to be correlated positively.


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