RealClimate logo


Technical Note: Sorry for the recent unanticipated down-time, we had to perform some necessary updates. Please let us know if you have any problems.

The new post-partisan world

Filed under: — group @ 21 November 2010

From Russell Seitz:

(with apologies to Jen Sorensen at Slowpoke comics).


243 Responses to “The new post-partisan world”

  1. 51

    45 Secular Animist

    You make a fair point. And I am accordingly stating that any new technology that scales to make a reasonable impact on the problem is fine. Maybe it will take some of the pressure off my (so to speak) forest project.

    But now let’s talk about how things are in the present day industrial system. Coal defines the price of electricity in both USA and China to name a couple places. Anything that can beat this price will be used. But it is the planning price for any business thinking about how to operate in the future, which is the key to a functional economy. And coal sets the cost of energy for now and the far distant future. Reliable alternatives do not exist at a scale that makes them even a factor in planning.

    I argue that it is unwise to break this system until something better is in place. I only look to the new forest concept to carry over until new stuff is in reach.

    By the way, the water part of the project is potentially key to the algae projects that would create fuel, not that this would sequester CO2, but it could function as a CO2 give and take system. I have yet to determine if this can happen on the needed scale, though genetically engineered algae seems quite powerful.

  2. 52

    49 BPL

    While, as you say, ‘people have incentive to develop that -’, when the lights go out, computers go black, and the jobs are gone, they will be too busy trying to grow parsnips in their back yards to get any development projects going.

  3. 53
    flxible says:

    The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.
    Comment by Harold Pierce Jr

    And where were you at the time? Not dining on fresh seafood certainly.

  4. 54

    46 Anonanon,

    What might those capital intensive economies with low emissions be?

    A few countries like Norway with enormous hydro? Sure.

    France of course has opted for nuclear in a big way. There seem to be some differences of opinion about how they handle waste, but if that is worked out, fine.

    In the USA, I think it would be easier to get Western states to host standing forests than Yucca Mountains.

  5. 55

    50 Harold Pierce,

    Folks here play games with words, and distinguish between ‘becoming acidic’ which of course the ocean will not, and ‘becoming more acidic’ which only means a shift in the direction of acid, and ‘acidification’ which also only means a shift.

    Thus, it is the practice to trick the gullible into thinking their eyes will be blinded if they go in the ocean. Or that schools will not have chalk to write on blackboards because the ocean will eat it all up. (Yah, I know, this dates me.)

    I have been puzzled about why calcite shelled creatures which would grow more rapidly in warm water will not also capture and sequester CO2. You perhaps, can explain this?

    [Response: It's the other way around, production of calcite drives the outgassing of CO2 (look up 'carbonate pump'). - gavin]

  6. 56
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Bullis wrote: “Coal defines the price of electricity in both USA and China to name a couple places. Anything that can beat this price will be used.”

    Coal “defines the price of electricity” only because the price of coal does not reflect its full cost, which is “externalized” (i.e. foisted off on the public). Hence the need for a mechanism such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade to internalize the full costs of burning coal into its price.

    Jim Bullis wrote: “Reliable alternatives do not exist at a scale that makes them even a factor in planning.”

    According to WorldWatch Institute, for the last two years in a row, “in both the United States and Europe, more renewable power capacity was added than conventional power capacity (coal, gas, nuclear). Renewables accounted for 60 percent of newly installed power capacity in Europe in 2009, and nearly 20 percent of annual power production … Wind power additions reached a record high of 38 GW … Solar PV additions reached a record high of 7 GW …”

    Meanwhile the USA has approved construction of multiple utility-scale concentrating solar thermal power plants on public lands, including what will be the world’s largest such power plant to date, and including plants with thermal storage that will provide 24×7 baseload power. Major offshore wind energy projects have also been approved. Google announced a huge investment in a project to build an offshore power transmission grid specifically to accommodate the expected rapid growth of offshore wind in the mid-Atlantic region.

    Meanwhile utilities are indeed planning for the smart-grid upgrades needed to accommodate an expected dramatic increase in small-to-large-scale, distributed, intermittent renewable energy sources, grid storage, increased use of electric vehicles, etc. and are working with major technology corporations like Intel and GE to implement the necessary technology.

    The fact is that contrary to your assertion, reliable alternatives DO exist, they are already being scaled up rapidly, and they can be scaled up even more rapidly given the policies to do so.

  7. 57

    55 Thanks gavin,

    However, the production of calcite, whatever it does, also ends with calcite which is substantially composed of CO2 and it is a hard stuff that lies around a long time. So we have to conclude that not all the CO2 is outgassed.

    True, if you soak calcite in ascetic acid it might dissolve and release the CO2. And I can understand that we should head things off before carbonic acid gets strong enough to do this. (Hence the woods, funny cars, bizarre cogeneration, trucks etc.- – big stuff.)

  8. 58

    56 Secular Animist

    You point out reasonable possibilities, but as I weigh them and have weighed them I conclude differently about the potential.

    One thing though, the things said and the things really done that amount to anything, often differ.

    And with all due respect for Google, the last thing to impress me is what Google does in the field of energy. They have enough money to turn the moon into green cheese, so when they make a “huge investment”, it does not count for much. Under any calculation, their plug-in Prius project accomplished little, and under mine it accomplished much less than a little. These are people who have great mastery of information and marketing, but are TinkerBells when it comes to energy.

    Ask Google the physics test question: How much heat energy in kWhrs does it take to make a kWhr of electricity?

  9. 59
    Ken Fabos says:

    Harold Pierce Jr – how strange that seawater when CO2 rich air is bubbled through it exhibits a reduction in pH! An experiment I’ve seen done.
    I’m not a chemist so perhaps others could check but I understand this reaction occurs

    CO2 + H2O to H2CO3 to H(+) + HCO3(-) to 2H+ + CO3(2-)

    which results in Carbonate ions and lowered pH but another more common reaction also occurs

    CO2 + H2O + CO3(2-) to 2HCO3
    which does not change pH but consumes carbonate ions. Net result, less carbonate ions and lower pH.
    -

  10. 60
    Chris says:

    55 Jim Bullis wrote:

    Folks here play games with words, and distinguish between ‘becoming acidic’ which of course the ocean will not, and ‘becoming more acidic’ which only means a shift in the direction of acid, and ‘acidification’ which also only means a shift.

    Thus, it is the practice to trick the gullible into thinking their eyes will be blinded if they go in the ocean. Or that schools will not have chalk to write on blackboards because the ocean will eat it all up. (Yah, I know, this dates me.)

    Jim, it’s just the way the language is. “Becoming acidic” and “becoming more acidic” have different meanings. The first ties a change in pH to an absolute value, whereas the second simply describes the direction of change. It’s the same as saying it “got cold” and it “got colder”. These phrases have different meanings. To communicate the same information in another way requires complicating the language, e.g., saying it “got less warm” instead of it “got colder”—both are correct, but only one is sensible. I used to live in NC and might well have said that it “got colder” in the winter when the highs were only in the 50’s F. However, that’s a lot warmer than 20’s F that my family got in MI, but both are colder than the 80’s F I’m getting in Hawaii. Was I tricking the gullible when I said that it had gotten colder in NC? Did people think that, because I said it got colder, they would freeze solid if they went outside? Of course not.

    There is nothing wrong with the phrase, and only nuts would think those things. Likewise, ocean acidification is a good and correct description of the process, the ocean *is* becoming more acidic, and, of the hundreds of people I’ve personally talked to about it (I’m a Ph.D. candidate, and study OA effects), no one has ever had the misconception that because of ocean acidification “their eyes will be blinded if they go in the ocean.”

    I have been puzzled about why calcite shelled creatures which would grow more rapidly in warm water will not also capture and sequester CO2. You perhaps, can explain this?

    First, why do you think calcitic organisms would grow more rapidly in warmer water (or aragonitic ones either, for that matter)? Growth rates for any organism depend on many factors, and temperature is certainly an important one for most marine organisms. Organisms that are below their thermal optima in nature will likely respond positively to some warming, while those are at or above their thermal optima will respond negatively. Many tropical and polar species (especially Antarctic species) are close to their upper thermal limits, so even a little bit of warming is usually harmful for them. Temperate species are generally a little more flexible in this regard. This is only considering temperature though, and a lot more is changing in the ocean that just temperature (carbonate chemistry, primary production, stratification, nutrient availability, species composition, food quality/characteristics, etc.). To reiterate though, there’s no reason to think that calcifying organisms in general will grow faster in a warmer ocean, and in fact, corals and other reef organisms which are major sources of carbonate production tend to grow much more slowly in water only a bit warmer than normal.

    Second, carbonate mineral precipitation doesn’t capture CO2, it releases it (as mentioned). The precipitation of carbonate minerals removes inorganic carbon from solution, but also reduces the alkalinity by two equivalents. This shifts the overall DIC speciation toward CO2, thereby increasing the CO2 concentration in the water, and ultimately in the atmosphere. Carbonate mineral precipitation in the ocean does not reduce atmospheric CO2, it increases it. The process that removes atmospheric CO2 is chemical weathering, principally of silicate minerals, wherein CO2 (as carbonic acid) reacts to dissolve the minerals, releasing HCO3-, and cations (Ca++, Mg++, K+, etc.). These eventually make their way into the ocean and precipitate as carbonate minerals, with the process of precipitation sequestering only half to the amount of C that was removed by the chemical weathering.

    Increased rates of calcification in the ocean will increase atmospheric CO2 (though the effect isn’t large on short timescales) while increased rates of chemical weathering reduce atmospheric CO2. Adding CO2 to the environment reduce carbonate mineral accumulation rates in the ocean (and by a lot with a big slug of CO2) but increase chemical weather rates. Unfortunately, chemical weathering is just really darn slow.

    Chris

  11. 61
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jim, please, get a blog, or use the one you have; putting everything in every active topic at RC like this makes you look like you’re disorganized.

    Have you read this?
    http://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/stabilization-wedges/

  12. 62

    I have a theory for global warming that I think has been missed.

    The Thermodynamic Theory of Political Promotion

    We all know that the balloons full of hot air rise and the same is true of politicians. The more hot air they have the more successful they become. Once the hot air runs out, they begin a long, and hopefully gentle, slide back down before they finally they get their head out of the clouds and can feel solid ground beneath their feet.

    While they are up in the clouds, floating in the realm of the recently irrelevant, their grasp on reality lessens until they are free to speak without any reference to what members of the public would think of as ‘real life’. This realm is known as the crapposphere and it only has a limited capacity to absorb new politicians, ejecting the less active ones to maintain equilibrium. It has been shown that up in the crapposphere there is a clear negative correlation between amount of hot air released and practicality of ideas suggested.

    One of the more worrying aspects of this theory is that the increasing release of hot air by politicians in the last 10 years may be contributing significantly to global warming. Some brave politicians have suggested that such releases of hot air into the crapposphere are counterproductive, citing recent studies that suggest that despite its small size, the impact of the crapposphere on the climate is extremely significant, but these people have been shot down very quickly. If you want to remain a politician you should probably ignore this issue and hope that it will go away; you may even want to spout some ill-informed hot air yourself to ensure that your place in parliament is not endangered.

  13. 63
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Jim Bullis 51,57,58

    Further to Secular Animist’s point,

    Jim Bullis: Anything that can beat this price will be used. But it is the planning price for any business thinking about how to operate in the future, which is the key to a functional economy. And coal sets the cost of energy for now and the far distant future.

    Apparently it is not where the growth is now in at least parts of the world; how long until it is not growing anywhere, and then shrinking…

    I argue that it is unwise to break this system until something better is in place. I only look to the new forest concept to carry over until new stuff is in reach.

    But isn’t it unwisw to break the system by changing non-forest into forest until something better is in place? And what sets the price on land use? When will it become more profitable to grow these forests to sequester C than it is to do something else with the land and water?

    (price signals not only encourage consumer choices among alternatives, they encourage investor choices as well, including R&D and D and D)

    ——–

    I think others have pointed out before that the ocean need not turn acidic to result in decreased formation of solid CaCO3 or increased disolution of that, though it won’t appear as dramatic in small-scale lab tests I suppose.

    inorganic C exists in the ocean as HCO3- , CO3– and CaCO3(s) (does it also exist as CO2(aq) and H2CO3(aq)? Well it should at least exist as the later, but I’m not sure about the significance). Adding or removing one form, other conditions kept constant, drive reactions that add or remove other forms to counteract the change to some extent.

    CO2(aq) + CO3–(aq) + water = 2HCO3-

    Ca++ + CO3– = CaCO3

    Ultimately what allows sustained removal of C from the atmosphere, land surface, and ocean (tending to, in the very long term, balance geologic emission, except for the organic geologic emission and sequestration)is the Ca++ (and Mg, etc…. depending on conditions) supply from silicate rocks; supplying CaCO3(s) to the ocean in dissolved form allows greater storage of CO2 in the ocean for the same total atmosphere+ocean inorganic C and removing it will likewise tend to transfer CO2 from the ocean to the atmosphere, although CO2 can be trapped beneath the upper ocean out of equilibrium with the atmosphere until mixing or upwelling to the surface; supplying CO2 (such as by oxidation of sinking biomass) to water with a longer waiting period or increasing the supply can thus, without changes in circulation and climate, store more CO2 at depth without needing to dissolve CaCO3 (although it could result in dissolving more CaCO3 from the sea floor, which would reduce how much CO2 is released to the air upon surfacing). I think ions which don’t form solid carbonate minerals at current conditions (maybe K+, Mg?++, etc.) can still affect the pH and thus affect chemical equilibria…

  14. 64
    Russell Seitz says:

    I wish the aesthetes at Miastrada would lay off the ascetic acid long enough to look up ‘calcite compensation point’.

    Those who obsess about the differential toxicity of carbonic acid anhydride, AKA CO2, should note that above ~50% it’s lethal to inhale even with the addition of more oxygen than air contains.

    That my Republican brethren at Cato style the stuff “The Gas of Life”, while EPA habitues grow intoxicated at the thought of regulating even PPM amounts suggests inhaling even think tank concentrations may induce polemica praecox.

  15. 65
  16. 66

    60 Chris,

    Thanks for taking the trouble to provide information.

    I see that you agree that as calcite shelled organisms form, the process of CO2 capture is happening. It is the rate of growth that is the issue, or the rate of deterioration.

    I also understand the sensitivity of particular types of organisms, particularly coral to a particular temperature. So as the right temperature for coral moves northerly, we might get additional coral growth in more northerly areas. And of course, coral can come and go for all kinds of reasons.

    I know from experience that barnacles, and maybe clams tend to grow much faster in warmer waters. However, I am not inclined to rely on this since the coastal waters where this happens are not all that large. But this does seem like a CO2 capture mechanism.

    The remaining question if whether the existing coral growth rate is a significant factor in CO2 capture and if it is slowed by lowered alkalinity of the ocean, will that matter very much. What do you think?

    We all can agree that coral has great value in its own right.

  17. 67
    matt says:

    As described in the cartoon, rather boring facts were met with emotionally rich battle cries and trash talk. The increased speed of the media has amplified our tribal instincts. The media is now consumed with tribal grooming, the only questions answered are “who is on my side” and “who is on my territory”.

    News has moved from a mosaic of different views, to a more authoritative narrative approach. When one tunes into Fox, they’re not seeing a kaleidoscope of our country, but a narrowly scoped long format story with narrative tropes in full flex. In fact, it isn’t news, but succession of story tellers and orators. The mere format alone, implies fabrication and creativity…the most dangerous kind of information to inject into a democracy. Fox news, in effect, handcuffs the individual from ever making the right decision.

  18. 68

    63 Patrick 027

    You put things very well, but we would have to look more closely to know if the use of coal is increasing or decreasing.

    In spite of wishfull thinking to the contrary, China is rapidly expanding its base of coal fired power plants. In our country, the expansion has slowed significantly, but I think it is more about the state of the economy than the more economic choice for providing power.

    The renewables promoters sieze on every word from China about how they are engaging in development of renewables, but this pales in comparison to their coal based power system development. I think we may be misled by the fact that China is happy to build renewable stuff to sell to us.

  19. 69

    64 Russel Seitz,

    Is there anything wrong with the well stated information from Chris #60?

    I hope I did not get in the way of anything more important.

  20. 70
    Chris says:

    Harold Pierce Jr. wrote: “ “Consider ocean acidification and tell me that CO2 is not pollution” This is absolute nonsense!

    The ocean can never become acidic (i.e., pH H2CO3
    Carbonic acid reacts with solid CaCO3 and MgCO3 to form bicarbonate salts:
    H2CO3+ CaCO3 —–> Ca2(HCO3)
    H2CO3+ MgCO3 —–> Mg2(HCO3)”

    Harold, no one said that the ocean was going to “become acidic” precisely because it won’t. In fact, I can’t count the number of times I’ve explicitly pointed out myself, and heard others point out, that the ocean will never become “acidic”, e.g., pH < 7 while explaining what ocean acidification means. Ocean acidification is the process of adding an acid (carbonic acid, in this case) to the ocean, resulting in reduced pH. “Acidification” refers to the process, not the endpoint.

    Yes, carbonic acid reacts with and dissolves carbonate minerals (and silaceous minerals, and lots of other minerals), but what’s your point? I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that the extra CO2 will simply react with minerals in the ocean and be buffered on short timescales. If that were true then atmospheric CO2 would be a fixed value—it would be impossible for it to ever change significantly. Considering the range in atmospheric CO2 over Earth’s history, it should be clear how glaringly wrong this idea is ;-)

    “A freshly-prepared solution of NaHCO3 has pH of 8.3 at 20 deg C.”

    …so??? I’m not sure why you mention this, because it’s completely irrelevant. And even so, the chemistry is not quite that simple—the resultant pH depends on the amount of NaHCO3 you dissolve in the solution (and hence on the alkalinity, DIC, and ionic strength, and would depend on species specific ion-pairing in sea water).

    “I have seen articles on some blogs that show pH mesurements of sea water to +/- 0.001 units. This is nuts. It is difficukt to measure pH to +/- 0.01 units with good accuracy in the lab where there is constant temperature and pressure.”

    With run-of-the-mill equipment and techniques it’s not possible to measure pH to within an accuracy of better than +/-0.01, or to within a precision of better than +/-0.005. However, those of us doing serious oceanographic work can do much better than that. With good equipment and protocols you can easily get an accuracy and precision of at least +/-0.005 (I can get that easily using spectrophotometric methods with m-cresol purple), and real chemical oceanography labs can reliably get accuracies and precisions better than +/-0.0004.

    There are much better (and standard) methods available for oceanographic work than you seem to be aware of.

    “The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.”

    Yes, and that atmospheric CO2 reacted with silaceous minerals, providing HCO3-, Ca++, Mg++, etc. to the ocean. All of the Ca++ and Mg++ ultimately precipitate out, but only a portion of the CO2 consumed by weathering gets sequestered that way. The rest of the CO2 gets sequestered as organic material…some of which we are digging up and very rapidly injecting into the atmosphere and ocean.

    Chris

  21. 71

    61 Hank Roberts, Dast I respond?

    Regarding you link to Johnbaez — wordpress:

    They enumerate four points and go on about a few other things;

    (1) make cars that go 60 mpg instead of 30: Prius did a great job and has had a terrible time getting started, but now their 50 mpg looks not good enough. I agreed and set out to do better, so worked out a way to get 120 mpg and still give people speed, safety, and comfort. Then I ran into the fake claims for electric vehicles which completely destroyed any chance of getting people to adapt to a real new kind of car.

    In fact, I first was attracted to realclimate.org hoping to find physicists who would help clear up the MPGE fakery that made electric cars look 2 to 3 times better than they are. None popped out. I remain boxed in by our own EPA, DOE, Argonne, and on and on; these folks all (in effect) swearing that a kWhr of electricity can be made from a kWhr of heat. Even the UK DOE adheres to this practice.

    (2) Make people drive 5000 miles a year instead of 10,000. This is urban planning garbage, and the basic numbers are wrong to begin with.

    (3) Efficient building that use 25% less energy are ok for new construction, but existing buildings are way to expensive to modify to accomplish anything like this.

    (4) Increasing efficiency of coal plants to 60% is nonsense; 44% maybe, but beyond that NOx goes out of control.

    They go on to talk about fission which is obviously the holy grail, CCS which is utter nonsense due to cost, and coal to gas which would waste the real potential of gas for reducing CO2.

    To use gas in central power plants is unconscionable, since such large amounts of heat are thrown away in this system. Natural gas should be reserved for cogeneration, where far more is gained. Something so simple as converting heat using appliances to natural gas from electricity is not cogeneration, but it would be a big step ahead. This would skip the heat loss of electric power generation, and would displace coal in favor of natural gas as well.

    And guess what? They think there is some progress to be made in forests and agriculture. I try to make this into something of significance.

  22. 72

    Thanks to our hosts for providing this forum.

  23. 73
    Russell Seitz says:

    64 Russel Seitz,

    Is there anything wrong with the well stated information from Chris #60?

    I hope I did not get in the way of anything more important.”

    Too bad the posting delay got in the way

    I can only second Roberts’s suggestion

  24. 74

    73 Seitz, also Roberts,

    And thus we demonstrate how difficult it is for science to stay relevant.

    The cheering section would seem to prefer to exclude discussions relating to understanding and applications.

  25. 75
    John E. Pearson says:

    61 Hank said Jim get a blog.

    ditto

  26. 76
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Chris – The rest of the CO2 gets sequestered as organic material…some of which we are digging up and very rapidly injecting into the atmosphere and ocean.

    I think the ratio has typically (for much of Earth’s history) been ~ 20 % of geological sequestration of C being organic, though there have been some significant deviations, particularly around the times of Paleoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic Snow(slush?)balls.

    (see beginning of p.11 here
    “How Earth’s atmosphere evolved to an oxic state: A status report”
    David C. Catling, Mark W. Claire
    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~davidc/papers_mine/Catling2005-EPSL.pdf )

    PS another point that I think could be added is that a lot of limestone could eventually form over time with only modest amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere at any one time (not to contradict that there have been times with much higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations)

  27. 77
    Didactylos says:

    Jim Bullis has found yet another topic that he doesn’t know much about, but would rather like to try?

    I can’t complain that much, since I would characterise my own knowledge as “broad” rather than “deep”. But it’s important to know where your knowledge is shallow, and do a little research before spouting off.

    For example, Jim seems unaware of combined cycle power plants.

    Then he starts claiming that significant energy efficiency changes can’t be made to existing buildings. Somehow he has managed to miss all the many studies that show insulating existing buildings is not just a good idea, but absolutely the most cost effective way of reducing emissions.

    Is there anything that Jim isn’t a completely wrong instant expert about?

    I have to agree with Hank and John. It doesn’t cost anything to get your own blog, and you can post as little or often as you like.

  28. 78
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Jim Bullis – another point, I think made before, is that people who understand thermodynamics and energy efficiency conversions very well can still have reasons to support the electrification of much or most transportation.

    1. It is an opportunity to replace a large amount of petroleum usage (and maybe some natural gas), the most expensive (and for many countries, a security risk and trade headache) of the fossil fuels, with renewable electricity sources. Of course coal can outcompete economically without a sufficient emissions tax or other policy, but the opportunity exists. And of course much of the clean energy may not be available precisely when the transportation is being charged up, but there is some flexibility in charge times, and if you throw more clean energy into the mix to replace petroleum, you’ve got a more affordable route to reducing emissions in total, which is really the point; farthermore, flexibility in hydroelectric power output and some other power plants and energy usage, and trasmission across distances over which wind and sun vary, and the correlation (not perfect, but there) between solar power availability and diurnal energy consumption and also, outside of winter/cold/dark, some seasonal match up (air conditioning, also the time when nuclear power may be reduced in the future if not now and fossil fuel plant efficiencies are smaller), and some compensation among different sources (in some places, wind tends to peak when solar goes dark), reduce the need for storage; storage won’t be necessary until such renewable sources reach some level of market penetration, so there is some time for storage technology to catch up.

    Also, electric cars can have much lower maintenance costs. I don’t know how that applies for PHEVs – will the maintence costs be lower by reducing the usage of the engine?

    The idea of using car engines for cogeneration is not bad; it is already that way in winter outside of lower latitudes, I assume (so maybe electric cars will have their greatest equilibrium market penetration in the tropics). It just seems easier to me to convert buildings’ furnaces to cogeneration, so the heat storage is not a problem (or are cars going to be running while in the garage… okay, you can redesign the garage, but you get my point? Which setup will require greater maintenance costs? Which is easier to adapt to? …)

    PS many low temperature heating needs, many of which peak in the winter and night, could be met with passive solar and solar water heating, relatively simple technology; thus solar as a whole could be more efficient in winter than summer. Also, hybrid solar panels (PV+water heating) can increase PV efficiency and make more use of the same area).

    (Getting a bit OT from this topic, but many moderate temperature industrial heating needs can be met by parabolic trough concentrators.)

    Having a significant (PH)EV market gives us options – it’s a strategic location. It’s not the same as insisting all other ideas be shut out (maybe some people would shut out other ideas, but a person can be enthusiastic about one future scenario without being antagonistic to alternatives).

  29. 79
    Patrick 027 says:

    … oh, and while thermodynamics is involved in limiting fuel power plant efficiencies to ~ 30 – 40 %, that is conditional – the need to control NOx emissions, for example, that I think you mentioned. The purely thermodynamic limit is much higher (as I’m sure you know, but it deserves mentioning). How much NOx could be avoided by burning coal in a high O2 mixture, and how much energy would have to be expended to get that O2 concentration (there’s a thermodynamic limit for that too but I don’t what it is). Recently I read of a lithium carbonate based cell that can use electricity to produce C or CO from CO2 (I think you’ll find it mentioned somewhere in November entries at ClimateProgress); I wonder if that can be run in reverse (so sequestration plants could also serve as storage)? Coal can be converted to CO and H2, right? If both can be used in fuel cells, or if the CO can be converted to C …

    A person who supports (PH)EVs can also be the same person who understands that natural gas (which can come from renewable sources, with possible emissions or lack-thereof upstream (biofuel devoted to the purpose using energy and land vs ‘cogenerated’ biofuel vs use of CH4 already being produced and wasted (landfills, etc.) better than electricity for low temperature heating (though solar preheating should generally be used too, depending a bit on location).

  30. 80

    Hank (65),

    Classic!

  31. 81
    Dappledwater says:

    J Bullis @ 66 And of course, coral can come and go for all kinds of reasons.

    Yes, like ocean acidification and warming oceans. Corals disappeared for millions of years after the end Ordivician, Permian and end Triassic extinction events. The current rate of acidification is happening so fast, it is unprecedented in the geologic record.

    Here’s some indication of where corals might be heading:

    http://www.coralcoe.org.au/news_stories/regionalbleaching.html

    “Many reefs are dead or dying across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle following a bleaching event that extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and include reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and many sites in western and eastern Indonesia.

    It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science,” says Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook Universities. “So far around 80 percent of Acropora colonies and 50 per cent of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year.”

    http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/10/caribbean-coral-die-off-could-be.html

    “Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.”

  32. 82

    HP 50: The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.

    BPL: “Prevalent.” And yes, the Earth’s atmosphere did used to have large amounts of CO2 in it. And if you stepped out of your time machine into that kind of atmosphere, you’d be dead a few minutes later.

  33. 83

    JB: Coal defines the price of electricity in both USA and China to name a couple places. Anything that can beat this price will be used.

    BPL: Which is why, if we RAISE that price with a carbon tax, it will be EASIER for other sources to beat that price. Incentive! You seem to think incentives can’t change how the economy works. Trust me, they can.

    JB: While, as you say, ‘people have incentive to develop that -’, when the lights go out, computers go black, and the jobs are gone, they will be too busy trying to grow parsnips in their back yards to get any development projects going.

    BPL: So they’ll be able to use the EXISTING technologies of wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and geothermal, won’t they?

    That “freeze in the dark jobless” rhetoric is industry propaganda, always has been, always will be. Coal is not something we need forever. It’s not even something we need. I for one want it phased out as soon as possible.

    And it’s only “cheap” if you don’t factor in the environmental damage. Google “externality.”

  34. 84

    JB 54: What might those capital intensive economies with low emissions be?

    BPL: Denmark: 20% of its electricity from wind, aiming for 50% by 2020. Portugal: 45% of its electricity from wind and other renewables. Indonesia: 18% from geothermal. Germany: solar power coming on line so fast they’re afraid it will disrupt the grid when, in a few years, it’s producing enough power to feed the entire German economy.

  35. 85
    Hot Rod says:

    Ray Ladbury #35

    It’s interesting that your comment (and don’t take this the wrong way) politicises the discussion of mitigation policy by commenting on which side has been doing the proposing. Again, that’s my point – if I then comment critically on those proposals I am made out to be not from ‘that side’ so I must be from the ‘other side’, which is the ‘same side’ that contains the deniers and creationists and those who have ‘launched witchhunts against the scientific community’ (your words), so I must be one of those too.

    ‘Acknowledging that there is a threat is actually quite important, as it discredits those advocating inaction’ – I think very counter-productive to a policy discussion. I can discuss the question ‘How would we stabilise at X ppm’ without needing to discuss the NEED to do so. The question stands on its own, like an exam question. You shouldn’t need to swear allegiance to the scale of the threat in order to discuss mitigation policy.

    If I take the view that all mitigation policies so far proposed (EU cap/trade, UK Climate Act, the same list) will have minimal effect on concentrations, am I advocating inaction, and therefore worthy of being discredited? Hmmmm. It’s kinda back to front, that. Surely one would want to discuss the policies, and you might want to persuade me that they would have an effect? But you put the discussion off-limits if there is any risk it could give any comfort to inaction, regardless of the consequences, costs, and benefits of action?

    I know an adviser to European governments on energy policy and emissions. They say to him ‘We want to achieve this.’ He says to them ‘If that’s where you want to get to you can go this way or that way, over this or that timescale, at this or that cost, with these or those side-effects’. He doesn’t comment on the likely effect of each policy on sea levels in Bangladesh, and probably doesn’t even have a view.

  36. 86
    Hot Rod says:

    Bart #38

    Thanks for comments, the first one is certainly valid. (Be upfront and honest about the reasons for your objections.) I don’t do (try not to do) the second (Don’t challenge the science as a proxy for really challenging the policies.).

    The third – “Suggest alternatives that are more effective (even if they don’t meet all your criteria of desirability).”

    As per my answer earlier to Ray Ladbury, who made the same suggestion, I haven’t found any policies that are effective – I take your point re MY desirability, but I do need a policy to be at least maybe capable of implementation. It seems self-evident to me that China and India will consume more energy, like it or not, so the question is ‘how can that be provided while stabilising CO2 concentrations’. So I move away from desirability towards plausibility, less value-overload.

    If you want to choose another set of plausible givens, please do, I don’t find it makes much difference to the CO2 math! ‘Plausible’ is better than ‘desirable’ I think.

  37. 87
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Jim Bullis @ 71:

    How’s that new-fangled car of yours coming along? Built any prototypes that run under their own power and prove the feasibility of your concept?

    Didn’t think so.

    In contrast, the renewable energy industry is out here busily building and installing more power than I can shake a stick at. People I used to be able to talk to about business are busy running around like headless chickens.

  38. 88
    Anonymous Coward says:

    about low-emission countries:
    In Europe, several countries have lower emissions than all the countries mentionned so far. A good example is Sweden which is a wealthy country with very high life expectancy. Unlike France and Portugal, Germany and Denmark have high emissions, something which solar generation will not change.
    In Asia, many countries have lower emissions than Indonesia. The Phillipines for instance has a higher HDI and life expectancy while having very low emissions. It also has much lower emissions per unit of GDP (a poor metric, I know), lower than Germany even.
    Brazil has per capita emissions similar to Indonesia’s and the standard of living is a good bit higher there. Cuba has a particularly high life expectancy in comparison to its per capita emissions. A number of Latin American countries also beat Germany by the GDP per emissions metric.
    You are both excessively focused on your pet technologies. The countries which have the lowest emissions are not relying mostly on renewables, nuclear or hydro for electricity generation. They use a combination of technologies. And electricity generation is not the main cause of emissions in any case.

  39. 89
    Hot Rod says:

    BPL #84:

    Europe in 2009, electricity consumption.

    Hydro 11.6%, wind 4.2%, biomass 3.5% and solar 0.4%. (source http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/i/3198/)

    Hydro is long-standing, so is biomass (risen by 1.8GW in last 5 years). Wind and solar are together 4.6%.

    Solar has had a bumper installation year in 2010 (the grabbing of reducing German Fits) but isn’t a needle-mover.

    Which leaves wind to move the needle going forward.

    The evidence at the moment suggests that unless there is another big subsidy injection, probably in Fit form, it’s going to be very difficult to meet the EU 2020 renewable targets. As the link above states: ‘Continued growth of the renewables sector will require some issues – including access to the grid and public subsidies – to be resolved across the region.’

    Anonymous Coward #88:

    Sweden is heavily hydro and nuclear, and so is one of the two most significantly decarbonised countries in Europe, the other being France (nuclear). The Nordics operate an electricity pool, so looking at them together would be a better picture.

    In Europe at least it is absolutely the case that the countries with the lowest emissions rely on hydro and nuclear, as with similar economies and GDP and a single tax-free market the main variable is electricity generation.

  40. 90
    Hot Rod says:

    I dont know where the ‘tax-free’ in my last sentence came from – mistake.

  41. 91

    hot rod,

    I find it usually helpful to distinghuish the question of desirability and plausibility/realism. They *are* different questions, and the latter could serve as bears on the road obscuring the view.

    Dutch speakers may know of “Loesje”. Her granddad once said to her: “if people say ‘impossible’, they usually mean: ‘I don’t want it’.”

    Of course, there’s a bit of naievity there, but also a bit of truth.

  42. 92
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hot Rod says, ” I can discuss the question ‘How would we stabilise at X ppm’ without needing to discuss the NEED to do so. The question stands on its own, like an exam question.”

    Actually, you cannot–not and have the discussion conform to any accepted methodology for risk mitigation/reduction.
    Step 1: Identify the threat. It is the reason d’etre of all that follows. Why stabilize carbon emissions if they pose no threat? If the threat were only ocean acidification, then the potential mitigations would likely differ at some level from those required to avoid dangerous warming (e.g. you certainly would not be talking about injecting H2SO4 into the stratosphere).

    Step 2: Analyze the threat. This is where we must bound the risks (probability x consequences) posed by the threat. After all, it makes no sense to spend more in mitigation than the amount at risk. It is coincidentally where we run into trouble with climate change. The consequences cannot be bounded at present in any meaningful and convincing way. This leaves us to work on the probability side–we have to work to avoid the threat being realized.

    Step 3: Mitigate the threat. You want to jump all the way to step three, and it is not possible to make sense of step 3 without the previous steps.

    I suspect your argument is along the lines of “Oh well, there’s nothing we can do about it,” so continue with BAU until civilization and human population collapse. In other words, “Party on, dudes, and devil take the hindmost.” If so you have already failed on your exam question.

    Doing nothing in the face of what is probably the greatest threat facing the continued viability of human civilization is not acceptable. And if allying myself with those who propose to take action makes me political, so be it. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible.

  43. 93
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Hot Rod,
    You’re “absolutely” wrong. Here are some facts: Norway has 65% more emissions per capita than Sweden despite being essentially 100% hydro-powered.
    Similarly, Belgium’s emissions are much higher than France (the ratio is similar) but you can’t explain this with nuclear since Belgium gets over half its electricity from nuclear.

    Many European countries (especially Switzerland, Sweden and France) could achieve large emission reductions simply by increasing the fuel efficiency of their vhecile fleet. France produces cheap fuel-efficient cars for instance but there are a lot of heavier and inefficient vheicles on the road.
    It would not be terribly hard to significantly diminish the amount of vheicle-miles driven either considering the existing infrastructure.

    Since this is off-topic, could you take the matter somewhere else? If not, please do some research before posting. Basic factual corrections are a waste of everyone’s time.

  44. 94
    Radge Havers says:

    Meanwhile, behind the scenes:

    “The report points to three attempts to “undermine” climate and clean energy policies:
    • California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which encourages cleaner fuels and discourages burning dirty fuels.
    • A U.S. federal clean-fuels policy known as Section 526, which stops departments from buying the dirtiest kinds of fuels.
    • The European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, an effort to move toward cleaner-burning fuels.”
    Feds, Alberta fight foreign climate laws: report

    More nihilism.

  45. 95
    Hot Rod says:

    Yes, there’s some truth, fair enough.

    But there are some objective standards of plausibility, however imperfect.

    We can see from peoples’ actions what they consider important and desirable. So it would be implausible to think that China might agree to 1% gdp growth instead of its usual 8%, given that we can see how hard they work to keep the growth rate up, even though that would be an effective mitigation policy. We have also read what their leaders have said on the tradeoff between CO2 and GDP.

    And so on – not perfect, but some assessment of plausibility among reasonable folk should be possible.

    My raising of the subject was to ask how to avoid criticisms of mitigation policy (as ineffective) turning into abuse as being a denier or inactivist on some imagined political or self-interested grounds.

    You have suggested that my inability to suggest mitigation policies that are effective might derive from my finding them undesirable, which is surely going down the same route of suggesting that it is my values that are hindering me, and closing my eyes to a suite of effective policies that are right in front of me if only I would look. It is precisely that reaction that I find unhelpful! Is that fair, or am I paranoid?

    I will look at any policy suggested, subject to a plausibility threshold.

  46. 96
    Hot Rod says:

    Ray # 92.

    Ray, let’s say I ask you what level you would like to stabilise at, and let’s say you said 350ppm, but I’ll take 450ppm for the time being, but we’ll need 350ppm after 20xx. Just as an exercise.

    I don’t ask for your reasoning, I just say, ok, let’s look at that, 450ppm, how would we do that, and what might it cost. Or 350ppm. Whatever.

    That enables a policy conversation to take place without agreement on the prior steps.

  47. 97
    John E. Pearson says:

    77 Didactylos said: “I have to agree with Hank and John. ”

    I’m thinking about trying to sweet-talk my wife (a Perl wizard) into writing a filter for me. With a text-based browser like Lynx I think even I could do it although I’d use python rather than perl. The difficulty is that I don’t want to have to use a special browser to read RC. I really hate “blog science.”

  48. 98
    Hot Rod says:

    Anonymous Coward – there’s a GDP mix from country to country that varies – oil and gas in the case you mention of Sweden/Norway – hence per pop emissions of course vary.

  49. 99
    Anonymous Coward says:

    John Pearson,
    Look into Greasemonkey.

  50. 100

Switch to our mobile site