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Forced Responses: Jan 2021

Filed under: — group @ 1 January 2021

A new open thread for climate solutions in the new year (and the soon-to-be new US administration actions). As for the climate science open threads, please try to renew your commitment to constructive dialog that prioritises light over heat (like LED bulbs for instance!). Thanks!

632 Responses to “Forced Responses: Jan 2021”

  1. 501

    #493, nigel–

    Yes, I went back and checked your #441. That was actually the comment I was referring to in my #461, but was mis-identified there as #444. (Though numbers can and do shift a bit, so the latter number may have been correct at some point. Or not.)

    Anyway, it seems a pretty safe number to hang one’s hat on at present. If Killian’s expectations of better results were to be realized, that would be a pleasant discovery, to say the least. But I wouldn’t want to bet the farm (no pun intended) on that contingency right now. (And we should note that the 1.85 GT figure was actually an *upper bound* in the underlying paper–the range given was 0.9-1.85 Pg/yr–a petagram being identical to a gigatonne.) And speaking of the underlying paper, it’s here:

    And speaking of Killian, as I was earlier in this comment, this bit echoes some frequent points of his:

    The benefits of increasing soil organic matter in croplands goes far beyond climate change mitigation potential. Facilitation of increased SOC through improved farming and soil conservation practices, enhancing resilience through improved fertility status and water holding capacity, also provide important adaptation benefits. It is generally recognized that changes in the moisture regime (e.g. drought or heavy precipitation events) can significantly impact crop productivity. These climatic conditions are mitigated by SOC, which adds structure, improves water infiltration and holding capacity, increases cation exchange capacity, and impacts soil fertility, a major controlling factor of agricultural productivity and both regional and household food security. Soil conditions have dramatic effects on the abundance and efficiency of N-fixing bacteria, which are vitally important in cropping systems that lack fertilizer inputs. Thus increased SOC through improved management practices is likely to add substantial resilience to croplands and farming systems, particularly during drought years or increased seasonal variability, helping to avoid edaphic (soil related) droughts that result from land degradation.

    For the most part, agricultural practices that increase soil organic matter are supportive of enhanced food production and other ecosystem services. This is in contrast to other proposed negative emission strategies, such as afforestation (plantations of fast growing trees) and BECCS (bioenergy and carbon capture and storage) that will entail destruction of huge amounts of natural ecosystems or productive agriculture land if implemented at scales large enough to impact CO2 in the atmosphere. Given that hundreds of millions of small farmers for their subsistence depend upon croplands around the world, mitigation benefits of enhanced SOC storage must be recognized as only one significant component of an array of multiple benefits to achieve.

    Those are also pretty representative of the benefits the biodynamic & regenerative organic “Biggest Little Farm”–real name, Apricot Lane Farm–experienced as they rejuvenated the exhausted and compacted soils of their property, while fostering the [re]establishment of functional ecological relationships with the surrounding environment.

    I don’t think there is a better accessible window into what this sort of practice ‘looks like’ on the ground–especially the realization of those ecological relationships I mentioned, and how those bring profound functional benefits. (Co-proprietor John Chester’s previous ‘day job’ was cinematographer!)

  2. 502
    nigelj says:

    “Modeling myths: On DICE and dynamic realism in integrated assessment models of climate change mitigation”

    This open access research paper is a criticism of the work of Nordhaus, who has quite conservative leaning views on the costs of climate change on society. It is based on real world evidence since his original Dice modelling. Its complicated and I have only skimmed it very briefly thus far, but it may be of interest to people and seems to fundamentally undermine the usefulness of the Dice model.

  3. 503
    James Charles says:

    ‘The spigot is going to be ‘turned off’?

    ‘We’ have ten years?

    “ . . . our best estimate is that the net energy
    33:33 per barrel available for the global
    33:36 economy was about eight percent
    33:38 and that in over the next few years it
    33:42 will go down to zero percent
    33:44 uh best estimate at the moment is that
    33:46 actually the
    33:47 per average barrel of sweet crude
    33:51 uh we had the zero percent around 2022
    33:56 but there are ways and means of
    33:58 extending that so to be on the safe side
    34:00 here on our diagram
    34:02 we say that zero percent is definitely
    34:05 around 2030 . . .
    34:43 need net energy from oil and [if] it goes
    34:46 down to zero
    34:48 uh well we have collapsed not just
    34:50 collapse of the oil industry
    34:52 we have collapsed globally of the global
    34:54 industrial civilization this is what we
    34:56 are looking at at the moment . . . “

  4. 504

    Piotr, #497–

    And I am also not sure why? I thought we were discussing ways to achieve stabilization of CO2(= no accumulation), or, as Killian repeatedly argued before, significant reduction in atm conc. of CO2 (i.e. accumulation [less than] 0 Gt/yr).

    Yes, we were. My point was that under the second scenario I laid out–that is, that the sequestration acts more like emissions reduction and sinking effectiveness declines proportionately–you wouldn’t actually achieve the goal of stabilization with the numbers under discussion.

    I don’t think most sinks scale up proportionally with atm. CO2 concentration…

    I could well be wrong, but my understanding is that they kind of do, or at least, kind of have–that is, the proportion of our emissions absorbed by the biosphere has remained relatively constant, even as emissions ballooned and concentrations increased significantly.

    …MUCH LESS in proportion to the …. relative decrease of the total emissions…

    Here, I’m in tentative agreement with you about the ‘much less’–as I previously said in the ‘footnote’ of #488:

    *It would seem to me that sinks ought to respond not to the change in emissions directly (‘dCO2em’), but to the change in atmospheric concentration (‘dCO2at’), since that’s what is actually ‘seen’ at particular locations. If so, the first scenario would be a good approximation initially, but as CO2 began to fall, the annual ‘sunk amounts’ would shrink each year and you’d see a decelerating trend toward (eventual) equilibrium.

    My actual expectation (FWIW) would be that neither scenario nails it exactly, but that numerical carbon cycle modeling might give a pretty good estimate. Hence my plaintive cry that “There has got to be some literature on this!” Anybody?

  5. 505
    Killian says:

    Piotr says:
    9 Feb 2021 at 8:53 PM

    Killian 475: Now, I guess we need to account for the ocean, or 90% of the C. But if I multiply 5.538 x 10 it’s significantly more than what is emitted, so the numbers are off somewhere.

    It’s in the “ we need to account for the ocean, or 90% of the C“. Ocean is NOT taking 10 x more than atmosphere (“5.538 Gt/yr”), more like half of the atm. take.

    10 + 90 = 100, or ten times 10. I was using the atmospheric overage of roughly 2.6 ppm of recent years to be a rough proxy for the oceanic uptake. To get to 100%….. we multiply by 10.

  6. 506

    Thank you for your response to my note concerning the argument against taking out ‘insurance’ against a UNFCCC failure to keep warming below 2.0°C for whatever reason.

    You are mistaken in believing that I am the proponent and thus bear the onus of proof on this. The argument that: ‘taking out insurance may reduce ones efforts to avoid catastrophic outcomes’ is globally rejected, as is evidenced by the successful global insurance and re-insurance industries’ operations, with both govts and banks actively requiring people to use their services. Thus the burden of proof lies with the argument’s proponents. Given the rather small number of academics who reject insurance services that looks problematic.

    Your several points intended to raise the argument’s plausibility do not reflect current geopolitical conditions. For instance, they ignore the commitments to Net Zero already made by major Paris signatories including the EU & China (and, soon, USA) as well as ignoring the last decade’s seminal decline in the costs of non-fossil energy supplies, and storage techs, and usage techs, with those very rapid declines being still ongoing. With the global energy transition getting under way any nation that now attempts to reverse course and maintain its fossil fuel dependence would find its industry becoming hopelessly uncompetitive, as well as seeing its international profile falling towards pariah status.

    Given the years of scientific discussion needed before a leading PAR candidate tech could be selected, followed by a decade of its stringent research, followed (if it proved viable) by further discussion before any deployment could even be considered at the UN, the very earliest that a well-researched PAR tech would be on the table is at least 15 years hence. By that time coal-fired power is mostly uneconomic, oil usage is in decline, and ‘natural gas’ is facing terminal competition in both its power and heat roles.

    In this light, for both diplomatic and economic reasons that will be reinforced by steadily worsening climate impacts, the research of a reliably benign and effective PAR technology is already too late to have a bearing on the coming redundancy of fossil fuels.

    As we share an opposition to SAI, there is an article in “Climate Change” that I hope may be of interest: Wake et al (2021), “Updated and outdated reservations about research into stratospheric aerosol injection”


  7. 507

    #505, Killian–

    “…the ocean, or 90% of the C…”

    The problem isn’t the math, it’s that the ocean doesn’t absorb 90% of the CO2. The land and ocean sinks are of comparable size. Per the source I used above, the actual numbers are:

    Land: 3.2 GtC/yr
    Oceans: 2.5 GtC/yr

    Perhaps you were thinking of heat, of which the ocean does indeed absorb 90%+.

  8. 508
    Piotr says:

    Killian (505): 10 + 90 = 100, or ten times 10. I was using the atmospheric overage of roughly 2.6 ppm of recent years to be a rough proxy for the oceanic uptake. To get to 100%….. we multiply by 10.

    My point was that ocean is NOT taking 9 times more CO2, but “more like half of the atm. take“. In other words – ocean uptake is equivalent of 1.3 ppm, NOT 26 pm.

    So instead: 10(air) + 90(ocean) = 100 (total emissions)
    We have (approximately): 50(air) + 25 (ocean) + 25(terr. sinks) = 100

  9. 509
    nigelj says:

    Some interesting points in this commentary: “Investors flee Big Oil as portfolios get drilled. Even as Earth’s climate has warmed, years of lackluster profits have cooled the investment climate for oil and gas producers….”

  10. 510
    Piotr says:

    Kevin McKinney (504) Piotr:I don’t think most sinks scale up proportionally with atm. CO2 concentration …MUCH LESS in proportion to the …. relative decrease of the total emissions…

    Kevin (504) Here, I’m in tentative agreement with you about the ‘much less’–as I previously said in the ‘footnote’ of #488 […]

    Glad to see that we agreed that it’s not changes in net emissions, but changes in pCO2 that matter (at least to some of the sinks) because it is this that those sinks see. Unfortunately, that renders your “0.55” sink reduction factor moot, since it was calculated from reductions in net emission ;-)

    Now back to why I don’t think you can assume linear relationship even with changes in pCO2(atm):

    1. Mixed-layer ocean sink – is proportional not to pCO2(atm) but
    to CHANGES in pCO2(atm). Say at pCO2(atm)=425ppm the surface ocean can be a sink or source of CO2 – depending whether atm. pCO2 on the way up or down:
    – atm.pCO2 425 ->428ppm -> surface waters ABSORB enough CO2 to bring surface water pCO2 to 428pp
    – atm.pCO2 425->422ppm – >surface waters RELEASE enough CO2 to bring surface water pCO2 to 422ppm, i.e during decreasing atm pCO2 the surface ocean becomes a SOURCE

    So surface ocean sink is proportion not to pCO2(atm) itself, but dpCO2(atm)/dt.
    But even this relationship is complicated by changes in SST (warmer sea holds less C), which are not DIRECLY proportional to either pCO2 or dpCo2/dt.

    2. Deep ocean sink – Thermohaline Circulation (THC) + the balance of marine biological uptake and respiration – in the most general terms should be proportional to the difference between current pCO2(atm) and preindustrial pCO2,
    assuming that at ~ 280 ppm the ocean-atm system was in approximate steady state.
    So this part could be proportional to pCO2(atm), or more precisely to (pCO2-280).

    But only in the most general terms – if you change intensity of deep vertical mixing, upwellings, biological processes (anoxic processes, lysocline for CaCO3) compared to the preindustrial times – there is no reason to expect things proportional.

    3. Terrestrial uptake is even more complicated as it depends on things other than

    a) The longer growing season which may have help the boreal forests – related to temps, not directly pCO2. And for sure not the linear relationship – I doubt it will continue in a warmer world – gains from longer growing season will be offset the increased forest fires, insect kills and higher temperatures increasing the community respirations rates (particularly by bacteria) MORE than it increases prim. production.

    b) CO2-fertilization increases the sink with higher pCO2, but it is not linear and goes to zero where and when the supply of CO2 is no longer the limiting factor (in most of the world it probably is not)

    c) sequestration in soil depends on the surplus supply of dead organic from the living plants and decomposition by the bacteria – warmer temps. typically help the latter more than the former – thus making the sinks weaker in higher temps (outside of those ecosystems where a) and b) increased than the bacterial decomp.

    Again this sink depends on the relationship between a+b and c – primarily affected by temps and precipitation and only indirectly on pCO2(atm) so not lineraly proportional to pCO2.

    For all these reasons I doubt you can expect even approximate linear relationship between the pCO2(atm) and the strength of one sink, much less using the same slope to different sinks.

    I have no idea how those sinks are treated in practice in models that predict future atm. pCO2 concentration from the assumes CO2 anthropogenic emissions.

    Anybody knows if there is a comparison of the models of global CO2 with the observed changes in global CO2, the same way Gavin recently shown for temperatures?

  11. 511

    Money quote:

    The research found:

    GHG of a currently available BEV model and PHEV model are roughly the same in on-road performance when factoring in pollutants created by electricity production for the average US energy grid used to charge batteries.

    Manufacturing is a component of GHG emissions. Using the “Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Technologies” (GREET) model, researchers found that the production of a PHEV emits less GHG since it uses a smaller, lighter weight battery.

    The PHEV is much less expensive to buy and own, compared to the BEV. Without any incentives, the five-year Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a long-range BEV is significantly higher than the PHEV. If you include incentives available this year (2020), the TCO of a long-range BEV is much higher.

    The key point, according to Toyota, is that a BEV and PHEV can provide similar environmental benefits.

    Blast it, list tags don’t work here.  Why can’t you allow <ol> and <ul>?

  12. 512
    nigelj says:

    Lewis Cleverdon @506 and previous to that. Interesting comments if a little bit hard to follow. Paraphrasing, you appear to be concerned that a rogue nation would try a dangerous geoengineering project (I’m concerned as well) so its best that we make geoengineering a formal part of the centralised IPCC strategy to reduce the chances of some country going it alone. You think that its unlikely this would lead to a reduction in promoting renewables, because renewables are locked in anyway, and because insurance plans like this dont lead to people becoming complacent such that they would give up on renewables,etc,etc . Tell me if I have that substantially wrong.

    Its an interesting strategy! But I would argue an insurance policy (eg home and contents insurance) is not really the same thing as having the IPPC have climate plan “b” (comprising geoengineering). Many people might see plan b geoengineering as preferable especially as the IPCC would be giving it legitimacy. It would also seem that if renewables are indeed locked in anyway its unlikely a rogue nation will go it alone with geoengineering, or that we need geoengineering as a big formal IPCC strategy.

    You say “As we share an opposition to SAI” (solar aerosol injection?)

    The following links do however show you (assuming its the same person, and it certainly sounds like you) are very in favour of various forms of geoengineering, in the comments you write on these articles. This is because you believe renewables while required, will simply not be sufficient to stop catastrophic warming. You did not mention this in your comments on this RC page. So it appears you would want the IPCC to be actively pursuing a geoengineering strategy, not simply to deter rogue nations, but as an end in itself, to be used alongside renewables. I think you have honourable climate intentions, but personally I would rather plan ‘b’ consist just of carbon capture and storage which has far lower risks than geoengineering. Of course there’s nothing wrong with agencies researching geoengineering in the background and many are. You can bet the US military are (god help us all). So this would be plan c but not given too much publicity.

  13. 513
    Piotr says:

    Lewis Cleverdon (506) “You are mistaken in believing that I am the proponent

    You certainly fooled me. I must missed all these reservations you had about the proposal you describe (not advance!).

    LC (506): “and thus bear the onus of proof on this.

    Eerr… no: the onus of proof on whoever challenges the existing thinking – mitigation predates geoengineering, and the traditional skepticism toward geoengineering comes from the unknown nature of its side effects, AND
    from the past understanding of human nature, technology and politics.
    So no, the onus of proof is still on you.

    And you don’t seem to be doing too good in that proof department: the paternalistic tone: “Please note”, “patently speculative and not backed by real world evidence” can only take you so far before you have to prove it equally strong evidence.

    In lieu of this strong evidence I have seen only the conjucture that the mitigation will go unabated becasue a) we signed the Paris Treaty and b) the prices of renewable electricity drop.

    Signing a Treaty does not prove that its goals will be met. My country signed and ratified the previous treaty – Kyoto Protocol, committing ourselves to the legally-binding mitigation targets of GHG emissions (6% below the 1990 levels). Then we proceeded to …increase our emissions and when the time of reckoning came – we withdrew from Kyoto Protocol and encouraged others to follow the suit (including threatening aid to the Third World countries if they criticized our withdrawal). So the signature on a treaty does not guarantee that, if given a chance, countries won’t opt out for a cheap quick-fix of some of the climate change symptoms. Particularly, if the politicians who signed the Treaty are no longer in power.
    And if people go on streets because they don’t want to wear masks in shops, think about their reaction when they are asked to make massive changes in their lifestyle, which will mainly benefit _others_ (next generations and people in poor countries).

    Now, let’s imagine a big country that elects a populist leader who offers them a simplistic solution to a massive problem – “I have found a quick fix to this problem – let’s drink bleach, I mean let’s use our Space Force to spray sulfate, at practically no cost to you, the hard working people of our country, and will make soon the global warming go away, like a miracle. And you can enjoy your [enter your nation] dream – live in suburbs and keep you gas guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks, thing that the Opposing Party/foreign enemies, try to take away from you.

    I know, I know, this is “patently speculative and not backed by real world evidence” – NOBODY would follow such leader, right?

    [to be cont.]

  14. 514
    Piotr says:

    cont Re: Lewis Cleverdon (506)

    As for your ignoring of such a scenario by arguing mitigation will happen anyway because the non-fossil fuels are getting cheaper seems a bit glib – stabilization of atm. CO2 is made easier by the dropping prices of the non-fossil fuel electricity – but the switching the users to electricity as their only source of energy may not be simple, cheap, and politically popular. Particularly if to get there we will need massive reduction in consumptions (Killian), particularly when the rest of the word tries to get … to our level of consumption.

    And the rest of arguments you glossed over – didn’t rely on my obviously flawed understanding of the human nature and politics – but on the straightforward scientific observations:

    – that increasing albedo addresses some physical problems (temps) but not chemical and many biological (does nothing about ocean acidification, or makes it worse if it takes off the urgency of the CO2 reduction)

    – that it may have unpredicted global and regional side-effects – with the latter
    more aggravating some nations than other and there undermining the international support for the program

    – that the program will have to be supported forever, or at least until we are able to clear surplus CO2 from the system – and if it stops for any reason – the pent-up greenhouse effect hits us with full force at once – thus denying the ecosystems time needed for adaptation

    But feel free to waive those concerns off as well as “patently speculative”.

  15. 515
  16. 516
    nigelj says:

    Piotr @510, some more details on the non linear relationship in how soils build soil carbon in a warming world, that I came across some time ago:

  17. 517
    nigelj says:

    Piotr @513says “…..Now, let’s imagine a big country that elects a populist leader who offers them a simplistic solution to a massive problem – “I have found a quick fix to this problem – let’s drink bleach etc,etc….” Ha ha ha yes quite so. Although even his supporters probably mostly aren’t stupid enough to drink bleach, although it would be fascinating to know how many have tried and have a bet on it.

    “Clean coal” was the imaginary leaders biggest simplistic solution that lets us go on burning fossil fuels, and just the thought of it clearly got his supporters all excited and ready to abandon other strategies, given how many environmental rules got rolled back, although the imaginary leader never did anything about his imaginary clean coal proposal.

  18. 518

    #510, piotr–

    Thanks for the more detailed considerations of potential carbon cycle effects. That’s the sort of thing that I had in mind when saying that I thought that actual carbon cycle modeling would be useful on this topic.

    Again, if anyone present has some literature suggestion, that would be great.

  19. 519
    Killian says:

    507 Kevin McKinney:
    11 Feb 2021 at 3:17 PM

    #505, Killian–

    “…the ocean, or 90% of the C…”

    The problem isn’t the math…
    Land: 3.2 GtC/yr
    Oceans: 2.5 GtC/yr

    Perhaps you were thinking of heat, of which the ocean does indeed absorb 90%+.




  20. 520

    E-P 516: Couple of interesting and highly relevant links.

    BPL: Wow, the nuclear industry thinks the nuclear industry ought to be revived! That’s what I call interesting and highly relevant.

  21. 521
    Killian says:

    Cross-posted from Climate Adaptation Summit:

    In addition to hoping the next Climate Adaptation Summit will include regenerative design specialists such as myself, I also hope it is changed to be a Climate Mitigation Summit with adaptation relegated to a secondary role to deal with the changes we deem unavoidable even in the best-case scenario.

    However, Qualman said adaptation “just doesn’t make sense” unless we can find a way to “dramatically slash” the amount of warming Canada is on track to see this century.
    “The kind of warming that we are on track for, you know, destabilizes entire nations, kills millions and millions of people [and] obliterates cities,” he said.

    Qualman said in order for adaptation to work, you “have to be aiming at adapting to something reasonable.”

    “You can probably adapt to moderate climate change,” he said. “But we’re not facing moderate climate change. We’re facing extreme and devastating climate change.

  22. 522


    Wow, the nuclear industry thinks the nuclear industry ought to be revived! That’s what I call interesting and highly relevant.

    The countries which have attempted to replace their nuclear capacity with non-hydro “renewables” have seen their emission cuts stagnate exactly as predicted.  The countries and regions which use lots of nuclear energy all have enviably low emissions (the USA doesn’t use enough).  The results speak for themselves.

  23. 523
    Piotr says:

    E-P(516):Couple of interesting and highly relevant links.

    BPL (520): Wow, the nuclear industry thinks the nuclear industry ought to be revived! That’s what I call interesting and highly relevant.

    Piotr: I didn’t see _that_ coming either ;-).

    Then again, earlier in this thread (Piotr 315) I used a …. nuclear website. to scuttle … our Nuclear Poet’s argument:
    – Poet: “ Nah, that’s what fan-driven cooling towers and emergency wells are for
    – “Hardly any US generating capacity uses dry cooling, and in the UK it has been ruled out as impractical and unreliable (in hot weather) for new nuclear plants.”

    Or take the fellow nuclear enthusiast, let’s call him hypothetical D.B.Benson, who defended his claims on RC- by referring to HIS OWN posts on another blog, and when I followed there – they … contradicted DBB’s claims on RC (this thread: 38)

    So don’t dismiss the links to the pro-nuclear posts – can be both interesting and highly relevant” … ;-)

  24. 524
  25. 525
    Mr. Know It All says:

    $4,500 EV in China. Legal to drive there without a driver’s license. Can’t wait to see how many dents these have in a year or so. ;) Be sure to read the comments:

  26. 526

    E-P 522: The countries which have attempted to replace their nuclear capacity with non-hydro “renewables” have seen their emission cuts stagnate exactly as predicted.

    BPL: No longer true for Germany, nor for Denmark.

  27. 527


    No longer true for Germany, nor for Denmark.

    Everyone’s fuel consumption is down due to COVID (esp. much less driving), and Denmark never had any nuclear capacity.

  28. 528
    prl says:

    Engineer-Poet @527: Denmark never had any nuclear capacity.

    True enough, but “[i]n 2014 and 2015, (imported) nuclear power was 3–4% of electricity consumption in Denmark.”

  29. 529


    True enough, but “[i]n 2014 and 2015, (imported) nuclear power was 3–4% of electricity consumption in Denmark.”

    It’s ironic that a country which tries so hard to be “renewable”

    (a) Imports some 15% of its electricity (5.2 out of 35.6 TWh), and derives another 22% from refuse and “biomass”.
    (b) Has to rely on hydro from outside the country to balance its unreliable home supplies.
    (c) STILL manages to import as much as 1/4 of its exogenous power from nuclear plants.

    Sweden and Finland are at least honest about such things.

  30. 530

    Germany’s continued progress in decreasing emissions is *not* due to Covid–since the most recent string of decreases goes back to 2018.

    Check out the record.

  31. 531
    David B. Benson says:

    A new one for me:
    About half of the Texas wind turbines are frozen, so off.

  32. 532
    Mr. Know It All says:

    In 2018, Denton, Texas said they would be 100% RE by 2020:

    But in 2019, they rejected some RE proposals, so did they make their goal?

    How about some mechanical carbon-capture trees. Don’t think they described the chemistry:,for%20industrial%20and%20agricultural%20use.&text=The%20technology%20involves%20discs%20of,air%20and%20capture%20atmospheric%20CO2.

    In an article on why alkaline batteries leak we find this:

    “Once the insulating seals at the ends of the battery have been breached (in some cases, the outer steel canister might rust and corrode as well), the hydrogen escapes without notice. But the liquid electrolyte—in this case, potassium hydroxide—exits with it. Beware: Potassium hydroxide can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. If you come in contact with it, rinse well and consult with a doctor to see whether you need medical care.

    In general, though, the potassium hydroxide reaches the open air and reacts with carbon dioxide to form potassium carbonate—that white powder that cakes on the battery’s shell. “That’s one of the most stable compounds in the world,” says Venkat Viswanathan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “It’s essentially like rock salt.””

    Could potassium hydroxide or something similar be used to capture CO2 from the air?

  33. 533

    BPL: No longer true for Germany, nor for Denmark.

    E-P 527: Everyone’s fuel consumption is down due to COVID

    BPL: Wasn’t true in 2019, was it? And Germany’s CO2 emissions were down then, too. Face it, Germany can’t be your bad example any more.

  34. 534
    David B. Benson says:

    What can you rely on?
    Texas now has winter time rotating blackouts.

  35. 535
    Piotr says:

    David B. Benson (531) “About half of the Texas wind turbines are frozen, so off”

    Meh… even if ALL of them froze for months on end – nobody would notice since this is the time of the year when the US needs LESS electricity AND this is also the time where, thanks to the lower temps of coolant, the thermal generation are the MOST effective, providing more electricity per plant than they do in summer.

    And the same will apply to the most of the world, where the nuclear promoters would like to see their nukes installed and where the peak demand is also more for cooling than for warming, particularly in the future _warmer_ world.

    So, thanks, David, for bringing the attention to the fact that in most of the world: at the very times when we need the electricity generation MOST (local summer):

    – the nukes (and other thermal) ARE THE LEAST EFFECTIVE
    – the solar, and if to believe your point – wind: ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE

    With friends like you, why would nuclear need the enemies? ;-)

  36. 536
    Piotr says:

    Engineer-Poet (529) “[i]n 2014 and 2015, (imported) nuclear power was 3–4% of electricity consumption in Denmark.” It’s ironic that a country which tries so hard to be “renewable. […] Sweden and Finland are at least honest about such things.

    So let us see what exactly our Nuclear Poet tries to discredit here:

    1) that Denmark IS NOT accepting the denier’s “ all-or-nothing ” fallacy, which implies that if you can’t cut 100% of your emissions then you are AS BAD as if you have done nothing, heck, worse still – it makes you a hypocrite and not “honest about it”.

    And to make Denmark hypocrisy more evident – this 3-4% energy DIDN’T increase global GHG emissions – the vast majority of the GHG emissions of the nukes are THE SAME whether you sell the surplus power to Denmark, or reduce the electrical output of the plant, because there were no buyers for it. These Danish hypocrites!

    2) that Denmark is NOT dogmatic – that they DIDN’T reject the nukes as the source of the missing 3-4% of their energy demand just because they are nukes.

    But for our Nuclear Poet what is good is bad, and vice versa. Would not get you an invitation as inaugural poet to Joe Biden inauguration, but might get one for Trump’s 2024. Or at least the title of the Poet Laureate of QAnon.

  37. 537

    #531, DBB–

    Early reports blamed the Texas rolling blackouts on ‘frozen wind turbines’ but that narrative doesn’t appear to be holding up:

    While some early reports indicated that frozen wind turbines were causing significant shortfalls, 30GW is roughly equal to the entire state’s wind capacity if every turbine is producing all the power it’s rated for. Since wind generally tends to produce less during winter, there’s no way that the grid operators would have planned for getting 30GW from wind generation; in fact, a chart at ERCOT indicates that wind is producing significantly more than forecast. [NB–the forecast amount was already pretty low.]

    …An ERCOT director told Bloomberg that problems were widespread across generating sources, including coal, natural gas, and even nuclear plants.

    …Authorities will probably need several weeks, if not longer, to fully understand how so much generating capacity was taken offline at what turned out to be a period of critical demand.

  38. 538

    …Authorities will probably need several weeks, if not longer, to fully understand how so much generating capacity was taken offline at what turned out to be a period of critical demand.

    That’s easy.  Frozen natural gas wells at exactly the same time that everyone is demanding natural gas.

    I’m not looking forward to my next gas bill, that’s for sure.

  39. 539
    David B. Benson says:

    Piotr @ 535 — It is freezing cold in Texas just now. Rolling blackouts are hazardous.

    For example, many people’s forced air furnaces require electricity to run. Mine is typical and it does.

  40. 540
  41. 541
    Mr. Know It All says:

    Oh my goodness. Unprecedented winter storm kills at least 4 in Texas. Temperatures AND ENTROPY reach absolute zero, and 43 million without power. Al Gore, where are you?


  42. 542

    DBB 531: About half of the Texas wind turbines are frozen, so off.

    BPL: The winter storm in Texas has also shut down gas, coal, and nuclear plants. The solution, obviously, is to build twice as many wind turbines.

  43. 543

    On the Texas blackouts, reports are emerging that 26 of the 30 GW offline were thermal generation, mostly natgas (which for reasons unclear wasn’t getting fuel). Only 4 GW were due to iced-up wind turbines in west Texas. (NB–there are anti-icing equipment packages which can be installed in turbines where it is cost-effective to do so. But west Texas is arid, and as such not often susceptible to icing conditions.)

    I’d like to know how it was that those early reports just happened to emerge so quickly and get picked up so widely. Very reminiscent to me of the blackouts in Western Australia a few years back, when some folks were very eager to blame wind even though it was pretty clear that the core of the problem was transmission failure, not generation failure.

    Zooming out a bit, it’s very interesting to me to observe how the debate on renewable energy has shifted. It used to be that everyone, right or left, was pretty much in favor. GOP members were happy to vote for renewable energy portfolios and other pro-RE measures. But now we’re in an environment in which wind and solar are in many cases the cheapest forms of new generation capacity you can build, and in which they’re supplying roughly as much actual generation in the US as nuclear does.

    And what do we see? Anti-wind astroturf groups very reminiscent of anti-vaxxers (and sometimes sharing membership). Media campaigns equating the local (and practicably mitigatable) pollution that can result from mining and processing materials with the global (and largely inherent) environmental harm of climate change. (That latter is now beginning to include anti-EV propaganda, too, BTW–for instance, I was struck by a series of recent posts by someone claiming to be an ‘environmentalist’ talking about how processing lithium for LI batteries would “drown the earth in acid.”) Unsubstantiated assertions that wind and solar somehow “can’t” supply the energy demand, because X, Y, and Z can only (allegedly) exist “because of fossil fuel.”

    RE was cute and cuddly when it was too small to hurt Big Fossil. Now that it’s growing up, not so much. And the Empire is trying to strike back.

  44. 544

    KIA, #532–

    Could potassium hydroxide or something similar be used to capture CO2 from the air?

    Carbon Engineering thinks that’s a good idea:

    A giant fan pulls air into this structure, where it passes over thin plastic surfaces that have potassium hydroxide solution flowing over them. This non-toxic solution chemically binds with the CO2 molecules, removing them from the air and trapping them in the liquid solution as a carbonate salt.

    They don’t stop with the carbonate, though. They:

    …[separate] the salt out from solution into small pellets in a structure called a pellet reactor, which was adapted from water treatment technology. These pellets are then heated in our third step, a calciner, in order to release the CO2 in pure gas form. The calciner is similar to equipment that’s used at very large scale in mining for ore processing. This step also leaves behind processed pellets that are hydrated in a slaker and recycled back into the system to reproduce the original capture chemical.

    By recycling the potassium, they obviate the necessity of a continuous supply of potassium as a process input. (Not to mention the potential scaling problems that might result if we were sequestering potassium along with the carbon.) They are also realizing revenue by selling the CO2–though, sadly, not always to sequester it. (That’s a whole ‘nother story.) And though the whole process is designed to be doable with renewable energy, last I heard they were still burning natgas in the calciner.

  45. 545
  46. 546
  47. 547
    Mr. Know It All says:

    OH NO! PARIS, the city the climate agreement was named after (you can’t make this stuff up!), is not meeting their climate goals! :( We’re doomed! It’s OK, they got a spanking via fines – yes, they were fined the whopping sum of 1 euro. You know CC is serious with stiff fines like that!

    {Paris — Four environmental groups are crying victory after France was found guilty of failing to meet climate change goals it committed to in a historic accord signed in and named after its own capital city. The Administrative Tribunal in Paris ruled Wednesday that France had fallen short of its promise to reduce greenhouse gases under commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement, and was “responsible for ecological damage.”}

    That’s OK, we can depend on wonderful, communist China to pull the wagon even if the French don’t, right? OOPS, maybe not:

    In 2020 China built 3 times more coal fired power plants than the REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED!

    Now do you understand why Trump got us out of the stoopid Paris agreement?

  48. 548
    mike says:

    from carbon brief:

    “There is continuing extensive media coverage investigating the factors that likely contributed to the power cut in Texas that has left millions without heat and electricity. According to the Texas Tribune, failures across the US state’s natural gas operations and supply chains due to extreme cold temperatures are the “most significant cause of the power crisis”. It notes that, while “all sources of power generation have faced difficulties”, Texans largely rely on fossil gas for power and heat and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages most of the state’s grid, said this was the main cause of the outages. The piece adds that more than half of ERCOT’s winter generating capacity, which was not designed for such low temperatures and is largely powered by gas, was offline due to the winter storms that have struck this week. The Guardian reports that the event has been “seized upon by conservative commentators presenting a false narrative that renewable power was to blame”. While some wind turbines did freeze, the piece quotes ERCOT’s findings that failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy systems were responsible for “nearly twice as many outages as renewables”. The newspaper notes that a variety of “misleading claims” were circulating including a “viral photo of a helicopter de-icing a wind turbine” which was, in fact, “taken in Sweden years ago”. Bloomberg looks at how production at the biggest shale basins in the US has largely ground to a halt as 70% of completion crews wait for the “historic freeze to thaw out”. A separate Bloomberg piece explains that in the blackout “everything went wrong at once”, adding: “Power plants weren’t fully weatherised…The ones that were still standing struggled to get enough fuel, with shale wells experiencing so-called freeze-offs. Many wind turbines stopped spinning”. Adding to this it notes that as Texas’ grid is “notoriously isolated” from the rest of the US it could not call on neighbouring states for help.”

    We should be careful not to repeat and distribute false narratives if we want to be seen as good faith participants in the discussion.


  49. 549
    zebra says:

    For Want Of A Z-Grid…

    …some Texas folk almost lost their toes to frostbite.

    But, what will no doubt fill the pages here will be “it was the wind turbines!” and “no it was nuclear!”, repeated endlessly.

    A smart grid, with granular control of sources and loads, would allow for the maximum utility of “rolling blackouts”… unlike the mess that still may be going on, with people cut off for days.

    A well-regulated common carrier grid could have a preset emergency configuration that would override contracts and supply enough energy to most dwellings to keep most pipes from freezing, and a warm-ish room in which to eat and sleep.

    (I’ve seen lots of reports of people sitting in their cars to stay warm; given that it’s Texas, some of them may be doing it in their garages because they think CO is a hoax like CO2.)

    And when it isn’t a life-threatening “natural disaster” event, market forces will drive improved reliability, because people will not contract with suppliers that cause them great inconvenience.

    But carry on: Molten Salt! SMR! Massive continental interconnected national HVDC wind farms!

    None of that uppity up-to-date control stuff; we need to keep arguing about a technology from the good old days of the early 20th century!

  50. 550


    But now we’re in an environment in which wind and solar are in many cases the cheapest forms of new generation capacity you can build, and in which they’re supplying roughly as much actual generation in the US as nuclear does.

    Not even close.  In the first 10 months of 2020, US nuclear generated 658,288 GWh; solar and wind combined only generated 350,547 GWh.  Worse, in Texas the other day the 30 GW of wind capacity was only putting out about 0.8 GW, less than 3% of capacity.  Solar, of course, produces nothing at night.

    It turns out that there was an outage at the South Texas Plant, when instrumentation lines from the feedwater pumps froze and gave an erroneous indication of pump problems.  This was on the non-nuclear side of the plant.  Compared to NG plants that couldn’t get fuel, STP #1 was in fine shape fuel-wise and will be back up as soon as everything’s thawed out.  It’ll probably take more heat tape and maybe some insulation.  A nuclear plant is much easier to winter-proof than whole fields of wind turbines.