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Solving Global Warming - Not Easy, But Not Too Hard

Posted on 9 November 2010 by dana1981

A frequent skeptic argument is that solving the global warming problem will be "too hard", and thus we should just resign ourselves to trying to adapt to whatever climate change happens.  Considering that many consequences of a large magnitude climate change would be very bad, hopefully this is not true.  Although it may be comforting to get in the car, close our eyes, sit back, and hope it does not crash into a brick wall, the wiser course of action is to see the wall in our path and attempt to avoid it if possible.

The argument that solving the global warming problem by reducing human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is "too hard" generally stems from the belief that (i) our technology is not sufficiently advanced to achieve significant emissions reductions, and/or (ii) that doing so would cripple the global economy.


Pacala and Socolow (2004) (PS04) investigated the first claim by examining the various technologies available to reduce GHG emissions.  Every technology they examined "has passed beyond the laboratory bench and demonstration project; many are already implemented somewhere at full industrial scale."  PS04 examined what would be required to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at 500 parts per million (ppm), which would require that GHG emissions be held near the present level of 7 billion tons of carbon per year (GtC/year) for the next 50 years. 

PS04 used the concept of a "stabilization wedge", in which "a wedge represents an activity that reduces emissions to the atmosphere that starts at zero today and increases linearly until it accounts for 1 GtC/year of reduced carbon emissions in 50 years."  Implementing seven such wedges would achieve sufficient GHG emissions reductions to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide at 500 ppm by 2050, and emissions would have to decrease linearly during the second half of the 21st century.  PS04 identifies 15 current options which could be scaled up to produce at least one wedge, and note that their list is not exhaustive.

  1. Improved fuel economy: One wedge would be achieved if, instead of averaging 30 milesper gallon (mpg) on conventional fuel, cars in 2054 averaged 60 mpg, with fuel type and distance traveled unchanged.  Given recent advances in hybrid and electric vehicle technology, this is a very plausible wedge.

  2. Reduced reliance on cars: One wedge would be achieved if the average fuel economy of the 2 billion 2054 cars were 30 mpg, but the annual distance traveled were 5000 miles instead of 10,000 miles.

  3. More efficient buildings: One wedge is the difference between pursuing and not pursuing known and established approaches to energy-efficient space heating and cooling, water heating, lighting, and refrigeration in residential and commercial buildings.

  4. Improved power plant efficiency: One wedge would be created if twice today’s quantity of coal-based electricity in 2054 were produced at 60% instead of 40% efficiency.

  5. Substituting natural gas for coal: One wedge would be achieved by displacing 1400 gigawatts (GW) of baseload coal power with baseload gas by 2054.  Given recent natural gas price decreases, this is another very plausible wedge.

  6. Storage of carbon captured in power plants: One wedge would be provided by the installation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at 800 GW of baseload coal plants by 2054 or 1600 GW of baseload natural gas plants.

  7. Storage of carbon captured in hydrogen plants: The hydrogen resulting from precombustion capture of CO2 can be sent offsite to displace the consumption of conventional fuels rather than being consumed onsite to produce electricity.  One wedge would require the installation of CCS, by 2054, at coal plants producing 250 million tons of hydrogen per year (MtH2/year), or at natural gas plants producing 500 MtH2/year.

  8. Storage of carbon captured in synthetic fuels plants: Large-scale production of synthetic fuels from carbon is a possibility.  One wedge would be the difference between capturing and venting the CO2 from coal synthetic fuels plants producing 30 million barrels of synthetic fuels per day.

  9. Nuclear power: One wedge of nuclear electricity would displace 700 GW of efficient baseload coal capacity in 2054. This would require 700 GW of nuclear power with the same 90% capacity factor assumed for the coal plants, or about twice the nuclear capacity currently deployed.

  10. Wind power: One wedge of wind electricity would require the deployment of 2000 GW of nominal peak capacity (GWp) that displaces coal electricity in 2054 (or 2 million 1-MWp wind turbines).  This would require approximately 10 times the current (as of 2010) deployment of wind power by mid-century.  Note that global wind power deployment increased from approximately 40 GW in 2004 to 158 GW in 2009.

  11. Solar photovoltaic power: One wedge from photovoltaic (PV) electricity would require 2000 GWp of installed capacity that displaces coal electricity in 2054.  This would require approximately 100 times the current (as of 2010) deployment of solar PV power by mid-century.  Note that global solar PV power deployment increased from approximately 3 GW in 2004 to 20 GW in 2009.

  12. Renewable hydrogen: Renewable electricity can produce carbon-free hydrogen for vehicle fuel by the electrolysis of water. The hydrogen produced by 4 million 1-MWp windmills in 2054, if used in high-efficiency fuel-cell cars, would achieve a wedge of displaced gasoline or diesel fuel.  However, use of renewable energy to power electric vehicles is more efficient than powering hydrogen vehicles with hydrogen produced through electrolysis from renewable power.

  13. Biofuels: One wedge of biofuel would be achieved by the production of about 34 million barrels per day of ethanol in 2054 that could displace gasoline, provided the ethanol itself were fossil-carbon free. This ethanol production rate would be about 50 times larger than today’s global production rate, almost all of which can be attributed to Brazilian sugarcane and United States corn.  The potential exists for increased biofuels production to compromise agriculturaly production, unless the biofuels are created from a non-food crop or other source such as algae oil.

  14. Forest management: At least one wedge would be available from reduced tropical deforestation and the management of temperate and tropical forests. At least one half-wedge would be created if the current rate of clear-cutting of primary tropical forest were reduced to zero over 50 years instead of being halved. A second half-wedge would be created by reforesting or afforesting approximately 250 million hectares in the tropics or 400 million hectares in the temperate zone (current areas of tropical and temperate forests are 1500 and 700 million hectares, respectively). A third half-wedge would be created by establishing approximately 300 million hectares of plantations on non-forested land.

  15. Agricultural soils management: When forest or natural grassland is converted to cropland, up to one-half of the soil carbon is lost, primarily because annual tilling increases the rate of decomposition by aerating undecomposed organic matter.  One-half to one wedge could be stored by extending conservation tillage to all cropland, accompanied by a verification program that enforces the adoption of soil conservation practices that work as advertised.

PS04 concludes "None of the options is a pipe dream or an unproven idea....Every one of these options is already implemented at an industrial scale and could be scaled up further over 50 years to provide at least one wedge."  While the study has identified 15 possible wedges, PS04 argues that only seven would be necessary to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at 500 ppm by mid-century.  The list in the study is also not exhaustive, for example omitting concentrated solar thermal power and other renwable energy technologies besides wind and solar PV.

However, Dr. Joseph Romm (Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy during the Clinton Administration) argues that at least 14 wedges would be necessary to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at 450 ppm.  Romm proposes what he believes to be the most plausible way to achieve 16 wedges:

  • 1 wedge of vehicle efficiency — all cars 60 mpg, with no increase in miles traveled per vehicle.
  • 1 of wind for power — one million large (2 MWp) wind turbines
  • 1 of wind for vehicles — another 2000 GW wind. Most cars must be plug-in hybrids or pure electric vehicles.
  • 3 of concentrated solar thermal — ~5000 GW peak.
  • 3 of efficiency — one each for buildings, industry, and cogeneration/heat-recovery for a total of 15 to 20 million GW-hrs.
  • 1 of coal with carbon capture and storage — 800 GW of coal with CCS
  • 1 of nuclear power — 700 GW plus 10 Yucca mountains for storage
  • 1 of solar PV — 2000 GW peak [or less PV and some geothermal, tidal, and ocean thermal]
  • 1 of cellulosic biofuels — using one-sixth of the world’s cropland [or less land if yields significantly increase or algae-to-biofuels proves commercial at large scale].
  • 2 of forestry — End all tropical deforestation. Plant new trees over an area the size of the continental U.S.
  • 1 of soils — Apply no-till farming to all existing croplands.

The bottom line is that while achieving the necessary GHG emissions reductions and stabilization wedges will be difficult, but it is possible.  And there are many solutions and combinations of wedges to choose from.


Working Group III of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report focused on climate change mitigation, and a substantial portion of the report focused on the economic impacts of mitigation efforts.  The key finding of the report is as follows.

"Both bottom-up and top-down studies indicate that there is substantial economic potential for the mitigation of global GHG emissions over the coming decades, that could offset the projected growth of global emissions or reduce emissions below current levels (high agreement, much evidence)."

The report found that stabilizing between 445 and 535 ppm CO2-equivalent (350–440 ppm CO2) will slow the average annual global GDP growth rate by less than 0.12%.  Additionally, this slowed GDP growth rate is in comparison to the unrealistic business-as-usual (BAU) scenario where climate change has no impact on the economy.  By 2030, the IPCC found that global GDP would decrease by a total of no more than 3% compared to the unrealistic BAU scenario, depending on the magnitude of the emissions reductions. 

The report also found that health benefits from reduced air pollution as a result of actions to reduce GHG emissions can be substantial and may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs.  Some other key findings:

"Energy efficiency options for new and existing buildings could considerably reduce CO2 emissions with net economic benefit."

"Forest-related mitigation activities can considerably reduce emissions from sources and increase CO2 removals by sinks at low costs."

"Policies that provide a real or implicit price of carbon could create incentives for producers and consumers to significantly invest in low-GHG products, technologies and processes. Such policies could include economic instruments, government funding and regulation."

In short, there are numerous opportunites to reduce GHG emissions at low cost, some of which result in a net economic gain.  Overall, emissions can be reduced at a cost which will not cripple the global economy.  Moreover, these emissions reductions would have a significant positive economic impact by slowing global warming.

We have the necessary technology.  The net costs to implement them will not be crippling.  The question remains - do we have the will to put forth the effort and initial investment to solve the problem?

This post is the Advanced version (written by Dana Nuccitelli [dana1981]) of the skeptic argument "it's too hard".  Basic and Intermediate versions are also available.

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Comments 151 to 175 out of 175:

  1. BP,
    The lead article discusses wedges that can be implemented by 2050. You are arguing about whether enough thorium exists to make it worth starting to build the theoretical reactors you support. Even if the thorium exists, it will take 20 years to demonstrate the technology so it will be too late to build for 2050. Your claim that we were discussing 200 year sustainability is unbelievable. Keep on topic. I am not going to post again on this topic, it is distracting the thread.

    I am glad to see you now support solar power. I lean more toward wind, but we will most likely need many sources of power.
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  2. Ah, BP, so you're saying we should put our immediate efforts toward improving energy efficiency of homes? Replacing thin walls/roofs with the thermal equivalent of your "2 feet thick brick walls"?

    I agree, there is much to be saved there, and in improving the efficiency of other wasteful forms of energy use.

    One minor example: when I lived in the US for a while, about 10 years back, I was absolutely astounded by the fact that you had 200-watt standard light globes. I'd never seen anything more than a 100w globe here in Australia (I'm talking standard globes, obviously spotlights and other lights have higher ratings). The thing that I found sad and amusing at the same time, was that, even using higher powered lights than a typical Aussie home, the American homes I saw were much, much darker inside - primarily because most American lights had very dark, heavy lampshades, designed to 'hide' the light, where most Australian fittings seem to be designed to spread light (frosted glass covers being very common here).
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  3. Actually Thoughtful #147
    "How many of us are using renewable energy right now?"

    I just threw another log in the fireplace.
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  4. archiesteel #144
    I said,
    "which is in turn tied directly to natural chemical energy."

    then you said,
    "So is Religion. So is making stuff up. So it trolling. What is your point? "

    The point is clear. If something itnt profitable, it will ultimately affect the bottom line. Get the bottom line low enough and you wont have chemicals (food) to even get out of bed. Or do you run on batteries? Actually, even that would be chemical.
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  5. actually thoughtfull:
    "How many of us are using renewable energy right now?"

    I use a green electricity tariff (i'm all electric). I have managed to reduce my energy consumption by about 60% by just doing a few simple things which haven't had a big impact to the quality of life.
    I would have solar heating panels if it weren't for the big tree in the neighbours garden that blocks the Sun, also cost is an issue for me right now.

    actually thoughtfull:
    "Electricity is 20% of the energy consumed. Because of the coal in the mix, it accounts for 1/3 of the carbon emissions."

    Yeah but in the UK, coal is 30% of the electricity mix which equates to 60% of the electricity emissions.
    In the US coal is something like 70% of generation capacity so must be something like 90% of electricity emissions.

    The other point is that electricity is likely to be the main source and means of conveying energy, so it may not be the majority chunk now, but it certainly will be in the future.
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  6. The Ville: "I use a green electricity tariff (i'm all electric). I have managed to reduce my energy consumption by about 60% by just doing a few simple things which haven't had a big impact to the quality of life."

    Do you mind if I ask what those few simple things are? I would enjoy paying for 60% less electricity.

    Can you explain what "I use a green electricity tariff" means?

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  7. actually thoughtfull.

    I think you are mixing up two different things.
    I managed to cut my electricity use by changing the way I used it.
    During the winter I put on more layers of clothing and use the heating less, or turn the thermostat down. I stopped using a tumble dryer for drying clothes.

    I made a record of my efforts on my blog:

    Regarding 'green electricity tariffs'. In the UK we have various electricity companies that either invest in renewable energy only, or have a mixture.
    They set up consumer/business electricity tariffs where by the money taken from consumers is used to invest in more renewables. Usually the cost per kwh is slightly higher although not always.
    Generally it can be viewed as an accounting exercise, however for a consumer it can be a way of assuring their money is being spent in an appropriate place and encourages companies to invest in renewables.

    Probably the leading company in the UK is Ecotricity.
    They have been putting up wind farms since about 1995 and recently started supplying customers with bio-gas produced from Anaerobic Digestion plants and set up a dual fuel tariff (electricity and gas).

    The companies owner also developed an electric super car based on a Lotus chassis:

    'Good Energy' and 'Green Energy UK' are another two, also some NGOs such as the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have tariff schemes with the bigger electricity suppliers.
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  8. Mike,
    That article is kind of like an educated Glenn Beck - there are true facts, but very weird conclusions.

    The facts are:
    China is innovating and doing faster than the US (of necessity)
    Coal, worldwide, provides 50% of the worlds electricity

    The weird, and probably not true conclusions:
    We therefore cannot get rid of coal for decades
    Clean coal is possible/likely
    America CANNOT innovate

    If America puts a tax on carbon, we will put coal out of business in 20 years - and grow the economy. Instead of China figuring this stuff out, and profiting from selling it to the world, the US will.

    People are stuck by what they know - dirty coal makes electricity and they can't see beyond to a new energy strategies, massive reductions in demand, and full scale production and installation of ALREADY known and proven technologies. [But...but what does that look like? How about LED bulbs that are 10-20 TIMES as efficient as incandescents? Motors that are 2-3 times as efficient, insulation that is 1/3 as thick and twice as effective (aerogel) - all these things exist now - without any particular financial incentive. Once the free market is providing incentives for reduced energy usage (instead of dis-incentives (can you say "SUV"?)) - these savings will sky rocket.]

    As the article points out - if Great Britain put wind mills on 20% of their land - that could cover ALL of their transportation (they put a negative, Glenn Beck style spin on it...).

    This article is actually scarier than the typical denial-ism we see (which is readily identifiable and can be ignored or pilloried). This article is, in fact, defeatism - the tyranny of low expectations of America and Americans.
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  9. actually thoughtfull:
    "As the article points out - if Great Britain put wind mills on 20% of their land - that could cover ALL of their transportation (they put a negative, Glenn Beck style spin on it...)."

    Two points:

    1. That will never happen and even if it did, the main issue would be aesthetic. The land 'footprint' would not be 20%, maybe the visual impact would be. They are two different things.

    2. There are enough licenses handed out for offshore wind farms in the UK to power the UKs road transport. That equates to 25% of total UK CO2 emissions.

    The UK is investing in a wide range of energy systems. Wind farms are the biggest sector currently, but there are plenty of others, including tidal turbine farms, anaerobic digestion, energy from sewage waste etc.
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  10. The Ville - it used to be that those ugly vent pipes for indoor plumbing were aesthetically unpleasing (and who would put their toilet INSIDE their house?! Eeeeww!)

    Times and attitudes change. Once we accurately price carbon, all these silly objections will simply disappear (cranks will still make them, but no one will listen). We need to act.

    My comments have nothing to do with Great Britain, but rather the mindless negativity and defeatism of the post Mike recommended. It looks like Great Britain, as is Germany, is on a path towards sustainability. Those of us in the US can only wish. Our recent elections are moving us backwards at a very high rate of speed.
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  11. actually thoughtfull -

    Well the Conservative party in the UK is definitely greener, but they have the problem of having to appease the traditional ideologists in the party. So instead of green 'localism' in order to reduce carbon footprints, we have Conservative 'localism' which is a re-packaging of the ideology of smaller government.

    The Coalition government seem to be doing OK on the issue of energy, but other issues are of concern, eg. selling forests, changing tree protection legislation etc. But if you analyse the path, it makes logical sense from their POV. Energy creates new businesses, publicly owned forests cost the tax payer.
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  12. If a pessimist may speak, this is just another example of "if we just simplified enough it doesn't look so hard any more".

    Assume as scenario such that it (technological) can be so arranged that we can replace all energy sources with nuclear energy. Then who will be the producer? Will, say, Iran be allowed by the international community to produce energy on their own terms or will Iran be allowed consumption only and thus be forced to be a dependent nation. If so, dependent on which country for energy delivery? North Korea maybe? Will Iran care?

    My pessimistic claims is that this is not a pure technological issue. There is always a politics issues involve when we talk energy production.

    In my pessimistic opinion it is simplified, ignorant, naive or shallow thinking to believe there is a "not to hard" solution to these problem. The more important question to address first is if there is any (humane) solution at all to this? To know the answer to that question we first need to make sure we actually are asking the right questions to start with and those question will involve growth, urbanization, populations density, birth control, economy, use of land/sea/energy etc, etc, etc. These are known to be hard questions.

    So how to solve global warming, even if we assume every one agrees it is a real threat, is not a technological nor a scientific question but a political issue. Science and technology are only tools in this process not a solutions.

    Therefore, and this is my final conclusion/opinion in this matter, this article is not part of the mission statement of what questions claims to have as a goal to address and answer.
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  13. Re: batsvensson (163)
    "So how to solve global warming, even if we assume every one agrees it is a real threat, is not a technological nor a scientific question but a political issue. Science and technology are only tools in this process not a solutions."
    So the $64,000 question is this: How do you provide a solution to the problem without the tools to achieve the solution? One cannot effectively compete in a marathon without legs to run on. Hence the need to begin to address the solutions part of the equation.

    The Yooper
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  14. Batsvensson - the purpose of the post is to point out, contrary to "skeptic" (actually ignorant) claims - there is NO technological hurdle to a carbon free economy (work - yes, decades of it! Profitable work at that) - but nothing technological is stopping us.

    So, ironically, your main point that it is political is essentially the point of the post. So I remain confused what it is you are complaining about?

    BTW - humans are pack animals (socially, not as beast of burdens). If you want more solar in the world, put it on your roof. When we get to a critical mass (1 in 100?; 1 in 50) - it will take off exponentially. This is a conversation we can win - and are winning. But it takes every single person who gets the problem taking action. Every one of us MUST act - this is the leadership you can bring to the equation.
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  15. @actually thoughtful

    I am not trying to discuss the motive behind this post. That would lead to an guaranteed deletion of my post according to the policy rule which clearly states accusations of deception is not allowed.

    "So, ironically, your main point that it is political is essentially the point of the post. So I remain confused what it is you are complaining about?"

    Precisely what I wrote in the last statement in my post: this article has nothing to do with the goals (as I perceive them) of this site.

    Anyway, if you believe there is nothing technological that stops use now, then I understand that as you either are over/under estimating what current technology can do and is able to do or that you would need to rethink this issue much deeper.

    Again, such claim is an indication about simplifications around the problems related to issue.
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  16. @Daniel Bailey

    Thanks for that reference URL. I stand corrected.

    However I think it is a shame, used to be a science related discussion only - which is the reason I came to start to read here in the first place but the more non-scientific discussion over time have made me visit this this site less and less.

    My default position has always been and still is a skeptical position towards CO2 as the main cause for GW. In this has come to be a well of knowledge to try to refute that position.

    I which John had opted for creating a sister site instead in which the political aspects could had been discussed to keep the subject separated - the reason I think so is because political discussion tends to be discussions between "believers" in different camps who believes what they say must be the correct - no matter what the argument are against them.
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  17. Re: batsvensson (167)

    I'm here primarily for the science and to communicate the science myself. While I acknowledge the need for solutions (presuming one agrees with the science), I recognize my own dearth of knowledge on the solutions to the problem. So I wade through the chaff of posture and politics to get to the kernels I need to learn.

    But just because Skeptical Science is starting to foray into solutions doesn't mean it's core mission of communicating the science has been abandoned. There is a continual stream of posts "in the pipeline" of development. Even if I have to write some of them myself (I've made remarkably little progress on the two I started, but we just changed homes, and the transition is almost over), there will be new topics coming.

    The Yooper
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  18. @Daniel Bailey

    I am glad to see optimism contrary to my pessimism, as optimism is what drives use forward. However, for those that see a problem, I am afraid there is no solution to this one at least there exist not a "not too hard" solution - any such "easy" solution is pure fiction and fantasies and is a result of ignorance or denial of the real causes why we sit in the current boat as we do - and that root cause have no easy solution.

    There has been many before that promised solution to almost anything but they all turned out to be wrong in the end - I don't see what special position this case has and I don't see any special reason for believing in all promises made for an happy end.
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  19. If confirmed, Carbon Capture and Storage is not going to be part of the solution:
    The end of cheap coal
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  20. Batsvensson - you continue to claim it cannot be solved. And yet. And yet people all over the world are solving it - house by house, business by business. With current technology. Without the necessary price signal via a carbon tax.

    If we address the political/economic issue by imposing a carbon tax, things get significantly easier. The work is vast, but we have a few decades (so long as we START now).

    While you might wish that Skeptical Science stay restricted to only stating the obvious (that global climate disruption is happening now); I applaud John for taking this respected site to the next level - dealing with the known problem

    Denier class skeptics would prefer that this site just continue to trumpet the obscenely obvious facts that climate change is well underway.

    Progress calls for turning up the heat and getting real about solutions.
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  21. Not what a lot of skeptics would expect (or want to hear):

    CBI (Confederation of British Industry) supportive of carbon counting and most companies say it is beneficial.
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  22. Will nuclear power have to be re-evaluated in light of the Japan crisis? It is too bad. I have always claimed to be agnostic about nuclear power, but if one leg of CO2 free energy is lost it will be harder to solve the problem.
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  23. Nuclear is definitely not the complete (or even major) answer to non-carbon sources of energy, despite what some have said on here in the past, particularly because of the possible worst-case scenario events - one of which we are witnessing in Japan.

    Now, the reply to that may be that most countries are not as vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis as Japan, or that this is showing just how tough they are because it may all be contained; but, at the very least, people are now being reminded about the ultimate dangers that lie behind even the safest of nuclear power stations because there is no guarantee that the worst will not happen and, if it does happen, the worst nuclear failure is, I believe, worse than that following the failure of any other type of power station.

    Nuclear, at most, must only be a temporary stop-gap between carbon-based forms of energy generation and the future reliance on wholly renewable sources.
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  24. Having been sceptical of nuclear power since I was old enough to consider the issues, I have recently revised that position because of the threat of global warming. IMO, the threat of global warming is so large, and so imminent that we cannot responsibly take nuclear power of the table. However, my support is not unconditional.

    As a simple matter of geology, there are regions in the world with heightened radioctivity due to the presence of uranium ore. The presence of those ores may be of concern to particular communities, but is not of itself an environmental issue. Conceivably, the nuclear industry could treat its waste so that:

    1) It is no more radioactive on average than uranium ore;

    2) It is commercially more expensive to recover the radioactive material from the waste than it is to recover nuclear fuel from the ore;

    3) The radioactive waste cannot leach into the water table; and

    4) The radioactive waste is stored at a remote location, far from any significant population centers.

    If it did so, then the nuclear waste would be no more dangerous to future generations than was the original uranium ore from which it came. Meeting these requirements, therefore, removes the primary ethical objection to the use of nuclear fuels.

    There would remain serious issues relating to nuclear safety and proliferation, but these can be adressed as engineering and administrative/security issues. They are in principle soluble issues, for a sufficient price. That being the case, there is no in principle objection to nuclear power remaining, even as a long term solution to energy needs. It is just necessary to ensure safety standards for supply, transport, pocessing and use of nuclear fuels are sufficiently stringent, and that the disposal of nuclear waste meets the criteria above.

    That may make nuclear energy too expensive. Well then, tough, for that means it can only be made cheap enough by taking unacceptable risks. But if nuclear power is commercially viable given these criteria, then it should be among the energy solutions for a low carbon future.

    I do not think the crisis in Japan changes this. It is evident that better engineered reactors are needed in earthquake and tsunami prone regions, which may add to the cost of nuclear power. But that is not an in principle objection.
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  25. Climate Scientist Fears His "Wedges" Made It Seem Too Easy is a recent article in National Geographic in which Robert Socolow, one of the two authors of the "wedge" paper, discusses how his work has been received and used.

    ""The job went from impossible to easy" in part because of the wedges theory. "I was part of that.""
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    [dana1981] Socolow clarifies his comments

  26. Implications for effective debunking?

    Clearly the overwhelming evidence and - yes - "consensus" on the reality and threat of AGW is not matched by any such consensus on what to do about AGW. That is reflected in the varied points of view expressed in this thread.

    Then say one wishes to "undo" a previous talk given by a member of the denial machine by volunteering to give a free talk telling the truth. One is careful not to make too many counter arguments, one emphasizes proper visuals, one follows the general suggestions in "The Debunking Handbook".

    But at the end of the talk someone is likely to ask "What do you think should be done about AGW?"

    Clearly, "I don't know" is an unacceptable answer and will result in undoing all the good mind changing that may have happened in your first 50 minutes.

    I am soon to be retired, and believe I would like to travel around from place to place where first a misinformer has misinformed and present there a free rebuttal, rather like a "Johnny Debunkerseed" . But IMO, one would need a really good answer for "What do you think should be done about AGW?" to be effective in such a role. I would appreciate suggestions.
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