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What should we do about climate change?

Posted on 27 October 2010 by Kevin Judd

A short piece for the general audience of RTR radio, Perth, Australia.
(listen to the original audio podcast)

Climate scientists are telling us that the earth is warming, we are causing it, and we should reduce carbon dioxide emissions to lessen the effects. So what should we do?

Firstly, we should either use less energy, or use renewable energy sources, like solar-thermal generators that are now providing energy in Europe more cheaply than Nuclear generators, without the waste products. In Australia, peak energy demand is on hot summer days, when solar energy is most abundant; it makes no sense to not use solar energy to help meet this peak demand.

Most importantly, we must stop listening to disinformation. Contrary arguments have been repeatedly shown to be false and misleading. Claims that climate change is a hoax, or a conspiracy, or that climate scientists have deceived the public, is an inversion of the truth. Climate change denial is the propaganda. Ninety seven percent of scientists agree climate change is happening. The peer-reviewed evidence is overwhelming. The time for scepticism about climate change has past.

Scepticism is a good thing, all scientists are sceptics. I always encourage people to critically examine evidence and motivations. A good place to begin is the following. What is more plausible? That thousands of scientists have been fabricating evidence and theory for over a hundred years in a conspiracy to achieve, well, what exactly? Or that industries and their partners are sponsoring a disinformation campaign because they stand to lose billions of dollars in profits, if people should use less, or alternative forms of, energy? Ask yourself who stands to lose the most if the scientists' warnings are acted on? Then ask yourself who stands to lose the most if scientists' warnings are not acted on.

And keep in mind that the costs of prevention now is less than the cost of trying to fix the damage later

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO PODCAST

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Comments 101 to 150 out of 380:

  1. Eric Those folks are so filthy rich that they can afford their own power systems and many have back up power. After all you can't have all that really expensive wine in cellar and steaks in the freezsr go bad. Or no power for the heated pool and sauna.
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  2. #95: "There are about 10-15 trillion barrels of unconvential oil which are heavy and extra heavy crude oils, tar sand and oil shale." Plans for oil shale recovery come and go whenever there is a price shock. Oil shale production is characterized by high front-end capital and operating costs and long lead times between capital investments and operating revenues. The potential for changes in economic conditions, energy markets, capital markets, government leadership and policies, and public support for oil shale projects, imposes greater risks than many other energy project investments. -- Oil Shale Roadmap, 2004 That problem is anathema to an oil industry dogged by price and demand concerns. Nor is oil shale a 'free in Nature' as you specify in #95. The extraction process is an environmental mess, especially involving the water requirements: Current water supply from the Colorado River Basin System is likely to be adequate to support the initial phases of oil shale industry development. However, the quantity of water required for a large-scale industry, producing 2-4 million barrels per day or more, could present a significant hurdle. -- same source (And that's what keeps this on topic -- warming climate means disruptions to water supplies.)
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  3. RE: Daniel Bailey #72 Thank you for responding. What you wrote makes sense. I understand that we won't see temperatures coming down very quickly because of the reasons you explained. The main question I was asking was: "Energy is being generated by wind and solar devices. As a result, no CO2 was introduced into the atmosphere from energy produced by these devices. If the equivalent energy had been produced from carbon fuels, then "X" tons of CO2 would have gone into and warmed the atmosphere. How much of a potential global temperature increase was averted by using wind and solar devices?" This is what I was lamenting in my earlier comment. Government is heavily subsidizing wind and solar, but what effect will use of wind and solar have on global temperature? Is this giving us enough "bang for the buck"? Will it stop the increase in global temperature, or merely slow it down? We're not being told. I doubt that anyone has done the calculations, else why haven't we been told? If a dietician can estimate the effect of 100 calories per day (either added to or removed from the diet) on a persons weight, I'm hoping that climate scientists can do the same thing regarding the net change in CO2 (and thus temperature) resulting from generating power by wind and solar devices, instead of carbon fuels.
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  4. #98: "a great many bases for wind generators the last time I flew over Texas." Texas is rapidly converted the land above old, depleted oil fields into wind farms. See the wikipedia article for some history. Table 3 here shows that electrical generation using wind power in Texas may be as much as 500% of electrical consumption.
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  5. daisym - If you want to compare power sources and their temperature increases, you might want to look at the Waste heat vs greenhouse warming page. Long story short: the CO2 emitted by burning carbon fuels causes ~100x the warming that the energy released does, 2.9W/m^2 versus 0.028W/m^2. So every MW converted from carbon fuels leads to reducing 100MW of warming. In terms of temperature, the current 15TW produced and used in all countries will (at equilibrium) warm the world by 0.015°C to 0.034°C. Compare that to the 1.5-3.5°C (depending on your estimate of climate sensitivity) from the CO2 we've put into the air so far. Further discussion on this, however, should probably take place on the Waste heat vs greenhouse warming page.
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  6. Argus #97 I think it’s admirable that Denmark has such ambitious goals concerning renewable energy, and if they achieve these goals it will be a lesson and an example for many countries. Besides, it is also a smart strategy, as it will make Denmark eventually independent of foreign energy suppliers (and we don’t know what is going to happen on the energy market, but we can be sure it is going to be a bumpy ride). However, I am wondering if the deployment of renewable energy will have any lasting effect in the battle against climate change. The fossil fuel that isn’t consumed in Denmark will not remain in the ground. It will be burned elsewhere. So that is basically my statement: Climate change can only be fought by stopping new carbon from entering the carbon cycle (or by removing the same amount of carbon that is added to it). Deployment of renewable energy will -possibly - slow down the consumption of fossil fuels, but it will not stop the burning of fossil fuels. And therefore it can at most delay, but not avoid catastrophic global warming. Of course, even delaying AGW can be a crucial part of the solution. But it cannot be the whole solution.
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  7. mc The in situ processes that Shell and also Chevron are using avoid many of these problems. The projects are long term development. The big problem is energy. The Shell process requires several years of heating before producing wells can start pumping out oil. Did you google "SASOl" South Africa obtains about 40% of their liquid hydrocarbon forn coal using the Fischer-Tropsch process. Exxon Mobil was about to bring a heavy oil field into production in the Orinico basin a few years ago until Hugo C wanted 51% of the action. They walked away and sued Hugo for a few billion dollars. By walking away, they avoid sharing trade secrets. If Hugo got his hand on these he would sell them to the Chinese. Google "SAGD" and "toe to heel injection" These are newer methods for recovering heavy oils.
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  8. Re: daisym (103) Apologies for not interpreting your question(s) correctly. I'm glad you found some of what I wrote of value. Let me try again:
    "How much of a potential global temperature increase was averted by using wind and solar devices?"
    Not having run the numbers or even seen the numbers run, I couldn't tell you with any certainty (KR, Marcus, JMurphy, Neil King or kdkd could probably tell you off the top of their heads). But given the magnitude of the fossil fuel releases compared to the extremely limited (as yet) negative CO2 footprint of green energy tech like wind, tidal or solar, the CO2/temp "savings" thus far have to be microscopic (i.e., lost in the "noise" of the standard fluctuations of temps over time).
    "This is what I was lamenting in my earlier comment. Government is heavily subsidizing wind and solar, but what effect will use of wind and solar have on global temperature? Is this giving us enough "bang for the buck"? Will it stop the increase in global temperature, or merely slow it down? We're not being told. I doubt that anyone has done the calculations, else why haven't we been told?"
    I would have to disagree with you slightly on your first point here: government expenditures/subsidies of green energy tech is a drop in the bucket compared to that spent on the fossil fuel industry. You must remember to include mineral and liquid hydrocarbon lease costs (which are a fraction of the true value of the resource) into the equation. If fossil fuel interests had to pay commercial market acquisition costs for those green energy tech would begin to look much more cost effective. But I prolong the inevitable, sorry. This part sucks, but here goes: Lets say, in a perfect world, we're able to convert over 100% of fossil fuel derived CO2 emissions to green energy tech (hang the details, a thought experiment). So we replace the 31.8 gigatonnes of CO2 (2008 data) injected from fossil fuels with...zero CO2. Balance restored, right? Not quite. Due to the built-in feedbacks in the pipeline (that darn thermal mass of the ocean getting redistributed again), the world will continue to warm for a while (25 to 50 years timeframe). With zero fossil fuel derived CO2 inputs, about another 0.6 C on top of the 0.8 C already achieved. CO2 concentration levels will then probably level off in the 440-450 PPM range, ~ 2100 or so. Long term feedbacks (as there is no paleo comparator for the CO2 slug we've injected into the natural carbon cycle) maybe add another 0.5 to 1.0 C, for a grand total of 1.9 to 2.9 degrees C (referenced to preindustrial levels). So under a perfect-case scenario, with the economy magically transitioned to a zero-sum fossil fuel CO2 game, we will get additional warming roughly equal to what we've already received. Or more. So why bother? Unless we pull out all the stops, the odds of a methane hydrate release in the Arctic go from an already non-zero chance with the minimum warming in the pipeline to a near-certainty of another 30 to 50 years of Business-As-Usual. So we either pay the piper now, and suffer not immodestly economically, but we all survive. Or we go off the cliff: BAU for 30-50 years puts us on a trajectory, counting a likely methane hydrate release (which has happened before) of 800 to 1,000 PPM (timeline unknown). But a global temp increase of 5 to 7 degrees C (estimates vary, but the effects of that are explained well here). And a good chance most of humanity ceases to exist. Sorry to be alarmist. But if you were in the World Trade Center in New York the day the planes hit, what would you have done when management said that there was no cause for alarm and not to worry? Would you have gone about your regular routine or would you have exercised caution and immediately vacated the premises, just to be safe? Obviously, hindsight colors this analogy. But it still holds for what we face today: Deniers and delayers, some with vested interests and some not, tell us everything is fine and even if not, that we should wait before acting hastily. Some in the World Trade Center acted hastily...and lived. If we wait until we're sure, due to the delays, it would be like being in a military conflict and waiting until you can see the sniper picking off your men before opening fire in return. In that case, you're already dead. The difference, also, between the weight gain analogy from my earlier post and what we face with climate change is this: with an appropriate response, an individual can make a dramatic change in their weight. In the case of our lifestyles and the world fossil fuel based economies, all of humanity now has to "go on a diet". So why does no one in government want to discuss this? Good question. Probably because they fear the same reaction you are experiencing right now: utter disbelief. It is one thing to understand the various bits and pieces of the physics and mechanics of climate change. It is completely another thing altogether to synthesize it into one cohesive whole as Hansen has done. Well, I've probably done enough damage for one day. The Yooper
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  9. “What should we do about climate change?” I don’t know what we should do about climate change. I do know what we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from our use of fossil fuels. Of this, 30% is from electricity generation. If electricity is cheap enough it will substitute for gas for heating and oil for transport. Clean electricity, if cheap, could reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions by 50%. That is just by implementing low-cost, low-emission electricity. The cheaper electricity is, the faster it will displace fossil fuels for heat and transport The cheaper electricity is the faster it will be adopted in the developing world. That will save millions of lives per year, improve their standard of living and many other advantages. If the under-developed and developing countries can implement cheap clean electricity instead of cheap, dirty electricity, world greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced much faster than if they have to go through the fossil fuel stage. Therefore, the most important thing we, in the developed countries, need to do is to focus on is implementing lost cost, clean electricity. We will not do that while we allow unfounded beliefs to dictate policy. Raising the cost of electricity through pricing carbon and mandating and subsidising renewable energy is exactly the wrong policy if we want the world to take the fastest path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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  10. Regarding transportation (which some think demands hydrocarbon fuels). A good chunk of US transportation is devoted to hauling one person and a small amount of personal stuff a few miles. This could easily be done with bicycles. It might not be popular, but it is clearly possible, and it is fantastically more efficient than using a car for the same purpose. For hot climates, frequent steep inclines, and the fitness-challenged, an electrical assist for a bike is a big help, but uses much less energy than an electrical assist for a car. The Dutch experience suggests that this can be a much more popular method of transportation than here, and markets are emerging there for things like small, aerodynamically faired tricycles that go faster, keep the weather off, and provide some interior storage. There are also old and new cargo bike designs that, while much smaller than a car, can often carry bulky loads that will not fit in a car. (As a fat old guy who already rides a cargo bike 50 miles/week in a place where it snows, I'm not interested in hearing what people "can't" do, though I am well aware of what they "won't" do.) A non-trivial reduction in greenhouse emissions can come from diet -- this is especially important if you are biking enough to add another "day" or two of calorie burning to your weekly total. Much less meat, especially beef, lamb, pork, and deep sea fish. Not no meat at all, merely much much less, and more often poultry and small fish than mammals (less mercury in the small fish, too). Shipping, it's hard to say. We did use sails once upon a time, and we build more more interesting wind devices nowadays (traction kites, fancy windmills). However, I compared the size of the engine of a large ship (Emma Maersk, 110MW total) with the sunlight on its decks at the equator (22 MW, never mind conversion), and the power of the largest windmill built so far (6-7MW), it seems that it would be dicey. However, as near as I can tell, power required is quadratic in ship speed (I checked, it seems to not be cubic in this case) , and I don't know whether the full engine power is often needed. Once upon a time, we also moved quite a lot of cargo by barge and by train; presumably we could do that again. It would be different now, given the widespread use of standardized containers for cargo.
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  11. dr2chase - I would completely agree; it would be great to replace the 4-seat auto in the US for most trips. Unfortunately: - US cities are optimized for cars, not bikes. - Monied interests (GM, primarily) bought up and destroyed efficient streetcar companies decades ago in order to sell cars. It's still worth trying. I recently attended the Progressive X-Prize awards ceremony for autos, where $10M was offered as prizes for 100mpg cars. This would at least be a starting point, and many of the cars were electric. Search Flickr for "X-Prize" or google "X-Prize 100mpg" for some details. I would love to see minimalistic cars used instead of the @$$!#@* SUV's. Progressive X-Prize 100mpg contest Flickr contestant photos
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  12. #109: "70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from our use of fossil fuels. Of this, 30% is from electricity generation." Excellent points. Here's an Australian study, admittedly very heavily pro-nuke, that details the cost of various emission reduction scenarios. Conclusions are sobering, but they demonstrate that emissions reductions are feasible: Business as Usual (mostly coal) is the least cost option but has the highest CO2 emissions. The Nuclear power option will enable the largest cut in CO2-e emissions from electricity generation. The Nuclear option is the only option that can be built quickly enough to make the deep cuts required by 2050. The Nuclear option is the least cost of the options that can cut emissions sustainably. Wind and solar are the highest cost ways to cut emissions. A mixture of solar thermal and wind power is the highest cost and has the highest avoidance cost of the options considered. Mixing these technologies does not reduce the cost, it increases the cost. At the same time, we live in this world: PGE profit gets federal tax boost Empire District Q3 Profit Rises El Paso Electric Q3 Profit Surges The list of electric utilities with impressive profits goes on and on. Some cite huge electricity demand during this hot summer as the reason their profits jumped. Isn't that just perfect? Making a mess that you don't have to clean up gets you more profits. Yet a 2000 study at MIT found the cost of carbon capture to be on the order of 3cents per kwH. Why couldn't utilities be required to use these 'windfall' profits to cover some of the cost of cleaning up their mess? Nah, that would be an alarmist scam.
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  13. #99 First of all, asking Americans to change their culture is not going to work. That explains why we still have slavery and segregation, support for gay marriage is stuck at about one percent, most cosmetics are tested on animals, you can smoke anywhere you like, and women still wear bloomers. Talking about "American culture" as though it's some monolithic, irreducible entity is an enormous ideological imposition. The concept is largely imaginary; to the extent that it exists, it's actually pretty malleable. I submit that "skeptics" know this as well as I do, if not better. There'd be little point in spending millions to prevent or forestall cultural change, otherwise.
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  14. muoncounter (#112), The author of that interesting study you quoted has been participating in this thread. While it is reasonable to call Peter Lang's study "pro-nuke", that is hardly a criticism when none of the alternative energy sources come close to eliminating CO2 emissions on the scale that nuclear power can readily achieve.
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  15. dr2chase (#110), East Kilbride in Scotland is a strange place to live until you realize that it was built on a "Green Field" site by people who shared your notion that bicycles should be the dominant personal transport system. This was all done long before there was concern about rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Sadly, not even the Scots could be persuaded to abandon the motor car, so East Kilbride remains a monument to the hubris of central planners.
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  16. #105 Ann
    I think it’s admirable that Denmark has such ambitious goals concerning renewable energy, and if they achieve these goals it will be a lesson and an example for many countries. Besides, it is also a smart strategy, as it will make Denmark eventually independent of foreign energy suppliers (and we don’t know what is going to happen on the energy market, but we can be sure it is going to be a bumpy ride).
    No it won't and paradoxically it may in fact make Denmark more dependent on foreign energy supplies. The reason is quite simple - the variability of wind power. I believe that Denmark exports much of it's wind power and also imports electricity from it's northern neighbours. As the proportion of wind in the grid increases, the dependence on something to back it up also increases. There will be days, and probably periods of a week or more when there is next to no electricity generated by wind. You can import electricity or for example burn gas but it's got to come from somewhere. All grand plans for powering Europe from renewables are utterly dependent on an expanded super grid, based on the assumption that the wind is always blowing or sun shining somewhere. Without going into the practicalities of this, the obvious conclusion is that nations would become critically dependent on importing electricity and if those imports fail, the lights would go out. This is a very serious question for energy security. Fossil fuels can be to some extent be stockpiled, and several years of nuclear fuels stockpiled, but imported electricity can go off in the blink of an eye. This might be acceptable between good friends, perhaps some western European nations, but how about western and eastern Europe, Russia, Middle East, Nth Africa? I'd suggest that all nations are going to think long and hard about their energy security and the degree that they may participate in super grids. It has huge implications for the limitations of renewables on a scale that could supplant fossil fuels in electricity generation.
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  17. #103 daisym, The contribution of low CO2 sources of electricity generation world wide are around these numbers: Hydro 16% Nuclear 14% Wind, Solar and Geothermal 3% In Europe and the US, nuclear is about 20%. Wind and solar make a trivial contribution to averting global warming.
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  18. @KR - I think I disagree, but you may have something different in mind that I do. There's where we are now, where we could be with just changes in behavior, and where we could be when things change. Consider that the question is, what do we do about climate change? Cars, as they stand, are simply not an option. Either they go all electric (and the grid goes carbon free), or we radically change our use of them, or they go away. The reason to propose "bicycle" is that this is an extremely well-understood, incredibly efficient technology with few-to-no impacts to worry about. There are two concerns for bicycles. One is safety, but if cars are gone, then that is gone. Note, by-the-way, that this is innumerate, subjective safety, not real safety -- the risk from not-biking is far higher (it's relatively unhealthy, to a degree that dwarfs crash risks of cars or bikes). The second is distance, and there are distances at which a bike is not practical. However, there are known solutions to this problem, too. First, assuming we go for bikes, we will somewhat modify the infrastructure. Traffic lights are much less necessary, rotaries are often sufficient (for bikes). Bikes are small, their riders see and hear far better than anyone driving a car, this is not a crazy idea. Second, you get legs. Combine that with the better infrastructure, most people will find a trip in the 5-9 mile range tractable. Third, you can improve the bike. Aerodynamic fairings are a huge help. Entire aero fairings exist in tricycles you can buy, now. Not rocket science. Fourth, you can add an e-assist. This puts you at 20mph, easy. Again, an existing consumer product, not rocket science. Fifth, bikes enable mass transit. Right now, popular choices for getting to train, subway, and bus stops are walking and driving. Walking is too slow, driving (and parking) is too high-impact, which causes towns to get picky about where stops are. Insufficient parking also limits access to mass transit, which in turns cuts profitability and service levels (we see this NOW, in the Boston area). Bikes win here. Because biking is faster than walking, more people can get to the station without a car. Because bikes are low-impact, traffic and the parking lot are not an issue for siting the station. Because bikes can be parked in a small space, access is not limited by full parking lots. Another thing to throw into the pile-o-facts -- already, at least 1/3 of us live in places as dense as a Dutch town (Assen) with high ride share. It could be more -- the census data I used to figure that out, only considered "places" with population more than 50k. I live in a dense place not on that list, so I know it is more than 1/3. And I must add, sometimes it is hard to imagine a place without the cars. I grew up in the St. Pete/Clearwater area, and right now, it is hard to imagine a place more unfriendly to bikes, but mostly because the only arteries are filled with fast cars, and there are not even very good crossing points. HOWEVER, if there are no cars, it all changes -- bikes (and busses) get to use the arteries. That's not what you think when you look at it -- what you think is, "peak oil comes, these people are screwed". But that's not necessarily so -- it's dense, there's services close by, it's mostly flat. (It's also really hot, but that didn't stop me from biking when I was a kid.)
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  19. dr2chase - I don't disagree on the preference for bicycles, just noting that US cities are rather deliberately designed to make them rather impractical. I've spent time in the Netherlands (Leiden in particular, lovely town), and bicycles work there. But in a lot of the US it's a long long ride with no bike lanes to get to the store, to the bookshop, to work, etc. I live near Washington DC, where everything is 45 minutes from everything else by car! Proper city planning is required to make bikes (and walking, and neighborhood electric cars) practical. Given the current development in the US, it's going to take some time, effort, and $$$ to make it practical. Which I despise, but can't do much about at the moment, other than encouraging pedestrian/cycle/mass transit friendly development, which I certainly do (supporting additional Metro lines, bike paths, etc.)
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  20. Pushing massive life style change will delay acceptance of the policies needed. For those who believe cutting CO2 emissions is urgent, I'd urge they should delay pushing for massive life style change. It is defeating your purpose. Pushing for polices, at this time, that many believe will seriously damage the economy, will increase resistance to those policies, slow the rate they can be implemented, and cause major compromises to get them through parliament. Instead of pushig for policies (that many beleive will seriously fdamage the economy) I'd suggest changing the approach. It is possible to have low emissions electricity and reduce the cost of electricity. This will have major benefits for the world, especially for the poorest people on the planet. And it will lead to the fastest reduction of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. It is a Win-Win. To achieve this means throwing off the anti-nuclear rhetoric. It means removing all the impediments to low-cost nuclear (as distinct from high-cost nuclear; high-cost nuclear is what the public demands in USA, UK, EU. I'd argue that is what we do not need and should not want). Low cost, clean electricity is what we should be aiming for. Not renewables. Forget that idea. And not a carbon tax on electricity generation - yet!
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  21. I am frankly amazed that nobody reacts on my earlier statement (#106): The massive deployment of green energy will not stop global warming (and of course the same applies for nuclear energy). You all agree ? Why the hell is green energy promoted in that case ? I just found a very good analogy : let’s say you organise a party. You have provided cake and carrots for snacks. And you think if you only provide enough carrots, nobody will eat the cake. I think not. No matter how much nuclear or green power is installed, it won't stop the world from using fossil fuels until they are depleted !
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  22. Ann, I did see your comment, but I do not agree that trying to mandate the world stop using fossil fuel is a practicable suggestion. Are you going to try to tell the the people living in India, Indonesia and in the under developed countries they cannot have electricity? Are you going to tell them they cannot have hospitals, schools, industry, jobs, an improving standard of living and a fulfilling life because some rich people in the western democracies say so? Good luck. There is an alternative to your proposal. The alternative is we allow (yes, allow) clean electricity to be cheaper than fossil fuel electricity. We allow it to be as cheap as we can. To do that we remove all the impediments we've imposed on nuclear over the past 40+ years. I recognise we cannot do it all at once, but we can change our thinking from loading more and more requirements on nuclear to dismantling them. We can develop the next generation of nuclear power stations with the first requirement being low-cost electricity. With a clear signal from government that this is the direction we intend to take, the investor risk premium - that is raising the cost of nuclear in the western democracies - would reduce progressively over time and would increase on the fossil fuel technologies instead. But we prevent that while so many people who argue for reducing carbon emissions on one hand are at the same time strongly opposed to nuclear. The answer is clear. It has been for at least 30 years.
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  23. @Peter I actually agree with you. We cannot stop the world from using fossil fuel. That is exactly my point. “There is an alternative to your proposal. The alternative is we allow (yes, allow) clean electricity to be cheaper than fossil fuel electricity. We allow it to be as cheap as we can.” So, to extend my party analogy: your solution is: we make the carrots tastier than the cake, and hope this way people won’t eat the cake anymore. But be aware that the number of visitors to this party is unlimited and will even grow, the more food you provide. Are you sure the cake is not going to be eaten ? As I see it, the whole plan to fight climate change now hinges on the assumption that the massive deployment of either green energy or nuclear energy will cause humanity to abstain from burning fossil fuels. How realistic is that ?
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  24. Ann, The analogy doesn't mean much to me. I prefer to stick with energy and facts and figures. We do not have a problem with shortage of energy. Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited. The build rate of power stations is also not a limitation. We've built at the required rate 30 to 40 years ago and that was with early, big clunker designs. Smaller modular units will become available as soon as the market sends the signals. Investors will move from fossil fuels to nuclear as soon as we send the right signals. That hasn't happened yet in the western democracies. As time goes on, we start sending the right signals and people get over their fear of nuclear (as people who live with it have already), we will send the usual market signals to the electricity industry - "we want least cost electricity". We will slowly unwind the ridiculous requirements we currently place on nuclear power (and don't place on any other industry).
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  25. Peter, The analogy doesn't mean much to me. I prefer to stick with energy and facts and figures. OK, I will no longer mention my analogy. We do not have a problem with shortage of energy. Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited. This is not the issue. My statement is not: “Nuclear power plants will not be able to provide the power currently provided by fossil fuel power plants.” My statement is: “No matter what amount of nuclear power is provided, it will never reduce the burning of fossil fuels to zero (or even close to zero)." So even in the most optimistic scenario, deploying nuclear power (or green power) will slow down, but not stop global warming. Do you really believe that the massive deployment of nuclear energy will cause humanity to abstain from burning fossil fuels ? Some pretty strong preconditions must prevail: - Nuclear energy must become so cheap that it will replace fossil fuels everywhere in the world, including the less developed countries. It must become so cheap that functioning coal plants will be shut down, because it is economically more beneficial to build a brand new nuclear plant. - There must be an oversupply of nuclear energy (both globally and locally), otherwise people will still resort to more expensive options e.g. fossil fuel. Of course an oversupply leads to a greater demand, and a faster population growth (population will always grow proportional to the available resources). Nuclear energy deployment will have to keep ahead of this exponentially rising demand. - As the demand for fossil fuel plummets (this is part of YOUR assumption, not mine), fossil fuel prices will collapse. Nuclear energy will have to remain competitive with ever lowering fossil fuel prices. This just isn’t realistic.
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  26. Ann, I don’t understanding what you are advocating. Do you have a better proposal? What is the solution you are arguing for? What is the time-line you are arguing for? If you set an impossibly short time frame, then there is no 'realistic' solution. But whatever time frame you set, nuclear will have to be a major contributor to cutting CO2 emissions from energy use. You are exaggerating, twisting or misunderstanding much of what I’m saying, so I’ve lost what it is you are trying to say. Here are some examples: “My statement is: “No matter what amount of nuclear power is provided, it will never reduce the burning of fossil fuels to zero (or even close to zero)."” What do you mean by “never”, and I didn't say "zero"? The transition will be progressive. I believe we can cut the use of fossil fuel used in electricity generation by 80% by 2050, and, if electricity is cheap, this will cut total emissions by 40% to 50%. Land use, land use change, agriculture, etc. will contribute more cuts. The point is we do have an alternative to fossil fuels for electricity generation and we should be putting our energies into allowing it, not prohibiting it. Unfortunately, the most ardent activists for fast reduction of CO2 emissions are also the people most stridently opposed to nuclear power. That makes others wonder: 'what is their real agenda?' It’s a fair question. “Do you really believe that the massive deployment of nuclear energy will cause humanity to abstain from burning fossil fuels?” I didn't say 'abstain'. That is misrepresenting what I said. But, eventually, there will be little use of fossil fuel. Eventually! It will take time and will never be zero, but surely that is irrelevant. “Massive deployment” is not a forced solution. It is an allowed solution. The problem is we have been preventing that solution by our irrational fears for 40+ years. We will overcome that. But it will take time. “Nuclear energy must become so cheap that it will replace fossil fuels everywhere in the world, including the less developed countries.” Yes. That will happen (eventually). Fossil fuels are little cheaper than nuclear now, and are more expensive in many places. The under-developed countries struggle to build any electricity system. Where nuclear is cheaper than coal, they will, and do, build nuclear. Why do you think all but one of the G20 countries have nuclear already or are on the path to get it? It certainly isn’t because it is more expensive than coal. And the cost could and should be far less than it is. “It must become so cheap that functioning coal plants will be shut down, because it is economically more beneficial to build a brand new nuclear plant.” All power plants reach the end of their economically viable date. As they reach the end of their lives, they are replaced by whatever type of plant seems it will give the lowest cost electricity over the life of the new plant (e.g., 60 years for nuclear, 40 years for coal, or 20 years renewables). The question about replacement of fossil fuels with low emission technology applies equally to replacing with renewables, except that renewables cannot do the job and are far more expensive. “There must be an oversupply of nuclear energy (both globally and locally), otherwise people will still resort to more expensive options e.g. fossil fuel.” They will implement whichever technology they expect will provide reliable power at least cost for the life of the plant. I don’t know why you think there must be an 'oversupply of nuclear'. What does this mean? Are you referring to availability of new plants or the fuel? There will be sufficient of both to meet demand. That is not a problem. And it is much easier to transport nuclear fuel around the world than coal - about 20,000 times smaller volume to transport for the same energy. And that is with the current technology that only uses 1% of the available energy. With Gen IV reactors we’ve mined enough uranium to provide all the world’s energy needs for all of this century. “This just isn’t realistic” I don’t understand what you are arguing is the realistic solution. Please explain. Renewables cannot make any significant contribution now or for a very long time, if ever. Cutting population growth: The best way to do that is to allow the underdeveloped world to develop as quickly as possible and to assist them to get cheap clean energy. Fertility drops as peoples standard of living rises and they can have more fulfilling lives through education and work rather than sitting at home producing and feeding children. Banning use of fossil fuels. Unrealistic. Banning access to energy causes wars. Carbon trading scheme. It would have to be international, based on consumption not production, and auditable. That is impossible. Carbon tax. That will raise the cost of electricity in the developed countries, avoid the real problem (which is impediments to low cost energy) and slow the rate that we develop low cost energy. That will slow the rate of uptake of low emissions electricity by the underdeveloped and developing countries. Raising the price of electricity is the wrong policy! Ann, what is your “realistic” solution to cutting emissions.
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  27. Re: Ann (106, 121, 123, 125) I did see your comment at 106, but I was busy at the time formulating a response to daisym (103). Your summation of both the situation we face and your position is spot-on. From my closing comments at 108:
    "It is one thing to understand the various bits and pieces of the physics and mechanics of climate change. It is completely another thing altogether to synthesize it into one cohesive whole as Hansen has done."
    As a species, we have been crawling on all fours across the lush savanna grasses. Some of us have raised up, erect on our knees & have sniffed smoke from a raging grass fire approaching quickly. It is not enough to merely shift the course of the herd, the task before us is to get the herd up off their hands and knees and stand...and to then run from the disaster that comes ever so swiftly now. Green energy tech, nuclear, hydro, tidal: all rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Not inherently bad things, but actions that address the symptoms only, not the underlying disease state itself. Only education can do that. Unless a critical mass of people can be reached and educated in a short amount of time to mobilize and take resolute action, it will be too late. What bitter medicine to swallow. It is little wonder few, even here, speak systemically. It may be that we have more time yet, wherein even a phased-in replacement of fossil fuels plus energy use efficiency and curtailment programs can allow us to turn the corner. That would be a wonderful, dreamlike end to the nightmare we are in. Or, instead of watching the clock wind down at the end of the 3rd quarter we discover, to our dismay and chagrin, that it is actually the 4th and last quarter...and time is all but gone. If it is a sin to calculate the worst outcome and to then plan accordingly, then sinner I be. The Yooper
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  28. @KR - My assumption is that we have perfectly good bike lanes, it's just that they're full of cars right now. For many cities and towns, that's enough of a change. For others, distance is an issue, and things get more complicated.
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  29. #123: "Are you sure the cake is not going to be eaten ?" I'll bite on the cake/carrot analogy. Everyone eats the cake in preference to the carrots. Tastes good, is in plentiful supply. Unfortunately, this cake was made with flour derived from beans - and you know the result of that. Nobody notices that this is a problem for a while, until the room becomes unpleasant. Want more cake now? "even in the most optimistic scenario, deploying nuclear power (or green power) will slow down, but not stop global warming." What's wrong with that? Especially when you consider that there are far more valuable uses for petrochemicals than their heat content. We are in no position to turn down alternative energy sources based on current thinking. Look what kind of mess our current thinking has put us in!
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  30. Hi Peter, Now, how to answer this… I don’t want to raise any more misunderstandings. First let’s discuss your proposal to fight climate change. I don’t doubt that fossil fuel power plants can be replaced by nuclear power plants, and that this will cut CO2 emissions for electricity generation. But it also mean more fossil fuel will become available for other purposes (rule of supply and demand). If less fossil fuel is burned in power plants, more will be used for vehicles like airplanes, ships, etc. Fossil fuel will continue to be used until all reserves have been depleted. Don’t you agree with that assumption? So, the amount of CO2 that will end up in the atmosphere eventually is not at all dependent on the amount of green or nuclear power we deploy. It can be directly deduced from the level of atmospheric CO2 today + the amount of carbon that is currently stored underground, in the shape of fossil fuel. (OK, and taking into account aborption of CO2 by oceans, plants, rocks etc.) So. My conclusion: A transition to nuclear energy will not stop climate change. You might even conclude that nuclear energy and green energy will actually worsen climate change. How’s that ? Scenario 1: If most of the power plants remain fossil fuel based, techniques can be deployed to capture and sequester the produced CO2. These techniques are not used yet, but at least it is a possibility. Scenario 2: If however most of the fossil fuel power plants are replaced by nuclear power plants or renewables, the fossil fuel that would be burned in a power plant will be used for vehicles. There will be no way to capture the CO2 produced by these vehicles. Result: Scenario 2 results eventually in a higher atmospheric CO2 level than scenario 1. Prove me wrong. As for my proposal to fight climate change, I don’t want to mix this up in the current discussion. Anyway, I am trying to prove that solution A is invalid. It is irrelevant to the discussion whether a completely different solution B is valid or not.
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  31. Re: Daniel, I expressed myself rather strongly, on purpose, to get a reaction and start a discussion. People take too much for granted that either renewable energy or nuclear energy is going to save the planet, and this complacency is dangerous. The danger is that even dedicated people, who are genuinely concerned about the future of our planet start thinking it suffices to switch to green energy and reduce their ecological footprint. I just don’t like the current boy’s scouts mentality surrounding all actions to fight climate change. E.g. “if we all do our best, we can avert the danger”. The battle against climate change will either be won or lost. We shouldn’t do our best. We should do whatever it takes to avert the danger. To me that means: controlling the amount of carbon that is actually entering the carbon cycle. Via carbon capture and sequestration, artificial trees, reforestation. Carbon trading is an essential part of this solution.
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  32. @Peter Lang: "Renewables cannot make any significant contribution now or for a very long time, if ever." That is a political statement, not a scientific one. It's hard not to think you don't have a personal stake in Nuclear Power when you make such sweeping declarations. Right now, German citizens are generating *too much* solar power in peak insolation periods, and it risks damaging their power grid (the proposed solution is a more flexible European grid). I think Nuclear is part of the equation, but your aggressive opposition to renewable is both unfounded and suspect.
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  33. @muoncounter #129 #123: "Are you sure the cake is not going to be eaten ?" muon:I'll bite on the cake/carrot analogy. Everyone eats the cake in preference to the carrots. Tastes good, is in plentiful supply. Unfortunately, this cake was made with flour derived from beans - and you know the result of that. Nobody notices that this is a problem for a while, until the room becomes unpleasant. Want more cake now? Nice extension to my analogy ... Yup, bring on the cake. I don't care if other people suffocate. Isn't that exactly how people react nowadays ? They know the rise in CO2 may be catastrophic in the end, but it doesn't stop them (including me, I must admit) from driving their cars, using electricity etc. "even in the most optimistic scenario, deploying nuclear power (or green power) will slow down, but not stop global warming." muon: What's wrong with that? I was in the assumption we want to stop global warming. Slowing down global warming may have a very limited use. It will buy us more time to come up with real solutions. But it is dangerous if people start thinking alternative energy is the definite answer to the problem. Especially when you consider that there are far more valuable uses for petrochemicals than their heat content. We are in no position to turn down alternative energy sources based on current thinking. Look what kind of mess our current thinking has put us in! I don't want to turn down alternative energy sources. They will be urgently needed, if only to overcome peak oil. I want to raise the question: Will the worldwide deployment of nuclear or green energy stop climate change ? Is it the definite answer to the problem ? Until now I heard nothing that convinced me this would be the case.
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  34. Ann - Nothing is "instant". We are, first of all, stuck with some amount of additional warming based upon the climate moving to equilibrium with the CO2 we've already emitted; another 40-60 years worth. And we don't have the gazillion dollars sitting around to replace every power plant, car, truck, ship, train, etc. this year. But every bit of change will help. Making nuclear more affordable than coal power plants, encouraging solar/wind power development, even increasing the average mileage of autos en route to making electric or renewable fuel cell cars practical - every bit is a step in the process. Your "instant off" calls (my interpretation, mind you) are the kind of thing that make people throw their hands in the air, say "Can't be done!", and go away. I think it's important to take all available paths that move us away from CO2 accumulation as quickly as possible - including popular support, technology development, government subsidies, regulations, permit actions (for building new renewable power generation), etc. But it will take some time.
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  35. Ann - I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're stuck with some warming; the effort now goes into limiting that, mitigating/minimizing the costs and problems we're going to face as a result, and trying to avoid critical points such as permafrost CO2 release and clathrate venting that would double the effects. We can't 'turn off' global warming - a planet ain't going to stop on a dime. That's going to cost us - but we can avoid making matters worse. And perhaps, a century or three from now, CO2 levels may decrease.
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  36. Ann #125: "As the demand for fossil fuel plummets (this is part of YOUR assumption, not mine), fossil fuel prices will collapse. Nuclear energy will have to remain competitive with ever lowering fossil fuel prices." I'm not sure this is true. A switchover to nuclear (or renewable) power would certainly stop the ongoing rise of fossil fuel prices... but I don't think it would cause them to reverse course. This isn't just a 'supply and demand' issue after all. Rising fossil fuel prices have been driven by increasing extraction and transportation costs. Neither of those would go down if we were suddenly using less fossil fuel... indeed, they would probably go up. Consider Hawaii for instance. Currently they get most of their electricity from oil... which is less expensive to ship that far than coal or natural gas. If they switch over to wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and/or the other renewable energy sources they have in ridiculous abundance there is no way that 'oil power' is going to make a comeback. Even if it suddenly became 'free' to extract and process and oil company's decided to sell for zero profit... it would still cost just as much to ship across the ocean. We might see a change to fossil fuels being used primarily near where they are extracted... since that kind of local usage might well cost less than nuclear/renewable would in the same area. However, that would be on a much smaller scale than current fossil fuel usage.
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  37. @Ann - I hesitate to dive into what is looking more like a fight than a discussion, but... An 80% reduction in CO2 emissions is what I understand is the goal. Not 100%. An 80% reduction means that we still, ultimately, drill all the oil, but it takes five times longer. And, oil drilling is expensive; if we make conservation and non-fossil alternatives cheap enough, the lower price of oil will not justify aggressive drilling. It's not a case of wave-a-wand and it happens; as time goes by, the remaining oil will be more and more expensive to extract, and the sooner we can put cheap alternatives on the market, the sooner (reduced) price pressure will reduce the drilling rate. Economic incentives (carrots and sticks) probably help accelerate this, but there is a price for oil, relative to alternatives, that will cut its consumption by 80%. I'm agnostic about the whole renewables-vs-nukes argument; the thorium reactors sound good, but we've heard too-cheap-to-meter before (I assume we are about as over-optimistic as we ever were). I assume that we need an improved grid -- if we add nukes, certainly in the beginning we're going to be happier siting them far from population centers, till we can demonstrate that real live thorium plants really are safe and boring. Or, if we add wind/tidal/hydro/solar, we want a big grid to give us geographical diversity. Either way, a grid is helpful, and a grid is technology that we understand now.
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  38. Ann #130 So. My conclusion: A transition to nuclear energy will not stop climate change. That is rigth. “What should we do about climate change?” We need to fix the environment's thermostat. The negative feedback for an incoming heat is provided by water vapor. See for yourself on this animation:


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    Moderator Response: The role of water vapor is the subject of a different thread. Search for "water vapor " in the Search field at the top left.
  39. Mr. Moderator. Look to the quetion. What should we do about climate change? And look to my answer. It's pertinet.
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    Moderator Response: Yes, which is why I did not delete it. But your contention that water vapor is the control knob, and that we can control it directly, are incorrect; further discussion of the first of those issues belongs on the other thread.
  40. Daisym @103 "Government is heavily subsidizing wind and solar, but what effect will use of wind and solar have on global temperature? Is this giving us enough "bang for the buck"? Will it stop the increase in global temperature, or merely slow it down? We're not being told. I doubt that anyone has done the calculations, else why haven't we been told?" The calculations have been done. Wind power avoids little if any GHG emisisons. The cost per tonne CO2 avoided is very high. Cost and quantity of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by wind generation Emissions cuts realities
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  41. Daisym @103 How much CO2 emissions are avoided by wind generation? The answer is not much if any because of the extra emissions from the fossil fuel back up generators. Here is a short explanation. Look at the links above for more and for the numbers. 1. The answer is complicated if looked at in detail. It changes as the penetration of wind power increases. The proper way to do such analyses requires a Loss of Load Probability analysis. However, that is way beyond what we can do here. So lets simplify: 2. Assume we have a grid who’s generation capacity is comprised of wind and gas only 3. Peak demand is 1GW (we’ll reserve the reserve capacity margin for now) 4. Average annual capacity factor for wind is 30% 5. High wind season is 6 months long and average capacity factor is 40% 6. Low wind season is 6 months long and average capacity factor is 20% 7. Wind power can drop at up to 20% of installed capacity per hour (over a large area of wind farms). look at the wind farm performance charts for August (Google ‘windfarmperformance’) 8. We need roughly 1 GW of gas capacity to back up for 1 GW of wind capacity (we can argue about the details of that statement later). So we need the capital investment for 1GW of wind (about $2.9 billion on current Australian costs, ref ABARE, 2010) plus about 1GW of gas turbines (about $1 billion), plus grid enhancements (about $1 billion). 9. If gas generators could back up for wind power with no efficiency penalty, gas would provide roughly 70% of the energy. 10. To get the least emissions from the gas generating system we need to use the higher efficiency combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT). But they cannot start and stop as quickly as the open cycle gas turbines (OCGT). So we need a mix of both. Ideally, during the low wind period, we’d have about 800MW of CCGT. During the high wind period we’d have mainly OCGT. However, we need more OCGT to be able to follow wind changes. It happens that the mix requires more installed capacity than just OCGT alone. 11. Having wind in the system requires us to have more OCGT (higher emissions) than if we did not have wind. So this is one reason the emissions are higher than the wind industry would have you believe 12. Another reason is that because wind power can drop so quickly, and the operators do not know when it is going to occur or how far or how fast the power drop from the wind farms might be, they have to be conservative and keep more gas turbines on standby, on spinning reserve and part loaded than they would if there was no wind power in the system. 13. When a gas turbines is running part loaded, it is less efficient and consumes more gas (emits more CO2) than when it is fully loaded. The Ken Hawkins Calculator explains all this very well) 14. Gas turbines consume fuel (and emit CO2) when starting and stopping. More starts and stops are required when backing up for wind than if there is no wind in the system. 15. When you put it all together, the total emissions from the back up generators with wind power are little different than if there was no wind power. With coal in the mix, and forcing them to cycle as we are doing in Australia causes the emissions to be even higher than with a gas only back-up system. 16 Three studies have been conducted where the actual fuel used was measured. These studies were conducted in Netherlands, Colorado and Texas. The studies have been compared with the calculator output and show the calculator output is good. The references are provided in the link I provided above. Hope this provides some background. If you want more on this, can I encourage you to read the material I’ve linked because it is not easy to write it all, and keep every detail correct, in a blog post.
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  42. dr2chase @110. Get out an atlas and study the US and Canada which are really big countries. Once out the cities the land opens up and goes on forever and there are large distances between small cities, towns, and villages in the rural areas. Much of The US and Canada is very cold in the wintertime and riding a bicycle is risking sure death. BTW, how much food can you carry on bicycle? There are lots of national and state parks which can only be accessed by a car or truck. How do you get the kids to hockey practice at 5 AM in the wintertime? Or other sporting events in various cities? About every other vehicle on the interstate highways out of the cities is a freight truck. In Canada there are freight trains coming into Vancouver about every 30 minutes bringing bulk commodities suchas grain, sulfur, metalurgical coal, potash, shipping containers, chemicals for export to eastern countries. The reason people like their cars is quite simple: A car is absolute freedom and nothing is ever going to change that. When was freedom day for you?
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  43. #141: "not much if any because of the extra emissions from the fossil fuel back up generators" I can't seem to find any mention of backup generators at any of the Texas windfarms. I'm not doubting your numbers, but why is there no mention of what would have to be 9.4 GW backup generator capacity?
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  44. Archiesteel @132 “@Peter Lang: "Renewables cannot make any significant contribution now or for a very long time, if ever." That is a political statement, not a scientific one. It's hard not to think you don't have a personal stake in Nuclear Power when you make such sweeping declarations. I do not have any personal stake in nuclear power. But I have crunched the numbers. I reiterate the statement I made and you quoted. It is the unfounded belief and advocacy of renewables that is political. A details proposal for making Australia’s energy emissions free by 2020 using renewable energy was published recently. Zero carbon Australia – Stationary energy plan - Critique For some reason all the effort is in advocating renewables and opposing nuclear. This is irrational. Non-hydro renewables provide about 1% of our energy and cannot provide much more because of their intermittent nature and not viable storage. Nuclear can directly replace fossil fuel electricity generation. Nuclear has a far lower footprint and mentioned in an earlier post. It is the advocacy of renewable energy and the opposition to nuclear that I find is the political movement. Those behind the movement are the same ones that got us into so much trouble so many times before, including setting back by at least 40 years the transition from fossil fuels to emissions free energy
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  45. Ann @130, “First let’s discuss your proposal to fight climate change” No, those are your words not mine. My proposal is for cutting CO2-e emissions, not fighting climate change. The connection is for others to make. I am also advocating the transmission from fossil fuels to nuclear for many reasons: energy security, cheaper electricity in future to power a world that wants a better life, health and safety, reduced use of resources and others. “Fossil fuel will continue to be used until all reserves have been depleted. Don’t you agree with that assumption?” No. The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It finished because we developed better technologies. We have the better technologies now, but for reasons best known to those involved, part of society wants to ban its use. Ann, perhaps it is time for you to reveal your agenda. If it involves trying to get the wealthy nations to make a major lifestyle change, then good luck. That is not a realistic option. It is so far from being realistic there is no point in discussing it. @106 you said “I think it’s admirable that Denmark has such ambitious goals concerning renewable energy, and if they achieve these goals it will be a lesson and an example for many countries.” This statement is wrong and displays a complete misunderstanding of the actual situation with renewable energy in Denmark as pointed out by quokka at #116.
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  46. muoncounter @143 "I can't seem to find any mention of backup generators at any of the Texas windfarms." The fossil fuel generators that are connected to the grid have to be cycled to 'firm' for wind power. When the wind blows, the power from fossil fule generators has to be cut back. Whe the wind power decreaes, the power output from the fossil fule generators has to increase. Where we have sufficient hydro capacity and energy storage, then hydro energy can be saved when the wind blows. This is expensive.
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  47. Peter Lang - There are a set of requirements for useful large scale wind and solar power, namely: - Average capacity matched to average demand, meaning that peak wind/solar production could be considerably higher, but won't always be dropping below demand levels. - Long distance transmission lines to average regional variation. Long range DC power lines, supplies in areas 100's of miles apart, so somewhere wind is hitting turbines. - Energy storage. You mentioned only hydro; there are also the large battery systems, molten salt systems, reverse hydro using mines, isobaric pressure storage, and so on. Storage is reasonably inexpensive on the scale for minute, even hour time frames (local surges/sags), fairly expensive for day scale, and probably unreasonably expensive for week long power dips. But at the very worst, if storage was not available in sufficient quantities to cover lengthy supply down times, it would be easily sufficient to buffer both ramp-up and ramp-down times of fossil fuel backups. Especially if the power utilities watched the weather, and predicted potential dips prior to them occurring! Expensive? Perhaps - change is always at a price. Avoiding CO2 emissions via wind/solar? Definitely. Your 70% fossil fuel uptime figure seems extremely high; I suspect you're scaling the solar/wind resource capacities at peak power rather than average. And - whenever the fossil fuel system isn't running, we aren't contributing CO2.
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  48. KR #134, 135 Nothing is "instant". We are, first of all, stuck with some amount of additional warming based upon the climate moving to equilibrium with the CO2 we've already emitted; another 40-60 years worth. And we don't have the gazillion dollars sitting around to replace every power plant, car, truck, ship, train, etc. this year. I understand every change takes time and it wouldn’t be fair to demand that the changes must take place now or not at all. I am not against renewable energy, reducing energy consumption, reducing ecological footprint etc. And I fully understand the need to take action. But I am asking questions as to the actual effect all these measures will have, as all proposed measures to fight climate change are indirect: installing more nuclear power, installing solar/wind power SHOULD theoretically reduce the use of fossil fuel. Will it ? When can we expect to see the first effects, an actual reduction in the worldwide use of fossil fuels ? When will we have the first proof that this approach actually works ? Reducing our ecological footprint SHOULD reduce global energy consumption. But will it ? Or to use my party analogy again –probably to the aggravation of some people- : If a couple of people at the party decide they will not eat the cake, are you sure there will be more cake left at the end of the party ? My experience at parties is different. The cake is gone at the end of the evening, no matter what. I think measures to fight climate change should be targeted at a direct reduction of carbon/CO2 from the carbon cycle (atmosphere, oceans, land) . Because in the long run that is all that matters. The other measures will only slow down global warming, but will not stop it. Your "instant off" calls (my interpretation, mind you) are the kind of thing that make people throw their hands in the air, say "Can't be done!", and go away But on a site like this- skeptical science – We should at least be allowed to ask some skeptical questions ? We musn’t censor ourselves and say: these issues you cannot bring up, these questions you cannot ask.
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  49. Dunkerson, #136 I'm not sure this is true. A switchover to nuclear (or renewable) power would certainly stop the ongoing rise of fossil fuel prices... but I don't think it would cause them to reverse course. This isn't just a 'supply and demand' issue after all. Rising fossil fuel prices have been driven by increasing extraction and transportation costs. Neither of those would go down if we were suddenly using less fossil fuel... indeed, they would probably go up. You may be right. Although fossil fuel prices are at least partly controlled by speculation (remember crude oil prices rising steeply in the beginning of 2008). The point is: will we ever reach the stage that alternative energy has become so cheap that part of the fossil fuels will not be mined at all, since it isn’t economically interesting ? That mines will be closed before they are exhausted ? As we see the efforts in Canada to extract oil from tar sands in spite of the enormous amount of energy it costs, it doesn’t seem that way.
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  50. Ann, If we had a carbon tax it would reduce carbon mining right away and make use of nuclear or renewables more cost effective. One reason fossil fuels are so cheap is because they do not pay for all the damage they do. A carbon tax could charge them for the mess they make. The carbon tax could be adjusted until fossil fuel use was at what was decided is a good level.
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