The middle ground

Matt Ridley has been complaining about the frantic polarising on Twitter since his talk. When it was pointed out that frantic polarising is a euphemism for ‘lots of people disagree with my argument’, he responded with

no it’s not. I point out that there’s a deliberate attempt to keep the debate binary and deny the middle position cd exist.

What he’s seems to be referring to is a claim he made in his lecture. He claims that

These days there is a legion of well paid climate spin doctors. Their job is to keep the debate binary: either you believe climate change is real and dangerous or you’re a denier who thinks it’s a hoax.

But there’s a third possibility they refuse to acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous. That’s what I mean by lukewarming, and I think it is by far the most likely prognosis.

Well, the only reason what he suggests isn’t strictly binary is that he’s added a third option; it, however, is still discrete. It makes no more sense to acknowledge that it’s real but not dangerous than it is to accept that it’s real and dangerous; neither position is consistent with the evidence. As Stoat has said if you can’t imagine anything between “catastrophic” and “nothing to worry about” then you’re not thinking. There are a range of possible outcomes for a given emission pathway, and there are a range of possible emission pathways; the latter, of course, being something over which we have some control.

By and large, the impact will depend on how sensitive our climate is to changes, and how much we end up emitting. There may well be some positive impacts, but it is widely accepted that there will be costs associated with adapting to the changes. There will also be costs associated with reducing emissions, assuming that we decide to actually do so. Suggesting that the options are “not real”, “real but not dangerous”, and “real and dangerous” ignores that there is a continuum of possibilites, some of which we can do something about (our emissions) and some of which we can’t control (climate sensitivity).

The real discussion should take into account the likelihood of the various outcomes, and what we should, or should not, do to address this. Ridley’s position seems like an ironic strawman. Providing one additional option is hardly avoiding the debate remaining binary, especially if this alternative is barely different to one of the other options – there’s not much of a difference between denying that it’s real, and denying that it could be dangerous. Also, most of those he’s criticising don’t – from what I’ve seen – believe that climate change is real and dangerous; they think that it is real, that there is a possibility of severe negative impacts, and that we should consider doing something to avoid these.

If Ridley really wants an improved debate he should at least consider the criticism levelled at him and should avoid doing precisely what he’s accusing others of doing. Of course, I seriously doubt that he is interested in improved debate; that would require acknowledging some of the other possibilities, and that doesn’t appear to be something that he’s willing to do.

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232 Responses to The middle ground

  1. Magma says:

    That’s what I mean by lukewarming, and I think it is by far the most likely prognosis. — Matt Ridley

    And I disagree, so that’s settled then. (At least by Ridley’s abysmal standards of scientific debate.)

  2. And I disagree, so that’s settled then. (At least by Ridley’s abysmal standards of scientific debate.)

    Indeed 🙂

    I had thought iof saying more about that one sentence, because it does say quite a lot. Not only does he regard lukewarming as essentially denying that it could be dangerous, he also ascribes a very high probability to that being the case, which would seem to require dismissing a great deal of evidence, including some that he himself promotes (not even Nic Lewis’s work rules out severe negative impacts with high confidence).

  3. The rightness of the ‘middle ground’ is one of the oldest tricks in the book as documented many times (I am sure Willard advise that some Greek philosopher identified the trick aeons ago), but my teacher was Thouless (p.28-29) …

    “By this time we should sadly have come to the conclusion that the idea that truth lies always in the mean position between two extremes is of no practical use as a criterion for discovering where the truth lies, because every view can be represented as the mean between two extremes.

    A second reason for distrusting this piece of crooked thinking is the fact that when we have two extreme positions and a middle one between them, the truth is just as likely to lie on one extreme as in the middle position.

    Any view can conveniently be explained by comparing it with other views, and it can best be explained by comparing it with two sets of views differing from it in opposite directions. It is, however, dangerously easy to slip from this honest use of comparison to the crooked thinking of suggesting that a position ought to be accepted because it is the mean between two extremes.”

    http://neglectedbooks.com/Straight_and_Crooked_Thinking.pdf

  4. Andy Skuce says:

    Ridley’s preferred estimate of climate sensitivity excludes most of the mainstream estimate. But the mainstream estimate includes his. Who, exactly, is doing the “frantic polarizing” and denying there’s a middle ground?

    When people like Peter Wadhams or Guy Macpherson make similar cherry picks at the high end, the mainstream rejects their arguments, too.

  5. Richard,

    the idea that truth lies always in the mean position between two extremes is of no practical use as a criterion for discovering where the truth lies

    Spot on.

    Andy,

    Who, exactly, is doing the “frantic polarizing” and denying there’s a middle ground?

    He never seems to make this clear, probably because – apart from a few examples – he can’t find many who actually do what he claims is being done. What I find particularly galling is how he makes accusations of scientists having vested interests, claiming that what people have said is misleading, and then complains if anyone does the same to him.

  6. Willard says:

    Matt King Coal has competition, the Breakthrough Boyz:

  7. RickA says:

    ATTP said “Providing one additional option is hardly avoiding the debate remaining binary,”

    I disagree.

    Debating three possibilities (not binary) is not the same as debating only two possibilities (binary).

    The “real but not dangerous” third option – the lukewarmer option – really comes into play on the cost/benefit analysis.

    If the benefits of adding CO2 to the atmosphere outweigh the costs, up to say 1.5C of warming (so still .5 or .4C to go to reach 1.5C) – that is very important to a cost/benefit analysis.

    Therefore, the costs don’t kick in until above that level (whatever “we” decide that level is).

    So if 3C were the most likely value for ECS – you could subtract 1.5C from that as no damage, if the benefits outweigh the costs up to that level – leaving only 1.5C of harmful warming (warming where the costs outweigh the benefits).

    The difference between the costs of mitigating (for example) and the net of the 1.5C where the costs exceed the benefits has to be smaller, or it may not even make sense to undertake mitigation.

    An extreme example.

    Say that the cost of mitigating to avoid 1.5C of warming is 1 trillion.

    Say the net of doing nothing and incurring 1.5C of warming is 100 million.

    It doesn’t make sense to spend 1 trillion to avoid 100 million of net harm – because the 900 million of diverted resources is nine times as harmful (making everything more expensive, like food, fuel, energy, etc.).

    On the other hand – flip the values and it makes perfect sense to mitigate (1 trillion of net harm by doing nothing and 100 million to mitigate).

    That is why in order to have the debate, we need plans and the cost to implement each plan. Also pretty good numbers for the cost/benefit of doing nothing (how much warming we will really experience and what benefits/harms it will cause net for each year or decade or century).

    Without that there is nothing to even debate – let alone decide on a plan of action.

    Without that we are reduced to just wishing things were different (I wish we only warm 1.5C above pre-industrial). What use is that?

    My pet plan is to go nuclear over the next 50 years and try to generate all our energy needs with electricity produced by nuclear power. There is a 50 year cost to doing this, which can then be compared to the cost of the net benefit/cost of doing nothing over the next 50 years (to see which is bigger).

    What are some other plans?

  8. Magma says:

    It doesn’t make sense to spend 1 trillion to avoid 100 million of net harm – because the 900 million of diverted resources is nine times as harmful (making everything more expensive, like food, fuel, energy, etc.). — RickA

    Not for the first time, skeptics’ math and/or attention to detail fails to impress.

  9. RickA says:

    Magma:

    You got me.

    I meant 900 billion.

  10. RickA,

    Debating three possibilities (not binary) is not the same as debating only two possibilities (binary).

    Three is certainly more than two, but given that there is essentially a continuum, it’s not widely different. Also, the difference (in terms of outcome) between “not real” and “real but not dangerous” seems minimal.

    Yes, this is ultimately a cost benefit analysis, but that requires doing the actual cost benefit analysis. Yes, there is some level of warming that might be beneficial and then a level beyond which the benefits diminish and it becomes optimal to actually accrue costs so as to avoid some of the negative impacts. That’s, to a large extent, the discussion that we should be having.

    So if 3C were the most likely value for ECS – you could subtract 1.5C from that as no damage, if the benefits outweigh the costs up to that level – leaving only 1.5C of harmful warming (warming where the costs outweigh the benefits).

    Well, no, the ECS is the equilibrium warming after a doubling of CO2. The actual amount of warming we will experience will depend on how much we emit, which could be more than doubling atmospheric CO2.

    That is why in order to have the debate, we need plans and the cost to implement each plan.

    No, we can still have a discussion about whether or not we should actually do something. Many regard implementing a carbon tax as the optimal policy. This doesn’t require knowing the specific technological solution. It assumes that the technology development will be incentivised by the implementation of a carbon tax – or, more correctly, that the market will develop the optimal technology.

  11. RickA says:

    Every million should read billion.

  12. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    Your right – my analysis only takes us to 560 ppm.

    I am assuming that it will take longer than 50 years to hit 560 ppm.

    Perhaps that is not accurate.

    But a carbon tax is surely one plan.

    I am sure numbers could be crunched which would estimate the cost of such a plan, to compare it to the all nuclear plan.

    Any other plans?

  13. I am sure numbers could be crunched which would estimate the cost of such a plan, to compare it to the all nuclear plan.

    But the numbers have been crunched (although I don’t necessarily trust them). Mostly, they suggest that we should impose a carbon tax that rises with time and starts at a few tens of dollars per MtCO2. Also, other analyses suggest that mitigating climate change will have quite a modest cost. For example:

    Ambitious climate protection would cost only 0.06 percentage points of growth each year. This means that instead of a growth rate of about 2% per year, we would see a growth rate of 1.94% per year.

    Now, you may not agree with the numbers (I don’t fully, myself) but they are being run and the general conclusion seems to be that the costs could be quite low. Of course, the longer we wait, the higher they are likely to become.

  14. Willard says:

    > Debating three possibilities (not binary) is not the same as debating only two possibilities (binary).

    It’s easy to flatten N possibilities into a binary tree.

    Using this “but binary” argument for the sake of portraying oneself as the middle ground is not the same as being it.

    Think about it: Matt King Coal argues that the lowest sensitivity the bounds of justified disingenuousness can buy is the middle ground?

    That’s just one way to exploit Sky Dragons.

  15. RickA says:

    Williard:

    Mitigate none, mitigate all or mitigate 50% – seems like Ridley is in the middle to me.

  16. How is Ridley in the middle. He’s arguing that it’s not dangerous.

  17. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    I am assuming that Ridley is assuming that greening will stop eventually (at some level of CO2).

    But ok – if Ridley is not in the middle, than I am (or at least my example is).

  18. I am assuming that Ridley is assuming that greening will stop eventually (at some level of CO2).

    If that is what he’s assuming, it’s not what he’s saying.

  19. Willard says:

    RickA,

    There’s no need to fabricate synthetic examples.

    Matt King Coal clearly rubberstamps Nic’s sensivity estimates. T

    hey are the lowest justified disingenuousness can buy.

    Below that you enter Dragon territory.

    Matt King Coal plays the lukewarm gambit to stretch the Overton Window.

    It gets him to its lowest limits justified disingenuousness can buy.

    That’s not what I’d call the middle ground.

    That’s just a Goldilocks story to sell newsies.

    The middle ground is given by the IPCC.

  20. Willard says:

    Here would be the only middle ground to which Matt King Coal belongs:

  21. WMC,
    I haven’t read it thoroughly, but – yes – the bits I did read seemed reasonable. Of course, he does seem to push the empirical climate sensitivity estimates which then produce lower SCC estimates (Section 7d), but the range still seems reasonable, if somewhat on the low side.

  22. DCBob says:

    This is a very clear and succinct articulation of a point of view that, however simple it may seem to us that hold it, is very difficult for most people to understand: there is a range of possible emissions, a range of gradual and uncertain climate responses to those emissions, and a range of gradual and uncertain to those changes in climate. Shouldn’t be hard to understand, but it is. Thank you.

  23. RickA says:

    Williard:

    Fine – use the IPCC range.

    You can mitigate 1.5C, 3C or 4.5C – that covers the whole range.

    There is the all nuclear plan.

    There is the carbon tax plan.

    Personally, I am not sure we can do better than generating ALL our electricity with nuclear – especially if we use electricity for heating and for car transportation.

    Would ALL nuclear cut emissions faster than a carbon tax?

    But either way – we need a cost/benefit for those two plans, as well as any others thrown on the table for consideration.

  24. Willard says:

    I rather liked Ross’ shadowboxing:

    A recent report from the Eco-Fiscal Commission begins: “The primary objective of carbon pricing is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” This statement is not quite correct: the primary objective is to make polluters pay, while giving them the freedom to decide how to respond to the tax. While the response will typically involve emission reductions, if the carbon price replaces a pre-existing command-and-control policy, the net effect may be an increase in emissions.

    A tax on SCC is thus not really Pigovian, until it is.

    So much the worse for Richie’s idea that a non-Pigovian tax would be futile.

    Cue to Ross’ neutral-revenue crap.

  25. DCBob says:

    Meant to say: This is a very clear and succinct articulation of a point of view that, however simple it may seem to us that hold it, is very difficult for most people to understand: there is a range of possible emissions, a range of gradual and uncertain climate responses to those emissions, and a range of gradual and uncertain impacts from those changes in climate. Shouldn’t be hard to understand, but it is. Thank you.

  26. RickA,
    I don’t see why a carbon tax plan, and a nuclear plan are necessarily different. In principle a carbon tax could lead to a energy system that is dominated by nuclear, if that is the optimal solution. I don’t have anything against nuclear, but it appears to be expensive, would seem unsuitable in some regions of the world, and isn’t necessarily the best solution everywhere.

  27. DCBob,
    Thanks.

    there is a range of possible emissions, a range of gradual and uncertain climate responses to those emissions, and a range of gradual and uncertain impacts from those changes in climate.

    You’ve added an extra step that I’d rather ignored; the uncertain impacts. However, I agree that this does seem obvious and it’s not clear why it should be hard to understand, but does seem to be something that many either won’t acknowledge, or just don’t understand.

  28. climatehawk1 says:

    RichardErskine,
    Thanks for the info! My wife is a big proponent of the idea that living a balanced life is always best, and I unfortunately think we no longer have the luxury of being, e.g., moderate about the need for rapid action on climate change.

  29. Andy Skuce says:

    Admittedly, my sample size is very small, but it seems to be that lukewarmers can’t help talking about badly they get treated by the “enforcers”. Such comments sometimes even appear in their introductory comments.

    As if rest of us who venture to comment publicly on climate change escape all abuse.

  30. Willard says:

    > You can mitigate 1.5C, 3C or 4.5C – that covers the whole range.

    The only mitigation plan that covers the whole range is 4.5C.

    Think BlackJack.

    ***

    > There is the all nuclear plan.

    There is also the all nuclear armwaving.

    ***

    > There is the carbon tax plan.

    It’s the simplest one:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/06/28/196355493/economists-have-a-one-page-solution-to-climate-change

    Hard to beat one page.

    ***

    > Personally, I am not sure we can do better than generating ALL our electricity with nuclear – especially if we use electricity for heating and for car transportation.

    First, nuclear costs LOTS of money.

    If Africa can’t even afford a grid, how will you sell your nuclear plan in Africa?

    Second, nuclear carries LOTS of risks.

    Not just public health and security – technological too.

    Third, more nukes implies more regulations.

    How libertarians sell nukes as a panacea may always remain a mystery.

  31. Economist Frances Woolley at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative:

    The most fundamental public policy choices we face involve trade-offs between current and future consumption: the desirability of tax cuts and deficit finance; the value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions; the advisability of investing in infrastructure. If you want to know an economist’s views on things that matter, forget about minimum wages or free trade. The most important question of all is “what is the social discount rate”? The moral argument for discounting the well-being of future generations has always been dubious. The opportunity cost argument might have seemed convincing during the heady days of the tech boom. But now that negative interest rates are a serious possibility, even the opportunity cost of capital argument for discounting seems questionable.

    Real Yield Curve on US Treasuries (10/24/16):
    5 Year -0.26
    7 Year -0.09
    10 Year 0.11
    20 Year 0.49
    30 Year 0.69

    Yet many (most?) IAMs are run with discount rates of 2% or greater. Kind of reminds you of certain financial institutions that could not contemplate a fall in real estate prices.

    The higher the discount rate the more we can justify passing the problem on to future generations. The lower the discount rate the more it becomes our problem to deal with.

  32. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    Each country will make its own decision.

    Look at what happened in Germany.

    They closed all their nuclear power plants (foolishly in my opinion) and are now burning more carbon than before.

    Meanwhile, trying to really ramp up renewable seems to have backfired – too expensive and no real reduction in carbon emissions.

    Lets say the USA learns from Germany’s example and decides to go nuclear over 50 years.

    Say they decide to build 300 nuclear power plants, six per year (starting now), while investigating modular nuclear for 10 years out and thorium nuclear for 20 years out.

    By going nuclear instead of a carbon tax the USA could potentially cut out years of wandering in the desert (like Germany did).

    If fusion turns out to work – we can always change our plan (say 30 years out) and stop building fission plants and switch to fusion plants.

    Letting the market decide is great – but means allowing for mistakes – like:

    1. Turning food into fuel – ethanol subsidies.
    2. Spending a lot of money on intermittent power, which doesn’t really cut down carbon emissions.
    3. That is all I could think of – but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others.

    I really don’t think we can cut emissions further than ALL nuclear (but could be wrong).

    At a minimum – I would like to see the USA go ALL nuclear, with regional recycling plants sprinkled around to recycle the existing nuclear waste (and the new waste). This would reduce the storage needs much further and also greatly reduce the radioactivity of the remaining waste.

    Win – win – win.

    No regrets solution.

  33. andrew adams says:

    It makes no more sense to acknowledge that it’s real but not dangerous than it is to accept that it’s real and dangerous; neither position is consistent with the evidence.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. It seems to me that “real and dangerous” sums up the mainstream position pretty well. After all, “dangerous” means potential for harm, not that it’s guaranteed.

    If I had to define the various positions, I would say that Ridley’s “real but not dangerous” view is at one extreme, the “catastrophic” view of the likes of Wadhams at the other, and “real and dangerous” in the middle. With the obvious caveat that this is a huge simplification which misses the nuances of many people’s views.

    “Not real” is just flat earth stuff, it shouldn’t even be part of the discussion

  34. Of ‘lukewarming’—which he describes as “climate change being real but not dangerous”—Ridley says, “I think it is by far the most likely prognosis.” Yet he never provides any evidence to back up his contention, nor any argument to show why this presents the middle ground.

    He says he believes sensitivity is likely to be low but again provides no evidence to show how he arrived at this belief—for, in the lack of any evidence, ‘belief’ is exactly what it appears to be; and is an irrational one at that.

    Surely the middle ground is between climate change being not dangerous and it being dangerous, for ‘doesn’t exist’ is near enough to ‘not dangerous’ to be, for all practical activism purposes, the same. For most people the ‘hoaxers’ are just the crazies who are so far out the loop they cancel themselves out, and can be ignored.

  35. It looks like I copied Andrew Adams’ thought, but I didn’t see it until the page refreshed when I submitted my comment. I agree with him 🙂

  36. jsam says:

    The middle between right and wrong is still just wrong.

  37. Joshua says:

    jr40

    ==> It looks like I copied Andrew Adams’ thought,…==>

    Andrew has a nasty habit of anticipating what other people are going to say, and beating them to the punch.

  38. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> There will also be costs associated with reducing emissions, assuming that we decide to actually do so. ==>

    IMO, the question of “cost” from reducing emissions should also be properly framed as a range of costs versus benefits probabilities, with a lot of unknowns. In establishing the ratio there, much depends on quantifying externalities (positive and negative), something which is clearly extremely difficult to do even if we don’t include the “external” impact of climate change. The notion that reducing emissions is costly (in comparison to BAU) usually implies a questionable assumption that emissions are currently properly priced. If emissions are currently underpriced, and subsidized by, say, public support for addressing the health impact of emissions and the geopolitical costs of keeping fossil fuels flowing, then it seems to me that determining the “cost” of reducing emissions becomes a pretty complicated calculation. From what I see, most “lukewarmers” seem to present their opinions independent of addressing that uncertainty.

  39. Willard says:

    > The higher the discount rate the more we can justify passing the problem on to future generations. The lower the discount rate the more it becomes our problem to deal with.

    Here’s how Ross prepares Goldilocks’ entrance:

    The assumed value of climate sensitivity also strongly affects the SCC. Using the average of the three best-known IAMs, the U.S. government estimated an SCC of US$43 per tonne of CO2 as of 2020. However, in its 2013 update, the IWG did not take into account the empirical literature on climate sensitivity. Re-computation of the SCC using a recent empirical estimate causes the SCC to fall by 40–80 per cent depending on the model. The average of the FUND and DICE year-2020 tax rates applying a three per cent discount rate is US$11.43, and the fifth- and 95th-percentile bounds are -US$3.48 and US$37.79 respectively.

    Here’s the paragraph on the “empirical” lichurchur:

    In recent years, sufficiently detailed long-term climate data sets have become available to allow scientists to begin estimating ECS directly using empirical methods. Since 2012 at least 10 papers in peer-reviewed journals have used diverse statistical methods on up-to date temperature data sets (including ocean heat content) in order to constrain the ECS to a distribution consistent with century-scale historical observations. This literature, the authors of which include many climate modellers and IPCC lead authors, has consistently yielded median ECS values at the bottom end of the range simulated in climate models. The median of recent empirical estimates has generally been between 1.5 and 2.0 C, with 95 per cent uncertainty bounds below the Roe-Baker average.

    https://www.policyschool.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Carbon-Pricing-McKitrickFINAL.pdf

    You’ll never guess what’s the “at least ten” list: Aldrin et al 2012, Ring et al 2012, Schwartz 2012, Lewis 2013, Otto et al 2013, Masters 2014, Skeie et al 2014, Loehle 2014, Johansson et al 2015, Lewis & Curry 2015.

    Small world. But of course the authors include many climate modellers and IPCC lead authors.

    The “but Roe recanted” bedtime story has not been forgotten in the paragraph that precedes this one.

  40. RickA says:

    Willard says:

    “If Africa can’t even afford a grid, how will you sell your nuclear plan in Africa?

    Second, nuclear carries LOTS of risks.”

    Well – if Africa cannot afford a grid, no matter how you generate the electricity you cannot move it around efficiently.

    Sure they could sprinkle solar and wind around – but that is not baseload.

    I think modular thorium would be cheaper and more reliable in the long run.

    Thorium lowers the risks of nuclear weapons also – since the waste cannot be weaponized.

    But each country can do whatever they want and can afford – that is not up to me or the USA.

    I really just put my 2 cents in for the USA because that is all I have any say over (via my vote),

  41. LouMaytrees says:

    RickA – 300 nuclear plants at $20 Billion each (and still counting) equals $6 Trillion. $6 Trillion for starters, $12 trillion is a more likely scenario adjusting for the usual suspects, and $20-30 Trillion easily is not out of the question either, since you are running this out for the next 50 years. And then you have to start rebuilding all the plants before your 50 years timetable is up anyway b/c you know, nuclear. Maybe you can raise a trillion $’s in taxes per year forever on 330 million Americans b/c after all, its only $3000 more a year per every single person, children included. So a family of four only has to pay an additional $12,000 a year for your wonderful plan. Sounds like a typical not thought out libertarian free market win win win solution.

  42. Michael Hauber says:

    RickA, the point of a carbon tax (according to mainstream economic theory) is to let the market do the cost benefit analysis. If for example we could agree that the damage from burning carbon is $50 per tonne, then whenever the benefit of burning coal is bigger than $50 the coal will be burned, and whenever the benefit is less than $50, the coal will not be burned. The benefit is not just the heating/energy provided, but the benefit of not having to pay extra for renewable (which may not be the cast now or near future, but certainly has been the case in the past) etc.

    Of course the problem is determining the reasonable price per tonne for coal, which in my opinion should consider both the likely damages (which means for instance putting a dollar value on species extinction, etc), an appropriate discount rate for the fact that the damage is in the future, and a premium for the risk of unknown damages. However if we don’t apply any carbon tax we are effectively putting a price of 0 on the damage done by burning carbon, and I think a very uncertain and difficult calculation will be more accurate than the 0 value.

  43. Willard says:

    > Maybe you can raise a trillion $’s in taxes per year forever on 330 million Americans b/c after all, its only $3000 more a year per every single person, children included.

    An alternative would be a Donaldian two-steps plan:

    1. Coax Iran into developing modular thorium power plants.

    2. Occupy Iran and take their power plants.

    Problem solved.

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    The “mystery” version of chewbacca

    “First, nuclear costs LOTS of money.”

    1. In large part due to unncesssary regulation.
    2. Not when you figure in the social cost of Carbon
    3. Not when it averts climate catastrophe

    If Africa can’t even afford a grid, how will you sell your nuclear plan in Africa?

    1. Some regions, especially those that cant pay for grids, will have issues
    with ANY centralized power generation.
    2. Going nuclear ( for India, China, US, EU, Australia) Does not PRECLUDE
    going with renewables in areas that dont have grids that need baseload

    Second, nuclear carries LOTS of risks.

    1. History says otherwise.
    2. The benefits outweigh the climate risks

    Not just public health and security – technological too.

    1. Not really technology risks, mostly
    a) regulatory risks
    b) cost risks due to anti science greens
    c) engineering risk

    Third, more nukes implies more regulations.

    1. Must be planet X definition of “implies”

    How libertarians sell nukes as a panacea may always remain a mystery.

    1. Not a panacea.
    2. A First step that folks on all sides ( hansen, thinking greens and libertarians) Can
    Use to demonstrate that we can work together despite philosophical differences)
    3. A Proven source of affordable safe power with zero climate risk.

    A mystery?

    nope.. but a sly version of either the argument from increduilty or chewbacca. take your pick

  45. LouMaytrees says:

    1. in large part due to unnecessary regulation.

    France and England just agreed on a $24 Billion nuclear project at Hinkley Point. My incredulity is guessing, what, about $20 billion of that cost is simply b/c of all those unnecessaries?

  46. RickA says:

    LouMaytrees:

    In 2015, the United States generated about 4 trillion kilowatthours of electricity.1 About 67% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum).

    Source: https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3

    I believe 4 trillion kilowatthours is 4 billion MW per year.

    This in turn is 456,621 MW hours.

    A 2008 2 X 1117 MWe (2234 MWe total) plant cost about 10 billion in 2008 (latest price I could find). I believe the 2234 MWe is for an hour of power.

    That is 670,200 MWe hours of capacity.

    What would that capacity cost for coal power plants? Or natural gas? Or wind or solar?

    Maybe 670,200 MWe is not enough power?

    Maybe we need 600 plants.

    I made the 300 up out of thin air – so don’t get to hung up on my example number of nuclear power plants.

    But to my way of thinking, all the existing power plants have to be replace over the next 50 years anyway – so we are going to be paying (via our electricity bill) for new power plants anyway.

    So the real question is what is the incremental cost of nuclear over coal or natural gas etc.

    I have to believe that if we standardized on one design the cost per unit would drop over 300 units (or 600 or whatever # we decide we need).

    Lets guess we can crank them out for 5 billion.

    Thats 1.5 trillion – over 50 years (or 3 T for 600).

    Now I don’t know how much the electric utilities spend on new plants over 50 years.

    But that would be the comparison I would think makes sense.

  47. Oale says:

    I’m currently estimating the so called ‘middle ground’ by the number of refugees generated by the political choices. But then again, some say I’m all too humanist to be a proper scientist.

  48. > 2. A First step that folks on all sides ( hansen, thinking greens and libertarians) Can Use to demonstrate that we can work together despite philosophical differences)

    I totally dig that Hansen gets his own side. Does “thinking” also modify “libertarians”, Steven, or would that be redundant?

    Anyway. I can work with lukewarm libertarians so long as they don’t insist on unilaterally defining the common ground, are willing to horse trade … and most importantly, don’t use the pow wow as a ruse to hunt white elephants.

    Knowing the difference between “brainstorming” and collectively chanting, “ur ideas r stoopid”, and not having Chewbacca on the legal team would be a definite plus.

  49. T-rev says:

    My take is we should be looking at optimising a 90-95%% chance of avoiding the 10% chance of the worst case and I’d love to see some numbers run on how to achieve it, it seems impossible without sudden and widespread energy penury ah la reduced emisisons.

    I feel very uncomfortable with the numbers I keep reading eg 50% chance of avoiding 2C.. wait ? what ? that seems incredibly risky. Just keep lowering the ECS and the % chance of avoiding 2C and keep emitting seems to be the current strategy. Just about ever scenario seems to rely on Dues ex machina to remove emission and that makes me even more uncomfortable.

    Michael Mann from 2014
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-will-cross-the-climate-danger-threshold-by-2036/

    [quote]An ECS of three degrees C means that if we are to limit global warming to below two degrees C forever, we need to keep CO2 concentrations far below twice preindustrial levels, closer to 450 ppm. Ironically, if the world burns significantly less coal, that would lessen CO2 emissions but also reduce aerosols in the atmosphere that block the sun (such as sulfate particulates), so we would have to limit CO2 to below roughly 405 ppm.[/quote]

    we’re there…

  50. Marco says:

    “They closed all their nuclear power plants (foolishly in my opinion) and are now burning more carbon than before”

    No, this is false.
    https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/german-co2-emissions-rise-2015-despite-renewables-surge
    Not only is Germany still using nuclear power (last phase-out date I heard was 2036), it’s use of carbon isn’t more than before, despite a growing population and growing economy.

  51. Marco says:

    Regarding “the middle ground”, Michael Tobis once put up a nice graph:
    http://initforthegold.blogspot.dk/2010/01/ok-getting-serious-again.html
    It’s not hard to see where Matt Ridley is, and it isn’t “the middle ground”.

    Also relevant:

  52. Canman says:

    RickA, about going nuclear, here’s a quote from the “renewables” section of Ridley’s lecture:

    Switching to biodiesel or ethanol actually increases emissions. So does burning wood in power stations. So does solar power in cloudy Germany. So do wind farms because they prevent the replacement of coal by gas or nuclear.

    He seems to think wind, which can’t completly replace coal, is crowding out nuclear and I agree. I recommend Michael Shellenberger’s latest TED Talk:

  53. Andrew,

    I’m not sure I agree with this. It seems to me that “real and dangerous” sums up the mainstream position pretty well. After all, “dangerous” means potential for harm, not that it’s guaranteed.

    Steve Bloom made the same kind of point on Twitter. Okay, I agree that one could say that climate change is dangerous, even if the severe negative impacts don’t materialise. That would make Ridley’s position even more bizarre. I was really trying to distinguish between statements of certainty and statements that included some element of uncertainty.

  54. I recommend Michael Shellenberger’s latest TED Talk:

    I don’t. I think the whole “the problem is other people” themes are intellectually weak.

  55. To add to Marco’s point re. Germany’s move to renewables, I recommend regular stops at …
    http://energytransition.de/blog/

    And “Energy Democracy: Germany’s Energiewende to Renewables” by Craig Morris and Arne Jungjohann, just published, is a fascinating history of the German energy transition. Coal will recede in Germany just as the tide is turning in China.
    http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2016/10/21/china-coal-crackdown-cancel-new-power-plants/

    Oh, and just, as in Little England, people apparently don’t necessarily agree with the propoganda from the media against renewables; Comres have found that support for onshore wind is far higher than everyone believes …
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/20/onshore-windfarms-more-popular-than-thought-uk-poll-finds

    Sooooo….

    As the transition builds up the Ridley’s and others will get more desperate in their attempts to ‘rubbish’ renewables, EVs, etc. Expect more articles in WSJ, more Peter Lilley diatribes in parliament, etc. etc.

    Their language will become more extreme, not less, as they see they are losing the argument.

    Forget the ‘middle ground’, they know that that is a moving position, and moving (for them) in the wrong direction. They will instead choose to stay exactly where they are or to move further ‘right’.

  56. Richard E.,
    This seems apt

  57. izen says:

    As Willard has pointed out Ridley claims the ‘middle ground’ by rejecting the equal probability that climate sensitivity could be higher than his favoured value.

    It is not by far the most likely prognosis.

    There are also reasons to doubt that climate sensitivity is a good measure of how dangerous climate change may be.
    If the accumulated energy does not cause as big a rise in the global average surface temperature as the top of the range of ECS suggests then it will be because the energy is dissipated in ways more spatially or temporally localised. Whatever the ECS climate change will impose change on the system proportionate to the cumulative extra CO2. Even minimising the energy balance effects of extra CO2 leaves the chemical impact.
    If you claim climate change is real – it can cause the Greening – but not dangerous, Ridley’s middle ground, then you have to frame any change as a benefit or neutral to maintain that the change is not dangerous. Or that the benefit of the changes always outweighs the dangers.

    Real but not dangerous is only possible if the real process has no strong effect and causes insignificant change, or that any change it does cause is of benefit without any costly adaption.
    This seems far from the most likely prognosis.

    It is however just about the best rhetorical position if your aim is to defend against any change in the political and economic response to the potential threats of climate change. It permits the advocacy of inaction. However mainstream climate science that continues to detect changes that can not be presented as neutral or benefits are a threat to such a ‘middle ground’. Common cause within the GWPF would harness this specious rhetorical middle ground with an attack on the credibility of mainstream climate research. Take the high ground in the quality media, trash your opponents in the tabloids.

  58. Canman says:

    ATTP, you trash Breakthrough Institute’s Schellenberger, but a battery breakthrough is just around the corner.

    Wind and solar are a religion with nuclear as the Devil!

  59. izen says:

    Link in post above was intend to display graphic. ?

  60. Canman,
    The latter was clearly a joke. I find Schellenberger’s hippie bashing irritating. I will admit that he has actually promoted the continuation of nuclear in some cases, which is at least doing something, but mostly Ecomodernism appears to be a combination of techno-utopia and hippie bashing.

    Wind and solar are a religion with nuclear as the Devil!

    Nope, I have no problem with nuclear and I don’t think wind and solar are without some serious issues; I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution. I think what Shellenberger presents is an overly simplistic argument about how we can easily solve this problem if only other people would stop preventing it from going ahead. I don’t find that particularly compelling, even if not all of it is wrong – nuclear may well need to play a big role in some areas; it is, however, expensive at the moment and it’s not clear that it is yet both cheap and low-carbon.

  61. izen,
    I deleted the width and height settings.

  62. Dikran Marsupial says:

    If you can show that the expected loss after integrating over the uncertainties in ECS and the impacts, then you have an argument that global warming is real but not dangerous. If the argument is based on cherry picking a low value of ECS (or ignoring much of the uncertainty), then you have only shown that global warming is real but MIGHT not be dangerous. Of course these are not the same thing. If Ridley could do the former, then he has made a new middle way. The current middle way is to perform the integration and see what it says, and it currently says we need to do something about climate change.

  63. Marco says:

    Those who promote nuclear may want to consider what happened to Iran when it decided to go for nuclear. And yes, the fact that it also might have gone for the often-associated step of preparing weapons-grade enriched uranium belongs to that consideration, too.

  64. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    The company I work for is currently working on battery storage projects for the National Grid. At this stage it is to balance grid demand and avoid needing gas power stations on backup to meet peak demands e.g. half time in the football or at the end of Eastenders when everyone puts the kettle on. The benefits of batteries for demand backup is the power can be discharged instantly into the grid as and when it is needed. Backup from other sources needs to be fully operational in advance of the anticipated demand.

    Smart metering is another technology that has the potential to significantly reduce peak demand and therefore large amounts of backup in the grid system. If the end user has real-time information of the cost of power then they can choose whether they want to use energy at that time. Appliances can also have functions so that they will only operate when energy prices are below a certain level. There is also the potential for for owners of EV to discharge to the grid when energy prices are high and recharge when the are low.

  65. Phil says:

    In this and the previous thread on Matt Ridley, there was discussion about his reliance on Nic Lewis’s Energy Balance model determination of climate sensitivity (the mis-named “Observational” approach) but no mention of Marvel et al (2016). I started to wonder whether I had missed something – Schmidt admitted to an error in the paper and redid some studies.

    The paper itself is cited by two others, neither of which is a rebuttal and one of which appears to corroborate the conclusion that the energy balance approach is too simplistic.

    Google fails to turn up anything other than the Real Climate posts, along with the three blogs that Nic Lewis submitted his objections to (all dated around Jan 2016) so as far as I can see Schmidt’s conclusion;

    The conclusion remains that sensitivity calculations which assume the efficacies of each forcing must be exactly 1, with no uncertainty, are simply no longer credible.

    still stands (notwithstanding Schmidt’s suggestion that “it really needs to be reproduced by some other groups.” This would, on the face of it, seem to place Ridley, nowhere close to the “middle ground” but on some lunatic fringe.

  66. BBD says:

    Marco

    Those who promote nuclear need to do so with caveats, the largest of which is that it is not a silver bullet, only a component of the decarbonisation process. Those who are ideologically opposed to nuclear need to remember that it is presently only speculative that we can decarbonise fast enough on renewables alone to avoid severe climate impacts. There’s a real danger of Ridleyesque overconfidence in anti-nuclear rhetoric.

  67. BBD says:

    HH

    Smart metering is another technology that has the potential to significantly reduce peak demand and therefore large amounts of backup in the grid system.

    Right now, smart metering looks like a shortcut to installing a Chinese-prehacked botnet the size of the UK domestic electricity market. It’s also interesting that (IIRC) Germany has found the technology not to be cost effective and has decided not to implement it at all.

  68. Phil says: “In this and the previous thread on Matt Ridley, there was discussion about his reliance on Nic Lewis’s Energy Balance model determination of climate sensitivity (the mis-named “Observational” approach) but no mention of Marvel et al (2016).

    And that is only one of the three problems of using these simplified statistical climate models to estimate the climate sensitivity. If you correct for all of them, these estimates may even produce among the highest values of the climate sensitivity.

    http://variable-variability.blogspot.com/2016/07/climate-sensitivity-energy-balance-models.html

  69. The other day I tried to cheer up some people on Reddit below the post: “How do you people deal with extreme anxiety over climate change?

    Compare that with greenhouse effect denier Tim Ball or real-but-not-dangerous Ridley and the middle becomes the IPCC. Problem solved.

    Homework exercise: present a scenario that makes the “extreme anxiety” people look like the middle.

  70. Andy Skuce says:

    I attempted to summarize, in simple terms, the recent work on climate sensitivity here.
    http://www.corporateknights.com/voices/andy-skuce/sensitivity-training-14750388/

    It’s clear that the scientific community considers all of the different approaches to estimate sensitivity seriously, including the low estimates made by Lewis, Otto, etc. Ridley, on the other hand, simply rubs his tummy and ignores all the studies he doesn’t like the results of. He was once a first-class science writer. It’s disappointing to see how his convictions on politics have wrecked his judgement and, ultimately, his reputation.

  71. izen says:

    @-“Homework exercise: present a scenario that makes the “extreme anxiety” people look like the middle.”

    Easy.
    we discover that the apparently small changes in land ice-mass balance and our direct interventions on the water table in various locations actually has a large chaotic trigger effect on the level of tectonic activity. First we detect a change in plate movement speeds. Then the major faults all slip and The Californian coast, Istanbul + Bosporus area and much of Japan are devastated. Then the Yellowstone caldera explodes and within a decade or two rift volcanoes on several continents, but especially Africa are creating flood basalt at Siberian Traps rates.
    Then a few degrees of surface warming will be the middle ground!

  72. Marco says:

    BBD, I’m not against nuclear. I see it as a useful technology, not as the one single solution. I made the comment because the enthusiasm of many for nuclear technology stops right at the border. And perhaps I should add: right at the border of the neighbouring state. NIMBY please!

  73. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Ridley:

    But there’s a third possibility they refuse to acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous. That’s what I mean by lukewarming, and I think it is by far the most likely prognosis.

    I’m not an oncologist – But I agree with the oncologists that you have cancer.

    I’m not an oncologist – But based on some things I read, it is my honest and heartfelt opinion that the cancer is benign.

    Even if we ignore Ridley’s convenient fallacy of false dichotomy between ‘deniers’-and-alarmists’ – who refuse to see the truth of the middle way – and ‘lukewarmers’ who are obviously rational agents, Ridley offers no compelling evidence that his “not dangerous” “prognosis” is “by far” the most likely.

    If the placebo effect applied to thermodynamics, everything would be so much easier.

  74. izen says:

    @-Andy Shuce
    “He was once a first-class science writer. ”

    He was once a successful popular science book author.
    As is often the case, those that knew the science admired his writing ability but had serious doubts about the accuracy of the science. And vice versa.
    Given the subject of his degree in biology it is tempting to imagine a young Ridley being advised by his university tutor to pick a subject he is familiar with and has an interest in. To which he may have thought,
    ” well I’ve shot a lot…”

  75. Willard says:

    Eli, vintage April 2007:

    There has been a great deal of discussion about why the Republicans in the US reject climate science (ear tip to Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science) and a lot of other science. If one thinks of their tactics as a struggle for the Overton Window it makes sense

    It describes a “window” in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on an issue. Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous “outer fringe” ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable…..

    The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.

    Eli sees those like Roger Peilke and Richard Tol, pushing the other side, trying to make reasonable things said by those like Al Gore, Nicholas Stern, Jim Hansen, the Real Climate gang, etc. appear unreasonable and beyond the pale.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2007/04/consensus-science-attitude-well-ethon.html

    We can now add Matt King Coal to Junior’s and Richie’s names.

    Matt King Coal’s trick is not new.

    For those who enjoy network analysis, let’s bear in mind that Junior is (or was?) a BTI guy.

  76. Willard says:

    Vintage 2012:

    Continuing with the recent bear theme at Climate Etc., lets think about applications of the Goldilock’s principle to climate, climate science, communication and policy.

    https://judithcurry.com/2012/12/22/the-goldilocks-principle/

    A bit earlier:

    Argument to moderation (Latin: argumentum ad temperantiam)—also known as [argument from] middle ground, false compromise, gray fallacy, and the golden mean fallacy[1]—is an informal fallacy which asserts that the truth must be found as a compromise between two opposite positions. This fallacy’s opposite is the false dilemma.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_to_moderation

    We need something between a false dilemma and an invalid middle ground.

  77. Willard says:

    Under the Warring Factions heading of Groundskeeper’s political hit job:

    While there is no accepted categorization of positions, several camps or tribes have evolved and it is instructive to have some general understanding of the beliefs of these “tribes.” At one end of the spectrum is a group of people who are pejoratively referred to as “alarmists.” […] The next faction is “warmers.” […] The next faction is referred to the “Lukewarmers,” a term coined at [the Auditor’s] and perpetuated with the founding of [Lucia’s].

    […]

    Finally, the last faction is the “[contrarians].” […]

    Both of your authors consider themselves to be Lukewarmers […]

    That’s on page 30.

    Not too hot like the alarmists.

    Not too cold like the contrarians.

    But at least the founding branders recognize that the lukewarm playbook wasn’t the absolute middle ground. Just the middle ground between Warmists and Contrarians.

    Stretching just a tiny bit the Overton Window.

    ***

    Cue to more radioactive squirrels.

  78. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    We need something between a false dilemma and a fallacious appeal to a middle ground.

    A Hobson’s choice between Buridan’s ass, a dead horse, and a charging bull.

  79. verytallguy says:

    Willard

    For those who enjoy network analysis…

    For these folk, Matt’s backstory is perhaps the most persuasive.

    Deh Wiki:

    In 1980, his sister Rose married the British Conservative Party politician Owen Paterson, who was the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until July 2014.[66] During this time Ridley was described as ‘in many ways Paterson’s personal think tank’.[67]

    Matt’s Uncle was the Conservative minister Nick Ridley. Nick was a famous advocate of laissez faire free markets; his incompetence viz diplomacy over the Falklands has some parallel’s with Matt’s oversight of the Rock.

    Both, naturally, went to the same school as David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

    Enjoyers of network analysis can continue ad nauseum.

  80. Mike Coday says:

    Weekly CO2

    October 16 – 22, 2016 401.65 ppm
    October 16 – 22, 2015 398.49 ppm increase of 3.16 ppm in noisy number

    Daily CO2
    October 24, 2016: 402.27 ppm
    October 24, 2015: 398.65 ppm 3.62 ppm increase in really noisy number

    This is the ballgame. As long as this number continues to rise, we are in trouble and every ppm increase is deeper trouble. It goes up easy, it comes down hard when considered against the activities of our species.
    (per co2.earth)
    Warm regards,

    Mike

  81. Pingback: Pootinism – Stoat

  82. angech says:

    Willard says:October 25, 2016 at 2:49 pm
    “We need something between a false dilemma and an invalid middle ground.”
    VRJH
    “A Hobson’s choice between Buridan’s ass, a dead horse, and a charging bull”.
    Willard
    “more radioactive squirrels.”
    Would think that a true dilemma should only give two choices hence there can be no middle ground.

  83. Phil says:

    Andy Skuce & Victor Venema – thanks for the clarifications and links.

  84. > Would think that a true dilemma should only give two choices hence there can be no middle ground.

    No true Scotsman would agree with you, angech. Ever hear of a Mexican standoff?

  85. Willard says:

  86. russellseitz says:

    The trouble with the cloudy Bayesian middle of the continuum of trajectory outcomes is that nobody gets paid to advertise it.

    The focus group wizards strawfoot witnesses, video producers and PR flacks both sides hire to make their agenda-driven cases mostly focus on the outliers, and the money spent on them serves less to advance the science than degrade the signal to noise level of how the public percieves it –

    Climate denial is bad enough in its own right without serving as a justification for the devolution of science communication into the sort of vulgarisation scientifique that drives existential threat inflation and factoid proliferation alike.

  87. Willard says:

    Reaching a consensus can be seen as reaching a common ground.

    Why would this common ground not be the middle ground is beyond me.

  88. Andrew Dodds says:

    Willard —

    When playing EnergyBall(tm), you must be careful to distinguish between total installed capacity and capacity-added-last-year. Bonus points are awarded for corrections due to capacity factors.

    I’m with BBD on this; I see an awful lot of overconfidence in renewables from some quarters, often backed up with a choice selection and presentation of statistics – the classic ‘Project X will power [A big-looking Number] houses’, without the ‘When generating at full capacity, about 10% of the time’ caveat. Never mind the summoning of a few terawatt hours of battery capacity based on a tech breakthrough Any Time Soon ™.

    Nuclear may not be perfect, but at least if you installed 60GW of nuclear capacity in the UK, that would decarbonise the grid, with no exotic storage or capacity management solutions required, and crucially, no behavior changes required for individuals.

  89. izen says:

    Shifting from fossil fuels to nuclear for electric power generation at least has a historical example that shows it is possible.
    France made the choice for reasons other than climate change risks in the 1970s.

  90. Andrew, I think timescales are important here.

    I am 100% confident that solar and wind can power the planet, eventually.

    Even Shell accepted this a decade ago Ref: “Energy: Engine of Evolution”, Frank Niele, Shell Global Solutions, 2005:

    “The planet’s global intercept of solar radiation amounts to roughly 170,00 TeraWatt [TW] ( 1 TW = 1000 GW). … [man’s] energy flow is about 14 TW, of which fossil fuels constitute approximately 80 percent. Future projects indicate a possible tripling of the total energy demand by 2050, would correspond to an anthropogenic energy flow of around 40 TW. Of course, based on Earth’s solar energy budget such a figure hardly catches the eye …”

    It is only about how fast the transition can occur, and what constraints we place on ourselves nationally (for example, does the UK with v. high energy intensity and small land area insist on 100% energy independence, or does accept that it could import energy e.g. solar from Spain? Will Scotland offer a good price to The Union of England & Wales & Other bits and bobs, in mid-Century when exporting wind-generated electricity?).

    Am I confident that even with a (globally) exponential growth in solar capacity (doubling every 2 years or less), this will be fast enough to decarbonize the economies of the world fast enought to avoid 2C warming? The jury is out but I am very concerned we do not have enough time and, although it has become an much abused, event despised term, we do need a bridge. If forced to choose, some nuclear would be preferable to me than a fracking bonanza, which simply perpetuate the carbon emmissions, while kidding ourselves we are producing less GHG emmissions.

    So, am I ‘confident’ in renewables? Yes, with caveats on the timing of the transition (because we’ve left this so very late).

    Am I over-confident? That is a loaded question.

  91. Ken Fabian says:

    I have a rather different view to the more usual one that the extraordinary and insidious influence and popularity of anti-nuclear activism is why nuclear has failed to gain political traction. Rather, I think climate science denial and climate action obstructionism diverted the commerce and industry friendly part of the political spectrum where most of the latent support for nuclear has consistently resided by offering the far cheaper option of not fixing the climate problem at all. That latent support continues to not be effectively mobilised because it conflicts with the economics/commercially motivated priority of avoidance of climate responsibility. Whilst there are many sincere supporters of nuclear seeking to use it as climate solution, there are also many who are not; if you deny the seriousness of the climate problem you will almost certainly lack the depth of commitment to fight for nuclear to replace fossil fuels.

    “Lukewarmers”, like the outright deniers of a climate problem and the economic alarmists who insist strong action will be ruinous, are more effectively anti-nuclear through their weakness of support for climate action than pro-renewables environmentalists could ever be through their (alleged) strength of opposition to nuclear energy. The politics of energy is deceptive and the very framing the issue as “green” rather than mainstream has always been a choice affirmed, if not made, by the mainstream – the same mainstream that not only failed to step up, but actively worked to oppose, mock, obstruct and marginalise.

    I have even wondered if perhaps Germany’s version of climate action obstructive conservatives contributed significantly to that nation’s energy choices by being willing to sacrifice nuclear to appease the populist “green” sentiment in order to gain the political compromises that would save coal – nuclear being barely profitable and unpopular and if you deny the seriousness of the climate problem, unnecessary, whereas coal has been an acknowledged, reliable money maker. And Energiewende, with it’s reliance on renewable energy was probably expected to fail so thoroughly that the “climate action” movement would implode.

    Regardless of my perhaps unconventional views on the historical significance of climate science denial in weakening support for nuclear I still think it can be argued that “the nuclear climate plan” will not get the levels of serious, committed support it needs as long as climate action obstruction – lukewarmism included – is practised at the highest levels of governments with the strong support of the greater parts of commerce and industry.

  92. Andrew Dodds says:

    RIchard –

    Yes, although Europe probably isn’t big enough for that to work (Even Spain is seasonal..)

    From a purely energetic perspective.. you could easily envisage huge PV arrays in the Sahara using sunlight to make Methanol (chosen because it’s easy) which is then used for energy the world over; the physics and chemistry of that would work, at any realistic level of energy use – it’s just a matter of finance, politics and engineering. Indeed, there are probably a number of similar schemes that would provide the basic objective of providing practically unlimited energy without CO2 emissions. The problem being the politics and money..

    At least with nuclear power we keep the political problem to a single country and the sums of money are not *that* vast (and spent locally).

    Having said which.. this all does seem academic; I see us gradually drifting for the next couple of decades, with higher levels of renewables and a few electric cars, but with global emissions flatlining at best. I’m also more in the paleoclimate camp which sees 400ppm as ‘too late’.

  93. Ken – in the UK, the nuclear industry has had a remarkable skill at shooting itself in the foot more often than not: too cheap to meter; large discharges in 50s-70s time frame into Irish sea; Windscale fire (worst impacts saved by Cockcroft’s ‘folly’); overruns, mis-management of reprocessing plants, with hug losses; etc. Now, a rather over-priced Hinckley project. Even the most ardent pro-nuclear fans in UK must pull their hair out at this sorry saga. As Freeman Dyson said back in the 1970s regarding nuclear reactor design, the other problem was they hardened on designs that were then set into large bureaucracies and innovation was stymied. That may have changed, byt Hinckley is hardly the fruit of innovation: one Imperial College professor called it a cathedral inside a cathedral. And this is one of the problems with politicians at least in UK: the love BIG centralised projects (even though they are proven to be meddling souls, that cause overruns and failure in many cases as they just can’t keep they mitts off them). Renewables can involve some biggish stuff (e.g. tidal lagoon projects), but wind and solar are just not centralised enough to excite their egos.

  94. the problem with nuclear is that the nuclear industry and its proponents have failed to develop a reasonable plan for the waste material and have avoided their responsibility to do the work to clean up accident sites. Accidents will happen. If you are building and firing up technology that creates accident zones that are toxic for thousands of years and you have no means to fix that problem, then you are shifting the social costs of our present needs to generations to come. Very unjust approach to justice and stability on this small blue planet.

  95. Willard says:

    > When playing EnergyBall(tm), you must be careful to distinguish between total installed capacity and capacity-added-last-year. Bonus points are awarded for corrections due to capacity factors.

    And when you do that, Andrew, to what extent this exercise would be able to minimize that newsie about solar in China?

    If the UK wishes to buy into France’s energy model, it might need to follow its playbook. Électricité de France (EDF) is a nationalized entity. It prospered when its selling prices were guaranteed. This doesn’t translate into the cheapest energy around, and it’s even less cheap now that energy prices need to compete on the European market.

    Also, its nuclear park is on the wane. The French may not renew it all – Hollande talks of reducing it to 50% of the overall electricity production (from the 80% it is now) in 2025. We’re not speaking of small toys like Hinkley Point, a fiasco that still costed 8% of the EDF share price. The long and the short of it is that one does not simply pretend that hundreds of billion dollars energy projects don’t contain financial risks when Mordor is powered by invisible hands.

    Ironically, Brexit would allow the UK a way into nuclear. To reduce all the financial risks, nationalization is a sound possibility, and there’s no federative agency to coerce Britain into free energy trades. I don’t think Farage intended such a socialist outcome, but never mind Nigel – isn’t he a German citizen by now?

  96. If you think we can address AGW without changes of behavior of individuals I need to speak with you about several really profitable investment deals that I am only offering to a select few.

  97. Like renewable energy, The Nuclear also needs storage.

    Like for renewable energy, most of the costs of nuclear energy are up front, while fuel costs are low so they have to produce as much as possible. Reducing output when demand is low is not economical. Plus actually existing nuclear power plants have a high inertia and cannot change their output fast enough to follow demand.

    Because France has such a ridiculously high percentage of nuclear power, they are forced to subsidising night electricity for a large part of Europe because their production during the night is too high.

    Ken Fabian, agree that as long as the fans of nuclear power pretend that climate change is not a problem, nuclear power will not have much of a future.

  98. Andrew

    You said:

    ‘From a purely energetic perspective.. you could easily envisage huge PV arrays in the Sahara using sunlight to make Methanol (chosen because it’s easy) which is then used for energy the world over; ‘

    Which part of the Sahara- safe from medieval murderers- would receive your investment, that is to say, safe for the workers to build the arrays and for support staff to keep it running for decades?

    I note from our local café of that name that we are 50degrees north. Not a viable latitude for reliable and cost effective solar. The wind industry association says this country is not windy enough to support a viable wind industry.

    If we support the idea of renewable horses for courses, in the case of Britain the ocean is eventually likely to be a useful form of power as nowhere is further than 70 miles from it, unfortunately very little research is going on to deliver the inherent power that lies in it.

    If we want reliable base power at this stage of our technology I see no alternative to nuclear. Whether we are in time to build sufficient capacity using it before other forms of our base power go off line is another matter.

    tonyb

  99. http://bit.ly/2eb3ZWl “While renewables now account for more than 50% of net capacity additions and are expected by the IEA to reach around 60% by 2021, they still provide a relatively small share of the world’s electricity. Green sources are only expected to provide 28% of electricity generation by 2021, up from 23% in 2015, and much of that will be from existing hydropower dams…

    “… But even with the huge growth expected in coming years, the IEA said it will not be sufficient to meet the Paris deal’s target of keeping temperatures below 2C, the threshold for dangerous warming. “No, it’s by far not enough [the trajectory of growth],” said Birol.”

    This is essentially the point that Kevin Anderson keeps making. It is not going to happen soon enough, so we have to take on deliberate behaviour changes now to buy time.

    Also, alert me when similar exciting news comes from CCS, cement, agriculture, etc. Which just intensifies the need to buy time.

  100. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    smallbluemike says:

    the problem with nuclear is that the nuclear industry and its proponents have failed to develop a reasonable plan for the waste material and have avoided their responsibility to do the work to clean up accident sites. Accidents will happen.

    As if FF combustion produces no waste material.

    As if humanity has “a plan” for CO2e over 500 ppmv.

    As if no accidents happen with tankers, pipelines, and drilling rigs.

    Far more people die every year from the effects of FF extraction and combustion than have EVER died from nuclear energy production. Not including the effects of climate change.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents

  101. Willard says:

    > Not a viable latitude for reliable and cost effective solar.

    And yet:

    Saturday 9 April 2016 was the first-ever day where more electricity was generated in the UK by solar than by coal. May 2016 was the first-ever month. The three months from June through to September was the first-ever quarter. And now the six months to September is the first half year.

    These firsts reflect the changing face of UK electricity supplies, with solar capacity having nearly doubled during 2015. They also reflect historic lows for coal-fired generation, driven by changes in wholesale energy markets and the carbon price floor. Carbon Brief runs through the numbers.

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-uk-solar-beats-coal-over-half-year

    Fossil fuels alpha male is coal. It needs to get shot down with every weapon we got.

  102. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    Climatereason,

    “The wind industry association says this country is not windy enough to support a viable wind industry.”

    That was in reference to onshore wind in England without subsides. Not the UK as a whole. Add a carbon tax and wind in England may become viable again.

    There is not one solution to our energy needs we need all available technologies along with improved energy efficiency and demand management.

  103. straw man argument. I did not say that ff was a good idea. I did not say that we have a plan for CO2e over 500 ppm. I did not say that no accidents occur with tankers, pipelines and oil rigs.

    What I say is that replacing one terrible energy source (ff) with another terrible energy source (nuclear) is a very stupid idea until the proponents of nuclear develop and demonstrate a plan for storage of waste and cleanup of accident sites. All of the attacks, etc that come from nuclear proponents are simply noise to cover the deafening silence that arises when the nuclear folks are asked how to store materials that will be dangerous for thousands of years and how to clean up sites that are contaminated by accidents.

    I encourage nuclear proponents to build a think tank at Fukushima and live and work in that area to demonstrate their deep commitment to this form of energy. I think the property can be acquired at a reasonable cost and there is a fantastic site nearby to test and demonstrate cleanup technology.

    Cheers

    Mike

  104. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    All of the attacks, etc that come from nuclear proponents are simply noise to cover the deafening silence that arises when the nuclear folks are asked how to store materials that will be dangerous for thousands of years and how to clean up sites that are contaminated by accidents.

    Attacks? Sorry if the facts do not fit with your frightening narrative. Nothing personal.

    Nuclear waste is simply not a significant risk relative to the effects of CO2 and other FF pollutants.

    Humans and the rest of the terrestrial biosphere have been living with ionizing radiation since time began. You’re soaking in it.

    If nuclear is so terrible, where are the millions of dead people?

    Radioactive straw men are coming for you.

  105. Willard says:

    > If nuclear is so terrible, where are the millions of dead people?

    Right next to Obama’s birth certificate and Hitler’s orders.

    Sir Rud recycled the one single proof in ClimateBall a while ago:

    §4.4.11 Global synthesis including impacts on biodiversity was quite specific. If warming reached 3°C above pre-industrial levels (projected absent serious mitigation) 21-52% of all species were committed to extinction (not necessarily yet extinct) by 2100. This official finding was based on 78 conclusions from 57 peer-reviewed papers on climate change impacts on biodiversity, all listed in WG2 table 4.1. It appears to be overwhelming scientific evidence. It isn’t. There are no bodies.

    https://judithcurry.com/2014/08/20/no-bodies/

  106. BBD says:

    willard

    And yet:

    And yet the UK is not really a good place for SPV because winter and maritime climate (clouds).

    A quantified argument is presented in MacKay (2013).

  107. Willard says:

    > And yet the UK is not really a good place for SPV because winter and maritime climate (clouds).

    I rather think the UK is the worse place for SPV. And yet it was almost on parity grid around 2013.

    Ski fans should stop skiing, because summer and non-mountains.

    All MacKay showed was that UK may never be 100% solar without new ways to store it.

  108. BBD says:

    All MacKay showed was that UK may never be 100% solar without new ways to store it.

    Which don’t exist for seasonal storage – and a nation-sized solar array to provide the juice, which might be problematic.

    That CC headline is all about coal, not solar. It shouldn’t really be used to (misre)present solar as a significant factor in the UK energy mix because it isn’t and is unlikely ever to be. It is this type of misleading presentation that Adam and I (and others) object to.

    To be fair to CC, it was even-handed below the headline:

    This year also saw UK coal generation fall to zero on 9 April, for the first time since 1882, when a coal-fired power station started supplying electricity to the public for the first time. Since then, there have been 199 hours when coal was generating no power in the UK.

    The drop in coal output has come about because of wholesale energy market price shifts being more favourable to gas-fired generators than to coal. In addition, the UK’s carbon floor price doubled in April 2015, again shifting the economics of electricity generation in favour of gas over coal.

    Given these price changes, and the government’s stated intention to phase out all unabated coal by 2025, three coal-fired power stations took the decision to close this spring.

  109. BBD says:

    Sorry – ‘CC’ should be ‘CB’ for Carbon Brief.

  110. verytallguy says:

    “And yet it was almost on parity grid around 2013.”

    Linky please?

    “All MacKay showed was that UK may never be 100% solar without new ways to store it.”

    All Daedalus showed was that we may never reach the Sun without new ways to cool wax.

    I may need to reread MacKay, but I think there is a small matter of land area, plus otters may find it suboptimal to minimise the implications of storage needs.

  111. BBD says:

    I may need to reread MacKay, but I think there is a small matter of land area, plus otters may find it suboptimal to minimise the implications of storage needs.

    From MacKay (2013):

    In a decarbonized world that is renewable-powered, the land area required to maintain today’s British energy consumption would have to be similar to the area of Britain. Several other high-density, high-consuming countries are in the same boat as Britain, and many other countries are rushing to join us. Decarbonizing such countries will only be possible through some combination of the following options: the embracing of country-sized renewable power-generation facilities; large-scale energy imports from country-sized renewable facilities in other countries; population reduction; radical efficiency improvements and lifestyle changes; and the growth of non-renewable low-carbon sources, namely ‘clean’ coal, ‘clean’ gas and nuclear power.

  112. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    the one single proof in ClimateBall

    Interestingly, the world’s worst nuclear ‘disaster’ has produced Europe’s largest wildlife sanctuary. And it is flourishing.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/nuclear_power/2013/01/wildlife_in_chernobyl_debate_over_mutations_and_populations_of_plants_and.html

    Interestingly, the Fukushima ‘disaster’ has produced, according to various sources, anywhere from ‘zero’ to ‘hundreds’ of deaths due to accumulated radiation exposure.

    http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/05/world-health-organization-weighs-in-on-fukushima.html

    Interestingly, the evacuation of Fukushima itself likely caused more deaths than the ‘nuclear disaster’ has or ever will.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster_casualties

    One proof to rule them all.

  113. Willard says:

    > Linky please?

    GeorgeM himself.

    ***

    I don’t recall that anyone ever quoted that paragraph from MacKay (2013):

    Even in a cloudy northerly country such as the UK, solar can play a significant role. Solar thermal power, which delivers hot water, has a power per unit area of about 50 W m−2 in the UK, so a 3 m2 solar thermal panel can deliver half of the hot-water demand of an average European household, fig. 6.3. In off-grid applications, solar photovoltaics with batteries for electricity storage are already economic in the UK. And once solar power’s costs have fallen sufficiently, photovoltaics could supply in the region of 2 per cent of average electricity in a country like the UK without technical difficulty. (This would involve roughly 133 W of peak capacity per person, delivering on average 14 W, which is 2% of an average per capita electricity consumption of 680 W; for comparison, Germany already has about 300 W of solar peak capacity per person, and in 2011 solar power delivered on average 25 W per person, which is roughly 3% of average German per capita electricity consumption; on a sunny holiday in May 2012, the peak output from solar power at midday was about 40% of German electricity demand.

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/371/1996/20110431#sec-5

    Credit card companies lure many customers with 1% returns on purchases. It’s already 600% that amount in Germany, and twice MacKay’s 2013 number. That’s not insignificant. Oil producers won’t be able to sustain low oil prices long enough to squelch that wave.

    But let’s say UK must have nukes. Here’s its future:

    Upfront the answer is EDF, which is 80 per cent owned by the French state, and also the Chinese state-backed CGN group. The Chinese are set to fund a third of the £18bn investment and the French the remaining two thirds. Yet there are growing concerns about EDF’s financial capacity to deliver. The company’s market value has halved in the past two years and is now valued at only €22bn.

    Translated into sterling, that’s scarcely more than the value of the entire Hinkley investment. EDF also needs to find €50bn over the next decade to upgrade other existing reactors in France. On top of this EDF’s future profits are now in question as the French government is looking to end some state guarantees for its revenues. EDF’s finance director, Thomas Piquemal, recently resigned, reportedly over the financial risks posed by proceeding with Hinkley.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/why-is-the-hinkley-point-nuclear-plant-so-controversial-a7160781.html

    Big upfront investments + profit uncertainties = risk.

  114. BBD says:

    But in the quote you provide:

    And once solar power’s costs have fallen sufficiently, photovoltaics could supply in the region of 2 per cent of average electricity in a country like the UK without technical difficulty.

    Currently it’s ~3% for Germany. There’s a long way to go.

    The argument always seems to tend towards polarisation between renewables vs nuclear but that’s not the middle ground. The middle ground is that an inclusive energy policy has the best chance of delivering the speed of decarbonisation required to avoid severe climate impacts.

  115. verytallguy says:

    Interestingly, the evacuation of Fukushima itself likely caused more deaths than the ‘nuclear disaster’ has or ever will.

    You’re claiming the evacuation was unrelated to the meltdown?

  116. BBD

    I corresponded briefly with McKay on this very subject of solar. At our latitude and maritime climate it is not viable unless other forms of energy are made much more expensive and some way is found of storing it.

    As you will well know we get good levels of light in June July and August. In a good year the shoulder months of may and September should be reasonable for power production when the need for any night time power is also reduced making their glaring deficiency in the dark hours less noticeable

    Those of us ŵho have been using solar devices for decades know the drastic drop off in power as winter approaches, especially as the number of daylight hours is exceeded by night hours. As I speak I am looking out at our various solar powered lights in the garden which after half an hour of darkness are glowing very feebly.

    You quote several good passages from mackay. Here on what is supposed to be one of the sunniest parts of the country on the south coast we get some 1700 hours of sun, all of which drops off rapidly in number of hours and intensity outside of summer. We are also a tiny island with very few suitable places for solar farms, although more could be made of the roof tops of our industrial buildings.

    We need something to replace fossil fuels as our main source of power but it’s highly unlikely to be solar unless there is some dramatic technological breakthrough in how the panels generate power and the means to store it.It has been oversold, in our circumstances.

    As an interim, at the very least we need something and if we are not willing to invest in extracting energy from the ocean I do not see any alternative to nuclear.That is not to say though that solar won’t have a place as a prominent power source in other countries.
    Tonyb

  117. right, and the evacuation was powered by fossil fuels, so there. Lots of empty property at Chernobyl. Good place for nuclear think tank.

  118. BBD says:

    From Monbiot’s article:

    I was sceptical of Jeremy’s claim. So I bet that his prediction would not come to pass: grid parity would not be achieved by 2013. He accepted. I undertook to write an article in 2013 revealing the results, whether I won or lost. Here it is.

    To discover who had won, I first contacted the energy regulator, Ofgem, but it turned down my request. So I tried the Department for Energy and Climate Change. I asked two questions:

    – how should the outcome best be measured?

    – who will have to pay out £100?

    This is what it told me:

    “Grid parity can be defined as the point at which Government support for a technology is no longer required.”

    That seems like a reasonable definition to me, and one I’m prepared to accept. I hope Jeremy feels the same way: in 2010 I wrote to him several times to try to reach an agreement about how the outcome would be determined, but did not receive a reply.

    Here is DECC’s answer to my second question:

    “Grid parity for domestic scale solar power has not been reached. … The Feed-in Tariff scheme currently provides generation tariff of 15.44p per kWh, plus an export tariff of 4.64p per kWh for domestic scale installations.”

    Here is the source it gave me.

    In other words, though the subsidy has come down sharply from 2010, which partly reflects a real decline in the price of solar power and partly reflects the extraordinary generosity of the initial tariff, we’re a long way from grid parity.

    This, I think, highlights the danger of believing what we want to believe. Climate change is too serious to mess about with. We should be hard-headed in addressing it, and should subject the technologies which attract us to as much scrutiny and rigour as the technologies which repel us.

    It was this process which, after my initial enthusiasm, turned me away from solar power in the UK and led to my reluctant endorsement of large-scale wind and (later) nuclear power as the UK’s most viable sources of low-carbon electricity.

  119. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    Unless I’ve misread it, your link seems to flatly contradict your claim of near grid parity in 2013:

    In other words, though the subsidy has come down sharply from 2010, which partly reflects a real decline in the price of solar power and partly reflects the extraordinary generosity of the initial tariff, we’re a long way from grid parity.

    My bold. Have I missed something?

  120. verytallguy says:

    BBD:

    Reading the references so you don’t have to bother. Every blog should have one. 😉

  121. verytallguy says:

    Hah! We crossed. And you’d already done it again, right down to the bolding of the quote.

    I’m off down the pub. Completely superfluous here.

  122. Willard says:

    > Currently it’s ~3% for Germany.

    Double that number, and a bit more:

    Solar power in Germany consists almost exclusively of photovoltaics (PV) and accounted for an estimated 6.2 to 6.9 percent of the country’s net-electricity generation in 2014. The country has been the world’s top PV installer for several years, that amounted to 32,411 megawatts (MW) by the end of May 2016, behind China and ahead of Japan, Italy, and the United States.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany

    And that was the year after MacKay’s guestimate.

    ***

    > The middle ground is that an inclusive energy policy has the best chance of delivering the speed of decarbonisation required to avoid severe climate impacts.

    I agree, as long as we also agree that going nuclear implies risks, at the very least in terms of big upfront investments and profit uncertainties.

    As Richie would say, basic calculus.

    I’m not against nukes – I’m against pipe dreams sold by invisible hands. Viable nukes historically come with more regulations and a closed market. Unless you can always rely on the American Plan B – Occupy Another Country.

  123. Willard says:

    > Have I missed something?

    Yes. The chart, and perhaps also George’s though the subsidy has come down sharply from 2010. The quote in the preceding graph also mentions 20p per KwH.

    20 pences.

    Tell me with a straight face that you can infer that we’re a LOOOONG way from grid parity when even considering the export tariff you’re at 20 pences.

  124. BBD says:

    willard

    And that was the year after MacKay’s guestimate.

    MacKay’s argument about the land area required to meet primary energy demand by renewables in a decarbonised world is not based on guesstimates. I’m sure the UK and Germany can get much more electricity from solar over the next several decades than they are managing now but it’s not really the core argument in M13.

  125. BBD says:

    vtg

    I’m off down the pub. Completely superfluous here.

    No, you’re not. I need someone to tell me why the Ofgem chard willard linked contradicts DECC’s statement:

    Here is DECC’s answer to my second question:

    “Grid parity for domestic scale solar power has not been reached. … The Feed-in Tariff scheme currently provides generation tariff of 15.44p per kWh, plus an export tariff of 4.64p per kWh for domestic scale installations.”

    Here is the source it gave me.

  126. Willard says:

    > MacKay’s argument about the land area required to meet primary energy demand by renewables in a decarbonised world is not based on guesstimates.

    That’s irrelevant to the fact that you lowballed Germany’s 2014 numbers by 50%, BBD. You’re lucky I’m not a contrarian.

    And of course MacKay has to rely on guesstimates. Search for “estimate” in the text. There are seven.

    But I’d rather tell you about this other guesstimate:

    A Deutsche Bank report has predicted “sharp declines” in US solar module and inverter prices that it says could drive payback periods down to less than five years and spark a “final ‘gold rush'” in the American residential, commercial and industrial markets, starting in 2017.

    http://reneweconomy.com.au/stunning-price-falls-could-spark-another-gold-rush-for-us-solar-pv-market-63495/

    If you know anything that has dropped its price by 25% in the last 6 months, I may find you buyers.

  127. BBD says:

    20 pences.

    Tell me with a straight face that you can infer that we’re a LOOOONG way from grid parity when even considering the export tariff you’re at 20 pences.

    Per kWh.

    For context, typical UK electricity cost to the domestic user is 10 – 15p /kWh.

  128. russellseitz says:

    The problem Richard notes with UK politicians who
    ” love BIG centralised projects …, but wind and solar are just not centralised enough to excite their egos.” is evident in US politics as well, witness the climate policy playbook commissioned by ClimateProgress founder and former White house Chief of Staff John Podesta:

    http://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2016/10/ad-john-podesta-ex-masters-of-disaster.html

  129. Willard says:

    For even more context, here’s the April 2016-March 2019 tariff rates:

    https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2016/10/tariff_rates_october_2016.pdf

    We can predict that Hydro will become the UK churnalists’ new bad guy.

  130. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    vtg:

    You’re claiming the evacuation was unrelated to the meltdown?

    I am merely attempting point out the mundane fact that even the most egregious radioactive nucleotide releases are not high-mortality events.
    For the Japanese living around Fukushima, the disaster was not the nuclear meltdown, but the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that leveled entire cities and killed approximately 15,000 people in mere minutes.

  131. BBD says:

    willard

    I’m going for some middle ground here:

    I don’t object to renewables being subsidised.

    I don’t think solar was at grid parity in 2013.

    Ultimately, this isn’t about the money.

  132. izen says:

    @-VV
    “Because France has such a ridiculously high percentage of nuclear power, they are forced to subsidising night electricity for a large part of Europe because their production during the night is too high.”

    As a consequence neighbouring states are able to cut their fossil fuel generation at night and boast about how much Green electricity they use.

    The ageing French experiment in de-carbonisation is contributing to the ability of European governments to claim that they are emitting less CO2.
    If France removed the subsidy, many governments would have the dilemma of paying more to maintain their carbon reduction targets, or developing their own low carbon sources.

    As Willard has mentioned the French are contemplating reducing their nuclear generation as plants are retired because of these inefficiencies. But if much of Europe is going to match the Paris agreement reductions then that French contribution to the zero-emission generation will need to be replaced.

    I do wonder if Ridley’s attempt to define a ‘middle ground’ without danger is going to be used to justify abandoning emission reduction pledges.
    The UK imports over 5% of its power from French nuclear. How will Brexit affect the price of that?

  133. Raff says:

    A few random observations:
    The aim is to decarbonize the entire energy supply, not just electricity.
    If we want to electrify transport, we need a lot more electricity than we generate now.
    Solar’s capacity factor is about 10-15%. To get 100% solar we build 10x as much as we need and store the resulting midday oversupply.
    We don’t have anywhere to store electricity in large (seasonal) quantities.
    Power-to gas would work although it is inefficient.
    Nuclear baseload is not a problem if a: lots of people charge cars at night; b: power to gas is used to generate gas for the existing distribution system.

  134. guthrie says:

    Izen – for starters, the electricity becomes much more expensive to import from France to the UK if the pound drops against the Euro. Oh wait, it already has!
    On the other hand I don’t think the cross channel and international electricity stuff is all tied into the EU, so won’t actually stop working in 2 or 3 years time.

    There is a theoretical nuclear reactor that basically burns all the waste from the current ones and gets rid of it. Of course developing it would cost money, which was seemingly better spent buying expensive property in London.

  135. Willard says:

    > To get 100% solar […]

    Who said anything about that? If the UK could have like 15% of sunshine every year the history of self-deprecating humor would change for ever.

    What I said about nukes is echoed in the first paragraphs of their National Audit Office’s report on nuclear:

    1 The Department of Energy & Climate Change (the Department) is responsible for maintaining a secure supply of electricity to power the UK. The UK’s policy and regulatory framework for electricity has created a system that has historically provided a secure and reliable supply. But the electricity generating sector is undergoing a major transition from old, polluting technologies, to cleaner low-carbon sources. Much of the UK’s existing electricity generation plant is set to close over the next two decades. At the same time, the government expects electricity demand will increase due to take-up of electricity-based technologies, particularly for transport and heating homes and buildings.

    2 According to the Department’s strategic aims, as well as securing the supply of electricity the UK needs, new sources of electricity should support its ambitious greenhouse-gas emissions target and be affordable for bill payers. These three aims can be in tension; they are often described as the Department’s ‘trilemma’. For example, some low-carbon generation is intermittent and some is more expensive than traditional fossil-fuel power. Additionally, the cost of building new generating capacity is passed onto energy consumers, rather than being funded through general taxation. The UK also has an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

    3 Since the UK’s electricity market was privatised in the late 1980s, the private sector has been responsible for financing and building the infrastructure to generate and transport electricity. The Department does not seek to determine the precise future mix of generating technologies. It oversees policies aimed at helping developers overcome barriers to investment to encourage competition, leading to a supply mix that supports its decarbonisation objectives.

    4 The Department wants nuclear power to form an important part of a “balanced mix” of generating technologies, so it provides reliable, low-carbon and cost-competitive electricity. New nuclear investment faces particular challenges, including high upfront costs, which can make financing projects difficult. In the last 10 years, UK governments have developed measures to reduce these challenges for investors.

    5 The Department has provisionally agreed terms on a deal to support construction of Hinkley Point C (HPC), a new nuclear power station that could generate around 7% of the UK’s electricity. The deal is with NNB Generation Company (NNBG), a subsidiary of French state-owned energy company EDF. China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) will take 33.5% ownership of NNBG once the deal is finalised. The deal centres on a ‘contract for difference’ (CfD), whereby the Department has agreed that NNBG will receive an index-linked £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) (2012 prices) for the electricity HPC sells for 35 years.1 HM Treasury has also offered to guarantee up to £2 billion of bonds that NNBG may issue to finance its construction of HPC. The Department expects EDF to take its final investment decision to build HPC in the near future, and wants this to be the first in a series of similar deals for new nuclear power stations.

    https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Nuclear-power-in-the-UK.pdf

    Comparing solar and nukes is like comparing penny stocks with obligations.

    I’m not a fan of diversified portfolios for small individual owners, but I certainly wish those who design a country’s energy plan are.

    You got to mix it up, and hope for the best.

    Meanwhile, if we want more than that, turning back on #3 may be one way to go, one way that Brexiters like TonyB may not have foreseen.

    I don’t think for one second that the public opinion on nuclear is the bottleneck. Neither do I think solar was at grid parity in 2013. I said “near parity.” My point would have been that in the long run, subsidies become profitable for the UK government (or at least they are when designed properly), but my time is up. As long as it made you look, all is well. The 2016 tarifs should speak for themselves.

    Oh, and from where I come from, we pay between 5 and 9 cents per kWh, all from Hydro. That’s 0.60 pence per penny. We even export some. And why, of course we got people in the local media to whine about how expensive is our energy, and how magic unicorns appear when we privatize all the things.

  136. When attempting to rank my favorites, I try doing it several different ways:

    1) By human deaths per unit power: nuclear, hydro, wind, solar PV
    2) By political feasibility: solar PV, wind, hydro, nuclear
    3) By time horizon: solar PV, wind, hydro, nuclear
    4) By environmental impacts: solar PV, wind, nuclear, hydro

    Otters might try their hand at capital risk, regulatory complexity, capacity factor (which is highly sensitive to locale), etc. The goal is to maximize penetration as quickly and in as streamlined and predictable fashion as possible before things like storage become a significant factor.

    By that calculus, I really like wind and solar for “get something going now”, and nukes for rounding out the the full replacement in the medium to long term. That said, IF, someone can get nukes done in a big way sooner, I could be on board. I’m not sure that the Gen III designs fit that early slot. I’d be content to see more Gen II+ reactors.

  137. BBD says:

    You got to mix it up, and hope for the best.

    Yes.

  138. BBD, the point was: nuclear needs storage or demand management as well.

  139. Raff says:

    Willard, to get 15% of UK energy from solar PV needs solar installations with total faceplate capacity greater than average UK energy use. On sunny summer days that would power the whole country with every other generator turned off whereas on gloomy winter evenings when power use peaks it would power nothing. When EVs are charging at night solar PV will power nothing. Solar makes sense where peak use is during daytime, but I struggle to justify it (and I would like to) for northern climes except for water heating.

  140. Willard says:

    Raff,

    My reference to 15% of sunshine was mostly a way to refer to UK’s legendary moody weather.

    For now, I think the best we can hope is that solar helps pĥasing out coal – 30% of the whole mix is just too much, and 70-80% of UK’s electricity production coming from low CO2 footprint sources should be feasible very soon. It’s already near 40%, already from the numbers I’m seeing, and I’d rather classify sources according to their footprints than renewability. Even fossil fuel is renewable – all Gaia has to do, like Jim Jeffries suggests in one of his sketches, is to reboot dinosaurs.

    So the alpha male is coal. If the beta is gas, why the hell would Matt King Coal root for natural gas? Not that I dislike gas – it’s hard to beat gas to heat northern homes. But I’m not sure it’s accounted into electricity production. If memory serves well, oil has twice the CO2 density as gas. This should be the beta, a beta that stands elsewhere than electricity production.

    Which leads me to smallblue’s earlier point – electricity consumption does not stand alone. There is some kind of a fork here. First, other kinds of consumption is involved in the CO2 budget – meat, processed food, transportation, etc. Second, if we’re to replace coal and oil by other sources, the sheer amount of energy begs for an atomic solution.

    I dig this point. My own point is that this requires serious commitments, commitments that will turn into locked-down contracts that consumers will have to pay willy-nilly. Once you build a power plant, you can’t take your money back from it to kickstart lots of other new ideas. It should work in the sense that you should get what you pay for, but you shouldn’t expect better results than the healthcare PPPs did so far for UK citizens.

    Loan sharks are loan sharks. They lend you money if they see a return. Somebody has to pay for that return. If every week you need to go see your loan shark, you may need to rethink your consumer habits.

    PS: VeeV’s post he cited earlier deserves a shout-out, or perhaps even a reblog.

  141. Yep, VeeV.

    ***

    Since geothermy heating hasn’t been mentioned yet, I looked around. It is underdeveloped in the U.K.:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421515002347

    Finland may provide an interesting comparable –

  142. I’m not sure how hydrogen production gets classified:

    > HYDROSOL (short for Solar hydrogen via water splitting in advanced monolithic reactors for future solar power plants) is a series of European Union funded projects for the promotion of renewable energy. Its aim is the production of hydrogen using concentrated solar power with a specific thermochemical cycle.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/HYDROSOL

    There are already hydrogen cars on the market.

    Hydrogen also leads to an intriguing classification problem, as we may get hydrogen energy via coal, methane, geothermy, wind, and solar.

    Classification problems are more than theoretical – subsidies rely on solving them. That’s how burritos became sandwiches in the state of New York:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/07/18/332612643/episode-554-how-the-burrito-became-a-sandwich

  143. BBD says:

    There are good reasons why heat pumps are far less widely deployed in the UK than in Finland. I would agree that GSHPs are a must for new-builds but retrofitting is not going to be easy nor will it be affordable for many households. Not really practical in cities either.

    From the linked study Hannon (2015):

    Despite these similarities the two countries exhibit some important differences, such as housing stock, energy infrastructure and climate, which are likely to have contributed to their different levels of heat pump penetration. We acknowledge that not all these factors can be easily replicated in the UK. Even so these differences illustrate how the UK potentially faces a greater challenge to develop its heat pump market than Finland, emphasising the critical need to make a concerted policy effort to overcome these barriers.

    Comparing the age of each country’s housing stock we find that almost 20% of England’s housing stock was built before 1919 ( DCLG, 2014a), compared with 3% of the stock in Finland (Statistics Finland, 2013a). Older homes are typically less energy efficient than new ones due to the tightening of building regulations and advances in building fabric technologies. This impacts upon heat pump penetration given that they operate less efficiently in homes with high thermal losses ( Delta Energy, 2014 and Frontier Economics & Element Energy, 2013).

    The countries’ housing type is also different with 40% of Finland’s housing stock being detached ( Statistics Finland, 2014b) compared to England’s share of 26%20 (Randall, 2011). Detached homes are normally larger than other housing types making it easier to install GSHPs considering that they require working fluid pipes to be laid underground outside. With detached homes accounting for 85% of Finland’s non-industrial primary heat pump output and GSHPs more than a third of total output (Statistics Finland, 2013d) (Fig. 2), the high concentration of detached homes is likely to have supported high-levels of heat pump penetration.

    Turning to energy infrastructure the UK’s gas infrastructure is much more extensive than Finland’s. It stretches 285,000 km long (IEA, 2012a), serving more than 84% of homes (i.e. 23.2 million households) (DECC, 2014b). In contrast Finland’s gas grid in constrained to the south and stretches only 3100 km long (IEA, 2013a), serving less than 1% of homes (i.e. 22,000 households) (Energy Market Authority, 2013). Unlike in Finland, the wide-scale availability of relatively affordable natural gas for heating in the UK has had a negative impact on heat pump adoption (Fawcett, 2011). Additionally, the ubiquity of gas heating means that most UK homes are typically fitted with gas-fired high temperature central heating systems that are incompatible with low-temperature output heat pumps (Delta Energy, 2014). Conversely, Finland has a much more comprehensive heat network than the UK21 and this could offer an advantage considering that large heat pumps are compatible with district heat networks.

    Finally, Finland’s climate is generally much cooler 22 than the UK’s, which contributes to Finland holding the highest energy consumption per capita of all the IEA countries (IEA, 2012b). We argue that this relatively high energy demand makes Finland a natural marketplace for heat technologies.

  144. BBD says:

    willard

    You can nibble around the edges of the problem as long as you like but the problem doesn’t go away. The problem is that replacing FFs with renewbles for primary energy use is a far larger, far more expensive exercise that generally acknowledged. It feels like a low-grade exercise in Energyball rather than a productive discussion of the core issues (eg. MacKay 2015 which you actually need to read).

  145. I don’t buy most of these arguments, BBD. They explain why the UK is how it is, but not how it should be. There’s a reason why Matt King Coal sells gas, and I think it’s to be found in his network. I am on my tablet, and need to demolish a wall, so I can’t expand on it.

    What I would buy is that central heating is more performant for lower constant temps. I live it every autumn and spring. Humid less than 10C is the hardest to heat.

    I am not suggesting that we all become Finland.

    I have a friend who lives in a condo in a crowded area. It’s in an old industrial building. They invested in geothermy and save lots of money each year.

    The subsidies required would be a fraction of those indirectly required to coax industrialists to power nuke Britain.

  146. > It feels like a low-grade exercise in Energyball rather than a productive discussion of the core

    So says Shellenberger on the Tweeter just about every hour.

    And I feel all you have in your hand after all these years is MacKay.

    It’s boring.

    Find me something else to read, and stop hammering the table.

    It doesn’t counter the argument I’ve worded in five different ways so far, that you have yet to address once.

    Heck, I don’t even think you can formulate it in your own words.

  147. BBD says:

    I dig this point. My own point is that this requires serious commitments, commitments that will turn into locked-down contracts that consumers will have to pay willy-nilly.

    This is just as true for the full system cost of large-scale renewables deployment as it is for nuclear.

  148. BBD says:

    It’s boring.

    So is the cheap renewables meme.

    Find me something else to read, and stop hammering the table.

    First read the reference.

  149. BBD says:

    I don’t buy most of these arguments, BBD. They explain why the UK is how it is, but not how it should be.

    Then take it up with Hannon. It was your reference, after all.

    These arguments explain both why the UK is as it is and why it will not be an easy or inexpensive undertaking to vastly increase GSHP penetration into the UK heating market. You do not show otherwise in your dismissal of your own source.

  150. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    @ smallbluemike

    Thank you for the interesting reference.

    Here’s one for you:
    http://www.theenergycollective.com/willem-post/191326/deaths-nuclear-energy-compared-other-causes

    But it appears that you have missed the point I was trying to make. Which is this: EVEN IF we admit that every single mortality mentioned in your referenced piece can be directly causally attributed to nuclear isotope releases or evacuations that result from nuclear accidents, that number pales in comparison to the deaths per unit of power generation that can be similarly attributed to the use of fossil fuels.

    I’m not claiming that nuke-power is perfectly safe – and I’m not claiming that nuke-power should displace renewables. I’m claiming that even the most pessimistic risk-assessments place the risks of nuclear power far, far below FFs.

    See here:
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

    BTW – Your reference is a fine example of a loaded partisan analysis.

    We get:

    The Japanese Government, its advisors, and most radiation scientists in Japan (with some honourable exceptions) minimise the risks of radiation. The official widely-observed policy is that small amounts of radiation are harmless: scientifically speaking this is untenable.

    …scientists are trying to force the ICRP to accept this large increase. This is not only unscientific, it is also unconscionable.

    …scientists refuse to accept radiation’s stochastic effects

    ….many Japanese (and US) scientists deny this evidence.

    Clearly, in the author’s opinion, most “radiation scientists” are quite evil.
    The only “honourable” scientists are those that maximize the risks of radiation.

  151. > This is just as true for the full system cost of large-scale renewables deployment as it is for nuclear.

    Not at all. Going all in on nukes ain’t the same thing as investing in all the possible alternatives. I thought we agreed on that.

    Have you ever wondered why 80% of France’s electricity comes from nukes? As the Russians say, once you say A, you must say B. I don’t know what they say about C.

    The best we’ll get out of the ecomodernist crap is a captive market to replace the one we got with oil.

    Why do you think Californian techno-communists are so enamoured with thorium?

  152. Chubbs says:

    If we are going to get lucky its going to be in one or more new energy technologies: solar, wind, batteries, fuel cells, LED, bio-energy etc. Its clear we are not going to get “lucky” by clinging to fossil fuels. The die has already been cast on ECS, ice sheets, permafrost, sea level, fossil fuel depletion etc.

  153. Willard says:

    > Then take it up with Hannon.

    I won’t take with Hannon what you put in his mouth, BDD. Here’s the abstract:

    Heat pumps play a central role in decarbonising the UK’s buildings sector as part of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) updated abatement scenario for meeting the UK’s fourth carbon budget. However, the UK has one of the least developed heat pump markets in Europe and renewable heat output from heat pumps will need to increase by a factor of 50 over the next 15 years to be in line with the scenario. Therefore, this paper explores what lessons the UK might learn from Finland to achieve this aim considering that its current level of heat pump penetration is comparable with that outlined in the CCC scenario for 2030. Despite the two countries’ characteristic differences we argue they share sufficient similarities for the UK to usefully draw some policy-based lessons from Finland including: stimulating new-build construction and renovation of existing stock; incorporating renewable heat solutions in building energy performance standards; and bringing the cost of heat pumps in-line with gas fired heating via a combination of subsidies, taxes and energy RD&D. Finally, preliminary efforts to grow the heat pump market could usefully focus on properties unconnected to the gas-grid, considering these are typically heated by relatively expensive oil or electric heating technologies.

    You might consider revisiting your interpretation of what that paper does, and to what purpose the authors said what you’ve excerpted.

  154. BBD says:

    Not at all. Going all in on nukes ain’t the same thing as investing in all the possible alternatives. I thought we agreed on that.

    It doesn’t really work like that. You always end up with big wind and big solar doing the heavy lifting in high renewables scenarios because there’s not enough land for biomass, not enough hydro potential left in the world etc.

    So beyond a certain point you *have* to commit to a large-scale W&S expansion with full attendant system costs. It’s just as big a lock-in as nuclear.

  155. BBD says:

    I won’t take with Hannon what you put in his mouth, BDD

    I quoted from the study. I didn’t misrepresent Hannon in any way. Please stop this.

    I deliberately began the excerpt here (emphasis added):

    Despite these similarities the two countries exhibit some important differences, such as housing stock, energy infrastructure and climate, which are likely to have contributed to their different levels of heat pump penetration. We acknowledge that not all these factors can be easily replicated in the UK. Even so these differences illustrate how the UK potentially faces a greater challenge to develop its heat pump market than Finland, emphasising the critical need to make a concerted policy effort to overcome these barriers.

    My interpretation?

    This:

    These arguments explain both why the UK is as it is and why it will not be an easy or inexpensive undertaking to vastly increase GSHP penetration into the UK heating market.

    That is no misrepresentation of Hannon.

  156. Ok, if your argument is that nuclear power is safer than fossil fuels, then I really have no comment on that premise. Both are pretty crummy imho. It’s liking having to choose between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, both really quite horrible, but in different ways. We do have another choice with power and that is to maximize efficiency, cut consumption and put the pedal to the metal on solar, wind, geothermal, etc. The status quo cannot be maintained. We have to change big systems in big ways. Examples:
    * food system has to be weaned off fossil fuels and into a tilth type system that can produce food without a big carbon footprint.
    * Energy system has to convert from large footprint systems to something close to sustainable energy that does not have large legacy pollution problems that future generations will have to deal with.

    If you have no commitment to generational justice, then your options open up a bit. I can’t get to that point. I have grandkids.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  157. Willard says:

    > So beyond a certain point you *have* to commit to a large-scale W&S expansion with full attendant system costs. It’s just as big a lock-in as nuclear.

    China is the most obvious counterexample to that, unless a lock-in obtains as soon as you invest into something. Below that “certain point” you can indeed COMMIT TO ALL THE THINGS.

    In any case, the argument that you still fail to address is that giving a lock-in to the private sector may not be a good idea.

    ***

    > That is no misrepresentation of Hannon.

    Of course it is. The abstract states that:

    Despite the two countries’ characteristic differences we argue they share sufficient similarities for the UK to usefully draw some policy-based lessons from Finland […]

    You, OTOH, quote Hanlon’s part that starts with:

    Despite these similarities the two countries exhibit some important differences […]

    Then you interpret him completely backassward.

  158. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    sbm

    Both are pretty crummy imho.

    One is far crummy than that other as a matter of fact.
    It’s like choosing between Donald Trump and anyone who is not an angry, racist, misogynistic, narcissist.
    However, I agree with everything else you say in your last comment.

  159. Willard says:

    > If you have no commitment to generational justice, then your options open up a bit.

    Options don’t become wide open by commiting to generational justice, small.

    The options need to cover all our energy consumption, not just electricity production. From that perspective, even France has a big carbon footprint. While it mainly produces electricity with nukes, it still depends on fossil fuels for the most part of its energy needs:

    Source: http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/france2009.pdf

    My main beef with the BTI perspective is that it’s top-down, while managing an energy portfolio should be bottom-up. The top-down approach belongs to manifestos. The bottom-up approaches belongs to policy designs.

  160. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >> Options don’t become wide open by commiting to generational justice, small.
    Willard,
    I believe that sbm was suggesting that a commitment to generational justice restricts one’s energy options, rather than making them “wide open”…
    One of us is misreading him.

  161. verytallguy says:

    the point I was trying to make. Which is this: EVEN IF we admit that every single mortality mentioned in your referenced piece can be directly causally attributed to nuclear isotope releases or evacuations that result from nuclear accidents, that number pales in comparison to the deaths per unit of power generation that can be similarly attributed to the use of fossil fuels.

    And I fear you, good Revd Doctor, may be missing a wider point.

    Given that:
    – Fukushima was built deliberately in an earthquake zone
    – It was claimed that it was, nonetheless, designed so that it could withstand earthquakes.
    – When hit by the earthquake and tsunami, locals were told not to worry
    – It promptly melted down and exploded, causing the long term evacuation of a wide area

    Given these facts alone, it is really quite surprising that anyone trusts the nuclear industry to continue running plants, let alone build new ones.

    If it was more widely understood that:
    – the nuclear industry knew the plant was not properly designed to withstand a reasonably forseeable earthquake and accompanying tsunami
    – they deliberately chose not to act on this knowledge, ironically in the belief that acting would shake people’s confidence in the safety of the facility(!)
    – Remote senior management tried to override plant management’s attempts to avert a worse disaster in a misguided attempt, again, not to incur bad publicity over the consequences of the action

    then I bet Hinkley would be off the menu completely.

    There are very good reasons the public don’t trust nuclear power, and they are entirely the responsibility of the nuclear industry.

  162. BBD says:

    willard

    Below that “certain point” you can indeed COMMIT TO ALL THE THINGS.

    Which is EXACTLY WHAT I ALWAYS ARGUE on this question 🙂 Holistic energy policy. Said it here; said it elsewhere, many times.

    The ‘certain point’ is that at which renewables on a grid exceed the existing spare capacity available on that grid that acts as a buffer against intermittency and slew. Past that point, new capacity or storage or interconnections or all three have to be added to the grid to compensate for variability. That’s the point when the cost of renewables begins to increase – not decrease – with scale and that’s where the big cost lock-ins begin to bite.

    In any case, the argument that you still fail to address is that giving a lock-in to the private sector may not be a good idea.

    Okay, I didn’t realise that this was the core argument that I had not addressed. I tend to agree, but this also happens with renewables, which are constructed by private sector corporations, so not really clear that it’s going to be a problem restricted only to the nuclear industry. By mixing the two, then neither gets a stranglehold.

  163. BBD says:

    On Hannon, I think that what I quoted exactly supports what I said and my reading of that study:

    Despite the two countries’ characteristic differences we argue they share sufficient similarities for the UK to usefully draw some policy-based lessons from Finland […]

    Some. Eg. new build should have GSHP whenever possible and retrofit should be a national priority where possible. But retrofitting the majority of the national housing stock is arguably just impossible on engineering and cost grounds.

    Nothing in H15 contradicts this reading or my view of the practical constraints.

  164. But there’s a third possibility they refuse to acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous.
    “We claim climate change as the cause of extinctions, when it is invasive species that disrupt and damage ecosystems and drive out rare species.

    Is water (rising sea levels) an invasive species? Colonel Mustard on the Cay with a garden hose.

    Perhaps Ridley can clue scientists in on the invasive species that is killing of the American Pika. I’m sure they’ll be enlightened to find out it’s not climate change.

    The claim that invasive species are to blame also ignores the fact that many ‘invasive species’ are able to extend their ranges specifically because of climate change.

    I think it also interesting to consider the cost of species extinction. What is the cost today to lose a species? What is the cost of today’s loss 100 years from now? Is the loss felt only once or is it felt by every generation? And does every generation feel the same loss? For the sake of argument, assume we do see large losses of species over the next century — for whatever reason — is each individual loss then felt more deeply in the future since there are fewer to start with? Wouldn’t this scenario imply a negative discount rate on species loss?

    Tol’s FUND model has this:

    The ‘warm-glow affect’ seems to be the only economic loss; neglecting that individual species can lead to new products – especially pharmaceuticals. And perhaps I’m interpreting this incorrectly, but it also seems region-based and the population and GDP in a given region largely determines the economic loss. If all penguins disappear there is no economic loss in the northern hemisphere?

    I haven’t looked at the documentation for other IAMs – for all I know FUND handles ecosystems better than any of the others. I don’t find it very inspiring, though.

  165. Missing image for the FUND ecosystem:

  166. Jeb has read correctly and WIllard has read incorrectly my statement:
    “If you have no commitment to generational justice, then your options open up a bit. ”
    warm regards all,
    ,mike

  167. Vinny Burgoo says:

    oneillsinwisconsin, Colonel Mustardclimate change may eventually be the primary cause of a mammalian extinction but it’s too early to say with certainty that it has snuffed out Melomys rubicola – or at least that’s the view of the Australian experts who declared the species extinct on Bramble Cay. They recommended that IUCN flag M. rubicola as ‘Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)’ rather than ‘Extinct’. This is because they think it likely that the critter arrived on the island on driftwood from an inadequately surveyed region of New Guinea, where it may still survive.

    IUCN chose to ignore this suggestion. Justifiably? Dunno. I can’t find a copy of their full assessment online.

    But IUCN does have form when it comes to dodgy headline-grabbing. It once claimed that a fungus that it said survived only in one damp corner of darkest Wales was one of the world’s 100 most threatened species – this despite its having done no formal assessment of the species and credible reports of the species surviving in pockets across the northern hemisphere. ‘Twas PR designed to grab British headlines. (The Grauniad, Mail and other esteemed organs duly obliged.)

  168. BBD says:

    Vinny

    ‘Twas PR designed to grab British headlines.

    Even if this were true, it makes no difference to the problem.

    Relatively abrupt anthro climate change will exceed many species’ ability to migrate or adapt. It’s not exactly a leap of faith to see this resulting in a wave of extinction. As food webs are disrupted, even the heat tolerant organisms will be affected.

  169. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    vtg:

    There are very good reasons the public don’t trust nuclear power, and they are entirely the responsibility of the nuclear industry.

    Agreed.
    People were misled. Mistakes were made. Live were lost. Land was rendered uninhabitable.
    But even with all that, I suggest that the public is justified in trusting nuclear power far more than fossil power.

    Combine all the cases of power-generation-related nuclear releases that we have (Chernobyl, Fukushima-Daiichi, Three Mile Island, and etc.) and the risks are STILL orders of magnitude less that for energy generation from fossil fuels – and that isn’t taking the effects of climate change into account.

    Just for perspective: According to the IAEA, the worst nuclear accident in history (Chernobyl) released between 1/1000 and 1/100 of the radioisotopes than the total from atomic weapons tests conducted in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Coal is, of course, the king killer.
    Wiki:

    A 1,000 MW coal-burning power plant could have an uncontrolled release of as much as 5.2 metric tons per year of uranium (containing 74 pounds (34 kg) of uranium-235) and 12.8 metric tons per year of thorium. In comparison, a 1,000 MW nuclear plant will generate about 30 metric tons of high-level radioactive solid packed waste per year. It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much uncontrolled radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island incident.

    …coal ash produced by coal-fired power plants dumped at sites across 21 U.S. states has contaminated ground water with toxic elements. The contaminants including the poisons arsenic and lead. Arsenic has been shown to cause skin cancer, bladder cancer and lung cancer, and lead damages the nervous system. Coal ash contaminants are also linked to respiratory diseases and other health and developmental problems, and have disrupted local aquatic life…

    The largest source of mercury contamination in the United States is coal-fueled power plant emissions.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil-fuel_power_station

    Now, for a real threat to public health, consider the coal-burning plants in China…
    Investment in the coal industry in China is rising at an annual rate of approximately 50 percent in recent years.

  170. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >> Even if this were true, it makes no difference to the problem.


    Global populations of vertebrates — mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish — have declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, states a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Animals living in the world’s lakes, rivers, and freshwater systems have experienced the most dramatic population declines, at 81 percent. Because of human activity, the report states that without immediate intervention global wildlife populations could drop two-thirds by 2020.

    http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2016

    Climate change is only one component cause of the decline of vertebrates – but it’s a component cause that is going to get much worse. And soon.

  171. Vinny – thank you for not answering any of the substantive questions regarding IAMs and ecosystems.

  172. Vinny Burgoo says:

    BBD, it depends which problem you are talking about. To the larger but currently theoretical problem of future extinctions? No.

    To the current and actual problem of noble-cause misattribution? Fairly relevant, I’d have thought. But I won’t insist on it.
    *
    The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse: Those WWF/ZSL Living Planet reports are well dodgy. More PR than science.
    *
    oneillsinwisconsin: my pleasure.

  173. if the only choices we had were fossil fuels or nuclear we would be in a very sad spot. Our species has been burning fossil fuels long enough to have explored the consequences with that fuel source. We are relative novices with nuclear technology. It might take us a couple hundred years with nuclear power to start seeing and understanding the consequences. That’s a lot of time.

    Nuclear technology does pretty good with creating a weapon that can be leveraged for political power and nuclear weapons have killed almost nobody when compared to more traditional munitions. Nuclear weapons have a great safety and security record if you can overlook the Nagasaki and Hiroshima episodes. I suspect even in Nagasaki and Hiroshima that many lives were lost in those episodes from falling buildings and flying debris, maybe even a lot of the deaths in NH were really not about the nuclear weapon. I think more people died from the firebombing of Tokyo with traditional munitions. You understand what I am getting, right, Jeb?

    One question to ask when sorting these conundrums is: are these my only choices? Do I have to choose between fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Are there other options for creating energy? Do I have to decide whether to bomb folks with traditional munitions or nuclear weapons? Are there other choices for settling conflicts?

    complicated stuff…

  174. BBD says:

    Vinny

    BBD, it depends which problem you are talking about.

    Pretending that now is the future.

  175. > One of us is misreading him.

    I meant to write: Options don’t become wide open by NOT committing to generational justice, but I was AFK all day. (Hi, Vinny.)

    Even the lukewarmest king of coal needs to justify an energy mix that at the very least pays lip service to AGW.

    Which is why I started to wonder why Matt preaches about natural gas. My working hypothesis is that there’s some old money involved. It’s quite obvious why he can’t vouch for nukes – it goes against all his proud tatcherist prejudices. But ideology is small change compared to money cows.

    Here he is, not mincing words in a logorrhoea against divestment, which he caricatures:

    > Nuclear power could eventually fill the gap but not cheaply and not quickly: it currently provides 4 per cent of world energy consumption.

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/fossil-fuel-divestment-makes-no-sense/

    That Matt King Coal strings so many abuses in a piece should provide some hint. Let’s look at world energy consumption. We’re talking about a more than 6 trillion dollars market. What about 2015?

    In BP’s words:

    > Oil remains the dominant fuel in Africa and the Americas, while natural gas dominates in Europe & Eurasia and the Middle East. Coal is the dominant fuel in the Asia Pacific region, accounting for 51% of regional energy consumption – the highest share of any fuel for any region. Europe & Eurasia is the only region with no fuel reaching one-third of the total energy mix. The Middle East has the least diverse fuel mix, with oil and gas combined accounting for 98% of energy consumption.

    http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy/primary-energy.html

    Notice how they put oil in green:

    The main target should be coal. It needs to be phased out.

    The second one is oil. It needs to be slowed down.

    The third one is gas. If we get there, everyone wins.

    Here we are.

  176. Ken Fabian says:

    The climate issue got framed as an Environmental and therefore fringe issue, as much by mainstream politics failing to step up as political Environmentalists seeking to make it their own. Aided, I think, by elements of mainstream politics deliberately seeking to marginalise and discredit the issue by reinforcing that perception through associating it with radical protest movements. I suspect that renewable energy has been an unexpected beneficiary of that framing; as popular concerns grew appeasing them was done by (inadequate) support being given to renewable energy. With little genuine expectation of significant results. Actually, I suspect, with strong expectations of it failing so thoroughly that renewable energy and the loudest voices calling for climate action would be discredited. Now we have the dilemma – if that’s what it is – of not really knowing that nuclear is the only viable low emissions alternative for an energy hungry modern society.

    I’m not sure we really do know that nuclear is viable, economically or otherwise, at the scales and in the timescales required; it, like renewables, looks to need significant technological improvement and extraordinary expansion of capacity at unknown cost to do the job, yet I suspect the commitment to the transition itself is the most fundamental element and has to come first – before we have any certainty about how or even if the goal will ultimately be achieved let alone how much it will cost.

    The mire of conflicted politics featuring climate science denial in all it’s overt, covert, heated and lukewarmed variations is the enemy of that fundamental and essential commitment. Nuclear, with it’s unpopularity, long lead times and need for persistent, consistent – and interventionist – energy policy has been especially vulnerable to politics that prevents that essential commitment. It’s historic association with conservative politics aligns it with the staunchest opponents of strong climate action, which prevents much of the latent support being of any use. And I suspect the latent support – if climate action ceased being treated as optional – would be considerable.

    Climate science denial and obstructionism is, if anything, more damaging to nuclear for climate proposals than it is to renewable energy ones, but it is the enemy of both. It is surely the most significant enemy of all and the end of that kind of politicking is probably the single most crucial development needed – more than PV cheap as chip wrapper, batteries that can run trucks and ships and planes or mass produced fast-breeder reactors.

  177. Phil says:

    Apologies for reviving a topic discussed a few days ago… but…

    In Mackay’s 2012 TED talk, he rather glibly calculates an energy density for nuclear power. It’s glib (IMHO) because it ignores the fundamental fact that nuclear power stations need to be near a large body of coolant water (which in the UK means on the coast) – his energy density calculation assumes they can be placed anywhere. It seems to me that, to do the calculation fairly, you need to include the unusable inland area with the coastal strip that is usable. That would reduce the energy density of nuclear and my guess is it would do so sizeably but probably not enough to alter his fundamental conclusion. It does make me wonder what else he has glossed over though …

  178. > It does make me wonder what else he has glossed over though …

    We could use MacKay’s argument to claim that UK’s economy can’t be powered by oil, since it imports much of it.

  179. verytallguy says:

    We could use MacKay’s argument to claim that UK’s economy can’t be powered by oil, since it imports much of it.

    C’mon Willard, you’re better than that. MacKay points out quite explicitly that it would be able to run the UK on renewable energy imported from elsewhere, merely that it would not be possible to power it based on UK only renewables.

    See for example plan N

    http://www.withouthotair.com/c27/page_209.shtml

  180. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    Water energy nexus

    http://energy.gov/under-secretary-science-and-energy/downloads/water-energy-nexus-challenges-and-opportunities

    “Energy and water systems are interdependent.
     We cannot assume the future is like the past in
    terms of climate, technology, and the evolving
    decision landscape.
     Water scarcity, variability, and uncertainty are
    becoming more prominent, potentially leading to
    vulnerabilities of the U.S. energy system.
     It is time for a more integrated approach to
    address the challenges and opportunities of the
    water-energy nexus.
     DOE has strong expertise in technology,
    modeling, analysis, and data that can contribute to
    understanding the issues and solutions across the
    entire nexus.
     Collaboration with DOE’s many current and
    potential partners is crucial. “

  181. BBD says:

    Those unfamiliar with his work (eg. WOTHA; M15) should refrain from MacKay-bashing or run the risk of looking both foolish and biased.

  182. Fergus Brown says:

    Some observations. The UK has 40% of the available European wind resource. It’s a very good place to look for good sites with good wind regimes which can generate energy at low cost.

    As things stand, I can sell you a state of the art large wind turbine at a price which means that, taking the distribution/network and development costs into account, and bearing in mind the comparatively tiny environmental impact, you can have clean energy for up to 25 years at a lower production cost than gas, coal or oil. But it needs to be in the right place, and it shouldn’t be competing against technologies which are much more heavily subsidised and looked on more favourable by political nincompoops.

    Why bother? Every Kilowatt Hour of energy not produced by FF is a win, every KwH not produced by renewables is a lose. We don’t have to solve the big problems all at once, or with one answer; we can do the right thing now, a bit at a time; it adds up, eventually.

    BTW, though prices have plummeted, I still feel suspicious about the genuine viability of solar PV in parts of a country which can average only a few hundred hours of sunshine in a year, just as I tell people not to put turbines up where there isn’t enough wind.

  183. verytallguy says:

    I still feel suspicious about the genuine viability of solar PV in parts of a country which can average only a few hundred hours of sunshine in a year

    Added to which the production is assured to be at a time of day or season of year when demand is not at its peak…

  184. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    smallbluemike:
    >> You understand what I am getting, right, Jeb?

    I believe you make some excellent points in your recent comment, none of which I contest.

    Thank you very much for moving on from radioactive straw men and referencing “attacks by nuclear proponents” to more constructive dialogue.

    If we cannot find a way to live together, we will all die alone.

  185. Fergus

    I note that you actually sell renewables. Nothing wrong with that, but it will give you a certain perspective.

    Bearing in mind that it tends to be on our finest (previously unspoilt) upland landscapes where there is sufficient wind to power wind turbines consistently; and that turbines are getting much taller and more prominent; and that overhead pylons then have to be built to take power to where it is needed, perhaps you can clarify where, in our overcrowded islands, these new sites could be located where they would only have a ‘comparatively tiny environmental impact?’

    Off shore wind is another matter, although a whole load of other factors then need to be applied regarding costs and maintenance.

    As regards solar pv, for the last three days it has been very murky here (no wind either) This is combined with light levels that naturally tail off sharply at this time of the year anyway. It is difficult to see why we should sacrifice large tracts of land to unworkable solar. If the govt wants to encourage solar on top of industrial buildings that might be more acceptable, but doesn’t make them any more sensible, at this stage of technology, at our latitude. In other countries solar might be a perfectly sensible endeavour.

    tonyb

  186. I think you may be asking the wrong question. The question, imho, is not whether we can create all the power we need from wind and pv sources, the question is how much power can we create from these relatively clean sources and how will we store and wheel power from sources to point of use?
    A few more good questions:
    How much power do we really need?
    Can we change the way we live and demand less power so that we can get the disastrous CO2 needle moving back down towards a number that causes less distress to the global south, generations to come and other species that have not figured out how to plug in an electrical device?
    Mike

  187. Vinny Burgoo says:

    VTG: ‘Added to which the production is assured to be at a time of day or season of year when demand is not at its peak…’

    That problem could be solved if the UK abandoned both BST and GMT and moved to Saskatoon’s time zone throughout the year. This might cause other problems (e.g. even more time-zone complaints from Scotland) but at least peak solar would be aligned with peak demand, which is as it should be.

  188. Willard says:

    > MacKay points out quite explicitly that it would be able to run the UK on renewable energy imported from elsewhere […]

    Thanks, Very Tall. I was referring to a claim previously quoted: In a decarbonized world that is renewable-powered, the land area required to maintain today’s British energy consumption would have to be similar to the area of Britain, or rather the inference that this should imply some kind of impossibility. With the same implicit premise, I could argue that because humans occupy something like 10% of the Earth, all we need is another 10% for all the world to reach the same level of electricity consumption as Britain’s citizens, adjusted for population density.

    MacKay’s Plan N is affectionately called the NIMBY plan:

    This plan requires the creation of five blobs each the size of London (44 km in diameter) in the transmediterranean desert, filled with solar power stations. It also requires power transmission systems to get 50 GW of power up to the UK. Today’s high voltage electricity connection from France can deliver only 2 GW of power. So this plan requires a 25-fold increase in the capacity of the electricity connection from the continent. (Or an equivalent power-transport solution – perhaps ships filled with methanol or boron plying their way from desert shores.)

    Having less wind power, plan N doesn’t need to build in Britain the extra pumped-storage facilities mentioned in plan D, but given its dependence on sunshine, it still requires storage systems to be built somewhere to store energy from the fluctuating sun. Molten salt storage systems at the solar power stations are one option. Tapping into pumped storage systems in the Alps might also be possible. Converting the electricity to a storable fuel such as methanol is another option, though conversions entail losses and thus require more solar power stations.

    This plan gets 32% + 40% = 72% of the UK’s electricity from other countries.

    Compare and contrast:

    Imports in 2015 were 5.4 per cent lower than in 2014, whilst exports rose by 8.3 per cent. As a result, net import dependency fell back from 46.2 per cent to 38.6 per cent.

    Oil production was 13.4 per cent higher than in 2014 in contrast with the steady decline that had been observed since the peak in 1999. New fields came online in 2014, including Golden Eagle, which have contributed to the increase in production in 2015. Production of petroleum products increased slightly by 0.7 per cent. Low prices of crude oil and low levels of maintenance in 2015 were key factors.

    Natural gas production was 7.8 per cent higher than in 2014 by far the largest year-on-year increase in production since production peaked in 2000. This was due to the development of some new gas fields and lower maintenance levels than 2014. With strong production, gas imports were relatively steady on 2014 but gas exports were up by nearly a quarter.

    Coal production was 27 per cent lower than in 2014 mainly due to the closure of a number of mines. Output was at a record low level. Coal imports were 39 per cent lower as generators’ demand for coal fell by 24 per cent to a record low. Coal stocks fell and were 23 per cent lower, as a result of generators using more stocks for electricity generation while purchasing less coal from the UK and overseas.

    Gas demand was up slightly on 2014, by 2.4 per cent overall. Gas used for electricity generation was down by 3.1 per cent but gas demand amongst domestic and other users was up nearly 6 per cent, driven by colder weather during several months in the year.

    Electricity generation in 2015 fell by 0.4 per cent, from 338.9 TWh a year earlier to 337.7 TWh, with a large fall in generation from coal.

    337 TWh is far from the 2,249 TWh the UK consumes.

    I’m starting to think there’s a reason why electricity production and energy consumption are represented using two different units.

    ***

    > [Y]ou’re better than that.

    Probly, but my primary concern is to determine how far can Matt King Coal and his fellowship could stretch the limits of justified disingenuousness. To me, this implies we start to think like hackers and try to find exploits before they hit editorial prime time. We can’t rely on Vinny or any other guest appearance. Even Lucia’s and Judy’s are not up to speed anymore.

  189. Willard says:

    > But it needs to be in the right place, and it shouldn’t be competing against technologies which are much more heavily subsidised and looked on more favourable by political nincompoops. […] Every Kilowatt Hour of energy not produced by FF is a win, every KwH not produced by renewables is a lose. We don’t have to solve the big problems all at once, or with one answer; we can do the right thing now, a bit at a time; it adds up, eventually.

    Exactly.

    Matt King Coal’s Master Argument creates a double bind:

    [B1] Low CO2 footprint development is not fast enough to meet current energy consumption.

    [B2] The lowest CS justified disingenousness can buy (i.e. Nic’s) implies we can wait.

    When taken together, these two binds are pragmatically inconsistent. Hence Matt King Coal writes editorials insisting on either one of the two binds. Sometimes he uses both, but puts separates them by a few paragraphs, like the last citation I used.

    Here’s a proof sketch of the inconsistency. If we accept that we have time to act (i.e. B2), then we can take the time to reorient our energy industries away from fossil fuels. This is true even under the assumption that we need to consume all the oil there is. If we still need oil for chewing gum in 200 years, we need to preserve it. This means keeping fossil fuel subsidies on the table is utterly insane. It just speeds up its consumption.

    (Yes, Virginia – today’s chewing gum is made out of synthetic rubber.)

    If we accept that alternatives to fossil fuels can’t be developed in short term to meet the actual energy consumption, then we can’t wait as much as presumed by the uber-lukewarm argument, i.e. B2. It is not by waiting for the technology to come online that it will. Keeping fossil fuel subsidies on the table is thus utterly insane.

    Keeping fossil fuel subsidies on the table is thus utterly insane, even by the lukewarm playbook.

  190. BBD says:

    willard

    or rather the inference that this should imply some kind of impossibility.

    Inference by whom? Wasn’t me nor was it MacKay. He just points out that most people have no real concept of how large a footprint will be required to meet total energy use (not electricity use) in a fully-decarbonised world.

    I don’t understand why you have compared Plan N (a proposal for 2050) with 2015 actual.

    337 TWh is far from the 2,249 TWh UK consume.

    I’m starting to think there’s a reason why electricity production and energy consumption are represented using two different units.

    Because they aren’t the same thing. Again, not at all sure what you are saying here.

  191. Willard says:

    > Again, not at all sure what you are saying here.

    Then you might as well indulge a bit more into defensiveness, BBD.

    ***

    > Inference by whom?

    By anyone who’d read MacKay’s conclusion that “But realistically, I don’t think Britain can live on its own renewables – at least not the way we currently live” (p. 108) into something more like ” I don’t think Britain can live on its renewables” simpliciter . This would be something more in line with what is assumed in “assuming we can’t get production from renewables to add up to our current consumption, what are the other options?” (p. 112). MacKay doesn’t say he believes this last assumption is true, but it does sound like it. I don’t think he’d dedicate the whole part II to his book to an idea he doesn’t find plausible.

    ***

    > they aren’t the same thing.

    Of course they aren’t. Yet they’re related. Furthermore, they’ll become even more related once electricity generation increases. Why the hell should we use oil as a unit when we want to get away from it?

    Also, if you’re to think about the BIG problems, like MacKay does in his book, you need to start with the BIG numbers. The biggest number is the whole energy consumption. If the target is to make sure we consume energy with the lowest CO2 footprint we can afford, then the whole renewable debate looks like a distraction.

  192. Gingerbaker says:

    “This is essentially the point that Kevin Anderson keeps making. It is not going to happen soon enough, so we have to take on deliberate behaviour changes now to buy time.”

    The first behavior to change is the belief that vague economic policy that relies on the so-called free (trillions in fossil fuel subsidies and scorn for the same for RE) market – like a carbon tax – is the proper way to approach an international crisis. The time for a carbon tax was thirty years ago. To continue preliminary talks about it now is purest folly.

    Here is a truism that people do not seem to understand:

    You can’t stop using fossil fuels until you have built the alternative.

    What we need is RE infrastructure built and deployed. What we need are governmental mandates for RE deployment according to a strict timetable. And if you insist on some sort of market-based component, I have yet to hear a cogent argument why increased targeted RE subsidies are not a much wiser idea than a carbon tax.

    Listening to people talk about a carbon tax is like listening to a fashion editor debate the emergency utility of different fabric patterns on the deck chairs of the Titanic.

  193. BBD says:

    Also, if you’re to think about the BIG problems, like MacKay does in his book, you need to start with the BIG numbers. The biggest number is the whole energy consumption. If the target is to make sure we consume energy with the lowest CO2 footprint we can afford, then the whole renewable debate looks like a distraction.

    Why is it a distraction? Renewables are posited to be the future source of primary energy. If as MacKay demonstrates, it is probably impractical for eg. the UK to meet its primary energy demand from UK-based renewables, then what of the rest of Europe?

    Even if we focus only on electricity, then the key assumption is that there will always be a sufficient surplus somewhere in a widely-interconnected future supergrid to meet all regional supply shortfalls all of the time. But if most or all regions aren’t able to meet demand with their own renewable capacity and, then where does the extra electricity come from when it is needed?

    Scaled up to a global plan, MacKay argues that it must be Very Big solar or nuclear or both. For Europe, much more may depend on the political stability in N Africa and the ME than we think. And it’s going to get hotter there, which may not be helpful.

  194. Willard says:

    > Why is [the renewable debate] a distraction?

    Because of what I said earlier – we’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint, and renewables have yet to bite into 10% of the energy market. Whether or not to classify a generation mode into the renewable bin or not is irrelevant to reducing the carbon footprint – it’s mainly relevant for hippy bashing.

    Think hydrogen: is it renewable or not? Depends upon what you take to transform and store it. That question matters to decide if we subsidize hydrogen R&D. But that legal decision isn’t required to estimate how it’d help reduce our carbon footprint.

    A renewable equivalent to coal would still be coal. Yet not all eight billon tons of coals are equal. To return to what matters:

    From the same source, and since this is a Matt King Coal thread:

    In the late 17th century, when coal from Wales and Northumberland was lighting the first fires of the industrial revolution in Britain, the English writer John Evelyn was already complaining about the “stink and darknesse” of the smoke that wreathed London. Three centuries later, in December 1952, a thick layer of coal-laden smog descended on London and lingered for a long weekend, provoking an epidemic of respiratory ailments that killed as many as 12,000 people in the ensuing months. American cities endured their own traumas. On an October weekend in 1948, in the small Pennsylvania town of Donora, spectators at a high school football game realized they could see neither players nor ball: Smog from a nearby coal-fired zinc smelter was obscuring the field. In the days that followed, 20 people died, and 6,000 people—nearly half the town—were sickened.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/coal/nijhuis-text

    Chances are that even coal will have to play a part in a near future. Yet here’s what happened in an experiment about carbon capture:

    The system worked. Over the next two years AEP captured and stored more than 37,000 metric tons of pure carbon dioxide. The CO₂ is still underground, not in the atmosphere. It was only a quarter of one percent of the gas coming out the stack, but that was supposed to be just the beginning. AEP planned to scale up the project to capture a quarter of the plant’s emissions, or 1.5 million tons of CO₂ a year. The company had agreed to invest $334 million, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had agreed to match that. But the deal depended on AEP being able to recoup its investment. And after climate change legislation collapsed in the Senate, state utility regulators told the company that it could not charge its customers for a technology not yet required by law.

    In the spring of 2011 AEP ended the project.

    A simple taxation scheme would have covered for the guarantee the industrialists wanted to put back more than a million tons of CO2 a year into the ground. So now we know that there’s at least one company which will dump more than it could. Of course, this is still far from the 43 gigatons airplanes alone could dump in the atmosphere through 2050. But these are not insignificant numbers, and in cases where coal is the only option, being able to rely on cleaner techs could make a difference.

    ***

    Another important aspect of phasing out fossil fuels:

    Our study found that this growth of solar-related employment could benefit coal workers, by easily absorbing the coal-industry layoffs over the next 15 years and offering full-time careers.

    https://hbr.org/2016/08/what-if-all-u-s-coal-workers-were-retrained-to-work-in-solar

    These kinds of questions matter more to me than to decide whether or not to classify a plan as 100% renewable or not.

  195. Willard says:

    > I have yet to hear a cogent argument why increased targeted RE subsidies are not a much wiser idea than a carbon tax.

    I thought the latter was to help the former.

  196. Carbon Tax? Yes, the USA is going to adopt one any day now. Right.

    Do people that even mention carbon tax just ignore the USA? Do they forget we exist? I mean, aren’t we really the biggest problem on the planet?

    John Anderson, a GOP senator from Illinois, ran for President in 1980 — an alternative to Reagan and Carter. One of his main policy proposals was a $0.50/gallon gasoline tax – at the time it was $0.04 / gallon. John Anderson garnered 6.6% of the vote. The federal gasoline tax was last raised in 1993 and stands at $0.018 / gallon.

    The gasoline tax will be raised substantially in the US as soon as we complete our ‘War on Poverty,’ ‘War on Drugs,’ ‘War on Terrorism’ and any other skirmishes I may have forgotten about. It’s not as if we have one political party that’s dead-set against any and all tax increases …. oh wait….

    I think we first have to deprogram the 40% of the USA that has fallen victim to the anti-government cult to which they give obeisance. 40% of American voters are going to select Donald Trump as their leader [1]. He can at this point admit to being the anti-Christ and it will not detract from his vote totals. And we talk with feigned seriousness about carbon taxes? Fine – as long as we realize that ain’t happenin’ in the ol’ You Ess of Ayyy.

    [1] Despite being an atheist, I may hedge my bets and start praying on a daily (hourly?) basis that he does not actually win. Hitchcock, Stephen King, M. Night Shyamalan? None of them could produce anything that scary.

  197. Willard says:

    > None of them could produce anything that scary.

  198. Of all the arguments against getting any and every form of clean renewable energy up and running, and figuring out how to deliver and store it, the preservation of landscape is the lousiest. There is nothing in the rape of the land by coal and fracking that is aesthetic. There is nothing about the poisoning of air and water supplies that is humane. Most people find wind to be elegant; slurry ponds, oil rigs, accidental fires and explosions not so much.

    You would preside over the decimation of civilization and the proliferation of threat-multiplying fossil emissions for some laird’s view? Whose view?

  199. Willard says:

    > Scaled up to a global plan, MacKay argues that it must be Very Big solar or nuclear or both. For Europe, much more may depend on the political stability in N Africa and the ME than we think. And it’s going to get hotter there, which may not be helpful.

    That leads to the end of MacKay’s book, which I believe deserves to be quoted:

    The non-solar numbers add up as follows. Wind: 24 kWh/d/p; hydro: 3.6 kWh/d/p; tide: 0.3 kWh/d/p; wave: 0.5 kWh/d/p; geothermal: 8 kWh/d/p – a total of 36 kWh/d/p. Our target was a post-European consumption of 80 kWh/d per person. We have a clear conclusion: the non-solar renewables may be “huge,” but they are not huge enough. To complete a plan that adds up, we must rely on one or more forms of solar power. Or use nuclear power. Or both.

    http://www.withouthotair.com/c30/page_238.shtml

    I choose both, because CHOOSE ALL THE THINGS!

    So here’s the equation: Wind + Hydro + Tide + Geo + Solar + Nukes + other R&D = 80 kWh/d/p – CHOICES – Tuning.

    In the CHOICES box, we have everything that would lower our needs of 80 kWh per day per person. MacKay mentions population, fossil fuels improvements, and other things that would affect our standard of living.

    In the “tuning” box I’d had technological developments which would decrease our need of kWh. For instance, refrigerators efficiency improved quite a bit:

    Given mounting concerns over energy consumption as a contributor to global warming, and the highly visible role domestic refrigerators have come to play in the policy realm where strategies for combating global warming are articulated, identifying a reduction target seems necessary and useful. While the ‘performance’ of US refrigerators in the late 1950s was arguably lower than today’s, the urgency of global warming would seem to demand identifying and pursuing a goal that doesn’t preclude consideration of past socio-technical configurations. The near-invisibility of smaller, less featured, refrigerators in the US today thwarts attempts to pursue the reductions suggested here. Not only are such refrigerators increasingly hard to find, few people are able to identify them as having any relevance to the questions posed in this paper. Consumers have become habituated to increasingly large “full-size” refrigerators as the standard. However, a persistent consumer may discover the occasional inexpensive 11-12 cu ft TF refrigerator on the US market, labeled as using a mere 300+ kWh/yr. Widespread adoption of such models could conceivably facilitate an eventual return to much lower levels of energy consumption, but neither the NAECA statute, Consumer Reports, nor appliance dealers give such models any recognition or exposure.

    The present compatibility of energy efficiency programs with continuing growth in refrigerator size, in the number of refrigerators per household, and in their average level of features has generated about 75% of the increase in total refrigerator energy consumption since refrigerators first achieved saturation in US households. Reversing the growth in this portion in line with IPCC goals is conceivable, but only by also paying close attention to total consumption.

    http://aceee.org/files/proceedings/2004/data/papers/SS04_Panel11_Paper02.pdf

    The efficiency gains at market saturation may be counterbalanced by the possibility that our children and grandchildren may need more than 80 kWh for yet unknown appliances. My futurological instinct would make be bet is on efficiency. Yet 80 kWh per day per person is both a lot and not a lot at the same time.

  200. BBD says:

    MacKay’s assumptions leading to the 80kWh/p/d estimate are reasonable (see pp 207 – 207). The conclusion that Big Solar or nuclear or both is inescapable. Nibbling round the edges of domestic energy efficiency is virtually an irrelevance when you look at the big picture / numbers. Constantly switching between the two is a rhetorical device that does not work with those who do big picture thinking.

    And it’s only electricity *not* primary energy.

    If you go back and read what I have attempted to explain in this thread you will see that:

    – I start with choose all the things

    – I point out that anti-nuclear rhetoric is specious because neither the risk nor costs attached to large-scale renewables (with their ultimate dependence on secure access to Big Solar Far Away) are acknowledged. All we hear is nuclear risk and nuclear cost.

    – Peddlers of anti-nuclear rhetoric do not acknowledge that the endlessly touted renewables growth is dangerously below the required decarbonisation pathway (see eg. Fatih Birol quoted in the Graun, linked by rust upthread.

    – I’m NOT arguing for renewables vs nuclear and I keep on saying this. I’m arguing against the shitty logic of anti-nuclear rhetoric. And that is all.

  201. BBD says:

    The Birol quote needs repeating. Rustneversleeps linked to this Guardian piece upthread:

    While renewables now account for more than 50% of net capacity additions and are expected by the IEA to reach around 60% by 2021, they still provide a relatively small share of the world’s electricity. Green sources are only expected to provide 28% of electricity generation by 2021, up from 23% in 2015, and much of that will be from existing hydropower dams.

    Renewable energy is seen by scores of countries as a key way to meet climate targets that they pledged under the Paris agreement, which comes into force in November.

    But even with the huge growth expected in coming years, the IEA said it will not be sufficient to meet the Paris deal’s target of keeping temperatures below 2C, the threshold for dangerous warming. “No, it’s by far not enough [the trajectory of growth],” said Birol.

    The anti-nuclear claque forces the argument relentlessly away from the true focus – the RISK involved in pushing nuclear off the table before we even get seriously started on decarbonisation. For far too many ideologues, anti-nuclear rhetoric is actually more important than decarbonisation. Some hippies need punching, IMO.

  202. BBD – “Some hippies need punching, IMO.”

    Seriously, when was the last time (first time?) hippies had any real effect on national policy? It’s difficult to disentangle the many threads that compose our anti-nuke fabric, but hippie punching seems no more appropriate here than anywhere else.

  203. > Some hippies need punching, IMO.

    I hope you’re wrong, BBD, since the only effect is to make you look like a jerk.

    I thought Ghandi teached you Brits at least that lesson.

    Two more points need to be made, but that’ll have to wait.

  204. BBD says:

    oneillsin

    Don’t take that too literally – I was picking up on willard’s earlier comment:

    Whether or not to classify a generation mode into the renewable bin or not is irrelevant to reducing the carbon footprint – it’s mainly relevant for hippy bashing.

  205. BBD says:

    The only people who look like jerks are those peddling specious anti-nuclear arguments as they try to selectively remove a major low carbon technology from the table on purely ideological grounds.

    So there’s no need to make this all about me.

  206. Phil says:

    On anti-nuclear rhetoric, there is
    this by Prof. Derek Abbott. On the face of it, the article raises some issues, such as the embrittlement argument on the lifetime of Nuclear power stations that MacKay’s WOTHA (e.g. here) appears to gloss over.

    Personally, I’m a somewhat reluctant convert to Nuclear power, but Abbott’s arguments have made me re-investigate that conversion, although many of the arguments he raises are less severe if Nuclear is only considered as a solution for a fraction of the globe. I would genuinely welcome any substantive critiques of Abbott.

    I’m not sure whether that earns me a punch from BBD or not …

  207. verytallguy says:

    I wonder if efficiency means different things to different people.

    For me, efficiency means reducing energy consumption whilst maintaining, or improving our lifestyle.

    Specifically, for the uk, this means:
    – stop investment in high carbon infrastructure. Runways and roads spring to mind
    – start investment in low carbon infrastructure. Public transport, walking, cycling
    – mandate investment to low carbon future efficiency, particularly where emissions are locked in for years or decades by decisions made today. Building regulations are an obvious example.
    – insist that hydrocarbons are left in the ground.

    We can note that none of these things are impacted one iota by the mooted carbon tax, the apparent one policy to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them.

    We can also note that current policy is the precise opposite of these.

  208. JCH says:

    I have no problem with nuclear as long as the people who use the power have to store the waste in their backyard. Literally, I want it in their family’s possession until it’s safe… for however long that takes. I will trust them to take care of it.

  209. verytallguy says:

    JCH,

    likewise, JCH, I have no problem with wind as long as those who use the power have to have the turbine in their back yard. Literally (continue ad absurdium).

  210. BBD says:

    That would be Derek Abbott the anti-nuclear activist?

    https://antinuclear.net/2016/10/07/derek-abbott-thought-on-the-connection-between-nuclear-waste-dump-and-nuclear-submarines/

    There are substantive responses to his claims, eg. here.

  211. JCH says:

    Or, Nevada said no because everybody else said no.

  212. Willard says:

    > So there’s no need to make this all about me.

    There’s no need to make it about hippies either. It’s just easy to do so. And fun. And sometimes, as I intend here, pedagogical. Everything you say and do will be done and said to you.

    The best one can do with concerns is be thankful for them, if only because it helps you show to an audience how you address them like a boss:

    It’s true that a certain anxiety over the forces of globalisation, immigration, technology, even change itself, has taken hold in America. It’s not new, nor is it dissimilar to a discontent spreading throughout the world, often manifested in scepticism towards international institutions, trade agreements and immigration. It can be seen in Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union and the rise of populist parties around the world.

    Much of this discontent is driven by fears that are not fundamentally economic. The anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment expressed by some Americans today echoes nativist lurches of the past—the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Know-Nothings of the mid-1800s, the anti-Asian sentiment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and any number of eras in which Americans were told they could restore past glory if they just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. We overcame those fears and we will again.

    But some of the discontent is rooted in legitimate concerns about long-term economic forces. Decades of declining productivity growth and rising inequality have resulted in slower income growth for low- and middle-income families. Globalisation and automation have weakened the position of workers and their ability to secure a decent wage. Too many potential physicists and engineers spend their careers shifting money around in the financial sector, instead of applying their talents to innovating in the real economy. And the financial crisis of 2008 only seemed to increase the isolation of corporations and elites, who often seem to live by a different set of rules to ordinary citizens.

    As you can see, the dialectic construction orients the reader toward a common ground. That’s not what Matt King Coal’s construction does.

    Compare and contrast:

    PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS written an “open letter” of several thousand words to The Economist about capitalism, immigration, the economy and the economic areas on which his successor should focus.

    The whole thing encapsulates the wrongheaded and obstinately held thinking that has brought the U.S. and the world economies to a near halt. The duration of the stagnation–and the feeling that there really is no end in sight–is breeding increasingly ugly politics.

    The essay also has its share of Obama’s trademark disingenuousness that has fanned the political divisiveness that he so piously denounces. For instance, he declares that “capitalism has been the greatest driver of prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known.” Yet as President of the U.S., the bastion of free enterprise, he has successfully pursued a socialist agenda that has Karl Marx applauding from the grave.

    All the Forbes-in-chief could muster is heartfelt crap.

    ***

    There are valid concerns regarding nuclear. Acting like a Forbes-in-chief won’t make them go away.

    PS: I think I’ll write a short post about the second point I promised a bit later today. This thread is reaching its end.

  213. Willard says:

    > And it’s only electricity *not* primary energy.

    THIS.

    Repeating that over and over again should suffice to counter any sidestepping, hippie, lukewarm, whatever.

    You can also add that both electricity and primary energy are related, because getting away from fossil fuel means we’ll require WAY MORE electricity.

    Your future Tesla may need more kWh than your future tablet.

  214. BBD says:

    Repeating that over and over again should suffice to counter any sidestepping,

    I wish. It doesn’t.

    getting away from fossil fuel means we’ll require WAY MORE electricity.

    I do know this stuff. Hence ~80kWh/p/d. Even ground source heat pumps run on electricity. Quite a lot of it, in fact.

  215. Phil says:

    BBD, I’m not really concerned about whether Abbott is an “anti-nuclear activist”. I’m concerned with exploring how substantive his claims are. Only them can one tell whether his “activism” is reasonable or irrational.

    The rebuttal by Brian Wang, (as one example) states;

    Abbot claims – nuclear reactors need to be located near a massive body of coolant water, but away from dense population zones and natural disaster zones. Simply finding 15,000 locations on Earth that fulfill these requirements is extremely challenging.

    Why this is wrong – Advanced dry cooling is possible and cooling towers that reduce water demands are possible. Almost all thermal plants – including coal and natural gas – use water for cooling.

    In this response, Wang links to here which includes the statement

    At present there is one nuclear power plant in
    Russia that is dry-cooled, but questions have to be answered before these systems will become a reality in the United States.

    Meantime, the UCS says this

    In the event of a serious accident, such as an overheated reactor, a nuclear power plant is required by federal regulation to have an emergency supply of water that can continue to cool the plant for at least 30 days.

  216. BBD says:

    Phil

    The problem with Abbott is that his argument depends on the assumption that a serious proposal exists to build out a 15TW world nuclear fleet requiring 15,000 sites. Since a reading of my own comments on this thread makes it clear that I do *not* regard nuclear as a silver bullet but only one part of the decarbonisation toolkit, then to me, DA’s argument becomes specious.

  217. BBD says:

    Me:

    Those who promote nuclear need to do so with caveats, the largest of which is that it is not a silver bullet, only a component of the decarbonisation process. Those who are ideologically opposed to nuclear need to remember that it is presently only speculative that we can decarbonise fast enough on renewables alone to avoid severe climate impacts. There’s a real danger of Ridleyesque overconfidence in anti-nuclear rhetoric.

  218. Phil says:

    BBD,
    And, of course, I said,

    but Abbott’s arguments have made me re-investigate that conversion, although many of the arguments he raises are less severe if Nuclear is only considered as a solution for a fraction of the globe.

    🙂
    I omitted to thank you for the link to Wang’s critique – so thank you. I do intend to revisit it (in due course).

  219. BBD says:

    Phil

    I did notice your earlier comment, and I should have said so in my response above. Thank you for your patience 🙂

  220. RickA says:

    JCH:

    I would be happy to store my share of the nuclear waste.

    Lets see – 76,430 metric tons over the last 40 years.

    300,000,000 people.

    Thats .561 pounds per person – so I get about 2.244 pounds (4 people in my family).

    I can bury my lead jar in the back yard – no problem.

    It would be even less waste and the waste less radioactive if we recycled it.

  221. JCH says:

    RickA – I’ve been thinking dual-purpose salt and pepper shakers. Chamber for waste on the bottom and salt or pepper on the top. Families would take better care of their portion of the waste if its on the dining room table… handed down from generation – no pun intended – to generation.

  222. Ken Fabian says:

    RickA, I think a whole lot of unrecorded, unregulated nuclear waste containers buried in backyards across suburbia would be an unacceptable nuclear waste management option. If plans for widespread, globally inclusive use of nuclear come without enforced minimum standards for nuclear waste management then, practically speaking, I would shift from being ambivalent to strongly opposed.

    Rick, in my experience lots of people who insist that nuclear is the best emissions reduction option are also people who do not accept the seriousness of the climate problem – which, practically speaking, means they are unlikely to support, let alone fight hard for policies that force operators of fossil fuel plant to shift to nuclear, even whilst they appear to often oppose renewables and non-technology specific climate policies like carbon pricing. Certainly here in Australia the most prominent voices most people encounter that hold up nuclear as an ideal solution would accurately be described as opponents of strong climate action – which, sorry, brings into question their judgement as well as their sincerity.

    I think significant use of nuclear to solve the climate problem – and improving our chances overall of solving it by any means including renewables – requires a broad commitment and minimum of influential opposition to solving the problem. Preferring nuclear to renewables is not sufficient and opposing climate action until and unless it’s nuclear is counterproductive. I think that it even ends up being counterproductive to nuclear – by preventing the non-partisan commitment to the overall goal that looks to me to be an essential prerequisite to viable nuclear inclusive climate policy.

    I’m not aware of your views on the validity of the science on climate or the urgency of the need to transition away from fossil fuels that flows from it but I would be interested to know.

  223. Michael 2 says:

    Fact check:

    oneillsinwisconsin says: “The federal gasoline tax was last raised in 1993 and stands at $0.018 / gallon.”

    The United States federal excise tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon
    [https]://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_taxes_in_the_United_States

    No middle ground indeed. When you want a thing to be higher declare it to be too low by a factor of ten and maybe your peers won’t notice (likely they will but won’t call attention to it).

  224. Michael2 – Sorry – I knew it was 18.4 cents, but typo’d the 0.18

    If you read the preceding sentences – “One of his [John Anderson’s] main policy proposals was a $0.50/gallon gasoline tax – at the time it was $0.04 / gallon.” I also mentioned the last time it was raised was in 1993. Hard to raise it and arrive at a lower number. It was actually raised several times between 1980 and 1993 to move from 0.04 to 0.18; I didn’t list each increase. The fact it hasn’t been raised in nearly 25 years seems to make the point.

    And since nothing I wrote would actually be changed (other than the typo itself) it would only be an uncharitable reader that would conclude the mistake anything other than accidental. And if you remember this comment from just a few days ago, I had the average US tax at 0.50 when you include state taxes.

    So your insinuation that it was done intentionally may just be projection on how *you* present an argument.

  225. Fergus Brown says:

    Tonyb;
    It is important to distinguish between environmental impact and visual impact. Though the latter is considered a part of the former in planning regulations, the two are not the same.
    Relating to pylons, the large majority of onshore wind projects are obligated to bury any grid connection cables, adding to the cost and reducing the ‘impact’. Normally, they are connected to a suitable substation on the existing grid, if there is sufficient capacity in the system to take them. It’s rare for new infrastructure to be built to accommodate anything but the largest projects – this is often a block on development which reduces the commercial viability of projects.
    It is not unheard of, though, for network operators to add upgrade costs to a whole part of the network to the mandatory (non-contestable) charges for grid connection and refund wind farm developers after the event if other users come on line later, thereby manipulating the market to fund infrastructure work which should have been done anyway, but wasn’t because of cost to shareholders.
    Arguing that onshore wind is bad because you can see the turbines in the landscape misses the point. Without rapid deployment, the aforementioned landscape is under increasing risk of long-term changes and damage. Add to this that a lot of land owners and farmers rely on relatively predictable revenue streams form small wind projects to supplement the unpredictable returns from food production, and that without the one, the other is also threatened. I can give you more reasons why ‘I don’t think they are good because they spoil the view’ is a weak argument, even if it is true (subjectively).

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